Friday, November 25, 2011

Ghana: Third World Definition -- Laundromat

The night before we left for Ghana, my mom and I went out to do some last minute shopping together.  Travel size laundry detergent was one of the items on the list.  

When I think of laundry, I think of my childhood and following my mom out to the clothesline in the early mornings of summer, and inhaling her fleece scented pyjamas each time I hugged goodnight her in the evenings. 

I think of our washing machine, which I'm so grateful for, having broken down for 3 months this summer.  

Like many moms, I think of the world "endless", as it seems that laundry is endless some days.

When I travelled to Honduras with Compassion in 2010, we stayed in very upscale accommodations while we were in country.  While I understand and appreciate Compassion's intent to keep us safe as well as to provide a place of rest in the evenings away from what we'd seen and experienced during our days at the Compassion projects, I found it took away from the experience in that it separated us from the living conditions of the people we were there to serve.

It's harder to relate and understand the challenges and reality of poverty when the degree of separation from it is too wide.  

This trip to Ghana brought us a few steps closer.

Our accommodations in Kete Krachi were quite nice by local standards, but a world removed from the luxuries we're used to, such as running water.  

Yes, running water is a luxury, clean running water even more so.  We are amongst the world's richest.  

I didn't mind the cool water bucket baths, especially at the end of a long, hot, and dusty day in which my body got covered in sweat and dirt, nor did I mind doing laundry by hand.  That being said, I noticed that neither seemed effective in getting squeaky clean results.  

Cleanliness may be a luxury as well.

A while back, Shaun Groves began to gather a collection of images from his travels with Compassion, in order to create a "Third World Dictionary".  I saw many such images that would have fit well into his collection while we were in Ghana, one such image was of the local laundromat, but the only photo of it that I have is the one that is in my mind's eye... the woman bent low over the dark green watering hole near the Village Of Life, doing laundry and collecting water for various uses...  my heart hurting at the thought of her family consuming that water or being washed in it.  How could we possibly neglect to be grateful at all times?  It seems to be no longer a blessing to be removed from poverty, but a danger of the heart and spirit.

On the way back to Accra from Kete Krachi, I saw a community of women doing laundry as a group at the end of the meager local river, only to carry the heavy, wet clothes on their heads all the way home in the extreme heat.  I asked our driver to pause for a moment, and captured this photo to print and place in my laundry room.  A clean laundry room, in my own home, with a state of the art washer and dryer, clean running water and electricity... 

I pray I don't need the photo to be reminded.  I pray the images of this trip will always be at the forefront of my mind.

Third World Definition:  Laundromat.