Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How to Use a Pila

Our new home doesn't have a kitchen sink or laundry machines. Not a big deal because we have the quintessential Latin American washing area -- the pila!  (Pronounced PEE-lah.)
Our pila. The center faucet is cold water; the black tube is water heated on the roof by the sun. It gets super hot in the afternoon. Sorry for the messiness! We are still organizing and moving stuff around. 
To be quite honest, I was a bit mystified as to how this one weird concrete sink thingy could be used efficiently for dishes and laundry and even washing babies. So I used my Googling skills and came upon some other travelers and locals who helped me out.

The main rule appears to be fill the center section, the deepest section, with clean water... and keep it clean! Vagabond Journey emphasizes that point in her post here.

I don't follow her advice quite so fastidiously because we have a good supply of water, rather than having to rely on rain water or an intermittent supply. We don't fill up our center section to store water just in case because we know we can get it when we want it. I do, however, follow her idea of using basins to transfer water from the center section (where the faucets are) to the side sections for washing or rinsing. But that's mostly because there's really not any other way to get water over... hmmm, unless I install a spray hose? Future upgrade idea right there!  :)

I found this cute video of a little girl named Nea who showed me how to wash dishes in a pila.

I've modified Nea's technique a little by using a basin in the left portion that I fill with hot soapy water, then another basin in the right side to do a bleach soak, then the drying rack in the right side as well. Perfect!

As for washing clothes in a pila, I've seen videos and blogs posts about it but I think I'm going to cough up the Q3 a pound to get a laundry service to wash my stuff. I can't imagine spending that much time to get things clean! You basically have to wash each piece one at a time by hand, rubbing it with a hard bar of soap and using a washboard (sometimes built into the pila, sometimes hand-held) to scrub the clothes clean. Exhausting! I'm fine paying $0.52 Canadian per pound for a professional lavandera (washer-woman).
Laundry soap looks like this here. This is a package of three.
The bar is shaped like a thick hockey puck.
I think it's fascinating that something as simple as washing dishes or brushing your teeth can be so different from one country to the next. I feel a bit like a small child who doesn't know how to do the simplest thing properly. It could be frustrating or embarrassing but I just try to look at it as a fun learning experience. Many surprises here, no doubt about it. :D

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