I did my first load of laundry in my homestay today.
According to the terms of my homestay for the Baobab Center, I am supposed to have laundry service once per week in my household. After a few confusing conversations with yaay, I still do not know which day the household does their laundry. Whoops.
I was also told when I arrived in Dakar that homestay laundry does not include “delicates” or basically anything underwear related. Not a problem, since I figured I could do my own laundry.
There are not very many laundromats in Dakar, and I have yet to see a Senegalese household with a washer. Most people, from what I can tell, either handwash their laundry at home or send it out for cleaning by women who will wash it and bring it back. I have seen laundry women during my travels across the city, many of them doing laundry in the streets in a series of different buckets.
So today I decided that it was time to wash some of my shirts and underwear since I had some time at home in the morning while Emily, Sierra, and Avey went to the Sea Plaza to see a film. When I walked upstairs, Mariatou was washing the floors, and I asked her if it was okay for me to wash my laundry. She told me that Sotha was upstairs, and to check with her first.
Laundry in my homestay is washed on the fourth floor of the house, an outdoor balcony. There are about 7 different buckets up there, and it’s also where the family keeps a goat. I have no idea how the goat got up there. The pathway to get to the rooftop is a tightly wound spiral staircase with incredibly tiny stairs and no railing. It is open all the way around, so if you fall off, you fall onto the concrete floor of the room below you.
When I got to the rooftop, Sotha was already doing her laundry, so I went back downstairs to get what I needed to wash. By the time I had gotten back to the roof, she was done and her laundry was hanging on the clothesline across the rooftop. I grabbed a bucket to fill with water, but the faucet in the laundry area wasn’t working.
I had to take a large bucket downstairs to the common area shower, fill it with water, and then carry it back up the terrifying spiral stone staircase without dropping it or falling down. I made it back to the rooftop, tossed some soap in the water, and began handwashing my clothes. As I was going about this process, I looked up to see a Senegalese woman on a neighboring rooftop washing laundry. She looked back at me, and to say she was bewildered is an understatement. I continued my work.
I hung my clothes on the line with everyone else’s, so now my “unspokables” are flapping in the breeze on my rooftop for all of Dakar to see. 🙂
Soon, I will post some tips for living in a Senegalese homestay. Hopefully it will be helpful for future travelers to Senegal.