Friday, May 02, 2008

Bolivian Laundry Duty

My missionary wardrobe consisted of a sturdy black suit with two pairs of pants, a pair of brown slacks, and a bunch of white shirts. They got worn every day and quickly got dirty. Everything was machine washable, but I never saw a washing machine or dryer my entire time in Bolivia. I'm sure some people had them, but none that I ever knew. Instead, all my laundry was washed by hand.

The missionaries would typically pay a cholita or ward member to do their laundry for them once a week. It was somewhat important to hire a member or a trusted person to do it because the laundry included our temple garments and they weren't supposed to be hung out to dry in public. In my first area we had a maid and she did our laundry in a large cement utility sink in the back yard. She'd use a large green block of laundry soap and hand wash the dirty clothes in one side of the sink and rinse them on the other side before hanging them up to air dry. The clothes always came back clean but a little stiff from air drying.

After a while my suit jacket and ties got dirty too, and I didn't think they'd handle hand washing so I took them to a dry cleaner where one of our investigators worked. Everything came back nice and clean except for one minor detail. They smelled like they'd been washed in kerosene! The fumes were overpowering and it took weeks for the smell to finally dissipate. This was apparently typical, so after that I took special care to keep my suit jacket clean, mostly by not wearing it except to church.

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