I woke up tired. It was still gray outside, early morning cloudy, so I rolled over and slept on. But when sleep would bed me no longer I found myself facing a Saturday with nothing inside it. No plans for the day, no excursion with friends. Instead I curled up with a book (actually three), listened to BushDiva belting out song after unknown song through our adjacent wall, and read.
But my clothes, soaking since the night before, beckoned me and so I rose and began washing just as our fickle water stopped running, which lead me to empty a huge portion of our stored washing water. It is amazing how much water it takes to wash and rinse a small load of clothes…and today I didn’t even do a great job.
But watching my clothes dry slowly in the heavy overcast heat I can’t help but wonder how people managed.
I know part of what makes my days long, the tasks difficult, is that this is a new routine for me. Unlike the little girls I see bent over large buckets scrubbing away at age 8 maybe 12, I am just learning. I still haven’t mastered the best posture to avoid a sore back. And while I can carry the water from the pump to the house on my head, I still haven’t quite figured out what is too little in the bucket and leaves one water filter half empty – vs. too full that lets water splash down my neck as I ascend the steps.
Everything has a system, a way to make the tasks manageable. I remember my first attempt at a bucket bath 10 years ago. I made a ridiculous mess with water everywhere and wasn’t particularly clean. But now, I am methodical. Cold water splashed on my feet to acclimate myself to the chill. A wet and soapy towel. Methodically scrubbing each part of my body. Rinsing. Another hard scrub to the most important parts. And a final rinse.  But that has been cultivated. As a result I use a bare amount of water (one bucket) and contain the mess.
And with dishes, we have two plastic tubs, one to wash, one with bleach for rinsing (no hot water and an abundance of multi-legged friends makes bleach necessary). There is method.
Part of the time consuming nature in the necessary duties of the day, the seeming difficulty, is that this is as new to me as cassava leaf and palm butter.
But still…washing clothes takes time, and pumping water, and burning garbage, and cooking by coal pot…and I wonder how people did it during the war, do it now in the shadow of malaria, TB, employment, unemployment. How did/do people manage to get done all the daily needs of a family while avoiding soldiers and mortar fire, high fever, shakes, and trips to the clinic?
I imagine some things fall away…but others can’t be neglected. Water has to be fetched…eventually.
And I don’t know. And it isn’t the type of thing you can just ask. I can guess the answer.
“I do it.”
Because of course it has to be done. It is survival.
Thinking of it in those terms, I am humbled to complain less when my hands tire from wringing out my towel and it sours a little because I didn’t do a good job. Peace holding fast, I won’t know war; mefloquin holding strong, I won’t know malaria. Housework is the most of my worries…not the least…and I am thankful for that.

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