Tag Archives: Expat Life

Laundry Day!

Semi-automatic Washing Machine

Semi-automatic Washing Machine

Today is a glorious sunny day, the kind where I see the weather forecast and think, “I need to get the laundry going!”  It is odd but true that in this desert city, winter is rather damp and frequently cloudy–weather not at all conducive to drying laundry on a clothesline.  But clotheslines are the norm here, and my four lengths of wire outside the kitchen window will hold just one small load of laundry.  I also have a drying rack in the living room, but it takes two or more days for things to dry inside the house.  I know of people who have electric clothes dryers, but they are very expensive and use a lot of electricity, and are mostly found in the villas and apartments of foreigners and the very wealthy.

Thankfully, washing machines are pretty common.  However, we–and most people of normal economic status–have what is called a “semi-automatic” or “half-automatic” washing machine.  Most Westerners have never heard or seen one of these, and I’ll admit that the first time I had to use one, I stared at the (Arabic) instructions for over half an hour before I started.  These washing machines are probably more appropriate for use in the Middle East than what I think of as a “normal” washing machine, as I think they use less water and electricity.  They also are portable, not requiring their own specific plumbing and electrical outlet (which would not be found in most apartments).

The process for washing laundry goes like this:

1. Move washing machine from the kitchen to the bathroom.  It is made of plastic and light enough that I can carry it on my own.  Plug it in to the electrical outlet in the hallway.

Washing machine in the bathroom.

Washing machine in the bathroom.

2. Hook up water hose to the bidet (Lulu calls it “the washing machine toilet”) and begin filling washing tub (the big one on the left) with water.  Add detergent and clothes; make sure not to overfill it.  It is better to err on the side of too little clothing, as these are not super powerful washing machines.  Put the washing machine drain hose into the bathroom floor drain.

Hooking up to the bidet.

Hooking up to the bidet.

Adding water.

Adding water.

3.  Turn off water, put on washing tub lid, and turn washing dial to desired washing time, usually 9-12 minutes.  (Make sure the setting dial is on “Normal.”)  Watch the magic begin!

(I had a video for you, but apparently have to upgrade my blog before I can share it.  Have to think about that…)

4.  When it finishes, turn the Settings dial to “Drain.”  All the water drains out of the washing tub.  At this point, the clothes are pretty twisted and tied up, so I try to untangle them.

Water going down the drain.

Water going down the drain.

5.  When it’s done draining, turn the Settings dial back to “Normal” and refill the washing tub with water.  Now we are doing the “rinse” cycle, which is basically a repeat of the “wash” cycle but without adding detergent.  Repeat steps #3 and #4.

6.  Now we move on to the “spin” cycle, the right hand tub of the machine.  This tub is much smaller than the washing tub, and can only hold a few items of clothing at a time.  If you overload it, it won’t work, or it will try to go and you’ll start to smell burning plastic.  The clothing in it also needs to be balanced weight-wise around the tub, or else when you turn it on it thumps and bumps and the washer jumps all around.  So, put the clothes in, make sure the Settings dial is still on Drain, and press the clothes down with the insert.  I guess this keeps them from flying around when they’re spinning?  Close the lids and turn the Spin dial; two minutes is usually sufficient for everything except jeans and towels, which need a minute extra.  For one load of wash, I usually end up with five or six loads of spinning.

7.  When you’re done spinning, unplug the washing machine and then gently tilt it in the direction of the drain hose to make sure all the water comes out.  Then pack it all up, move the washer back to the kitchen, and hang your clothes out on the clothesline.

The whole process takes a little bit over an hour, and is obviously more labor-intensive than just throwing things in a washing machine and moving them to the dryer.  Even with family of just three, I end up doing laundry four or five days a week since it’s not possible to wash much at once and I have to space things out to make sure they have time to dry.

Welcome to the Kitchen!

