Once a week, usually on Sunday, it’s laundry day at Papillon’s residence!
Nanna, a local young lady comes over to do all the laundry. By hand that is, since washing machines are rare in Mali. Most Malian houses are not yet equipped with electricity, and if they do have electricity, they might not have running water. Apart from that the costs of a washing machine and the electricity it uses are simply too high for most Malian families.
Therefore hand washing is still very much an aspect of daily life in Mali. At the river banks you’ll find crowds of women doing the entire family’s laundry. When all has been washed, it’s put down on the sand or hang on the hedges to dry and the area turns into a pallet with cheerful colors. When the sun has dried all, it’s collected and beaten out. The sand will leave easily, but you might already find the first stains on your ‘clean’ clothes.
Nanna finds a ‘much easier’ situation here. We have running water, buckets in a number of sizes, never a lack of soap and on top of that laundry lines. Week after week I’m surprised to see that she manages to remove most of the stains that I’ve been collecting in my clothes. Mali is a land with lots of sand roads, so all that was clean in the morning, will be dirty before the day is over.
Sure enough even laundry comes with a manual over here. It’s not just the difference between washing machines and hand washing, tumble dried and sun dried (which I actually prefer!), soap or washing-powder, clean after washing or close to clean, it’s also what you hand over to someone else to be washed.
In Mali it’s a big NO GO to hand your underwear to anyone to wash it for you, so I was told several times by several people.
‘The easiest’, one of my Malian friends told me ‘is to take it with you into the shower, wash it while showering and leave it in the shower for drying.’
Sure, I have washed my underwear while showering many times when I was out on a hike, but to do that at home on a daily basis is something different. Having given it some thought, I now have two laundry baskets, a big one for all that I can hand over to Nanna and a small one for my underwear. Whenever I feel like it, I grab the small basket to wash my underwear, which will take me some time, since other than the Malian women I’m not used to hand washing.
It’s quite a funny sight afterwards, when there’s a line of slips and bras hanging at the laundry lines. I’m sure the guys are of the opinion that I’m ‘breaking some rules’ with that…
From time to time I dream of having a washing machine one day and I’ve already figured out where it’ll be placed. That is, if I would be able to find decent materials and someone who would be capable of installing it…