At our first apartment here in Boquete, we were happy to have a private washer and dryer. We had it all to ourselves, right in the kitchen and could do laundry whenever we felt like it, or didn’t feel like it. That is, when the water was on. For some reason it would go off occasionally for several hours at a time. Not very convenient, but we did have our own washer and dryer.
This apartment doesn’t have either. Now, I am totally accustomed to living without a dryer and hardly ever used one, even in the states when we did have one. I prefer to hang clothes up outside (or inside) to save zeros on the electricity bill. But no washer has been a little different at this apartment! Particularly since we use cloth diapers for Natasha.
The first week, when it was time for clean diapers, I walked to town with Natasha strapped on my front and a backpack with the bag of dirty diapers on my back. Please don’t laugh…it didn’t smell and sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. So we did. Oh, and when I say we walked, that was only true for part of the journey. A kind fellow from Florida (or was it New York? All these ex-pats we meet sort of blend together after a while) offered us a ride, so we took it.
Anyway, laundromats are a little different here than in the states. It’s not self-serve, rather, you leave the laundry and they wash it, dry it and fold it for you! So I left the diapers, with their special detergent, and hoped for the best. I knew they don’t use hot water, and I was a little leery of getting diapers clean without the HOT water that cloth dipes require. Also, I wasn’t sure about leaving all the precious hard work I put into sewing those diapers, among all the plastic bags of other folks laundry. But…I did. The lady told me I could pick them up at 5 p.m. This was around 10 in the morning. Hmm… That meant that we either had to stick around town ALL day, or go home and return that evening. We chose the latter, after doing some shopping, and walked back home.
Daniel was kind enough to return that evening for the diapers. The first laundromat he stopped at said they didn’t have any diapers washed that day. Fortunately, he knew there was a second laundromat, and that’s where they were. It cost $3 to get them washed. When he got home, we did some quick numbers and realized with washing diapers twice a week, and not any of our regular laundry, that makes $6 a week. Add at least one more load for regular clothes, plus taxi money if we didn’t want to walk all the time to town with dirty laundry, and that comes to about $15 a week. Multiply that by 17 weeks or so left for our time in Panama, and that’s somewhere around $255 total. Our landlords had mentioned that you can get a decent washer for about $150 here, so at that rate, it would actually be cheaper for us to buy a little washer of our own to have in the apartment! We could sell it before we returned to the states.
But, I knew I could wash clothes by hand and even save MORE money! So, I did. And I discovered that although it’s not really that hard, it is very time consuming. And if you don’t wring them out well enough, diapers and jeans take forever to dry. The diapers were by far the hardest to wash, needing to be rinsed twice, and washed every other day, if they were to dry before we were completely out of clean ones.
Here’s where our prayers were answered. Our landlords knew we had asked where to find a washer, and they generously offered to let us use their washer and dryer. They told us they don’t let just anyone of their renters use it, so we feel pretty honored. Margaret told me to come up on the veranda whenever I needed to do laundry, and showed me how the washer worked.
So now I only do some of the laundry by hand. :) I am happy to let the washer do all the heavy jeans and diapers, but I still do Natasha’s clothes and shirts on the back step. I haven’t used the dryer yet, since we have a little clothesline outside the door, and seven (!) clothespins.
I’m not real sure why I still do some clothes by hand. Part of it is because I don’t want to take advantage of our landlord’s generosity. The other part is that I kind of like the satisfaction of doing some clothes by hand. It will probably wear off sometime, maybe sooner than later, but at least I know I can do it.