Oh.

I don’t even know how to title this post. “Oh” says it all. Please allow me elucidate on the circumstances that threaten to bring me to total grief.

Anyone who knows my father knows that he is anti-house help. He grew up washing his own clothes, walking where ever he needed to go, weeding, farming, fetching water, you name it. Despite traveling to America and becoming a pilot, this man has refused to honor the time honored rituals of the “returnee”, which says “Hei! You’ve been to America. You’re a big man now. You don’t wash your own clothes”. Returnee or NOT, Ghanaians of a certain stature always have someone to help them in the house. Shoot, even the ridiculously poor will capture somebody else’s child by some derelict means and force them into servitude.

While all my other friends are always eager to go home to Ghana because: a driver will drive them around town; a ‘gateman’ will open the gate to  give access to their premises; a maid will cook and bring breakfast to the room; somebody in the house will iron their clothes – I, Malaka Gyekye, know that that fate does not and never will apply to me. My father doesn’t hire help to do what he can do himself. I, Malaka Gyekye, am sitting here looking at a massive pile of laundry that has been accumulating over the last 3 weeks. And there is no one here to wash it. No one but ME.

Ebei.

Washing clothes in Africa is no easy task. Even with my faithful washer and dryer in Atlanta, which do everything automatically for me – from measuring the water to determining the rinse cycle – I STILL hate doing laundry. Now here I sit in Adenta with no running water and six loads of laundry. All of which I, Malaka Gyekye, must wash by hand.

Oh.

First, I’ll have to make sure there is enough water in the tank. If there is, I’m relatively set. Hmmm, but if there isn’t! – we’re in big trouble. I will either have to wait for it to rain and turn the barrels over to collect the rain water OR, I’ll have to find the tso-tso-tso boys who drive around the area selling water. (At 30 bucks a pop!) 3 basins will be needed. One to wash, one to pre-rinse, and one for the final rinse “cycle”.

Because water is so precious, I will have to wash all the clothes in the same water, lighter clothes first: Whites, then blues/blacks, then reds. It’s back breaking work. I’ll have to bend over, waist down,  in the hot sun on a concrete platform designated for washing. I’ll have to wring each garment by hand. I’ll have to hang each item on the line, skillfully shooing away flies and praying I don’t die of heat exhaustion and dehydration. I’ll be dehydrated from sweating and crying. The sweat and tears will mingle with swirling mass of wet clothing before me. I’ll cry until the task is complete. Have you ever wrung wet jeans by hand before? You’d weep as well.

Once I’m done washing the clothes, I’ll then have to wash each basin, making sure there is no soapy residue or dye from the clothing that might sully the next wash. There is poor drainage in this area, which means I’ll then have to sweep (with a stiff broom that has no handle – you figure that one out) the concrete platform so that the water doesn’t become stagnant and attract a myriad of colorful, enormous African insects.

OH!

What is this fresh manicure I’ve just gotten for? Nothing – because I have NO clothes to wear, and in order to dress myself for a potential outing, I’ll have to ruin said pedicure with the arduous task of washing by hand.

OH!!

I’m just not certain what to do.

Oh.

Yours confusedly,

Malaka Gyekye

  • This is one I’m conflicted about. I grapple with this dilemma every time I go back home to Kenya. Whereas I feel for your father’s conviction not to pay for what he can do himself, I think hiring someone to help helps people who otherwise wouldn’t have had a source of income.

    I’m gonna side with him on this one, though. If your daughters had to give up SpongeBob Squarepants and Hannah Montana for chasing chickens (“We call them hens here”), why can’t you give up her Whirlpool for a bar of soap and a basin of scarce water?

    Also, be grateful that you can still get online and communicate your thoughts in near-real time. Your father had to snail-mail his “blog” entries when he moved back, LOL!!!.

    • Oh my brodda! Have some small compassion now? Anyway, you make a strong point. Why should the kids be the only ones to sacrifice? *Sigh* To the back of the house I go!

  • A-dub

    I can see that this “ordeal” has really taken a toll on you. For one, you reverted back to calling yourself “Gyekye” – I guess your psyche is so messed up that you it has made you think that you are a kid again…

    Anyway, all the time you spent posting your feelings could have been spent sweeping the stagnant water – get to it …. (as I put my clothes in my combined washer dryer so that ALL I have to do is pour soap into the wash and press the power button… such a pain!)

    • I hate you and all you stand for.

  • Malaka. Your father sounds like he has a good heart and a compassionate mind. Please show him this post.
    Dear Mr. Gyekye,
    Please have mercy on your daughter and my friend, she needs an extra pair of hands to help her around the house. If you are like my parents you must make regular reference to the olden days. Well my mother, father, teachers, pastors, imams, rabbis, juju men, fetish priests, their congregation, politicians their followers (i think i have covered the whole of Ghana now) all had some form of help in raising their children. So please if you don’t feel sorry for Malaka, please feel sorry for me. Reading her posts about Ghana breaks my heart and tortures my soul. Have mercy on me. If it is true that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ in Malaka’s case she needs 4 villages. Good sir,
    this is my very humble plea. Please i beg you with all my heart
    Respectfully
    Amma

    • Oh Amma! I literally laughed out loud! I’ll show him this post when he gets home and see what he has to say. I can’t wait for the response.

  • Saturday

    Please keep me posted, I have become emotionally vested in his response

  • B.K Afeku

    A Dub, great observation…I noticed that she reverted to calling herself Gyekye too. All I can do is laugh. I remember those days in Ghana when I had to wash all my clothes, walk miles for water when our tank was empty, and sit helplessly in the dark house when the electricity went out and hustle to catch a tro-tro. All th whilest, the majority of my friends bowed taxis for “drop-ins”, were catered to hand and foot by their house girls and house boys and enjoyed the privaledge of owning generators for” light off”. All this is is character. My tough days of growing up in Ghana are what has allowed me to endure some of my current challenges i.e.”Military Deployement-(Iraq, Korea, and places that I can’t say)” and enjoy the fruits of my hard earned labor. All I can say sis is, keep writing. People need to understand how different we are and how our upbringings truly shape us into the people we are today. Now don’t get me wrong…I do feel sorry for you. But because I know your dad, its an even funnier story. Take care my friend.