Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cloudy with a High Probability of Wet Clothes...

When we first came to Japan I was surprised to see a little visual on the weather report that would show how dry clothing could get during the day. You see, solar power is the primary method of drying clothes here.

We have had two electric clothes dryers in our 20+ years here in Japan--neither of which was overly efficient, but would provide somewhat adequate drying for a limited amount of clothing over an extended period of time. When we moved back from the States last fall, we wanted to replace our 10-year old dryer which had stopped working with a gas dryer--but our apartment doesn't have a gas outlet in the washroom. So, I am back to watching the weather report in order to get our clothing dry.

Unlike the old "clothes line" of my childhood, we use the veranda (balcony) as our drying place. And since there is limited space, the Japanese have devised a number of clever devices to maximize drying. We have poles that go between stands that are sturdy enough to support the Japanese bedding--futons--and can also bear a lot of weight with multiple clothes hanging devices.

The most useful, in my opinion, is a rectangular rack with clothes pins suspended. The width of the rack is "perfect" for hanging jeans and pants, and the ends, with multiple pins, work for socks, and other personal items. Towels end up having to be laced back and forth between two rows of pins.

There are racks of a similar dimension that have clothes hangers on them, but when we bought poles for this apartment, we got some that have a zig-zag shaped piece attached to the bottom, where we can anchor clothes hangers.

The best days are somewhat breezy, though if it gets too windy, we may have to go fish our clothes off the ground four floors down. I would hate to have our shirts fly through the park next door! We are heading into rainy season, where after waiting for days for the weather to cooperate, we just HAVE to wash the clothes. If we really need them to dry quickly, we have two options. The coin laundry about 1 mile away, where it costs a buck for 6-10 minutes, or we hang one of these racks on the curtain runner in our living room with a fan blowing on it for the entire night.

I have to be honest and say I would much prefer throwing them into an efficient dryer, taking them out 20-40 minutes later nicely dried and with the wrinkles gone. I spend a lot of time on this one task and there are moments when I feel tired and resentful. But I am thankful I'm not washing the clothes by hand--I did that for a short time in Russia! Is this one of the costs of being a missionary? Perhaps. It is often in the mundane that I feel the greatest tugs of dissatisfaction. A woman once encouraged me when she said that she uses the time hanging clothes to pray for the people represented by those clothes. Its a good practice.

The clothes pictured here will probably come off the line tomorrow--we had a bit of sun finally break through late today, and tomorrow looks like it will be good. Actually, the weather looks hopeful for the whole week, so I should get started washing tonight!

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