Sunday, February 24, 2013


Please indulge me as I leave my adopted homeland. I'm writing a series called
"Top Ten Things I Would Have Never Said in America"

Mario supervises as I hang the laundry.  Get those socks off, babe - it might RAIN!!!  

3.  Get the clothes off the line, hurry!!!

I have memories of my grandmother’s clothes line.  It was situated at the side of her yard where the men used to play horseshoes.  She’d hang sheets and towels there, as well as her clothes and when we would bring them off the line they were crispy, sun-baked and hard.

All of my life we had tumble-dryers.  Here I have a clothesline. 

We arrived in 2006 for a trial move and someone told me that I would love the weather in Jozi, it was perfect for drying clothes.  I thought they were joking. 

What I now know that I didn’t know then is that clothes lines are a regular fixture in most South African homes.  Even apartment dwellers use them on their small patios.  In the summer the weather gets to Celsius 32 (90 F) and clothes dry very quickly on the clothes line. 

Summer is awesome here.  It’s heat and sun are brutal and we have no air conditioners, only fans.  What we do have in the summer here is rain.

RAIN, not rain.  And it comes on us like a thief in the night.  We can have a hot, hot, hot, hot day with a sudden rumble, and then ahhhhh!  The showers that cool the earth, bring the wind and give us life! 

Let’s just hope there’s no laundry on the line! 

When Lorraine is here, she does most of our laundry that we accumulate in the week- usually four or five loads.  She will then hang them on the line one load after another.  The underwear (I have learned) goes on the inside of the line.  Laundry line etiquette was never taught to me and I have been corrected by South African women who thought I should know better. 

Here’s what I knew of laundry before I got here:

  1.       clothes from washer to dryer;
  2.      take clothes out as soon as dryer buzzes
  3.     hang or fold before they’re cool so they won’t get wrinkled.

Ironing was not necessary.  Fabric softener came in the way of dryer sheets.  Nothing could be easier.  No one saw my laundry unless they were nosy or came over during the time I was folding it. 

Here’s what I know here:

1.      Wash your clothes in the washer when there’s electricity at our place;

2.      Hang them out to dry; position underwear on the inside so it is not seen by people who might say, “Look at that brazen woman whose hung her underwear where everyone can see it!!”

3.      Listen for rumbles;
4.      If you hear thunder dart outside with a basket and pull the clothes down as quickly as you can. 
5.      When the rain stops (usually after ten minutes) hang the clothes again (underwear inside). 

I go back to the States with a life of tumble dryers and no clotheslines.  Here I know how to do it; I even know how to iron.  There I was spoiled and decadent and wasted lots of electricity.  Here, my life has been different.

In so many ways.  


  1. YES!!!!!!!!! This is ME, too! I've learned the hard way never to leave the house with clothes on the line because sunny and hot is easily followed by downpours. I was so spoiled in the States by always having a washer and dryer, but I didn't know it. And the ironing...

    1. Spoiled is right!! I am going to hug my new/used tumble dryer.