|The clothes line off my balcony|
Here in Ecuador there is a term for such a woman—machona. I am not sure if there is a textbook definition of this term, but if there was it would be something like this:
machonaGiven that lose definition, I am probably in violation of all four criterion. But I think it is safe to say that my two worse offenses are my inability to cook (and eat for that matter) rice and my inability to wash clothes by hand.
a girl who is considered to be a tomboy, marked by the inability to:
• cook standard Ecuadorian dishes with perfection, e.g. seco de pollo and rice
• maintain a respectable and clean house
• care for children in a motherly and nurturing way
• properly dress herself to the local standards of acceptable style
The rice issue is straightforward. I always burn it. By always, I mean I have really only tried to make rice once or twice. Not only does the health freak in me have a huge mental block to the nutrient sink hole that is white rice, I also have a very difficult time to bring myself to add the copious amounts oil and lard that is required for truly outstanding plain white rice. (Unfortunately, the health freak in me does not have the same mental block to things such as dulce de leche.) Any Ecuadorian can tell you that not all plain white rice is created equal and that some women just have the magic touch when it comes to cooking this household staple. Note to all potential suitors: marrying me is not worth it, your breakfast, lunch, and dinner will greatly suffer.
My next point of contention with maintaining an Ecuadorian home is hand-washing clothes. I am not talking about washing one or two nice sweaters in your bathroom sink, but every single article of clothing that you own in a big tiled slate with buckets and a scrub brush. It is, without a doubt, the most awful household chore I have ever encountered. Even worse than ironing—I never realized such a horror could exist. Here is a basic break down of what it involves:
- Sort through all the clothing that you have worn lately and determine the essential wash groups. If it does not smell or look dirty, there is really not need to wash it at this point.
- Soak all of your clothes in cold water and powder detergent. Hands will eventually go numb.
- To avoid creating too many holes and stretching your clothes too badly, vigorously rub the article of clothing against itself to get all the dirt, sweat, etc. out.
- If you need to do some specific spot cleaning, use the scrub brush. Except to scratch your hands while doing this. They will be numb from the cold water, so you probably won’t notice until after the fact.
- While slowly working through the pile of clothes you have accumulated in the last two weeks, soak your underwear and socks to be washed later.
- If you are still silly enough to be wearing white clothes, bleach ‘em. This could be the point when you realize that you have various scratches on your hand from the scrub brush.
- Once everything is somewhat clean—I am convinced there is never a truly clean hand washed piece of clothing—and all the soap is rinsed out, hang everything out on the cloth line.
- Cross your fingers it does not rain during the next two days.
- What ever you are wearing while washing will end up soaked. By the time I am done washing, I usually have water running down my legs because the front of my pants are drenched. On a hot day, this might be nice. Most days it will just result in your quads going numb.
- Podcasts are your friend… hand washing takes a really, really long time to do. It is not like college where you could put your clothes in the machine, write half a paper, move them to the drier, finish the paper, and call it a night. No, the next hour or two of your life will be solely dedicated to washing clothes. I have found that This American Life or the Rock Garden Tour really help to make the whole process more bearable. That is, when you can hear them over the constant running water.
- After a few months of washing your clothes in the manner, you can assume that nothing will fit the way it ought to. Holes and tears are to be expected as well.
It also makes me thing about how much time women here spend washing clothes. Now I am only washing a minimal amount clothes for one person and it takes me almost two hours every week. Multiply that by six, plus bedding, towels, etc. and we are looking at almost 15 hours ever week spent washing clothes. Guacala. Perhaps that is why so many Ecuadorian women are stay at home moms… that and the fact that the average Ecuadorian male incompetent in the kitchen. But that makes two of us.