Saturday, April 16, 2011
And Trees in White Stockings
It's spring. Quick! Paint the trees! Everywhere--tree trunks are freshly whitewashed. I (and apparently many others, according to a web search) question the practice. Answers and theories vary widely--many I had already heard from Romanians I asked. Top of the list is that the wash is an insecticide, that it prevents crawling critters from reaching the leaves and fruit to do their damage. Next in popularity is that it protects the bark from "scalding" from the sun, followed by weather-fluctuation protection--bark being damaged by the quick change from freezing temps at night to the daytime warmth of spring sun. But I like the unguarded, honest answer someone let slip out--it just looks neat and tidy, like the trees are cleaned up and fresh. And not just the trees either; notice the concrete communist-era utility poles with their fresh stockings. I really doubt the insects will bother them, right? They just look cleaner. This seems fitting for a country fairly obsessed with cleanliness in their homes and yards and in their personal hygiene. And I have to say that this cleanliness isn't easy here in a country where dish washers and clothes dryers are virtually non-existent, where owning a washing machine is still quite a luxury, where hot water is an iffy prospect, where water pressure is often at the dribble level, and where detergents, shampoo, and deodorant are (relatively) expensive. Recently a fellow PCV wrote this in answer to using her apartment when we visit her city, "the kitchen sink plugs easily and often.... shake the hose under the sink...but know the hose will come out of the wall... it is just resting there...so hold it while you shake...[***] the shower.... you may or may NOT have hot water...some days NO water at all... but saying that you do... the leatherman by the sink turns on the shower water... pull hard .....and know the shower hose leaks and sprays everywhere until you have your hand over the leaks... it is a messy deal taking a shower.... my hygiene has taken a nose dive... here is to your having hot water.." I'm lucky. My apartment always has water, usually hot water, too, if I wait long enough and don't mind dealing with a trickle, and my plumbing is fairly new and in decent shape. I was able to find an expandable rod to install over the tub for a plastic curtain. Romanians don't use shower curtains, managing the hand-held hose with a technique I'd really love to witness. Still, for many Romanians keeping body, clothes and home clean is a major accomplishment and they do it very well. The women take housekeeping seriously and spend inordinate amounts of time making sure the floors and bathrooms--in particular--are clean. No one wears shoes in the home, and slippers are often provided for guests. (If I were an entrepreneur in Romania, I'd start a charming line of guests' slippers in all sizes and styles, washable and snuggly.) Effective cleaning products here are all but canonized, spoken about in reverent whispers--no kidding! So, I salute the clean Romanians and marvel at their resolve. If Cleanliness-is-Next-to-Godliness, then they certainly have a nod from our Maker. Unfortunately, these good habits have not ventured out to where litter abounds at road sides and fields. But then, the white-stockinged trees preside there, giving perhaps a little inspiration.