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Recife to Maceió – A Laundry Dilemma and a Four-Hour Bus Trip

I double-checked date and time on my bus ticket, put it in my passport, set up my alarm clock and found out where the nearest ponto de táxi was.

I was nervous. Moving from place to place is what backpackers do but it’s always a bit stressful. There’s the practical aspect of getting from point A to point B—you want to make sure you don’t leave anything behind, show up the bus terminal or airport on time and have a relatively comfortable trip with all your belongings. Then there’s the psychological aspect of leaving a place that, in a matter of days, became strangely familiar and cozy.

This time, it was also a jump into the unknown. I was about to travel to Maceió, a city we have never been to. The idea of going somewhere brand new was just uncomfortable enough, just exciting enough.

But before leaving Recife, I had to tackle a chore I was dreading—doing laundry.

Normally, I love doing the laundry or even better, bring a bag of dirty clothes to the nearest lavandaria and pick up my clean load a few hours later. But as Feng and I discovered a few years ago, doing the laundry in Recife… ahem, challenging.

“You know what, that laundry place… it still exists!” I announced the first day. “I walked past it today!”

We had a good laugh. “Man, people must be desperate!”

Five days later, I wasn’t laughing anymore because I was seriously considering bring them my clothes again.

There aren’t many laundry-per-kilo or self-service laundromat in Recife. Why? No idea. It’s surprising for such a big city and we never have this problem anywhere else in Brazil.

In theory, there was a dryer/washing machine in my building, as specified on the Airbnb listing. I asked about it on day one, and existence of a washing machine was confirmed, but I was told to come back the following day because the person in charge of it was off. I didn’t quite get it—if there was a laundry room for all residents, why would I need to talk to someone?—but I accepted it as Brazilian logic.

On day two, I still didn’t get to meet the laundry expert, but I was told that laundry slots are booked by residents on Monday only and well, it was Tuesday. But someone not actually working right now may help if I asked again the following day.

On day three, I chatted with someone who understood it would have been tricky for me to book a laundry day when I didn’t know you were supposed to book your laundry day, but I also learned that there was only a washing machine available, no dryer.

I gave up on doing the laundry in my building—no way my stuff would air dry properly considering the humidity. I can’t even air dry myself after a shower…

“Carrefour,” a resident informed me when I asked about laundry options during a particularly long elevator ride (the elevators were so slow I often took the stairs up to the 13th floor).

In France, Carrefour doesn’t do your laundry, but I followed Brazilian logic and went to Carrefour anyway, where I spotted a place called Dryclean USA. I stood there for a second, wondering why Brazilian trust the American flag for clean clothes, and stepped in. It turned out to be a dry cleaner charging per piece. “It’s about 11 reais for a short, but it depends on how short they are, 5 reais for s shirt, but it depends on the shirt…”

Exactly what I wanted to avoid because I don’t have thong panties and would probably be overcharged for regular, butt-covering panties.

Feng tried to help and recommended Prima Clean after a quick Google search. “It’s a chain, I’ve seen it in São Paulo. Is it close to your place?”

“Let see… about 2 kilometres. Not bad.”

I was getting desperate because I didn’t want to pack five days of sweaty clothes and hope for better lavandaria options in Maceió. At this stage, I would have travelled all the way to Olinda with my dirty laundry, except I hadn’t seen any lavandaria over there.

The next day, I walked to Prima Clean with a Carrefour bag full of dirty laundry.

“How much for a load?”

“Oh, but you don’t have much… a load is a basket that big,” the employee explained, showing me a large green basket that I couldn’t have filled with the entire content of my backpack.

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”

“Let me see if it’s cheaper if I charge you per piece…”

I sighed. There’s a reason why the expression “airing your dirty laundry in public” was invented—it’s fairly uncomfortable to have a perfect stranger empty your laundry bag and count each (dirty) item.

“So six panties…”

Yes, I change underwear every day.

“Five tops…”

Same idea, minus one I washed under the shower.

“Two… is this a pair of shorts?”

Yes.

“And this…”

… is a pair of not-as-short shorts.

She picked up a calculator.

“Meh, not much cheaper.”

Great, all that for nothing.

“Can I pick it up later today?”

“Sure! We close at 6:30 p.m.”

If I didn’t get stuck in Recife-to-Boa Viagem traffic, it was doable.

I made it at 6:30 p.m. exactly.

The next day, my backpack full of clean laundry and I had a hard time finding a taxi in Boa Viagem, and the one I got couldn’t believe I was from Canada, travelling in Brazil. “Why are you doing that to yourself?” he moaned. “This is not even a third-world country, it’s a… a…”

He couldn’t find a rank low enough for Brazil. I shrugged. “All countries have issues.”

I was early and the terminal was as quiet as when I bought my ticket. Strange. The bus wasn’t full either.

One of the passengers, a very stylish old lady, was wearing an old-fashioned “Maceió” Panama hat, the kind you buy as a souvenir. But we were going to Maceió, so I wondered what prompted her to put it on. Was she from Maceió and proudly making her way back home? Had she worn it all around Recife?

I took a few pictures as we were leaving the city and fell asleep only to wake up in Maceió.

Terminal rodoviário de Recife
Terminal rodoviário de Recife
Just outside Recife
Just outside Recife
Just outside Recife
Just outside Recife
Recife to Maceió
Recife to Maceió

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