When I lived with my host family in China, laundry was a foreign world to me. There were two dryer-looking machines in a small corner of the apartment, but, as far as I could tell they were never used—electricity was too expensive. Not only did I hang dry all my clothes, I washed all my clothes by hand.
For the first week of my stay, my host mother did my laundry for me. I remember the day when my host sister, who was two years younger than me, came into my room and told me I would be doing my own laundry. I smiled—because that’s what you do when people are helping you and you have no idea what they mean—and followed her to the bathroom. When asked if I had washed my laundry before, I hesitated then shook my head. The expression on my sister’s face was priceless. She called my mom, who repeatedly showed me that my wringing abilities were below par. Once again I smiled, slightly exasperated. I was athletic, young…why couldn’t I wash my clothes as well as she?!
Throughout my stay, a slew of laundry problems continued to occur. My sister stood and watched me as I tried to bat a spider off my hanger without dropping it down my shirt, I felt self-conscious when I realized I washed my clothes twice as much as my sister (many Chinese will wear the same clothing two times or more before washing it). My mom (jokingly!) told me I was a naughty daughter when half my underwear dropped from the rafters into the turtle bin. Back to the bathroom sink I went.
Tackling laundry was something I never really thought about before going abroad—I definitely did not expect to battle spiders and turtles for a clean shirt! Laundry proved an interesting experience for a lot of my friends—one student was mortified when she was asked to wash her own underwear. I’m pretty sure she buckled down and washed them—clean clothes are a MUST abroad!
In hindsight, I’m glad I left all my super-nice, super special clothing items at home. Of course, I brought some staples such as my favorite shorts and tanks, but nothing that was fancy material. Since I am going abroad longer this time and will be having a professional internship, I will be bringing slightly nicer clothes, but they will be durable! Anything else I need, I can buy abroad. It’ll be in-style within my country, cheaper, and will definitely be laundry-proof!
Michelle Yeager, OIE Student Worker