Some well-intentioned readers might ask themselves what an errant washing machine has to do with TEFL. My answer: Nothing, except that coping with and finding solutions for everyday problems, like this one, that come up is integral to successfully living abroad. I also like to hope that despite the inconvenience this situation presents to me, it might be at least a little amusing.
The gist of the situation is that my tempermental washing machine is more or less unusable and will not be fixed in the near future. I need to find a laundromat, which, as anyone who has ever looked for a laundromat in Eastern Europe can attest to, is a challenge. They just don’t exist because everyone, including people in apartments — has their own washing machine.
I started by asking a Slovak language teacher to provide me with a few phrases to explain myself and my situation. In general, if I can’t communicate in Slovak, Bosnian works well, but I have found that if I’m trying to communicate something a bit unusual (as “I’m looking for a laundromat” is in Eastern Europe), people tend to think they don’t understand me, even if they do.
I went to a youth hostel; their washing machine was for guests only. They directed me to a dry cleaner’s down the street; they charged about €4 per load. I continued on towards my apartment and asked the nice woman at a newspaper kiosk for help. She understood me, checked that I had small change, and sent me off to the student dormitory.
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I asked again at a shop within the building and was directed to the basement, where I found some ping-pong tables and a pool…but no washing machines. After a few more questions, I located a locked door with some temperatures and corresponding prices as well as three different mobile phone numbers. This must be the laundromat! With the help of some young men who had been using the pool, I discovered the system: I had to come during certain hours and call the phone number if the woman wasn’t there; then she would come down, collect my laundry, and I would return at a set time to pick it up (wet), take it back to my flat, and hang it to dry there. A complicated scenario…but the service was available and the price was right, so I was in business.
At the end of the day, as inconvenient as it is to bring my laundry across the street and lug it back, wet, a few hours later, I feel lucky to have located what may well be the only reasonably priced laundry service in my city, so I do not have to choose between hand washing my laundry for the next year and moving.