Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Housing and Menial Tasks

In 17 days (not that's i'm anxious....) I move out of my host family and into a house that I'll be happily sharing with Marlo. As that number gets lower I'm constantly thinking about all the accouterments that will make our little house a home. What a better way to introduce you to the slightly nutty world that is that Filipino home, than by talking through mine, right?

We'll start with the garden. For the sake of this conversation I'm going to mean that a typical house is something less than a mansion but more than a nipa (like bamboo) hut. This typical house usually has some sort of garden area. Garden may be giving too much credit to certain homeowners however. Here you can put anything in the ground and its pretty much assured to grow. It rare to see those old ladies in their straw hats, elbow deep in dirt, weeding the tulips. Gardening here takes more of the form of making sure the coconut tree is far enough from the house so it won't put a dent in the roof when they fall off the tree. Anyhows, our house has a beautiful garden and we don't have to do anything to it, which makes it that much better.

The sala is the first room you enter in our house. The sala is something like a living room. For most families its where the TV and couch are. It also serves as the reception area for guests and thus an area of business too. THis is also where you'll see the most family memorabilia. Cameras and picture development are both a little costly so any and all pictures the family have acquired are probably displayed.

Next on our tour are the bedrooms. This is where things can really start to vary from house to house. Filipinos, being a very people-oriented group, don't really like to sleep alone. I shared a bedroom with my brother until I was about 10, and after that got my own room. Sharing a room--and probably a bed-- with siblings will probably continue as long as they're not opposite genders and not married. Marlo's sisters are both 20ish and still share a bed and don't really mind. Usually in a house there will also be only one big cabinet type thing and so all the clothing will be stored in that one place, probably the parents' bedroom. Bedrooms may also be used to store the dishes, medicines, or really anything that doesn't have its own space.

The bathroom (known here as the CR--Comfort Room) can also be a space that can be different from house to house. There are two prevailing ideas for the CR. You either cherish your time there and so you have a fancy CR with tiles and flushing toilet, or you reduce it to its function and go with something a step above a hole in the ground. Either way there's bound to be some buckets involved. I haven't brought up the topics of buckets yet, but if someone wanted to make some quick money, it would be selling buckets in Philippines. In the bathroom you usually find (at the very least) the following buckets:

Shower bucket- this is a big big bucket that stores the water that everyone bathes with.

Flush bucket- this is a medium sized bucket that gets filled from the shower bucket in order to dump enough water in the toilet to make your "business" "go away"--i won't use flush on purpose.

Dipper- the dipper is your best friend in the bathroom. In the morning you use the dipper to pour the water on yourself for a shower. The dipper is also used in place of toilet paper (this takes a certain amount of technique and placement to really feel clean, but it can be done). The dipper is also for washing hands, wetting the toothbrush, and cleaning a razor.

Finally, the kitchen. A Filipino kitchen can look suprisingly barren. Its usually a few cabinets, some counterspace, and a sink. The gas tank and burners may have a place in the house, but only in larger kitchens. Most famies have an outdoor kitchen, lovingly called the Dirty Kitchen. Its dirty because this is where you get the joy of cooking everything by fire and so everything is sooty. Cooking with charcoal is fun, but takes some practice. Their charcoal is made by processing some kind of wood in a little bamboo hut thing--i don't fully understand it yet. As such it doesn't last nearly as long as our charcoal brickettes. Some families will also have a gas operated burner, but since gas is expensive the fire way is preferred.

The other domestic duty to be covered is laundry. Again buckets are needed. I usually take 4 buckets to wash my clothes. First you fill a bucket with clean water and soap and rinse your light colors (i think ideally you soak them overnight to get them really white, but who has the time for that?). By hand you take little sections and rub them together to get them clean. This rubbing is done with a technique, that like the dipper, takes time and practice to get down. The first few times i did my own laundry i was laughed at, but i've got it down now. The most important areas to hit are the necks, pits, and crotches of your clothes. Its not surprising then that these are the first areas to start deteriorating and stretching. Then you have to rinse the clothes three times in clean water. On the third rinse the water shouldn't have soap in it any more. Then you wring out the clothes and line dry them. I'm getting faster and what used to take 2 hours now takes around 1.

Sorry I don't have pictures of the house. We'll be painting the walls next weekend so i'll try to get some shots then. Suggestions for the next topic are always welcome!

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Congratulations on the new house! I can't wait to see pictures!! What will your new address be? (you can email me at jhores@alumni.unc.edu if you don't want to post it)