You have a washing machine?!

Often I find a lack of topics about which to write because I am so far removed from America. My immersion in China has somewhat blinded me to the more interesting, basic aspects of life. It wasn't until my father laughed at my system of doing laundry that I thought doing laundry might be entertaining to someone.

My washing machine is standard. I put the clothes inside and use my shower head to fill it with water. The three knobs on the bottom spin the clothes and water, helping to clean everything through agitation. After washing everything once I have to drain the water and run it again to rinse the soap from my clothes. Since this machine has several broken parts (there is no lid and the drain knob stopped working long ago) I must use the attached pull-tie that was rigged for the purpose. The water drains, I fill the washing machine with clean water and run the cycle again.

After draining the water again, I put my clothes in the spinning dryer to the right of the washing basket. Or at least, I did until it broke last winter. Instead I wring the clothes out and in the summer I hang them in the back of my apartment where the sun will dry them within a day or two. During the winter I drape my clothes over a heater after wringing them out - a heater which is only used for this purpose. The main problem I have with my clothes in China is their propensity to get larger, exponentially, with each washing. I have long johns with 10 foot sleeves. It has been difficult these days to find anything that fits me as it once did. I continue to shrink and my wardrobe expands. It would be almost comic if it weren't so sad. Nobody has much sympathy for me as my sleeves drag along the ground to class (nobody has known any different).

I have taken to folding my sleeves back over my outer clothing, which has almost become a fashion statement. In fact, I'm surprised how much of what I do becomes almost the standard for what's cool. Boys around campus secretly want to have long hair, like mine. Several weeks ago I began wearing a bandana around my neck for reasons of warmth and students immediately commented: "Wow - I like your...what's that called?"

My father laughed when I showed him my life over Skype by guiding my computer around the apartment. He laughed at my shower and he laughed at my washing machine. At first I felt slightly offended and defensive of my simple life. I was getting an experience here, not looking for luxury. The more I think about situations such as these, however, the more I find myself smiling along with him. Not because I think it's strange, but for the exact opposite reason.

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