Transitioning from the USA to Ghana has been a huge move for me. I have come to realize that there are so many things in the States that I take for granted, starting with my living accommodations. I stay on campus in the International Student Hostel with other international students and Ghanaians. According to the locals, the accommodations at ISH are considered to be better than the average dormitory, but when I discovered some of its pitfall I have to say I was shocked. While my room is a pretty nice size for two people, unfortunately there is no air conditioning; only a small creaky fan that turns from the ceiling. The water in the showers only run somewhere between room temperature and cold depending on the time of day. Knowing this makes me really motivated to take a shower in the morning when the water is a little warmer; midnight showers will freeze you to the bone! The mosquitos buzzing around my room at night can also be a bit unnerving. But among all the things I have had to adjust to regarding my living arrangements, I would have to say that washing clothing by hand has been the most difficult.
Before coming to Ghana I had never hand washed a load of laundry in my life! Growing up with a washing machine has spared my hands the task of laundering. However here it is a completely normal everyday task of both men and women. The first time I washed it was a complete disaster! The first mistake I made was forgetting to separate the whites and darks. The powder used to wash is really strong and able to strip colors if not used properly. Unfortunately that meant that the colors from my shirts began to bleed together and stain my white sheets. It came to a point where I got tired of having to handle my clothes piece by piece so I stuck my foot in the bucket and sloshed them around. Yes, this did catch the attention of the Ghanaian students and triggered some strong playful laughs! Finally I wrung out each individual piece and hung them on the line. My hands were so sore after washing and wringing I could barely write.
While there is a moderately priced laundry service at my hostel, I try to only use it sparingly. Not because I like washing my clothes by hand (as I explained earlier it can be tough), but because I like experiencing what typical Ghanaians would experience. Paying 16 cedis, or 8 dollars, to get a load of laundry washed is considered relatively expensive. After a month of washing, my once raw knuckles are starting to become callused and my technique has advanced. What once took 3 hours to wash, is now only taking 1.5 hours. So you can guess that I am feeling pretty proud of myself. As I write this I am looking at the pile of clothes bound to be washed today. Oh boy, its time for another laundry session.