So the day of reckoning aka having to do laundry finally arrived after pulling out my last pair of underwear. I threw all my strewn clothes around my room into my giant suitcase and was on my way to a place as foreign to me as the country I’m in: The Laundromat. 

I walked in nervously as I had little clue how to work anything. I am bad enough at it while I’m home, as I am constantly trying to bribe my Mom into doing it. Anyway, as with every other appliance in Europe, the washers and dryers were different from their American counterparts. The washer included a tray on top where you were supposed to put softener or soap or something. I honestly didn’t know. And keeping with the motif of pure and utter confusion, there were no directions in English to found (obviously, but a guy can dream can’t he?). I finally deciphered where to get washer tokens, picked out a washer, and threw the bevy of clothes into said washer. (Sorry Mom, my money levels don’t allow separation of whites and colors). But once I tried to figure out how to actually work the washer I was flummoxed. As I stared dumfounded at the washer, a lady who apparently was an employee of the laundromat walked in thru a side door. Touting a Hijab, glasses, and an all brown outfit, she looked to be of Turkish decent. She quickly perceived me being completely out of my element and quickly came over and said something in French that immediately went over my head. I said “hello” which has become my way of subtly stating I don’t know a damn thing that is coming out of your mouth. She must have got the hint because she indicated to me she didn’t know a lick of English by continuing to speak French. 

It seems we have reached an impasse.

Language barriers haven’t been a problem at all because English is so widely spoken in Europe. The only language barriers I have encountered so far are usually overcome by looking on a screen to see how much my groceries cost or saying I don’t speak French and promptly walking away. I haven’t, before today, had to really communicate with someone who I actually needed information who didn’t understand English. 

 The incredible thing about communication though is hand motions are a universal language. She walked me through putting the detergent in the proper place, using softener, and starting the washer. Sure there was some confusion in our interchanges but it was a pleasant surprise how easy it became to understand her without speaking the same language. When transferring my clothes to the washer I pulled out my coins to indicate “how much” and she pointed to two 50-cent coins. After she indicated what buttons to press and I was on my way to dry clothes. The fluidness of the non-verbal conversation was amazing to me. She indicated to me she had to go, said “Orvwa”, and that was that.

 I left extremely grateful and somewhat indebted to her for her help. Plus that was the cleanest my clothes have ever been after a wash.