Aaah, the things that unite us. No matter where you are in the world, someone is doing laundry. How it gets done depends on where you are…
1. Zhaoxing, China
The Nanjiang River flows through the centre of Zhaoxing (in southern China) feeding the many rice paddies which patch-work the valley floor, providing drinking water for the 800 households and their livestock and, from behind small dams, facilitating the washing of vegetables, chickens, cooking pots, freshly dyed cloth, the famous long black locks of Dong women, and yes, laundry. Drying is often done undercover in the open-sided ‘attics’ of their wood homes.
2. Thar Desert, India
In the Thar Desert water is scarce. Dishes are scrubbed in hot sun-bleached sand; not an option for clothing. “The children have only two sets of clothes; while one is being washed, the other is being worn. There is no need for more when so many do without even one change.” Precious water is used first for drinking and cooking. Water used for bathing (literally only a matter of cups per person) and clothes washing is recycled; consumed by cows and camels or a few thirsty plants. Conservation is not a way of life, it is a necessity for life.
3. St Lucia, Caribbean
While visitors to this tropical island enjoy it as a relaxing get-away far from domestic responsibilities, locals carry on with ‘normal life’. For some it means meeting at the public laundry where the eight bulky adjoining concrete sinks have their front sides ridged into slanted washboards. Don’t envy the hard work and once more appreciate our easy modern-appliance lifestyle.
4. Varanasi, India
‘Mother Ganga’ (the Ganges River) is a sacred river to Hindus and a lifeline to the millions who live within reach of its banks. This astounding waterway is a mystery to scientists who have not yet discovered why the oxygen levels in the Ganges are 25 times higher than any other river in the world; despite it being used for bathing, laundry, boating, cleansing, garbage, cremations and burials. Dainty scarves to heavy rugs are washed on stones along its banks. The “slap, slap” of washing begins well before sunrise.
5. Rural Atlas Region, Morocco
After by hand at a community water source, laundry is spread upon hillside bushes and hung from trees to dry. For one woman the dried laundry is placed in a burrow’s saddle bags and she gets a ride home.