OK, today let’s talk about a few little daily things that I find to be different from what I’m used to, so you can put a little more flesh on your perception of what my life is like here in Yakutsk.
Let’s start with laundry. My perception of doing laundry has changed here in Yakutsk. Nothing is as I expected it to be. I expected a regular western setup, with a washer-dryer in my apartment, or even in my building, and me doing a large load every couple of weeks – I don’t have enough clothes for more frequency or quantity than that. That’s not what’s happening here.
First of all, I spent the first week or so trying to understand why I had a washer but not a dryer and how people dry their clothes. In Jamaica, we mostly hang our laundry on a clothesline outside, and in Indonesia everyone had metal drying racks that they would set up outside and let the sun take care of the drying. But this region is cold for most of the year so there’s no warmth outdoors for drying laundry. Also, I saw no drying rack on my balcony so I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the drying aspect of things.
I finally came to understand that everyone has drying racks that they hang over the heater or set up over the bathtub. Remember the heaters that I talked about a few weeks ago? Yup, those. It took me that long to figure it out because I didn’t have such a rack at my place when I moved in. Once I figured it out, I bought one.
The second thing that struck me was that, based on my observation, people tend to wear one set of clothes multiple times each week then, I assume, launder them. Nobody with whom I’ve come in contact suffers from body odour – save one person and then only twice and pretty lightly – so their clothes are definitely not funky. Additionally, the washing machines are small, so they literally cannot fit a large load anyway. They can’t even fit what I would consider a medium load. On top of that, from what I’ve seen home heaters aren’t big so they also can’t manage a large load of clothes at any one time.
For all of these reasons, I assume that laundry is done frequently and in small loads. At least, that’s what I’ve been doing. The other day, I did a load that had a pair of socks, a bra, two shirts and a pair of pants. The washing machine door almost wouldn’t close. My biggest loads are when I do sheets or towels, but never both together.
Guys, I don’t even have a laundry basket. When something is ready to be washed, I just fold and leave it on top of the washer for a few days until I’ve accumulated a few more items to be washed, then I throw everything in and use the quick wash setting. Thirty minutes later, I’m hanging everything on the drying rack over my heater and within a couple of hours, everything is dry. Easy peasy.
I washed my shoes a few weeks ago. My hiking boots. I threw them into the washing machine. They came out nice and clean and were totally dry by the next day. That’s because my machine has a sport shoe setting.
I didn’t even really register that fact until one of the other international teachers mentioned that she had washed a pair of inherited boots. This was a few days after our tramp through the woods on Day of Yakutsk and I happened to be agonising over cleaning my muddy hiking boots at that time so her comment caught my interest and I asked her how she had washed the boots. She replied, “Threw them in the washer.” It was at that moment that a light bulb went off over my head and I recalled that I had seen a shoe setting on the washer when I was translating the settings weeks before.
So that’s my laundry. The second thing I want to talk about here is toilet paper. I know, it’s kind of a weird topic but I’m going to do it anyway. This is what regular toilet paper looks like here.
When I first arrived, there were two rolls in my bathroom, kindly left there by my welcome team. I wondered at first what it was because I thought it was a small roll of paper. Then I realised it was toilet paper and I got kind of snooty about it and opted to use my western toilet paper that I had brought with me, and use the local toilet paper to wipe up kitchen spills and when I was cleaning. But in the restroom at school and in other places, this is the toilet paper that’s available so I had to use and quickly came down off my high horse about it. Now, I love it, mainly because there’s no toilet paper roll! That entire thing is all toilet paper with no wastage of material for the centre roll. When my toilet paper is done, it’s just done and I move on to the next roll. And typically a roll costs about 40₽ (that’s forty roubles) which is about seventy US cents, and lasts me about nine days. I checked.
The last daily thing to note right now is the proximity of everything. I found another grocery store in my building. That’s three grocery stores so far that I know of in my building alone. There may be more. There’s also a small stationery store in another section of my building just across the back courtyard, and there are also restaurants in my building but around the corner, and of course, pharmacies everywhere. I absolutely get why these essentials are so numerous and are literally on every corner. It get so cold that people shouldn’t need to go more than a few feet in order to get the goods and services that they need. I’ll keep you posted on other nearby amenities as I discover them.
I hope you have a better idea now of my daily life and a few things that are totally different from what I’m used to and maybe what you’re used to as well. More to come, I’m sure!