Friday, September 07, 2012

big boys and domestic duties

i think as americans we often forget the many conveniences we have. we have washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, etc. or even services that we can find to do all of that for us. or even things more basic like constant running water and constant electricity.  all things that make our lives much easier and facilitate us doing other things. here in nicaragua, that isn't the case.  everything is by hand, and everything takes longer. i could pay someone to wash my clothes, but i don't want to pay for something i can easily to on my own. plus my financial resources are now much less than before.  it has been one of the less exciting adjustments of life over the last few months.

prepping the shirt for washing with soap.
my first experience with laundry was after over a week of being on site.  i had avoided it long enough, but realized i had no idea what to do.  i asked my host mom what i needed.  she said i needed soap to clean the laundry (obviously) and fabric softener so it would smell good after.  i went and bought my supplies and then the next morning brought my laundry to the lavandero and said, "ok, now what?" she laughed and then demonstrated the process of cleaning.

the line drying all day afterwards. no dryers here!
laundry here is a much more involved process. you either have to rub an inordinate amount of soap on every piece of clothing and then scrub it on the cement washboard like kneading bread for a while or you can soak it in powdered soap and water for a while... and then do the same thing on the cement washboard.  in the states, i'd do laundry maybe once a week and just load up the washer, hit start and then go watch sportscenter or start it up at night so it would be clean in the morning.  not here. i'm spending a good hour plus each time i wash laundry... two or three times a week. the goal is to not let laundry build up too much otherwise it's a montón de ropa sucia and a good morning workout before the water goes off.  she said i caught on quickly... it still doesn't make it go any faster though.

so consider that the next time someone complains to you about "hating" laundry day.  it's a lot easier with a machine to do the work for you.

second, the machista culture means that men don't do much around the house, so it's crazy that i wash all of my own laundry.  added to my craziness of washing laundry, the family is fascinated that i can iron, use a broom, mop, and especially cook. two of my sobrinos (nephews) were fascinated by me making my own food one day.  i told them that guys who know how to cook get the better girls.  they told me i was crazy. and then the younger one came and whispered to me, "my dad only makes coffee." i chuckled and told him that's why he should learn how to do more.

the family thinks it's great though, probably because it means that it's less work for them. i joke with them about who gets to wash the dishes because often they beat me too it, and i argue that it was my responsibility since i made them dirty.  usually it just ends with them laughing and saying, "oh aarón." i'm glad that we have a good relationship and can joke about it.  hopefully, i can rub off a little on my little nephews and teach them a thing or two.

the funny part to me is that all of those things are normal to me. washing laundry (granted, with a washing machine), ironing, washing dishes, cleaning, etc.  they're all things i was raised to do as a kid.  i am apparently challenging gender roles every day of the week, and i'll take it even if it means breaking a sweat a few mornings a week washing my clothes.

i've been no stranger to domestic duties such as laundry washing, cooking, etc.  my mom had me using a washing machine when i was like 5 or 6.  i wouldn't be surprised if she had a picture of me standing on my "big boy" stool to reach into the drum to pull out my clothes and put them in the dryer.  she tricked me by telling me that big boys did their own laundry. i, of course, wanted to be a big boy, so i enthusiastically started doing my own laundry. she did the same thing around 8 when i always wanted mac and cheese.  "big boys make their own mac and cheese." this happened with several things until i caught on that most other big boys didn't do any of these things, but by then i had mastered mac and cheese, the art of cooking things with a toaster oven, and enjoyed making what i wanted. her trick worked (and i'm thankful for it).

funny story about big boys and laundry- when i moved to college my freshman year at nc state university and lived with my first roommate. he was a funny guy, slightly ocd, but a nice guy.  we developed a good living relationship by the end of the year... albeit with some funny interactions in between.  i remember the first time he had to do laundry in the dorm. it must have been the most terrifying experience ever for him.  i think he had to call his mom for help several times for instructions on what to do next.  it must have been traumatic for him because he ended up paying for a laundry service after that.  apparently his mom didn't tell him what big boys did. i can't imagine what would have happened if he had to hand wash his clothes...

in summation, life is a little slower here.  things take longer, and lot of times it's more difficult. i have less appliances and conveniences that i used to have in the states.  i spend more time on things like laundry, cooking, and cleaning, but just by doing those things for myself i'm enjoying showing the fam that guys can take care of themselves and be self-sufficient. i poke fun at my host brother about it since he does very little around the house, and he just bellows out a big laugh each time and then tells me i should iron his clothes for him.  i tell him only if he pays me, and then he laughs more.  they think i'm crazy, but it's part of the cultural exchange that we have living together, even if it doesn't represent all guys everywhere (in any place, see my roommate from freshman year).  i owe that to my parents who always made me learn the importance of responsibility and how to take care of myself.

so thanks mom and dad for telling me what big boys should do, even if it wasn't exactly what big boys really did.  i think it has helped me adjust to life here and show that guys can take care of themselves too.

and don't even get me started on the impact "toy jail" had on picking up my toys. $.25 is a hefty sum to break your favorite toys out of jail when you're only getting an allowance of $2.50! i mean... 25 penny candies or favorite toy???? the horror!  i learned to pick up my toys though... or at least prioritize the ones i really wanted and how to save my money...


  1. hilarious. and so true. i call my hand washing 'hand rinsing' cause nothing is ever actually clean ; )

    -from pc ukraine

    1. agreed! i don't think it's ever REALLY clean. if anything i can never get all of the soap rinsed out. haha.