Changing our daily routine with household help and no washer…

Tom and Rashnesh sitting in the front while I took photos from the back seat with the window open. I have to get used to asking Rashnesh to stop for photos when over this past year with a rental car Tom always had a keen sense when to stop.

In some past locations, we’ve had daily maid service five days a week or more depending on the work schedule of the staff. The countries where we had this unnecessary but appreciated perk were Belize, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, and now Fiji.

In Boveglio, Italy and Madeira, Portugal we hired a weekly cleaning person and of course, during certain periods we spent in hotels, on ships and in short term vacation rentals we didn’t have to clean, other than tidy up after ourselves. We had no maid or cleaning service during the eight months we spent on four islands in Hawaii when the cost was too high at around USD $100 per hour. 

I’ve always had mixed feelings about having cleaning help.  When there isn’t a helper available Tom joins me daily in making the bed and tidying up. In a perfect world, we’d have cleaning help weekly. Everyday is another story. 

The long dirt road, very steep in parts, requires a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

There’s plenty for us to clean daily  when we don’t have help in keeping a bathroom spotless, making the bed, sweeping the floor, cleaning up after meal prep, washing dishes and doing laundry. In the above mentioned five countries, we didn’t do our own laundry. 

We’ve done our dishes in every country except Morocco, where the staff also cooked and served our meals.  During that period I felt like to a slug, hardly moving about except to trek up and down the steep steps to the bedroom and almost daily walks in the souk.

Beachfront property in any country is always the most appealing.

In Savusavu, Fiji we have the lovely Charlotta, a Fijian woman in her 40’s, hard-working, kind, and generous. She arrives at 9 am on weekdays, taking the weekends off. She does our laundry every few days, returning it the next day, neatly folded, separating mine, from Tom’s. 

It’s not a thorough cleaning each day when I noticed some remaining gecko poop on the floor after she’d left.  Its comparable to the type of cleaning one would get when staying in a hotel for an extended period; bed made daily, sheets changed bi-weekly, bathroom cleaned and the trash removed with only a comprehensive dusting and floor washing periodically.

The beach along the road to the village.  The second time we visited the village there was a sun. Hopefully, today will be the same when in a short while, we’ll be heading out again.

When we’ve had a maid, we’re still fairly meticulous, sweeping the floor daily with my oddball aversion to pieces of things on the floor. On Friday, I asked Charlotta for a broom when I’d noticed a dustpan and brush under the kitchen sink. 

This weekend while she was off, I swept the floor both days, making my usual mess while chopping and dicing on the tiny kitchen counter. We made the bed, cleaned the bathroom, emptied the trash, and wiped down the glass coffee table with window cleaner.

Photo taken from the veranda on the side of the house showing one of the sets of steps to walk from the distant driveway to the house.

In humid climates, everything feels dirty, especially if not cleaned frequently. Also, the continuous stream of ants keeps us both on our toes in an attempt to maintain a spotless and food residue-free space.

Overall, it’s a benefit having household help, but, the biggest challenge is not having access to a washing machine. With our limited amount of underwear and clothing and, our tendency to wear the same items over and over with the intent of wearing them out for eventual disposal, not having a washer is challenging.  

The most difficult aspect of not having a washer is the dirty kitchen towels. When I cook, I go through many towels preferring cloth towels to paper towels. With all the ants in tropical climates, I can’t place a single damp towel or towel with food bits into the hamper. Otherwise, it will be covered with ants in a few hours. 

This was the first grocer we visited which had few items on our list.

The only solution is to either bag up the towels to place them in the refrigerator or hand wash them. Due to a lack of space in the fridge that option doesn’t work. All of this is typical for life on a tropical island. 

We share this information, not as a means of complaining. It’s not bad having some tasks to perform to keep us on our feet and moving around as opposed to sitting, especially on rainy days when we don’t go out. Many of these types of tasks are necessary for most vacation homes and more so in tropical climates with or without daily household help.

The day we arrived we shopped at this tiny grocer that didn’t have much of a selection for our needs. But, they still had Christmas decorations from last year.  Now we shop at the New World IGA that, although small, has more products we use.

We had this same issue in Australia with kitchen towels. If we tossed them in the laundry basket after dinner, there would be hundreds of ants in the basket in the morning. I finally figured out to put the dirty dish towels into the washer to be washed the following day, rather than starting laundry outside at night in the dark carport.

With no washer here in which to store them, each night after dinner, I’ve been filling the kitchen sink with hot water soapy water tossing in the few dirty kitchen towels, making sure to rinse them and find a spot to hang them overnight. 

Grocery stores have liquor departments. Prices seem reasonable but Tom has yet to make a purchase.

There are no hooks or hangers in this house and the solitary towel bar in the bathroom holds our still damp bath towels. The humidity slows down the drying process considerably often taking a few days to dry a towel.

In the realm of things, many of these nuances are insignificant. However, many of our readers have inquired as to how we manage to adapt to our new surroundings when amenities we may have had available at other location are not present at a new location.

Power lines crisscross the landscape. While here, most likely we won’t be using the Inpaint app to remove powers lines from photos when uploading photos in itself seem to take twice as long as usual.

We’ve often thought of our old lives and how annoyed we’d be at the cable company when our cable went out, a storm knocked out the power or our washer quit working (when within a day or two we’d have it repaired or a new one in place). We laugh when we recall our frustration over a dishwasher not working. We’ve only had a dishwasher in Hawaii and Portugal.

In our old lives, if we had a trail of ants in the kitchen, I’d freaked out, dashing to the store to purchase whatever was necessary to kill them. This morning, there were dozens of ants on the kitchen counter. I grabbed a hot soapy paper towel and wiped them into oblivion with nary a thought.

Another portion of the road on the way back from the village.

With the recent continuing cloudy skies with rain predicted again for today, we’re heading to the village for the afternoon where we’ll take photos. With the rough muddy roads, it makes no sense to embark on a long drive to explore further than the village. Once it’s sunny for a few days, we’ll head out.

Now that we no longer feeling rushed since a phone is working with a SIM card installed, we can take our time to wander the quaint village and call Rashnesh when we’re ready to go. 

Flowers blooming along the road to the house.

If he’s busy with other customers, we’ll gladly wait.  We’re bringing two insulated bags for the groceries. We decided to have him drive us to our final destination, the meat market, after fetching us from the grocery store.  (We shop at the farmer’s market first since the produce is already sitting out unrefrigerated). This way, we’ll have no concern that meat will spoil if he’s delayed in picking us up after the grocery store.

It’s funny how this life has changed us. It made us tougher, more resilient, and above all, more tolerant. Sure, on occasion, we’ve grumbled, especially when there are bugs in the bed. But, the rest?  Nah, it’s all good.

Photo from one year ago today, September 14, 2014:

The sun peeking through the cloud while we lounged on our balcony of the ship, soon to arrive in Boston. It was a glorious cruise. For more details, please click here.

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