Re-worked from an older post for this week’s Daily Post Weekender edition. ed.

Ever since I arrived in Vanuatu almost five years ago, I’ve woken every morning to the rhythmic shushing of the scrub brush as the women in the neighbourhood do the morning wash. It’s often the last thing I hear before sundown as well.

Anyone who’s ever washed their clothes by hand knows just how arduous the process is. Most women in Vanuatu have extremely well-defined arm muscles, and many of the older women on the islands are built like wrestlers. Laundry is one of the reasons why.

When my tawian Marie-Anne approached me some time ago with the news that she’d begun participating in a micro-finance scheme, I encouraged her to do so, and immediately began wracking my brains for an activity that would allow her to earn money and still take care of her little girl full-time. I tossed out an idea or two, but nothing I suggested seemed very compelling. Marie-Anne was patient with me, and waited for me to wind down before telling me that she already knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to buy a washing machine, and charge the local women to use it.

How very stupid of me not to have thought of it before.

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