Laundry Day

Laundry Day on Lamu, captured October 2006
Laundry Day on Lamu, captured October 2006

On Sunday mornings, the house is mine.  The Waraos, my Kenyan family, are at church and I’m left with a jerry can of water, two plastic basins, a sack of Omo and an empty clothesline.  In a country where the notion of personal space is as foreign as my freckled nose, I welcome this solitary weekly ritual.  I squat, and prepare my laundry.

The morning sun is strong but the clouds will roll in by mid-afternoon as the seasons begin to shift, once again, from dry to wet.  The water is still cool from the night as I pour a couple of inches into the green basin.  Adding Omo, Kenya’s favorite detergent, the water becomes slippery and my clothes slimy as I scrub them together to create suds.  Omo’s tangy scent coupled with the musty Kenyan red earth has the ability to overpower the strong aroma of the surrounding slum.   I close my eyes and take a moment to listen to the African morning.  From a nearby church come beautiful voices: rich and deep and smooth, almost haunting.  They rise together in song and soar over the screeching matatus, barking dogs and crying babies.

After a few hours I stand back and survey my clothes swaying gently in the breeze, and smile with pride.  My hands are red, raw and cracked from the harsh soap.  My shoulders and arms ache from scrubbing and my thighs burn from squatting over the basin.  But my clothes are clean and, in a few hours, will be dry.

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