It is appropriate but entirely coincidental that this post is happening on New Year’s Day. I am not a resolution maker, or a goal maker, although I often think I should be. Maybe it would help me to focus more and stay aware of my accomplishments. I frequently feel like I float through my days without much sense of what I have done; I feel it more acutely now that Lulu is in preschool five days a week and I have these huge blocks of “free” time that get wasted on Facebook and Pinterest and puttering around the apartment not knowing what to do with myself.

So, I made myself a weekly schedule, and Wednesdays are “Blog Day.” Meaning that each Wednesday you will be treated to a new musing on expat life, or parenting, or a recipe for some delectable but not-too-complicated-or-crazy dish. Because I am still, and will always be, a simple home cook using whatever ingredients I can find easily and cheaply in my neighborhood.

Also, this:

IMG_0197

is the kitchen in which I cook. While it provides all my basic culinary needs,

Cupboards, counter and sink

Cupboards, counter and sink

Refrigerator (and washing machine)

Refrigerator (and washing machine)

Stove

Stove

it is no one’s idea of gourmet. It is, however, up-to-date with what Pinterest tells me is a current kitchen decorating trend: cupboards without doors. And as a bonus feature, we have the option of hot water from the sink—a luxury I have never had in the Middle East.

Without a doubt, this

Coffee and tea station

Coffee and tea station

is the part of the kitchen that gets the most action. I cannot even express how much I love my hot water kettle, and the nearly constant flow of tea and coffee is an important source of warmth these cold winter days.

 

P.S. I realize this is being posted on January 2, but I did write it on the 1st. As usual, life intervened before I could get this up 🙂

Moving…with Children

Details are falling into place and it looks like we are on track to head to Amman at the end of October. It’s coming up fast! One thing I think about constantly is how to prepare my two-year-old (we’ll call her Lulu–her Arabic nickname–for this blog) for the move. She is at an age where she is very attached to her routines and places; she is very curious and likes to explore, but she can also become very shy and overwhelmed in new places. She’s done pretty well when we’ve traveled out to visit my family in the Northwest, but I don’t think that is a very good measure by which to predict her reaction to Amman. This is going to be a huge transition for her, and she’s too young to be helped much by talking about it.
I’ve started focusing on making changes in our lifestyle to make it more similar to how we will live in Amman. Little things, like phasing out flavored yoghurt and replacing it with plain, rotating in more beans and legumes instead of meat for meals. This week I plan on putting away a lot of her toys and books, and probably some of her clothes, too. Since we are going to a country that struggles with water shortages, I’m contemplating doing away with the nighttime bath, although often she really needs it (she loves digging in the flower beds). Lately, she’s been watching a lot of camel races on YouTube, and we’re trying to have her watch more ‘Alam Simsim or nature documentaries instead of Blue’s Clues (her favorite) or Yo Gabba Gabba.
Anybody have other ideas of what to do now? I know that in the end, we’re just going to have to get there and start adjusting. Lulu and Hungry Husband and I will have have to go through our own process of culture shock, and while I know generally what to expect from myself and Hungry Husband, I feel really uncertain of what to expect from Lulu.

Luggage

Over two and a half years ago, we left a suitcase with some friends in Jordan. It was only supposed to be there for a few weeks, and then someone was going to bring it to us in Yemen. But circumstances happened…
And yesterday we got the suitcase back, with barely any idea of what was in it. Clearly, it was stuff we could live without. Opening it I discovered vacation clothes I’d worn on a scuba diving trip in the Red Sea and floating in the Dead Sea, Arabic books and dictionaries in three different dialects, an engraved brass plate Hungry Husband had made for me our first Christmas in Cairo, and the Tennessee plates (featured in the cover photo of this blog) which we so randomly found in a small alleyway store in Damascus. The assorted items brought back pleasant memories of so many different places.
It is mildly humorous that we just received this suitcase, as in a month or so we will be repacking it to go back to the Middle East, but I feel encouraged by remembering people and places in the region that have been an important part of my life in the past, and will be important again in my future.