Have you ever washed your own clothes? Yes, right? Nope. WRONG. You haven’t. You haven’t truly washed your own clothing until you’ve scrubbed your clothes, by hand, in a bucket!
Friday came and I realized I was quickly running out of clean clothes. I’ve been in India for a week as of today. The temperature here in Rishikesh, India is still pretty warm. The average temperature is around 85 degrees. Doing yoga all day, every day, makes for some pretty smelly clothing. Air conditioning you ask? Heck no. Don’t be silly!
I don’t know about you but in my book when I wear a piece of clothing it’s then considered dirty. I wear something for 2 hours and it’s deemed dirty. I mean, why would you care when you have a washing machine sitting in your lovely home just asking to be used?
I made my way down 4 flights of stairs to the lobby. I had to speak with someone at the front desk. I had to find out where the closest laundromat was. I assumed there wasn’t one in the hotel where I was staying. The elevator hadn’t worked for a year so I didn’t think there would be a washing machine. “Hey Shantinu, where’s the closest laundromat?” I asked. Shantinu is the coordinator for the yoga school but also works for the hotel. I still haven’t figured out how all of that is intertwined. For another day. “What’s a laundromat?” he asked with a puzzled look. Umm what? Did he just ask me what a laundromat is? It must be language barrier, I thought to myself. “You know, a laundromat. A place you bring your dirty clothes and there’s a bunch of washing machines,” I explained with a concerned voice. He stared at me blankly. “Yeah, there’s no such thing as that here. You know you’re in India, right?” He’s a smartass that one. “That’s what the bucket is for in your bathroom,” he explained. Oooooh, shitballz!
I’d never washed clothes by hand before. In a BUCKET no less. Hmmm, well at least I brought Norwex laundry soap! Yes, I carried laundry detergent half way across the world. Do you know how many chemicals are in regular laundry detergent!? Do yourself a favor and look into it! Straight up cancer with a side of leukemia. Norwex or Seventh Generation are great, safe, clean brand options.
I made my way back up the 4 flights of stairs toward my quarters. I realize I’ve already started to form a habit of trying to hold my breath while walking up the stairs. Obviously, holding your breath and going up stairs don’t go well together. The hallway walls are covered with mold. If you get close enough you can see that they’re actually fuzzy. I think of my friend Sarah back home in the states with a fiancé who is allergic to mold. This place would surely be the end of him.
I unlocked the door to my room and there it was. Looking ever so dirty and gross. A bucket. It was on the floor in my bathroom. If you’ve been following my blog and/or Facebook page you would have seen the visual tour of my bathroom, so no need to explain. Wowzer.
First, I started by cleaning the bucket. My Norwex body cloth has now been turned into a cleaning cloth. I don’t think this bucket has ever been cleaned. How do you clean clothes in something dirty? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose? OK. Enough chit-chat. Time to get this done. I drew some warm water, added the soap and let the scrubbing commence.
Oh my word. My back is killing me! Bending over scrubbing clothes for 45 minutes kills your back. I said to myself, “Man I wish I had a stool to sit on.” I then yelled out loud, “Oh. My. God!” For a week now, I’d been staring at this little round plastic 6” stand that the bucket sat on. I thought it was odd that a bucket would come with a stand. Why would a bucket come with a stand? I’d constantly move the “stand” around after showering to squeegee the floor. You have to squeegee the floor every time you shower because there’s no shower curtains. Yup, no shower curtains. “Oh.My.God! It’s a stool!” I yelled. I had ZERO idea this little plastic thing, I’d been pushing around all week, was a stood. I picked it up and low and behold it literally said “STOOL” on the side of it. Am I really that sheltered? I thought it was a stand for a bucket. (eyeroll at myself)
About an hour into the washing process I started to tear up. I found myself once again asking, “What the hell am I doing here?”. It’d been a week and I questioned every day, multiple times a day, what I was doing here and if I was going home. If you’ve read the previous blogs, you’d know about my surroundings and the environment. Questionable to say the least.
After a long good cry, sitting on my new favorite stool, with a now clean bucket between my legs, I realized how silly this was and what I must look like. I started to laugh. How did I end up here? Is this what I wanted? Is this what I prepared for? Is this all worth it? You can give up now, pack it up and head home. There’s a plane waiting for you, as Mike would say. I decided to stay.
After weeks of doing laundry in a bucket I actually came to appreciate the process! Who knew!? There was a sense of pride wearing those clothes after spending so much time scrubbing them by hand. For damn sure I didn’t consider my clothes dirty after wearing them for 2 hours anymore. I developed blisters multiple times. By the end of the 5 weeks my blisters had callused over. Who would have thought I’d come to India and develop “working hands”, from doing laundry no less?
I shared this story with my yoga classmates. They looked at me like I was crazy. Let me remind you, one man was from India, one girl was from Germany and one girl was from France. Turns out the two girls actually packed certain textile clothing because they knew they’d be cleaning their clothes in a bucket. “You’ve never hand washed your own clothes before!?” they yelled in unison. “Nope, never,” I bashfully said. Turns out, it’s a regular thing to wash your clothes by hand in Europe too. Now I just felt stupid! I thought back to myself sitting on that stool, crying, feeling sorry for myself. I’ll chalk it up to culture shock so I don’t feel so bad about being incredibly embarrassed. It’s then I realized how incredibly lucky I was to be from America. A washing machine in every home, ready for a load of laundry at any point.
Over the next few weeks I’ll go on to have about 15 more of these realizations. Hey, Americans! If you’re questioning what you have and you don’t currently appreciate what you’ve got, book yourself a direct flight to India.