Hello! This is a bit of a different kind of post, not so much a story or news, but more about some of the daily, small issues that we as mzungus need to navigate our way through if we want to live here and have a good effect.
There are many things that both of us grew up taking for granted: water comes from the tap (and I can adjust it to whatever temperature I prefer from that tap, ranging from scalding hot to almost freezing), toilets flush when you push the handle, you can count on the electricity working, every house has a regular size fridge (“regular” here is our hotel size or smaller), and dirty clothes go in the washing machine.
However, here, laundry is done entirely by hand. Like most things, handwashing your clothes is a skill that you have to practice. We have no natural talent at it. (Especially me [Amanda]. And I hate doing things I am bad at.) In addition, not being very good at it means that it is terribly time consuming – it takes about 3 hours once a week to wash our clothes. This needs to be done in the morning. (Otherwise, they don’t dry before they start to stink.)
All of this not to complain, but to give you an idea of what is at stake in this decision.
Its common practice here to hire someone to do your household chores for very little money. There are two sides to this: the person who does the work is certainly paid much less than a living wage and the worker is often looked down on. The other side is that at least they have some kind of job and are making some money. We are doing our own household chores, since our food and such is done for the whole community, and our cleaning is not that much. We certainly didn’t come here to pay someone a tiny amount of money so that we can do the other, “more important work.” But when it comes to laundry…
We could hire someone for $2-$3/week, and have our laundry done for us. We wouldn’t have to worry about finding the time, in the morning, on a sunny day, to spend three hours slopping around in the water. It looks attractive to me! For now, Mike has said he feels really strongly about it, and doesn’t mind the work, so he is doing all the laundry. (Sorry I don’t have a picture of him at the big cement sink – I was sick the day he did laundry -I’ll try to post one soon!)
Its a small thing, but it seems significant to us. We continue to ask what people here think, and to pray, and to consider what is the wisest course of action.
How do locals view that choice? Some times it is worth hiring to avoid wrong perceptions about you from the community. Tough call. Praying!
The locals think you should hire someone. Part of it is the idea that lesser work is done by lesser (skilled) people, but part of it is the idea of spreading the wealth around: ie, if you paint a room, you always hire someone to do it instead of doing it yourself, because it gives the painters work. We embrace that part. But there is a strange attitude towards it, too. For example if I want to ask one of the other YWAM staff to do something outside of their normail ministry responsibilities, we should financially recompense them somehow. It is very strange to me and I’m not sure if I can accept it. Our hope is to give value to the work, no matter who does it. Thanks for the prayers as we look for wisdom!
I think there is a sort of deep spirituality in coming to terms with one’s own dirty laundry. Hard work that reconnects us to the reality of our lives, and our humble place within it, has been a monastic practice since the first christ-followers fled the empire. Personally, I would use that three hours a week as a prayer and meditation time. I hope you guys are doing well. Peace be with you in your adventures.
Dan, I think you should start doing your laundry by hand, too! But seriously, we agree, and its why we don’t hire someone for most chores, like cleaning the bathroom, sweeping the floor, doing dishes, etc (as is the regular cultural practice here, especially since everything takes so long). It took me and hour and a half to clean our small bathroom, (no running water), and it wasn’t expecially dirty. You should come visit us and see!
I just hope that your laundrey get done! I agree with Jamie Arpin-Ricci, what do the locals think?
Oh Beth, thats a perfect mom comment. Its getting clean. (Except the one time I did it, and then it took too many days to dry, and smelled awful. Then Mike had to rewash it. He was very sympathetic and gracious.) And, see above!
I’d probably look into eventually having someone do it for you. It’s not that you can’t do it yourselves, or that your other work is more important, IMO, but that you can provide a job for someone. I’d look outside the base, though. Having a YWAMer do it for you would send a weird message and could strain the relationship. Godfrey’s wife Hope has a ministry for women looking for alternative ways to earn an income for their families, other than prostitution. Perhaps she could help you find someone suitable? My impression from Rwanda was that the biggest challenge facing many people is the lack of jobs. This is a small way you could contribute to that problem. Just some thoughts 😉
I think it is a good idea to hire someone outside the base. The more you can interact with the people of Rwanda the better. Gives you more opportunities to learn the language and to have an influence in their lives. This is a small way to be in touch with them and also a way to help them financially.
Thanks Starene for the thoughts! Its great to hear from you!
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