This morning, I awoke with a simple chore ahead of me: laundry. I have been traveling through the desert of northern Kenya and the volcanic hills of Rwanda, and have arrived in western Kenya with a pile of dirty clothes. Contrary to the ease with which we wash our clothes in the US, doing laundry in Africa is more time consuming and labor-intensive. Instead of Tide, washing machines and dryers, we use rain water, home-made soap, two basins, two hands and the equatorial sun.
The best time for washing clothes is in the early morning while the air is still cool and the clothes can dry in the mid-day sun. I filled a basin with rain water collected from a tank (thanks to Blood:Water Mission) and added a liquid soap made for washing hands, dishes and clothes. (Some of the women who had been trained by Blood:Water Mission in water, sanitation and hygiene were the ones who now make and sell the liquid soap to the community!)
I soaked the clothes in the soapy water and did my best to scrub the dirt out of them. From clinics to schools and churches to homes, remnants of the places I have traveled released themselves from the fabrics of my journey into the basin. I spent a good hour and a half with my hands to my clothes - soaking, scrubbing, rinsing, wringing, and hanging to dry.
I felt gratitude for the access to water and to soap. I felt admiration for the women beside me who do this on a regular basis with competence and strength. And I felt conflicted about the drastic differences between life here and in the US. I wondered who I felt more sorry for: the women here who are bound to the slow and heavy labor of life's necessities or Americans whose fancy machines have developed efficiencies and expectations that leave little room for the slow and connected life.