I did, or rather helped do 18 loads of laundry today. Not counting the couple loads of towels nor the load of our clothes I did after getting back to the apartment. More specifically, along with several new friends and with a lot of miming, laughter and a little frustration 18 loads of refugee laundry were done today at the refugee center I’m working at this month in Athens. That’s not including the laundry that was done on the men’s side of things. And that’s all in one little washing machine that is definitely earning its keep 6 days a week!
Today was a Farsi speaker’s day at the center, which are their busiest days. From what I learned, most guests on Farsi days are Afghani and come from multiple camps across the city. After handing over the children’s room to someone much more skilled in that arena then I, I spent most of the day in the bathroom/laundry room facilitating and doing laundry while keeping the space clean and organized for those showering as well. The woman from Idaho who rescued me in the kids room managed to somehow, magically have the several kids too old per the rules for the room stop jumping off furniture (near a couple tiny ones) and instead take too practicing English words while reading and cleaning up the chaos. I quickly recognized someone much more competent and ceded my role.
The rest of the day was spent in moving laundry through the washing machine amidst the chaos of a pile of female guests and a couple other volunteers all chatting while coming and going from the rest room. The women seem to relax and speak freer in the gender segregated rest rooms then in the larger room full of tables, coffee, tea and games. They cycle in and out of the shower and bathroom, cleaning themselves and their children, combing hair, taking care of little ones and organizing and folding laundry. Really, the mundane tasks of life made challenging if not impossible while living in a refugee camp. There’s soap, shampoo, a clean shower, washing machine and safe place to let their kids roam while they chat, argue and laugh with family and friends. For the most part someone else even does their laundry for them. This, it seems to me, is one of the places the center excels in its attempt to provide services with dignity. The women sit, in chairs, on the floor, sometimes with children. They chat and laugh and get frustrated and debate who should get to shower next and if we’re following the right order for the washing machine. I’ve also learned today how remarkably and comical miming can be for making requests of all sorts of hygiene related items. One in particular caused much laughter and was repeated throughout the day for comic effect. It was a highlight of the day, laughing with these women over shared hygiene needs and mimed motions. The moment of laughter felt a great distance from my earlier fear of being marginally responsible for their children who immediately took advantage of my insecurity.
I feel like this could be much better written and eloquently composed, but I’m tired so I’m going to lean on the failed 500 words per day, no editing challenge and post it as. I learned a lot today, much of it that needs to percolate and be processed a bit.