Moving to a new country isn’t just about striding through supermarket aisles making fun of all the types of tomatoes you can buy. And neither is it about exploring the city as a tourist.
Moving to a new country means you have to start doing regular chores as well. And today was the first time I did laundry by myself.
Of course not. It’s not the first time I ever did laundry—I’ve done it plenty of times back in India. I used to hand wash my clothes for a long time before we got a fancy washing machine. I’ve run it loads of times since, and know my way around it well enough.
For my first few weeks in Australia, I bunked with my brother whose washing machine I got accustomed to without any trouble.
However, I hadn’t done my laundry at all since moving into a place of my own. It wasn’t any different than doing laundry at my brother’s home—except it was. Unlike my brother’s place, my new place doesn’t have a clothesline or a balcony to dry wet clothes. Instead, we have a dryer.
Ah, a dryer. A concept I’d only heard of in movies where winter was a real thing. Back in Chennai where temperatures never fall below 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees Fahrenheit), it seemed insane to have a dryer. Plus, it’s expensive and a luxury item. I didn’t worry much about it, though—my roommate walked me through the procedure, and it seemed simple: throw the clothes in and turn the knob. Easy. Great.
So there I was a week after moving in, with a load of dirty clothes that could no longer escape the wash. But first, I needed detergent. Not unlike the tomatoes, there were hundreds of brands and types—of powders, liquids, concentrated liquids, conditioners, and bleach. After struggling for about 15 minutes, I grabbed the cheapest liquid detergent and got the hell out of the supermarket.
I’d seen my brother dump a spoon-full of detergent powder onto his clothes. My roommate, who used liquid, affirmed the procedure. However, the label on the laundry liquid I got warned against pouring it onto the clothes. Helpful, you might think. But no—it didn’t tell me how else to use it. So on the morning of my laundry day, I spent about 20 minutes online trying to figure out to use the liquid on a washing machine—and hear this—that didn’t have a detergent dispenser. I’d never imagined a washing machine without a detergent dispenser, but here we are. It turns out I have to dilute a small portion of the liquid in warm or hot water and then pour it on the clothes. Fine. But even now, I don’t understand the difference between the regular liquid that I got and the concentrated liquid I was sure to avoid.
By the time I turned on the washing machine, I felt drained of mental energy. But it was just the beginning. Worried that I’d made a mistake (I hadn’t), I was too afraid to leave it running and return to my room. So for the next hour, I stood close by alternating between working and checking in on the machine. Despite my preparedness to pull the plug if something went wrong, the machine worked fine. My clothes came out clean and intact—although I wish my socks had had a better run. Heaving a huge sigh, I wondered if there was a way to avoid using the dryer. But to my tough luck, it was a cloudy, rain-forecasted day. The sun didn’t even show its face all afternoon.
Oh, well. I shoved my clothes in the dryer and turned on the knob. There were only two settings—light blue for synthetics or delicates and dark blue for regular. I ran the dryer under the highest heat for delicates. Unsure of how long it should go, about 15 minutes in, I stopped and felt my clothes. They were still wet, so I let it go again. Then I realised that the dryer was making a big racket—nothing faulty, but it was so loud that I panicked. So I stopped after another 10 minutes. My clothes were wet. I ran the dryer yet again, and again, stopping every 10-15 minutes. What if I ran it for too long? What if it overheated and went kaput?
It was a tense afternoon. I was shuffling back and forth between the dryer and my laptop. I got no work done, however at the end of it all, I had a bunch of clean and warm clothes. And I didn’t flood the apartment—which is always a good thing.
People say moving to a new country is a major life change like work, family, and friends, but I don’t think they realise that it’s the small everyday things that pose the biggest challenge. Geez—it was easier to get on the bus to the Botanical Gardens than it was figuring out the functionality of a washing machine that didn’t have a detergent dispenser.