Thursday, May 3, 2012

Singapore Falling

On Tuesday I read in the news (here) that there is a new rule taking immediate effect:
Indonesian maids coming to work in Singapore will no longer be allowed to clean out-facing windows or hang laundry outside high-rise homes.
This year alone, 8 maids have fallen to their deaths while cleaning windows or hanging laundry.

To understand how this happens, you have to know our living quarters.

Most locals live in HDB flats built by the government. These are high-rise flats. Can you see laundry hung outside each flat?
hanging dripping mop is a big no-no

When the government first built public flats in the 60s, it came up with an idea for the residents to dry their laundry. Short metal cylinders were soldered to the wall outside the kitchen windows. Each flat gets around 6 cylinders. The residents buy long bamboo poles which are shoved into these cylinders and that's basically how laundry is hung in Singapore. Now it's 2012 and the method of hanging laundry hasn't changed!

The danger of hanging laundry via bamboo poles has always existed. Somehow, by some miracle, few people fall to their death while doing it.

When I lived in my mother's flat before I was married, I had to hang laundry this way and I was terrified. It requires unusually strong upper body strength which I do not possess. So my mother had to manoeuvre  the bamboo poles most of the time. She was quite clever about it. Firstly, she would only use the front portion of the bamboo if the laundry is heavy. She would also not hang laundry when it was windy. We lived on the 12th storey. Death was a certainty if we fell.

Now, back to the ruling. Since this is the way majority dry their laundry, I can't imagine how the ruling will be enforced because many locals are resistant to indoor drying. I think the solution lies in government officials going to the flats which employ Indonesian maids and removing the metal cylinders which prop up the bamboo poles. That is the only way the rule can be enforced. 

Some of the maids died while cleaning windows. This is so sad. Why are locals so obsessed with clean windows? They face outwards and are high up in the air, no one cares! No one can see! How will the government enforce this rule?

As for my family, since we moved out of my MIL's flat in 1997, we have agreed on 2 things:
1. Indoor drying - we hang our laundry in the laundry area and yes, slowly but surely the laundry does get dry.
2. Dirty windows - our windows are god awful filthy. I clean the inside from time to time. But the outside? Never! Why would I risk my life to do that?

And that's how I stay alive in Singapore.


Suzee said...

As clumsy as I am I would drop all the clothes and pins while hanging them.I would surely have to buy all new undies lol
Do they not have dryers inside?

Little Blue Mouse said...

That looks really awkward. Are there many incidents of the laden bamboo poles being dropped?

opportunityknits said...

I also do not clean the outside of my windows :) Thanks for making my day - I feel so normal now!

Dee said...

That looks really difficult. No wonder you have opted for in house laundry drying. I too would drop poles, pegs, clothes , self out the window if I had to do that.
It seems like it needs a woman to come up with a better solution to this laundry challenge. Perhaps some sort of pulley on a frame that rotated the laundry so that the person hanging it only had to stand in one spot and the laundry came to him/her ('cause the boys can hang washing too).
The outside of my second storey windows don't get cleaned - too dangerous. I have considered spraying them with the high pressure water cleaner but i would end up with water in the house as they aren't a tight seal and standing on the ground spraying pressurised water upwards is messy (to say the least). That wouldn't even be an option for a dwelling above 2 storeys.

Chris H said...

When Stew and I were in Singapore many years ago we were amazed to see all the laundry hanging from those poles!
How sad that some people have died doing the laundry and washing windows!

Mampi said...

It's really very hard to hang laundry to bamboo poles.You cannot hang heavy clothes as there is always danger of dropping the bamboo poles.

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