What men can learn from washing clothes by hand
The following information is important for everybody form a first-world country, especially men!
Unlike at home, where your mother or your wife does the washing (I apologise, there are many men doing their own laundry around the world, but still…), you have to do it yourself in Guatemala.
Now, you may say: That’s no problem, I know how to use a washing machine. Well, so do I, but that does not help at all in Guatemala.
The fact is that washing machines are very rare in Guatemala. Only a few people have them and, even then, they don’t really do a good job, because they only use cold water.
So you see where that leaves us: washing by hand!
And if you come from a relatively modern country like I did, you probably have never seen anybody doing that before and most certainly have never done it yourself.
My first days in Guatemala, I didn’t have any problem with that. I had enough clothes for 2 weeks. But then I had to face the simple truth that there was no way around it—there are a few launderettes in Guatemala, but they are pretty expensive.
So I spied on the children of the family I stayed with doing their laundry. And then I just washed my clothes how I thought it would work.
To be honest, the first few times, my clothes probably were not much cleaner after washing them, but with time, I learned how to do it. And soon, it became something completely normal in daily life in Guatemala.
Except that one time when I spent a few weeks in a little village in the mountains near Mexico.
The family I stayed with was very lovely and tried to make my stay as nice as possible. At one point, I asked where I could wash my clothes. They seemed surprised at my question and just said that they would wash them for me. I thought they were just being nice until a colleague told me about her experience in the same village.
When she’d asked about washing her clothes, the response was quite different. Instead of washing the clothes for her, the family showed her the wash-trough and said, “Here you can wash your clothes.”
Yes, machismo is still very common in rural areas of Guatemala—they uphold strict ideas about the roles of men and women in society. And honestly, I enjoyed the washing-free time.
But as missionaries, we try to be a better example and make a difference in the world. In Guatemala, this means washing your own laundry by hand, no matter how macho you are.