I'm pleased to introduce you to the pila. It is the main water source in any home or family compound, and thus the hub of cleanliness. A pila is usually made of concrete, has one large, deep basin in the middle where water is stored and two shallow basins on the sides. Often times one will be ribbed to form a washboard texture for scrubbing laundry, while the other will remain smooth to be used for dishes. In practice, the sides don't remain segregated for their intended tasks, however.
|My site family has their pila out in the middle of the patio.|
Many homes where I've used latrines don't store their toilet paper out in the out house, so I've developed a skill of washing my hands with a roll of t.p. under my arm, then placing the roll safely on its designated table without wetting the paper with my still dripping hands. The things I'm learning here, I tell you. I've actually adopted the same practice with my latrine in anticipation of a leaky outhouse in the rainy season (also there's not a good storage location out there, and I don't want to be worried about stowaway bugs in my t.p., thank you).
My grandparents have assured me that we in Guatemala are crazy for not having any crank wringers like those they used back in their pre-clothes washer and dryer days. Such things matter less at the moment while I'm in the dry season and I can allow clothing to hang out for as long as it takes to dry all the way through. Once afternoon rainstorms start becoming regular again I may have to try to improvise something along those lines, though. During training I would have to put out and take down my laundry several times over the course of a few days to get the bulkier items like sweaters and jeans completely dry.
For me, doing my laundry has developed into being a pretty enjoyable task. It's satisfying to see things go from dirty to clean, and I've loved that fresh, sunny smell when I take the clothes down off the line since childhood. The process can be pretty cathartic on days I'm frustrated about something. One particular day that backfired, however, when upon reaching my last item of clothing the wooden pole holding up my laundry line broke and dropped the bulk of my fresh clean wet clothing down into the dust, leaving it far dirtier than it had begun. There was nothing to do but to pick it all up and restart the soaking and scrubbing.
In my time here I've seen people wash their shoes at the pila, their hair, bedspreads, even a dog once (the only dog I've seen cleaned in this country). But of course, cleaning does happen inside the house, too. The floors get swept, if they are packed earth. If they are cement or tile and can withstand mopping, a wet towel is wrapped around the end of the broom. Colorful disinfectant (that perhaps has more coloring than cleaning product inside it) is splashed on the floor and the whole area is wiped down.