Debbie posted a couple of days ago about proper cleansing of the nether regions. It made me think about one of my first experiences of culture shock when I lived in Argentina. I think I’ve mentioned here that I lived on exchange in Mendoza, Argentina during my senior year of high school, but I haven’t talked about it much. I have lots of stories from that time that I’d love to share. Many things in the last couple of weeks have made me think about her (and long to go back for a visit.) Not the least of which was my friend Kwesi’s birthday lunch at this place. A gaucho is a gaucho–Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay. And this food was the same as every asado I ever ate. I so miss that place.
But first, the nether regions. I thought everyone used washcloths. Everyone I knew growing up used them. They were in every house I ever spent the night. They were in every hotel room I ever visited. I thought it was universal thing. I’m not one of those travelers who carries everything but the kitchen sink when I’m away. I don’t take my own towels and washcloths (or other things I think are ridiculous to pack, like Lysol). Anyway, in January 1991 I packed for a year in Argentina. I was 90lbs. over the Aerolinas Argentina’s weight limit, but I still packed no washcloths.
It was long trip. I left around 4pm I think and I got to Mendoza the next afternoon. My first host family was strange (more stories to come) but I chalked most of the quirks up to cultural differences. We had dinner the first night. My host mom showed me my room. I started to put my things away and I was ready to shower. I went into the bathroom, took my clothes off, sat on the toilet and stared at the “other” toilet next to me, trying to figure out why it had a shower shooting up. I turned the knobs and sprayed water all over the bathroom and myself. I couldn’t turn the water off so I jumped from the normal toilet and sat on the other one. Water shot up my butt. It was a bidet. Neat.
I was ready to take the rest of my shower and I noticed that my host mom had given me a towel and a huge monster sponge–like the ones you used at school to wash the chalkboards on the days you’d stay after school to volunteer to help out because the girls in the regular class were waiting to jump you outside because they didn’t like you because you were in the gifted and talented class. Yeah, that sponge. I thought it was weird that everyone had their very own sponge to clean out the tub when they were done, but hey, some people have different standards of cleanliness. To each his own. It’s not bad. It’s not wrong. It’s just DIIIIFERENT. Yaddah, yaddah. I still needed a washcloth.
I wrapped myself up in the towel and poked my head out of the door to ask for a washcloth. How the hell do you say washcloth in Spanish? I did the best I could to explain it and she looked at me like I was speaking Tigrinya. Then she came in the bathroom and picked up the chalkboard sponge and nodded. Did she expect me to wash my nether regions with that? Apparently she did. I learned to wash with my hands that night. And the first words I said to mom on my first $5 per minute phone call were: Send me washcloths!!!
So tell me people? Do you wash with a cloth, sponge, loofa, hands, the soap bar, exfoliating gloves, oven mitts or something more exotic? Was it always that way? What did your mom use when she bathed you? Are washcloths an American thing? An east coast thing? A black vs. white thing? What do you think?