Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wringing laundry...and not other things

It was one of those days a few days back.  I determined to catch up on the laundry that just seemed to accumulate since it is nigh to impossible to do more than 1 1/2 loads of what most Americans would call a normal load of laundry per day here. 

For three days straight I toiled washing load after load by hand, hanging the wrung out pieces to dry on our makeshift clotheslines.  We get two options.  I can either hang it in the back under an awning of sorts (no direct sunlight, but it can stay hanging when it rains) or up front either on the balcony or front entrance.  The front fragrance is a mixture of diesel and various flavors of assorted smells.  The back fragrance is usually that day's lunch, which, of course, includes beans and rice.

The last day of the three days I had just finished my last load, exhausted but knowing I had triumphed.  I hung my last garment, started walking to the kitchen when I began smelling that unmistakable cigarette odor.  What happened next was NOT a pretty sight. 

I flew to the back muttering and grumbling quite loudly in English and Portuguese, letting the smoking man visiting my downstairs neighbor know how frustrated I was.  I did not care.  I had not spent my last day of laundry toiling to get the sheets clean just to have it smell like cigarette smoke!!  Oooh, I was angry.  I wanted to wring his neck.  I yanked every last piece off, throwing it over my shoulder, continuing to mutter loudly, walked into the kitchen and closed the door loudly and soundly behind me.

The kids watched in amusement and fascination while I stormed to the front telling them about the "inconsiderate smoking man downstairs" and proceeded to make room on the front lines for the laundry.  Sanguine personalities, such as mine at times, must be entertaining to watch.

It took awhile, since Josh commiserated with me, adding his own two cents about the smoking man, but when I finally calmed down I started thinking about how hard it truly must be to love one's enemies.  Personally, the thought of wringing the guy's neck seemed much more satisfactory than treating the whole situation with grace or mercy. 

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8 

Just let that sink in a little.

Read it again.  sink, sink, sink...   Is it soaked in yet?  Yeah.  And we are supposed to imitate Christ.  Ouch.

So, that's an area we can all work on, loving when the world looks on and says you are justified in not having to love.  Grace and mercy.  Harder for some of us than others.

I want to show you another reason doing laundry here is toilsome.  In the photo below I am holding a filter that has ?, rust? iron?  We are not sure, but it stains the laundry if we do not filter it out. You can see a distinct line of where I already brushed some of it off, it is not a shadow.  Amazing.

Here's my "load" of laundry, about 3 sheets in the basin.  The filtered water is flowing out quite nicely right after I have cleaned it.  I can fill a 5 gallon bucket in about 20 minutes (after 10 minutes the flow begins to trickle more).  Than, if I want to have more water, I would need to clean it again to get another full bucket in 20 minutes.  Otherwise, I could let it trickle through for an hour or more.  Either way, it's tedious to continually clean the filter or takes too long to let it trickle.  This is hard work!!!

Now for some fun photos.

Awhile back we visited missionaries on an island.  Oh. wow.  Not only was it humorous to get there, but we did enjoy their beach.  That in itself was worth it.

First, we boarded a city bus and rode for 40-50 minutes.

We saw many interesting sights.  Coconut water anyone?

No?  How about some oranges?  $4 for a bushel full.

 Views around town


Next, we boarded a large boat and navigated for 30 minutes.

 We are learning to fit in.  Everyone wears flip-flops here.

 And these are the sights we will see on the boat.  A HUGE difference from the city.

 We make it to the island of Cotijuba!  It has been 1 hour and 20 minutes since we left Belem and our house.

But wait, there's more!  Now we get to ride the "bonde".  Think of it as a redneck Disney golf cart ride...except through mud and potholes for 20 minutes.  No cars are allowed on this island, so this is public transportation.

 Some typical sights.  Ah, look, this boat is for sale.

 We leave "down town" behind and head toward our destination.

 This made me think of the slogan, "Beef, it's what's for dinner."  

 The bonde drops us off.  We have arrived!

 The life of missionary kids...

Ok, so there's a few perks to living on an island.  We are glad to know these missionary friends.  We've been told we are welcome to come back.  Sounds good to me!  (just have to travel almost 2 hours and endure some potholes...)

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  II Corinthians 1:3-4


  1. Hi Becky, I just wanted send you a bit of encouragement. I'm sure this is very overwhelming. I hope your neighbor was more humored than offended.And that you will be able to pour Christ into their lives.

    I wonder if you are having culture shock/stress? Every missionary that writes about their first year seems to include this. We are only in deputation,so I have no real on ground experience yet. so,maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.But, what can you do to relieve some of this stress? Could you hang your sheets inside? Can you let go of some American faux pas?(the man smoking?) Can your kids do their own laundry? They are certainly big enough. Call it Home ec or survivalism count if for school.Can you soak your clothes over night then hang them in the morning? Can you remember a time on deputation that was tough,but you could see the hand of God? Do you need to go have a melt down with God someplace by yourself?

    You're going to get use to the new normal. And it's ok to let yourself grieve. If I can lift you up to the Father in anyway please ask. I pray.

    1. Hey Nicky, Actually, it was just one of those days, which ended up having no harm done. I was born in Brazil to a missionary couple and so living in Brazil is not new to me. But, laundry by hand is, and we are waiting for our container of household goods to arrive at the end of the month, which includes a washing machine. :-)

      However, it is a new experience for my family. You can find out more about us by clicking on the Believer's Bridge link above. We started a Mission Organization in 2007 in the Andes of Peru doing discipleship. We hope to work with the river community here doing discipleship as well.

      You are correct though: adjusting to a new culture does have culture shock regardless of how many years you live in different cultures. There are many good studies on it. David Pollock, "Third Culture Kids" is a good book, as well as "Burn Up or Splash Down: Surviving the Culture Shock of Re-Entry" by Marion Knell.

      I am sure you and your family will have many things to adjust to as well. Thanks for stopping by. Praying your experiences will strengthen you and your family.