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.


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.


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.


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.


I’m just not certain what to do.


Yours confusedly,

Malaka Gyekye