Monday, June 10, 2013

The Expat Diaries: Laundry and Evil Spirits

I am several days late, and its now down to the wire to submit my link for this month's Expat Diaries. But I'm still determined :)

One of my best friends, Isabella, is currently a Fulbright scholar in Brazil (she speaks Chinese, Portugese, and Spanish... love bragging about her whenever I can ;) and a few days ago we were commiserating over living in countries with very few washing machines. In Senegal, very, very few families have a laundry machine. In fact, I don't know any beyond a select few expat families.

Its a tough world out here.

When I studied abroad in Senegal, starting in August 2008, I lived with a host family. Contrary to what many family and friends were picturing, the families hosting American students in Dakar were generally middle to upper class Senegalese living in comfortable homes. I had my own bedroom with an en-suite bathroom! Not exactly a hut with no running water or electricity ;)

Host sib <3

They are so grown up five years later

Our host families were responsible for doing our laundry as they would for themselves. Most middle to upper class families hire a monthly laundry service where a few women spend the day in the courtyard cleaning, drying, and folding the entire family's laundry. Others delegate this task to the housemaid (yes, most Senegalese families, regardless of wealth, have at least one housemaid or at least a cousin from the village responsible for cleaning and cooking).

I asked about laundry when first settled in with my lovely host family. Apparently we'd be doing our laundry monthly. I admit, waiting a month to do laundry seemed rather long for an American girl accustomed to convenience. I was used to popping my jeans into the dryer any time I needed them to fit a little bit tighter (#firstworldproblems). But, I set out to take this news in stride and soon developed a new laundry system: one pile for DIRTY dirty laundry (noticeable stains, soaked in sweat, caked in mud, etc), and one pile for dirty but still wearable laundry.

The first time our monthly service arrived I brought out a load the size of my enormous suitcase. In fact I'd even packed a laundry bag when moving to Dakar and it was filled to the brim. I dragged this bag into the courtyard to find the other family members contributing maybe 10 pieces of clothing each. ....Whoops.

Then four weeks passed and no laundry service. Another week... nothing. My piles grew, my clothing options waned. Yes, I cleaned a few things by hand but I kept holding out for the monthly service.

I was soon leaving for a ten day trip through the southern region of Senegal, the Casamance. The eve of my departure, the laundry had been left untouched for two months. I had been recycling the same few pieces of clothing and washing my shirts and undergarments myself. With my upcoming trip, it was time to finally take things into my own hands.

I set up shop in my bathroom with an array of buckets and boiled water, using shampoo to scrub clean my clothes. I know, I know... I'm sooo resourceful. It was night time and family members trickled in to observe my concoctions and comment on my scrubbing technique.

Suddenly my host sister came in and gasped:

 "Kim! You can't do laundry at night or indoors!"

Why ever not??? I could no longer postpone the task with my looming trip the next morning. I would already be forced to pack damp clothing.

"Its bad luck to wash clothes at night. The djinnés (evil spirits) will curse your clothing and you will carry bad luck wherever you go."

She'd already warned me about the djinnés; our host mother forbid me to take her to the local cybershop at 2pm because that is the hour the djinnés feast on young girls wandering the streets.

How does the story end? Well, I took the risk of cursing my clothing and finished the task at hand. I set off on my trip and thankfully did not experience any bad luck. That I can remember. :)

The beach in Cap Skirring, tourist destination in Casamance.

A jungle bike ride. In flip flops. And we happened upon a group of men wielding machetes.
Thankfully they were just keeping the inter-village pathways clear ;)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...