Three Loads of Laundry Today

Anyone reading this who lives in the States or most of Europe would most likely say, “So what?” Well, actually it’s a fairly big deal here in Panama where a lot of the time water doesn’t just come out of the tap when you turn the knob.

For the last couple of weeks the availability of water has been very sporadic. Recently there was none. Zero. Zip. Nada. And it was like that for almost 48 hours. It’s been so bad that IDAAN, the water agency, brought a tanker truck of potable water to the neighborhood twice and people came out with five gallon buckets to load up. Think about it. There’s no warning that you’re not going to have any water. You turn the tap and you get nothing. You can’t wash your dishes. You can’t prepare your meals without water. You can’t take a bath or a shower. And really important, you can’t flush your toilet. At least you can’t do those things in your house. But there’s a small river by my house I’ve written about before. All day long people come down with their laundry and dinner dishes in buckets. Kids getting ready for school come down to the river just as the sun is coming up to take a bath and their parents follow a little later to get ready for work.

Now, I’m a bit luckier than most. My house is the last one on the road and down a slight hill. I’m able to get water from what’s in the pipeline, but there’s no pressure behind it so it’s impossible to use the washer, but I can get enough to do the dishes and with my solar shower (a plastic bag with a nozzle on it) I’m able to take care of basic hygiene. But with no water pressure once you push the lever on the toilet the tank won’t refill. So what’s one to do? Well, I have three five gallon buckets and when it rains I put them out under the roof overhang and fill them up. Sometimes when it’s really pouring they’ll fill up in just a matter of minutes. I use that water to flush the john.

Even on good days the water pressure is generally only available in the early morning and it’s off by nine o’clock or so and it will stay like that sometimes for the next 10 or 12 hours. This morning I happened to be up and about just before six and there was decent water pressure in the mains. Before I brewed my coffee, checked my email, read my favorite blogs and took my morning meds I had a load in the washer. I was able to get two loads completely done but during the third the pressure had dropped so much that the water flowing into the machine wasn’t any larger than a pencil lead. It had gone through the wash cycle and was half way through the rinse when that happened. I took enough of the rain water to cover the sheets and pillow cases and finished the load that way. Drying, of course is done on the line. Is there anything better than the smell of a pillow case that’s dried out in the sunshine?

Sure it’s a hassle, but hey, it’s how it is here. It’s all about how you deal with it. You can bitch and moan, or you can just get on with your life.


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3 responses to “Three Loads of Laundry Today

  1. We’ve had better luck lately and water has been pretty consistent but yes, it is inconvenient. We save gallon milk jugs and have them stashed with emergency water. I was surprised how quickly we learned to manage that way. I have gone to the river to bathe also which is kind of fun, especially in that cool water on a hot day. Thank goodness it’s water and not electricity. That I would find much more annoying.

    I have one of those 5 gallon water cooler things with a spout on it for my drinking and cooking water. I also have a filter on my kitchen tap that takes out the chlorine and supposedly up to 99.8% of any little beasties living in it. I rarely let it get less than 1/2 empty if I can help it. I haven’t resorted to bathing in the river yet but I have gone down and soaked in it a few times after getting back home from a shopping expedition to David on a really hot day. And I have, once of twice, showered out under the roof runoff when its been raining really hard.

  2. indacampo

    Luckily we have a supplementary tank and pump so we don’t really notice town water outages. Unless of course the electricity and water are shut off at the same time like it was this morning. We have nothing to gripe about in comparison though, it was only out for a couple of hours. 🙂

    I’ve tried to get quotes for the installation of a system here, but it isn’t easy. Not only that, I just rent the house and while the owners, who live in Texas, want to install a system it probably won’t happen until they retire and move down here. When that will be is up in the air. I know I’ll be here until November and then we’ll see.

  3. I recently had a bit of culture shock in Beijing involving laundry. Laundromats are almost nonexistent, and having your clothes washed by others can be expensive, especially for someone getting established in the city like myself, so I’ve been hand washing my clothes in the hotel sink for days.

    For most of the first year I was here at the house in Boqueron I did my laundry in a five gallon bucket using a modified plumber’s plunger to agitate the clothes. I finally got REALLY tired of doing that and bought a washing machine. I like that a whole lot better.

    Your story about having someone wash your clothes reminded me of a friend over in Antibes, France. He took his clothes in to be washed at a laundry and when he got them back he said it would almost have been cheaper to have just bought new ones. Which also reminded me of a guy I know in Florida. Some friends who knew him back in the ’80s said that he used to wear a set of clothes for a couple of days until they got dirty or started to smell and then he’d go to Sears or some other store and buy a whole new set and start another cycle.