In Sierra Leone, a washing machine is a rock. This was evident everywhere. Women would wash clothes in basins or big pans or stand in pools along a roadside or in the river and soak clothes. Then they would beat them on a rock.
We took a tour of an orphanage in Makeni, the Children’s Rescue Operation Project. We walked through the house, out the back, and around the side. As we passed it, Abu, our driver, pointed and said casually, “That is the washing rock.” You see it in the center of the photo of the house with a small tree in front of it, and again in the close up photo.
It’s hard on the clothes, to be sure—washing them on a rock. We were warned prior to embarking on our journey that we should be prepared to have our freshly washed clothes returned with tiny holes, a by-product of using the manually operated rock washer. Actually, this never happened while we were there—that our clothes came back with holes. Rather, they came back smelling of smoke—as they would if I had been near a campfire. Our clothes were washed daily and they must have been hung to dry near the cooking fire. They always smelled of smoke. Sometimes they were still damp. We had to put them on a drying rack to let them finish drying.
I can remember my mother using a ringer-style washing machine. She would take the freshly washed clothes out to the back yard and hang them on the clothesline. Even in winter. Our clothes would freeze then, but they would dry. That was a lot of work. What must it be like for the women of Sierra Leon who have only a rock to wash clothes and the brush or the roadside or the ground to lay them on to dry?