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Tuesday, June 5, 2012


This is the way we wash our clothes...

I remember when our oldest son Kai came back from serving a two-year mission in Brazil, that the first thing he did was go down to the basement and kiss the washing machine.  He had spent two years washing clothes in a bucket.

Well, that’s how it’s done here in Tonga.  Washing machines are available (senior missionaries have them, but not 19-21 year olds), but most people can’t afford them – they cost about half a year’s salary.  Plus, the electricity to run them is very expensive - this is an island, after all.  So, the family wash is done in a bucket, like the woman in the picture at right.

One of the larger missionary quarters.

Young missionaries are housed in what are called missionary quarters, tiny pre-fab buildings which consist of a ½ bath, shower, sink and toilet, and then a small sitting room, usually furnished only with a table and chairs, and a bedroom with two beds.  Missionaries are responsible to keep their quarters clean, which is a new habit for many Tongans, most of whom have never even had a bed to sleep on, and who have to be instructed in how to make a bed, how to wash sheets every two weeks, and how to sweep and mop a floor.  (When you have a dirt floor, or you sleep out in a little hut behind the main house, cleaning is not something you learn to do.)  But amazingly, most missionaries do a very good job at learning to keep their quarters clean, and their clothes too, by washing in a bucket.   

One of the senior missionary couples here, Elder and Sister Sanders, has the assignment of inspecting missionary quarters (along with about six other assignments – they stay busy!).  As they entered one a few days ago, Elder Sanders noticed a long extension cord running from the main room into the bedroom.  Thinking that there might be a problem with the electricity in one of the rooms, Elder Sanders asked, the elders, “Why do you have an extension cord in your bedroom?”

These are NOT the two elders in the story!  But you get an idea
of how they dress, every time they're out of their quarters.
The two Tongan elders just stared at the floor.  Apparently they thought they were in trouble, and they were very reluctant to give any answer.  Elder Sanders said, “Look at me.  Now tell me, what is that extension cord for?”

One of the elders finally mumbled, “washing machine.”  Elder Sanders did a double-take.  Washing machine?  He turned to the Tongan maintenance worker who had accompanied him to the missionary quarters, and asked him to ask the elders what the extension cord was for.  The maintenance worker asked the elders, in Tongan, and then translated their answer.  “Washing machine.”

Elder Sanders was very confused.  A washing machine?  There was the bucket, in the bathroom, with a PVC pipe to use as an agitator.  There was no washing machine outside the little building.  The cord seemed to stretch from nowhere to nowhere, and suddenly Elder Sanders got tickled.  “Um, I got some bad news for you folks,” he smiled to the maintenance worker.  “Tell these elders that apparently, someone has stolen their washing machine!”  Haha!

As it turns out, the family who owns the land where the missionary quarters is located has a washing machine, and they let the elders do their laundry in the washer, provided the elders use their own electricity.  So the extension cord is used once a week, to run from the family's porch to the missionary quarters.  This time the cord did not get put completely under a bed.  No harm, no foul.  No elders, you’re not in trouble.

This was a perfectly sensible solution, but here in Tonga, all kinds of options run through your head.  You never know what the “rest of the story” might be.  When Elder Sanders told this story, he was interrupted by our mission nurse, who speculated that the elders had tried turning a fan face down into the bucket, to agitate the laundry!  So now we are all promoting the invention of bucket fans…the next big thing, of course!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I was expecting a wringer washer story, but this is too funny!Bea, if I didn't know you...but the pictures are too much! You gotta be waking up expecting anything!