Things I thought I’d miss from home: Western toilets, spinach salads, low humidity…the English language. Things I did not expect to miss from home: clean feet, and sinks.
The school, public restrooms, most places seem to have rudimentary sinks to wash your hands and what have you. Perhaps there is not much soap to actually clean yourself with, but there is usually a sink. There is not a sink, however, in the apartment where I am living. This did not seem like too great of a deal when the other American English teacher and I moved in. After a week or so now, all of the many things one uses or could possibly use a sink for, have become increasingly apparent. For instance, brushing your teeth.
I typically like to keep up a decent oral hygiene regimen. This usually involves brushing my teeth at least morning and night. Except, I have no sink. I have a small refrigerator, a microwave, and even a toaster! The bathroom consists of a toilet and a shower set up in a one room box attached to my bedroom that is semi-open air, with a hole in the wall without an actual window. Oh, and a mirror. My bathroom/shower combo also has a mirror. You know, in case I ever wanted to watch myself shower. So if there is no sink, where does one go to brush his or her teeth?
For the most part I have been using a cup-based method. I pour a little water into a glass from one of my many water bottle, dip my toothbrush in there, then proceed with brushing my teeth. In order to rinse, I slosh the brush around a bit to clean it odd first. Then I spit into the glass. I take swigs of water from my water bottle to help rinse out my mouth, and I spit again. This leaves me with a glass full of dirty tooth-brushing water. This leaves me with the problem of what to do with it. I have two options. Or maybe three. One, I could pour the cup, or just brush my teeth out of my ‘bathroom’ window, except it overlooks where a lot of neighborhood kids park their motorbikes. I don’t want to throw spit water over their bikes. The second option is to dump it into the toilet and flush it. The third is to dump it onto my bathroom floor and let it go down the drain, or brush my teeth in the shower. Overall, it’s not the best way to do things. I can live with that, though.
More inconveniencing than the tooth-brushing is the laundry. I had figured I could do most of my own laundry in the sink, expecting to not have a washer or dryer. I haven’t discovered an actual laundry service yet, if one even exists. Most of the time I just see clothes hanging on clotheslines and hangers outside. In my bathroom window that’s not a window I was given a dryer hanger. My solution to the laundry issue is as follows. First, don’t let the laundry build up. I do not have the capacity to wear everything I own, take it home to my family’s house or a Laundromat and do one massive day where I wash everything. I do not have that many clothes to begin with and I end up re-wearing a lot of things, but with the weather being as hot and humid as it is, I tend to sweat significantly. Thus, things need to be washed or at least rinsed out frequently.
In order to actually clean the clothes, I have had to devise a system. In the apartment I was given two largish mixing bowls that hold the plates and glasses I was given for eating. I take one of these bowls; fill it with laundry detergent from the Tesco Lotus grocery store and water from the shower hose. I place a few items that need to be washed into the bowel, and let them soak. I try to agitate them some, to mimic as much of a washing machine as I can. Then I take a shower. While I shower, I take each item out of my little mixing bowl, and scrub and/or rinse it out under my depressingly low water pressure shower stream. Then I hang them out my window to dry. It is a very sophisticated process. It does leave my bathroom floor in quite a bit of water, which isn’t the most pleasant if I have to use the bathroom soon after.
The system works for now. It’s a time-consuming process, though, and I suspect it will only grow more wearisome. So, the next time anyone thinks about how annoying doing laundry is, just be thankful that you don’t have to do it by hand. On the up side, I can multitask with a shower and laundry at the same time!