When I initially moved into my new house, I was sure that I could get through the next year without a washing machine. Having seen so many hole-in-the-wall lavanderias on every corner of every neighborhood and after doing some quick calculations regarding expected expenditures, it appeared to be a wise decision to avoid purchasing a machine. Besides, having a vehicle would facilitate easy transport to the laundromat on the supposed weekly basis. It seemed simple enough.

But then I got badly (and I mean, I up and got furious and tried to argue my case and then stormed out bad) overcharged. And subsequent experiences with various other lavanderias proved just as troublesome. Not to mention, expensive.

I eventually learned that when you are quoted a price of 15 mil Guaranis (a little over 3USD) per basket, ‘basket’ really refers to half or a third of whatever load you bring. Even when your own small laundry basket is barely full. Also, jeans are priced individually at 2-5 mil each, and towels and sheets are charged separately at much higher prices. Some places even charge by article of clothing, quoting rates like 12 mil per dozen. That is nearly 25 cents per shirt/underwear/bra/pair of shorts!

Thinking maybe it was my foreign face and accent that was winning me the ‘extra special rate,’ I asked a Paraguayan contact to accompany me to her neighborhood joint. The total I paid was paramount and certainly still way too much to be shelling out on a weekly basis. With summer approaching (hence lots of sweating and bug spray, and definitely no multiple wears on things), washing clothes was about to get even more expensive.

Thus commenced a journey to hunt down my very own clothes washing robot. After several more “extra special prices” quoted just for the Asian girl and the tall white male assisting her, I found something within my budget and crammed it in the car to take home. While it is a basic machine that does not allow much to be processed at a time and only does a mediocre job washing undergarments and I’m back to the crunchy hang drying I first experienced in Spain, I appreciate the luxury of having an in-home washing machine to its full extent. So excited and feeling blessed.


House Crashers.

September 30, 2012

I have been finding an unending amount of mouse poop in my kitchen (along with a whole host of other uninvited guests), so sticky traps were set up under the sink, where there appears to be the greatest concentration of “chocolate sprinkles.” Several weeks later, no mice have been captured. Poop.

But this afternoon, I noticed something different in the dark corner of the cupboard.

This is what I found:By the way, that cockroach had been stuck there for two weeks and it was STILL moving. Ugh.

While I was apartment hunting, one of my [hopeful] criteria was a water heater. Electric showers, affectionately labeled “widow-makers” for very obvious reasons, seem to be a pretty common fixture throughout Latin America. I wanted no part in that junks. As the cookie would crumble, I ended up with a house instead of an apartment and one with a widow-maker at that.

Honestly, I didn’t think it was a big deal initially. Until the interns came home one day and started firing all sorts of questions at me about the shower, I was blissfully unaware of the mechanics of such contraption with no real plans to climb my way out of ignorance. But when their frantic commentary continued, I started to get caught up in the the panic. And so like any good twenty-first century citizen, I Googled it.

Baaaad idea. Every single source that popped up was an expat or short-term Latin American visitor decrying the terrors of this bathroom barbarianism. I read so many accounts of people getting daily shocked while showering and perused even more describing what seemed like a complicated art of usage.

I am crabcakes in the morning as it is. I was sure adding a delicate dance around death everyday would not bode well, but I had no choice but to face the shower head…head on (or off depending how the shower went).

As one may gather from the name, the shower water is heated electrically. The problem with this arrangement is that electrical wires are left exposed and should water splash up onto them, there is a fair chance the showeree will get shocked.

One must flip on a switch when entering the bathroom and slowly turn the faucet on. Too much water pressure and the water will not heat. Too slow and the showeree will be scalded. What our contraption essentially produces is a low water pressure, lukewarm rinse. I think an entire baby can be incubated during the time it takes to wash my hair each morning.

Other necessary features are rubber mats to offset shockage and since I couldn’t find an affordable rubber hose to line the shower handle, I purchased a creepy glove reminiscent of crime scene evidence to avoid direct contact with the metal while the shower runs.

With great trepidation, I attempted a shower the first morning I awoke in the new house. Fortunately I was so sticky and dirty from the heat that showering was unavoidable (because I would totally forgo bathing for fear of electrocution). And…it wasn’t so bad. After fretting over ice cold showers for the rest of the year and then finally remembering to flip the switch, I made it out alive and at least a little cleaner for the wear.

The water pressure was poor as mentioned previously, but altogether, the experience was manageable and not quite so terrifying as expected. It is a very narrow shower space so water tends to splatter all over the bathroom. A shower curtain and rod were nixed because we didn’t want to add any more metal to the situation. But I’ll take puddles over fried green Lo-matoes any day (I mean, people pulling me out of the bathroom dead and naked…no thank you very much!).

Check out that sexy death trap.

The orange glove of glory.

Multicolored madness to aid us in stayin’ alive.

On Friday when I arrived for cooking class, I noticed mouse droppings on top of my flour container and in my mixing bowl—items stored in different places in my new kitchen. Gak.

Later in the night, I got up to get some water and watched in dismay as a lizard raced into my bedroom. This was pre-furniture, so everything I own in Paraguay was scattered all over the floor. As I stomped around willing the lizard to show itself again, a gigantic cockroach instead scurried out. Panicking, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a mixing bowl, which I promptly used to to trap the odious insect. Then I crawled back into bed for a worried, unsettled night of sleep.

Ah, city life.

[We ended up kicking the bowl out back come morning, where L proceeded to beat the crap out of the cockroach with a flip flop. Roommate bonding at its classiest.]