Right now, school doesn’t get started until 10 a.m. at my house. Our regular start-time was 9 a.m. in the States. By that hour, I could usually have most of the house in order for the day, maybe even dinner in the crockpot, and a table full of smiling (or not smiling) faces ready to go. But here in Nepal, it’s 10.
Because before that, we’re all on the roof, doing laundry.
As you might expect, laundry is a more complicated affair here in Kathmandu than it was in Washington state. Even for a smaller family, it’s not as simple as tossing in a load, waiting for a buzzer, and moving it to the dryer when you get a chance. Here in Nepal, the process truthfully starts by remembering to turn on the pump that fills your rooftop water tank. If you’ve skipped that step, well, you’re sunk. But assuming that you have remembered to make sure you’ve got water in the first place, the next steps are filling a small, twin- or single-tub machine.
It’s the “filling the machine” that’s deceptive for us right now. For some reason, though we purchased a washer within the first few days of our arrival, no plumber has ever responded to our pleas to connect it to the tiny, ancient copper faucet that juts out of the corner of our rooftop balcony. So for now, we sort in clothes … and use pans to fill it with water.
That’s not terribly hard, but it does require babysitting. Sometimes (inexplicably) the machine will pause mid-wash cycle and demand more water. No idea why. We have simply chalked it up to yet another of the little surprises here in Nepal.
Water collecting is key to the process here. Water shortages are common, and all water must be filtered or treated in some way to be potable. The city does provide water for pumping into cisterns, but there are also water trucks that can be hired. We spent about $16 US on filling our cistern a few days back. Because it’s such a valuable commodity, collecting grey water is a vital step to the process.
As the wash cycle spins, we collect the water for handwashing certain items. Diapers have become handwash, because there aren’t quite enough to justify a whole load and the idea of them sitting around wet here is well … it’s just not a good idea. We can talk about the reasons why later.
The first tub of water is dumped after washing (when we have more buckets on hand, we’ll save it and distribute to bathrooms for slushing toilets) and handwashed items sit to the side while we wait for the rinse water to spin out. The handwashed clothes are rinsed in that, then wrung out and hung with the load from the washer.
Everyone helps. Big kids hang, little kids ferry clothes, move clips, and wring out items that can use a little extra help.
And as those clothes go up, the next load goes in — with the washer filled, this time, with the rinse water from the previous load.
It’s a different process, for sure, but one that really is nowhere near as painful as it is in 90% of the world. I’m grateful we have a machine, a sunny roof where things dry relatively quickly, and many hands to make light work. And while “real school” may be getting a later start, I think “life school” is in session early. These are the lessons that I hope will teach my kids appreciation for the much wider world around them.