Friday, August 22, 2008

Laundry Day

When I was packing I was urged by a couple of people to “pack light”, in particular I was told things like “plan what you’ll need for a year and bring half as much” and far less vague but far less realistic “just bring three outfits, and wash one in the sink every night.” None of this was particularly helpful to me. J. reassured me greatly as she helped me pick out a second rolling suitcase “Yeah, you packed too much – but everyone does.” She also, thankfully, told me there’s no such thing as too many tank tops.

It turns out I’m going through about two outfits a day (the idea of wearing the same outfit two days in a row is disgusting in the extreme), and rinsing things out in the sink was doing squat. Two pairs of my socks are stained beyond comprehension (new socks too!) from getting wet in my shoes, and all of my shirts are soaked after I wear them outside for an hour or two. There are laundry services all up and down my soi, but there was also a do-it-yourself wash station near the market, so I decided to give it a go.*

Here’s the thing… in the US you drive (or if you’re close by- walk) to the laundromat, it’s in a building; you open the door and walk inside. There’s a change machine and sometimes a dispenser for laundry soap, and more often than not a soda machine & some magazines. So in Chiang Mai, you walk down the Soi, trying hard not to be hit by passing motor bikes & cars, getting over to the side whenever two vehicles have to pass each other because the Soi is about two car widths wide… but you know, with food vendors, parked cars & motor bikes or sleeping dogs strewn here & there. Next to the market there’s a ‘wall’ (plywood and cyclone fencing) and a roof, and two posts holding up the roof. Under the roof there are four washing machines. There’s also a chair, a bench and a couple motor bike parked there. Mind you, on the other side of the wall, there’s a fish stand.

Ok – I eat meat, so this really shouldn’t bother me, but this is just about enough to turn me into a vegetarian. Turn away if you have a sensitive stomach… I’m serious… skip down to the next laundry section. I can’t quite handle this one fish booth, it is seriously, the freshest fish of the day. There’s a big ol’ bucket of fish (no idea what kind) swimming around in there, not quite packed like sardines… but close enough. Then there’s a table with whole fish with the sides slit, and right next to it is the grill with those same fishies that were swimming around in the pool moments ago now cooking away. I’ve walked by there a few times over the course of the day and you know the number of fish in the bucket goes down and the number of fish on the grill goes up each time I walk by.

There’s just something about the freshness of it and the actual killing being so close to the eating that’s a shock to my pampered western sensibilities. They don’t skin the fish, or chop its head off, or beer-batter dip it. It’s perfectly identifiable from start to finish. I know that animals have to die for me to have a cheeseburger. I get that on an intellectual level. And on a culinary level, I know that the fresher the ingredients, the better they taste. But seeing the fish like that makes me go straight for the mangos & cashews.

Ok – back to laundry. The fish stand is right next to the laundry station. The washing machines are cheap, and seriously high-tech. There’s a display that shows what cycle it’s on and how many minutes are left in each cycle. So I could look at it and see immediately that it would take 25 minutes, grab some snacks at the market, check to see that it’s got 12 minute left, take my goodies back to the guest house, come back and there’s only a minute left. And here was the nicest surprise. You know how in the US your machine is done and there’s a buzzer… big loud buzzer to let you know that the wash is done? Here, it was a cute little electronic song. I was like – what a pleasant way to let you know your wash is done… no need to wake the dead, just a little song to get your attention. Unfortunately that’s that… there’s no dryer. I guess in the dry months it’s no big deal but with 90% humidity and monsoon rains…line drying gets a bit tricky. I hung everything around my room the best I could and turned the fan on when I left. Most things got mostly dry by the end of the day and hopefully the rest will be dry by morning.

* I composed this post back at my first guest house and am post-dating it for when I expect to be too busy with school to actually update my blog. I was quite relieved to learn that in my residence there’s a big bright clean laundry room with a nicely tiled floor, painted walls & a glass store-front. No vending machine… but then, it’s situated next to the Mini-mart & the Café. Instead of buckets of fish… there are refrigerated bottles of Coke on the other side of this wall. ;)

1 comment:

Jenn said...

is it weird that the uber-fresh fish sound really appealing to me?