Normally, on my walk to class, I take a road that is between the walls of the Maryknoll Center (where we have class) and a bike path that winds through the city. Just beyond the bike path on the side farthest from me, I have seen clothes hanging all day, every day. I always assumed it was someone who had a laundering service of some kind.
Lately, the road in front of the school has been under construction, so I have had to walk another way. It takes me beyond, to the other side of it all. As I've taken this way for quite a few days now, I have become curious about the area.
There are signs on my current route and I've learned that this is a public lavanderia, or clothes washing area. People come here to hand wash their clothes and then hang them on the lines to dry. This one is called "Lavanderias Traditionales de Cala Cala" and has been here since 1860. Cala Cala is the bario, or neighborhood, I live in.
Since I have come to Cochabamba, I have have felt challenged to reconsider my assumptions and standards. This lavanderia has given me pause for thought. I see women throwing day-old pan (bread) to the pigeons, talking and getting started with their day in the morning. I see people there all the time in conversation. I see an older gentleman on crutches there every day, acting as caretaker. This place creates community by giving people the opportunity to get work done and get to know their neighbors at the same time. The caretaker recognizes me now and greets me as I pass by. It is this small gesture that invites me to the neighborhood.