Thursday, September 29th, Day 14
I have a washing machine. No instruction book (of course, what good would that do me in Chinese). I’m an expert now, having done three loads of laundry. But in the beginning…
Okay, I recognized On/Off and Play/Pause, buttons I had on my DVD player at home. And the button on the left had something to do with water levels. But when I turned the machine on, it was the blinking lights on the right that worried me.
Now, I’m not a stranger to washing machines, or driers for that matter. I had seen my wife using ours many times. The real challenge was all she once told me about “delicate” and “cotton” and stuff like that. I know she has a deeper understanding of washing and clothes in general. For me, simple is better. I was going to wash all my clothes together in one load, and I remember her saying something about hot water, white clothes, and colors running. I just wanted a regular wash in cold water. I didn’t care if my underwear turned blue.
I stared at the buttons. Why was that face smiling? Why was it pointing to the buttons and columns of lights? Was that a happy user? And were these the two buttons that controlled my washing machine? It seemed like an invitation.
The fastest way to find out what the buttons did was to pick a setting and run the washer empty, just to see what happens. I started with the default setting, the one it came up with all on its own. The machine started. Water poured in. It was cold water. Great! I tried another setting. Same thing, cold water. I tried another. Cold. I scratched my head, looked at the back of the machine, noticed there was only one line coming into the washer: a cold water line. Problem solved! This washer only did cold water washes.
I let the washer fill, then watched as it switched to wash cycle. It was different than the washers I had seen in America. Where American washers go back and forth, gently, kind of swishing the clothes around, this machine whirred and spun, first in one direction, then the other. The force was so great that the water almost left the washer! Later, when I watched the washer attack my clothes, wringing them tight with each whir, I suspected that the Chinese might have been introduced to American washers at first, but they wanted something that washed their clothes with more elbow grease, so they designed these powerful wringers. I hope my clothes last!
As for detergent, I used the Tide I had bought. No instructions I could understand, I put a couple squirts in. That wasn’t going to clean anything. So I put about six squirts in. The clothes came out looking real clean, especially the underwear and handkerchiefs, cleaner than clean, whiter than white. Later I would figure out that the instructions said to use 2-4 squirts. Note: My local China expert, Jeremy, tells me the Chinese refuse to wash underwear in the washer, washing them by hand only. No explanation asked for, none given.
Note: Before using the washer, I wanted to clean out the filter. I had seen them when I tested the washer. They weren’t in the usual place. They were inside the washer, on the wall. I took them out and was glad I did!
Cleaning the apartment. I can only say that the best part is it reminds me of Melissa. I don’t clean every day like she would. Instead, I use the “bottom of the feet rule”. Every night when I get into bed I brush off the bottom of my feet. If I fill the air with dust, I figure it’s time to sweep. If they’re black, its time to mop. Another way to tell if the floor is dirty is to walk in the kitchen with wet feet. If my footprints turn black, it means it’s time to wash the floor.
There’s a lot of gunk in the air here. I’ve been here two weeks and seen the sun only two of those days. I’ve never seen the stars or the moon. Most days there is a haze, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, but always blocking the sun. I think the haze is mainly ash. At least that’s what it looks like on my kitchen floor. It turns black when I get it wet, like charcoal ash from my barbecue. The air smells a little like barbecue ash, too.
Just inside the door to my apartment there is a rack for shoes. It came with two sets of sandals, one pair pink and small, the other black and larger. I’m not sure why there are inside shoes. At first I thought it was to keep the dirt on my outside shoes from coming inside. But there’s so much dirt inside from the open windows that I think the inside shoes just protect my feet from inside dirt. I guess that makes some sense. But I like to walk around without shoes on, let my feet breath. I don’t mind the bottoms of my feet getting dirty. And like I said, when they get black and fuzzy, it’s time to clean.