Washing up is just one of those daily activities we all do, without even thinking about, a bit like brushing our teeth. Except, every now and again something happens where we do, really have to think about it….even if we would rather not.

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  • Perhaps, it’s the roommate that leaves their dirty dishes in piles in the sink. Or never washes up your favourite pan, in time for you to cook your dinner.
  • Perhaps, it’s when putting the dishes away, after a party, you notice someone has not washed up your things, to your standards.
  • Perhaps, it’s finding the dishwasher always full of clean items with dirty plates piled on top.
  • Or perhaps, its living with a partner for the first time, being very surprised that they leave the soap suds to drain, instead of rinsing them off. Because all the best people know, the proper way to wash up, is to rinse the soap off!

It turns out that washing up, is quite an intimate act.  Somehow, we learn how to do it, often unconsciously. Maybe from picking up on family clues, and being told when we’ve done it wrong… Then, we know how to get things clean, and of course our way is the best way to get the plates, forks and spoons clean. Otherwise, we would do it another way. The way we have been given by our families and cultures is just obviously best!

Of course, other than those who really can’t wash up (although I would put this down to effort rather than skill-it is never too late to learn! ) dishes do become clean, in all different types of ways.

So what does my Workaway host expect?  Is washing up ‘correctly’ so deeply entrenched in who they are, that they may just expect me to wash up the same way they do? Or are they one of those people, who have clocked onto to there being many different ways in life to get the same result? And how do I know where my host is on this scale, the very first evening I’ve met them, after they’ve just cooked me a delicious meal?!

Two hosts recently provided guidance on washing up in their home, before I even got to the sink. One in Australia where water shortages are a reality, and another in rural New Zealand, where water was heated on a back burner from the fire, and therefore more precious.

I appreciated the upfront guidance and clarity before I started the task, and it also helped me to think about my own water usage and the things I take for granted (like getting hot water on tap- literally!). In Australia, I was hosted at a raw vegan food sanctuary, and learnt that no chemicals are needed to clean plates, when no meat or fats are used (I also learnt this diet is very filling and yummy!)

Being hosted at a Workaway has many rewards and challenges; I want my host’s life to be made easier by hosting me, not harder (no one wants to re-wash up after the Workawayer!). But I’m learning that trying to second guess what my host wants isn’t helping anyone. I’m learning to trust that a host will either know they want something done a specific way, and tell me, or they’ll be relaxed about the approach, as long as the plates get clean. I’m grateful to all my hosts so far, for; welcoming me into their families, sharing intimacies, their open mindedness to difference, the clarity given around expectations, and for the fantastic conversations over the kitchen sink!

IMG-20170509-WA0005To see all the places we have washed up so far, see Work exchange experiences so far…..