Living mere feet off a relatively busy dirt road = our version of the Dust Bowl. Surfaces wiped clean hours earlier now show a layer of dust perfect for doodling. Sit on our kitchen chairs and leave with a dusty red tint to the seat of your pants, just another unwanted party favor.
Whether laundry is done by hand, by semi-automatic machine, or even the super chuchi (fancy) houses that have a fully automatic washing machine (not us), it’s always hung to dry. Wet clothes + Dirt Road = Mud. So on particularly dusty days, like when we’re in need of a good rain, we drape our clothes over any and all surfaces indoors, the often open doors and windows from the non-existence of any manner of central ventilation systems making it only a slightly better option.
And with all the walking we do (especially before we receive our bicycles toward the end of this month), it seems nearly impossible to keep our shoes in decent looking condition. But check around and the locals do it. They take pride in keeping their shoes clean and so, at least for the time being, I’m trying to as well. Every couple of weeks I’ve lined up our most worn shoes by the outside sink and giving them a light bath before setting them in the sun to dry. I’m sure it sounds pointless to many – after all, aren’t they just going to get dirty again? The answer, of course, is yes, yes they will. But so will my hair and I keep washing that. Ask me in a few months if I’m still bathing our shoes and I may admit my surrender by that time.
Isaiah and I, amateurs at knowing how to live inside a cloud of dust, turned to an expert for advice: my grandma Louise, a survivor of the real Dust Bowl in the Dirty Thirties. She kindly gave us some practical advice.
1. Keep a dust rag nearby. We keep rags on hand and are now in the habit of wiping things down. It’s normal to take your groceries to the checkout line and have the cashier first dust off the boxes or jars. I used to think it meant a box had sat on the shelf for some time, but now my experience reassures me that it could have gotten that dusty in a matter of hours. Nothing to worry about!
2. Get comfy with having some dust around. It’s dusty. The new white grout in our bathroom is already red. Asi es, as people often say, which translates loosely to “things are the way they are.” We’re finding a new normal, a new barometer to measure the cleanliness of our house, a new expectation for the way things should be. In a way, it feels liberating.
3. Don’t worry until you can no longer tell night from day, something my grandma experienced with her family in Nebraska during the seven-year drought we now know as the Dust Bowl. Crops, trees, ponds, and rivers dried up or died and they had terrific heat and hot winds for years. Of course there were no air conditioners in those days so they would soak big sheets in water and hang them on the screen door just to get a little cool air, knowing it was a lost cause.
The visual of a dust storm big and intense enough to confuse day with night has sure helped us keep our situation in perspective! Thanks, Grandma, for helping us out, like always. And we’re especially remembering my grandma today as she celebrates 90 years of life! I want to sit on the soft carpet of your living room, stirring my plastic bowl of Neapolitan ice cream until it’s soft and runny, then break up a Twix bar from your pantry and add it to my ice cream, just like the good old days. Happy birthday, Grandma! We love and miss you!