It is on days when you start to feel a bit too mundane that one ought to turn their mundane experiences into something humorous, and much more interesting than it really is. This is a short prose on what it is like to do laundry here in Timor. Enjoy!
It was only an hour after the sun had come up that the heat was bearing down on my back while I hunched over a bucket of dusty water. Great, I thought to myself. The skin stretching over my spine and ribs prickled with heat, that nuisance which has kept me company for many long months.
I sighed, peering at the murky water meant for washing my clothes. At least my clothes would be hanging out to dry in the sun; I planned to lay inside all day. I began to scrub the clothes, roughing up the browning pit stains, smoothing over any linen, and swirling it all together to mimic the motion of a washing machine.
These days, I found myself whispering, “Be the machine,” under my breath anytime I felt my energy waning on laundry day.
My legs were beginning to get soaked, and I twitched at every drop of water trickling my long since shaven leg hairs. Those droplets felt just like the hordes of house flies that assisted me in the troubling duty of ‘fase ropa’*. It is much safer to twitch than never twitch at all–not to mention the nasty mosquitoes that came hunting for blood.
I began to sniff-check my work, as I knew that the dust had long since stained my clothing. Getting rid of the stench of my sweat was a final victory in a losing war to cleanliness. Today, the detergent in question was Bunga**, and it was not so powerful as its older brother, Rinso**. As I lifted a shirt to my nose, I heard a voice.
“Mana Marta, ropa dois ka?”*** The women over yonder had caught sight of me. They giggled away and I grinned, biting back the need to reply that, yes, I might stink… but so do you.
And so, I wrung out the old bastards–I mean clothes–and threw them into the sun’s rays to dry. I flip-flopped away to my stuffy, metal-roofed abode, where a not yet crashed hard drive and fully charged laptop waited to take me home.
*Fase ropa is Tetum for ‘washing clothes’.
**Bunga and Rinso are Indonesian brand washing powders.
***Tetum for ‘Sister Marta, are the clothes stinky?’