Daily Life: Laundry

We’re rapidly approaching the end of the semester. I leave in FOUR days!!! I went to church for the last time here this morning, and one of the elders asked me if I would read the passage next Sunday and I had to tell her “Oh, I won’t be in Botswana next Sunday” which is just wild to think about. If you haven’t figured out by now, I am directing these “daily life” posts at future students studying in Botswana so you can get a glimpse of life here and have some tips for starting out your time here. So here we go with the story of how I do my laundry.

One of the biggest things I will miss about Botswana is doing my laundry outside by hand. At the beginning of the semester I thought it was kind of annoying and time-consuming, but now I eagerly look forward to the days when I have enough dirty laundry to go spend a couple hours getting it all clean and nice with my own two hands.

If you don’t want to hand wash, there are washing machines and dryers available, but they always have a pretty long line depending on what time of day you go, and it is kind of a pain to get tokens for them cause you have to go to a couple different offices with different receipts to get it done. It’s definitely possible and not a big deal to do it that way if you’d rather not hand wash, though. I know some people will wash their clothes in the machines and then dry them on the clotheslines outside the laundry area. That’s an option too.

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But seriously, hand washing your clothes feels amazing. It usually takes me about an hour to an hour and a half to wash a week of clothes, and then a couple hours for things to dry on the clotheslines. I load up one or two good podcasts on my phone, grab my dirty clothes in a little duffle bag (I would highly recommend bringing some kind of small bag like this cause it makes for a great laundry bag and is really great for the short weekend trips you will take), grab my empty yogurt container full of clothespins, take my box of laundry powder and head out to the laundry areas scattered around our dorm area. These clothes lines are frequently pretty full, so sometimes you have to get creative with drying stuff in your room, but that also isn’t a huge problem.

I typically use three sinks to wash my clothes. One has a little bit of laundry powder (it is easy to overdo it, and then it takes a bunch of rinses to get everything unsoapy, so don’t go too wild), the next I use for rinsing out the initial soap, and the third stays pretty clean, but gives me one more chance to rinse out the soap. In each of those sinks I will swish my clothes around and scrub the cloth together, and then wring everything out as much as possible before moving it to the next sink. There aren’t plugs for the sink drains, but you can wad up a plastic bag and use that to keep the water from draining out.

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A huge recommendation when packing for the semester is to make sure you bring clothes that won’t be easily messed up by washing them like this. When I read blogs about hand washing before I came I thought to myself “Oh, hand washing is what they recommend for really fancy and delicate clothes, so it should be fine on my plebian t-shirts, right?” but between my limited skill in hand washing, a desire to work quickly, and laundry powder that seems much more apt to make your clothes stiff than American detergent, I would recommend you try not to bring your nicest things that you won’t want to mess up with harsh washing practices. I only brought a small number of workout clothes cause I thought it would be awkward or unacceptable to run at UB in my normal running shorts (that’s a whole other story, you totally can run here, don’t worry about it), but I wish I had brought more because not only are my running clothes the first things to get gross and sweaty after a few uses, but they also are made of really great material for drying quickly on the line.

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Another warning, one of the women on our program had a few of her shirts stolen off the clothesline, so I always try to wash my absolute favorite clothes first so that they can start drying while I am still in the laundry area, and then bring them inside with me to dry in my room when I leave the clotheslines.

It sounds kind of pathetic to say it, but laundry is really one of the biggest things I will miss about Botswana when I go home. It’s so relaxing to just stand outside in the warm sun, scrubbing your clothes, splashing in the water when you get too hot, and sometimes chatting with other students who are also doing their laundry. This semester I have missed cooking a lot because it is my favorite mindless activity that feels productive while also letting you just settle into a simple task without thinking too hard. This semester, laundry has been that replacement. Maybe I can find a way to do some hand washing outside once I get back home.

For now, I need to finish up my research paper, study for my UB philosophy final, visit the hospice a few more times, and then I’ll be heading home! I think Tuesday will be my last good laundry day. I’ll be sure to make the most of it!

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