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Hand Washing Clothes, Brazilian Style!
Here in the region of Brazil where I live, there are many woman who still wash all their clothes by hand. It is common to see women washing clothes in lakes or on their front porch in a large bowl. It was this skill I needed when I first arrived in our new home.
Shortly after arriving we bought the necessities, a refrigerator, a stove, and a plastic table and chairs. Our furniture was still sailing across the Atlantic on its way to the nearest port in Brazil. Among our belongings was our washing machine. I never felt emotionally attached to an appliance before but I was missing that machine.
Our Lucky Day
To the rear of our house is a double sink with a ridged area for washing clothes. Having only ever washed, a few delicate items before by hand, I was out of my depth when I was faced with double sheets and a whole washing basket full of dirty clothes. I needed to call in extra help.
As luck would have it a small man named José, was doing some building work for us and suggested his wife could help me. He was a friendly man who's slight build was compensated for with a bushy mustache. He wore a straw hat that had been shaped into a cowboy hat by using cable ties.
He said he would send his wife around tomorrow.
Do you hand wash your clothes?
The Washerwoman Cometh
It is often said that a married couple look similar after many years of marriage. This was not the case with these two.
This was a formidable woman walking up the driveway. She must have weighed three times what her husband did. Her ample bosom that had fed 5 children (and possibly smothered others) was emphasized by the low cut purple Lycra top that was obviously 3 sizes too small for her. To say she was top heavy isn't correct because she had a counterbalance. Her bottom appeared to be two inflated beach balls which were equally confined in a pair of bright orange skin tight exercise shorts.
Her dark curly hair was pulled into a tight ponytail exposing round chipmunk cheeks. She greeted me with a wide white smile which was tainted by her lack of back teeth.
The Panty Dilemma
Having just arrived in Brazil, I wanted to make a good impression. But wait, what kind of impression do I want that to be?
Having someone do your laundry is the same as having a housekeeper who is privy to all your secrets. This was serious stuff. Do I hold back some clothes I don't want her to see? What clothes should I let her wash? The worst decision was which panties I should have her wash. We are in a little village where gossip spreads faster than a wildfire. I had to get this right.
Thongs: Should a 50 year old (Okay a bit more), be wearing a thong? What about the heat and humidity, that can't be healthy. Maybe I should just throw a few in the laundry basket just to keep them talking at the local shop.
High waisted and durable: If I have a laundry basket full of them what does this say? I am a hard worker, clean, like things that last, German. Okay, maybe not German. For that I would be wearing Birkenstocks and socks.
Cotton bikini style: Cool, comfortable, but the decorations of little hearts, are these suitable for someone my age or for a 5 year old?
Panties with holes: We all have our favourites which we wear until they won't stay up any more even when we use safety pins. If I put these in the laundry basket she may think we are too poor to pay them at the end of the week.
Lace: Does this send out the right signals? I don't think so, I don't want to be known as the foreigner who sits around all day in her lace panties.
Perhaps I will just wash the panties myself. No I can't do that, the gossip at the shop will be that I go commando!
Oh dear, what is a woman to do?
Let the Washing Begin
Rosa began by wetting the clothes in the back sink. Rubbing them with the bar of glycerin soap specially made for hand washing tough stains. The next step surprised me. She threw them on the lawn or on a bush. I asked her why she did this.
Because there is no hot water, she uses the sun to bake the soap into them. Scrubbing our clothes to within an inch of their lives with the hands that wouldn't look out of place on a Norwegian fisherman.
I passed her a shirt of my husband's saying that it was delicate because it was silk. She nodded, scrubbed it and threw it on the grass with the others.
After she had washed them, I went down to collect them to hang them on the clothes line. I didn't see them and asked her where they were.She smiled and pointed to the fence. She had hung them on a barbed wire fence that surrounds the property to dry. Panties and all hanging on the barbed wire blowing for all the neighbors to see.
- Hanging out the laundry
Do you love the smell of sheets, dried outside? Find out why so many people are rediscovering this traditional way of drying their clothes.
© 2012 Mary Wickison