A Shortage of Clotheslines

View from Monrovia-Gabarnga highway

‘There seems to be a shortage of clotheslines in this country,’ I said.

For a moment there was no response from the three others in the car.

‘What now?’ Lachlan said.

‘I say, there seems to be a shortage of clotheslines in this country,’ I said.

‘Explain,’ he said.

‘I’m observing peoples homes as we’re driving,’ I said. ‘Now my observations are not scientific, but I’m noticing a trend.’

‘About the clotheslines?’ Nik said.

‘Yes, about the clotheslines,’ I said. ‘You see, about half of the homes have put laundry out to dry. Of those, about half are using a clothesline or a bar suspended between two poles. But the other half – again this is not scientific – have laid their laundry to dry on the ground.’

‘Or on the zinc roof like these people,’ said Richard.

Richard is a teacher at the American school and Nik’s friend who she met some years ago in Ghana. He sat beside me on the driver’s side of the back seat. We all looked to the small huts that flew past along the driver’s side and we saw the hut where the clothes were partly draped on the corrugated roof and partly hanging off it.

‘I noticed that too,’ I said. ‘Maybe 10 percent of the homes without clotheslines dry clothes on the roof.’

‘But it’s not scientific?’ Lachlan said.

'No, it's not,' I said.

It was late in the afternoon and Lachlan was driving us fast along the mostly good highway between Gbanga and Kakata. We had left early in the morning from the Ma Ellen’s School beside the village of Duazon where Nik is the school administrator. We took the Ganta highway northeast past Kakata and Gbanga and from there along a secondary road to where there are a series of small waterfalls at Kpatawee. It was four hours on the mostly good highway and then an hour and a wrong turn on the dusty secondary road to the ‘Eco-park’.

At the waterfall, Lachlan followed a path that led up to the top step of the falls. Nik and Richard took photos looking up from the pools below and I skipped along the rocks to an island between the two sides and I recorded a video-gram to Jess. I narrated in the silly, awkward way that most of our video-grams go because neither of us performs well speaking to the camera.

‘Hi Jess,’ I narrated. ‘This is the waterfall at Kpatawee. See, the water starts there and goes down to there and then it keeps going. Wish you were here…’

Waterfall at Kpatawee

After we had a look around, we brought the cooler from the car to where there was a bench beside one of the pools in the river. We ate a lunch of meat and cheese and chips and cookies and we drank mostly cold water and soft drinks. While we ate, a missionary family arrived in a white hardtop Land Cruiser. When it was parked, the missionaries’ children and some local children filed quickly out. They went down the path and over the rocks and dipped into the pool beneath the main falls. The missionaries applied sunscreen and one retrieved a camera with a telephoto lens. On the doors of the Land Cruiser was the decal of a red cross being suspended from a long horizontal bar as though to resemble a helicopter.

‘Maybe they are the Special Forces missionaries,’ I said.

‘I don’t think so,’ Nik said.

‘Maybe that’s their shtick,’ I said. ‘You know, repel in through the roof, blow everyone away with a sermon and some bible verses, and then bugger off to the next village.’

‘Come on,’ Lachlan said. ‘They helicopter into a remote village to evangelize for Sunday mass and they are back before dark for a cold drink and a hot shower.’

‘Shock and awe,’ I said.

Landscape at Kpatawee

When we finished lunch we loaded the car and we left along the dusty road that circled a forested hill beyond a burned field.

‘I think they lay the clothes to dry on the grass because it gives a fresh smell,’ Richard said after he had considered the question of the shortage of clotheslines.

‘Interesting,’ I said. ‘Let me take a few observations.’

‘It’s not scientific though,’ said Lachlan.

‘No it’s not,’ I said.

I announced my findings as they came.

‘Laying on the grass. Clothesline. Clothesline again. Laying on the ground, no grass. Laying on the ground. On the grass. On the grass. Clothesline. On the grass. No grass that time,’ I said.

We sped past a few more huts and I noted what I saw.

‘No, I’m not convinced,’ I said. ‘In some cases they are on the grass but just as many times they are on the dirt or a rock or something else.’

‘We’re coming up to a checkpoint,’ Lachlan announced.

‘Places everyone. Be cool. We’re rolling,’ I said.

Then I narrated for the video, speaking in a hushed voice that was just as awkward as when I had been recording the video-gram at the waterfall only different.

‘It’s, uh, Sunday, uh, date is, uh. Anyway, we’re driving south on the, uh, Monrovia-Kakata highway. We’re doing a sting to catch a police asking for a bribe. This is our fourth attempt today. We’re approaching the checkpoint. The gate is being raised. We’re being waved through. We’re through. Damn!’

I switched off the camera.

‘I just want to get it on film once,’ I said.

‘Bad luck,’ Lachlan said.

‘It’s probably because we’re taking the green four-wheel drive with the NGO plates,’ Nik said.

‘Probably,’ Lachlan said. ‘The white jeep with the private plates is a magnet.’

After the checkpoint we continued along the mostly good highway. The sunlight was very warm coming through the windows and we grew drowsy and we were quiet for a time.

‘There’s another one with the clothes drying on the ground,’ I said.

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