Extreme washing

Long time no blog… so I thought I better catch up and yes, I’m still here in Mekelle. Watching the family who live at the back of my flat, I realize that Ethiopian women work hard in a way we really haven’t experienced in the mechanized west for 50 years.
When they are not undertaking the beating of the injera batter (it takes 72hours of daily beating to create the right level of fermentation, so they have several batches on the go at a time) Ethiopian ladies also indulge in a great deal of pounding of beans/ seeds etc using a wooden pestle the sound reverberating around the compound walls. They often do several things simultaneously including washing and talking very loudly. TV is pretty rubbish, no-one seems to sew or knit or read, though injera musob (container) coverings are sometimes crocheted in lurid 2ply wool. Reminiscent of my grandmother’s era, my landlady also has a wool crocheted doily on everything. It seems there is a standard pattern they all use.
The ladies based below my flat in the same compound appear to be addicted to very loud socializing and washing. Despite the country being short of water and having more than one water storage tank we still run out of water in the compound from time to time and if you glance at the photo you’ll understand why.
To the regularly-worshipping on-site matriarch (aka Mama) cleanliness appears to be next to godliness – so they wash constantly…. anything and everything that will fit in a very large bowl of water. They wash because it’s a Wednesday, or a particular saint’s day (and there are hundreds of those a year) and we will be facing a ritual marathon just before Easter when not only anything made of fabric but all the kitchen bowls and equipment and much of the furniture etc are scoured to with an inch of their lives – with great clattering in the courtyard. I make sure I have an emergency supply of water in a jerry can that week. Having said that, it does remind me a little of my Yorkshire grandmother’s comprehensive spring cleaning when the sun first appeared in the UK after a coal-fired winter.
I’ve never seen anything like it – on this occasion when I hung over the balcony and snitched a snap of the latest episode I counted no fewer than 11 bowl of varying sizes – all filled with water and different items of clothing/ upholstery etc in different stages of ‘processing’. They use a great big sloosh of liquid soap so the first bowls are billowing over with suds which take several subsequent bowlfuls to rinse out. Several of the huge bowls they raise up on a bench to make the washing process less back-breaking… (I notice that next door they use old tractor tyres for the same job) and boy do they wash! Pounding the clothes against the river stones has nothing on these girls, they must have biceps of iron; items are wrung until the fabric squeaks – everything must fall to bits quite quickly. Washing is battered into submission (there is simply no other word) and the whole courtyard will be filled with closely packed lines of drying sheets, blankets, towels, bedspreads, loose covers as well as multiple items of clothing etc etc. Underwear is either not worn or hidden from sight. Fortunately in this climate, most things dry within an hour or two so the line keeps being cleared and refilled, the whole process repeated sometimes twice a week. Considering there are only two of them and the long suffering maid who has to do most of the work, there seem to be a vast quantity of things to wash.
Contrary to Mama’s suspicions – I do wash my belongings etc, regularly – but having more interesting things to occupy my time, I rinse things through when I need to, not because it’s Santa Maria or a Tuesday. I have had to invest in a load more pegs for fear of my dresses and sheets ending up two streets away as it is so windy up on the roof where I hang my things… but they dry almost instantly it seems. You can actually see a fine spray of water droplets being flapped out of items as they fly horizontally. The peculiarly UK winter smell of laundry drying indoors round radiators is unknown here, I was reminded of it when I was back in a particularly damp January recently.
I have to confess rather shame-facedly that I have been chastised by Mama because when I was away she came snooping and a) she found some dust under the bed and b) discovered I hadn’t washed my net curtains twice in the last year….. AND I haven’t done the loose covers on the lounge suite at all. I only sit on the end of the sofa to watch TV in the evenings – so it had never crossed my mind that I should. But I’ve no intention of conforming – I’m obviously just a grubby, non-worshipping ferengi, and therefore probably beyond redemption. Nevertheless, I am moving to a quieter compound at ground level next month, and she will be free to wash these curtains and dust under the beds to her heart’s content.

2 thoughts on “Extreme washing

  1. Hi Miranda

    You write in a very entertaining way but you haven’t convinced me to give up my washing machine just yet !
    It sounds like you are on the move again
    Last night Hilary and I went to see Carl’s opening night in a Manchester art gallery.
    His work is very controversial but very thoughT provoking. I will send Further. Info in a separate email which. You. Would have received a by now and wondering what significance they have to anything.
    Before that we had a meal in an restaurant. It is a long time since. I have had such an original meal. I even had some tofu that truly tasted deliciously.

    I had fall last week. I was prevented from hitting the floor by the door which prevented me hitting the floor but caused a,prolific nose bleed and lots of swelling. Luckily the bleeding soon stopped and when I felt better I went home.
    I was feeling very vulnerable and shaken so I rang Hilary who was just with the marquee men so Clyde came over. He was lovely and reassured me
    I had not broken my nose and dod. not need a n X-ray . Apart from the swelling there was no disfigurement or loss of function. And if I ha d broken my nose they would not have done anything for it. Just got a lovely colourful bruise across the top of my nose And down one cheek,. I tried a stick the following day but it seemed like one more thing to trip over. I will have to get one to those protective head gearthings I saw one in town today and wondered what they did not make it more hat like . I am sure with a a
    Cloth covering I t would look les clinical.
    Have you heard any news about your knee?i hope you do not have to wait too long.
    Sandra x

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