Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Help, Thai Edition

As we settle in for our second year, we're living more and more like the locals, including the slow accumulation of quite a team of people working for us. Well, we "only" have two right now, but later this week, we'll be adding a third.

First, there's the maid who cleans and does the laundry and ironing for us once a week. We've had quite a bit of drama with maids. In the one year we've been here, we have gone through three maids. The first one only cleaned for us twice before she quit an hour before she was due to clean for us because her husband needed her to help him with his shoe shop. It was the first time I had had an experience like that, so it really threw me off, and wondered if I had done something wrong. But a friend who also had her as a nanny/maid told me she wasn't very reliable; she actually ended up quitting on my friend too.

Then we got a Filipina woman who was looking for more work because her family had been severely affected by the typhoon in the Philippines last year. She was actually a full-time nanny for a German-Thai family, but also cleaned on the side. She was amazing -- reliable and hard-working. We loved her.

Before we moved to our current location, however, she told us she wouldn't continue to clean for us at our next location because it was too far for her to travel. I was disappointed. So we hired the woman who used to clean for the teachers who previously lived in our house. She loved this house and really wanted to continue working here, so we thought we'd give it a shot.

The first time she came, I asked her what she was willing to do, and she listed cleaning, laundry, and ironing -- all things I needed help with, which was great. She showed up at nine o'clock in the morning and was still at our house by six o'clock that evening, and she wasn't even close to being done! She took a looong time -- at least an hour! -- to clean each room. I also noticed she had the annoying habit of keeping me "updated" on what she was doing throughout the day: where she was putting each trash can and why, which windows she would leave open and why, etc. I really couldn't care less! We finally sent her home at 6:00 p.m. because we wanted to have dinner and to be able to relax in our own home without a stranger there.

Since she normally would be cleaning during the work week, when we wouldn't be around, we decided to give her more time. The second time, she didn't show up until 11:00 a.m. I would've preferred for her to get started earlier and finish earlier in the day, so I asked her if she could try to get started by 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. Well, she kind of flipped out on me. First, she told me she had 21 cats that she had to feed in the morning, so she couldn't come earlier. That alone should've been a red flag for me -- a cat lady gone mad. Then she went on and on about how I was putting too much pressure on her. She wouldn't let it go for the rest of the day, and every time she brought it up, she sounded like she was going to break out in hysterics. She explained that she wasn't a "professional" maid; apparently, she had been an executive assistant before she retired, and now worked as a maid because she liked it. OMG, I thought. WFT? I had the worst luck with maids!! And how could she have handled a busy corporate environment if she couldn't even take the "pressure" of being asked to show up for work closer to breakfast time than lunch time?

Still, I backed off. I would do some laundry during the week, and leave her one or two loads to do when she came on Fridays (each load is about half the size of one load back home -- the washers here are tiny). But then, a few weeks later, she complained that I "made her do too much laundry," and gave us her notice. When I reminded her that she had told me she would do laundry, she cried, "Yes, maybe five or six pieces of clothing, but not two loads!" Again, she almost broke down in tears! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry -- I would never consider having her help with laundry if it were only five or six pieces of clothing that needed to be washed! When she gave her notice, I was relieved -- I couldn't stand all the drama with this lady, who appeared quite emotional and a bit unstable. The weirdest thing was that she still stuck around to do her job until 7:00 p.m. that night, and even said she would do her best work for us that day because it was going to be her last time cleaning for us. Before she left, she said goodbye like nothing had happened. It was just so bizarre.

Right after she gave notice, I called our former Filipina maid to see if she was still available and whether she would be willing to work for us again. Luckily, she was still available and agreed to clean for us again. I was so happy to get her back. After our last experience, I was so grateful to have her -- someone who's "normal," easy-going, and drama-free -- back.

The second member of our "staff" is our driver. When we moved here, we arranged for a driver to come pick us up to take us to work every morning. We were supposed to share another driver, K, with another teacher (my current head of department, actually) who lives right around the corner from us. But, unbeknownst to us, K got cancer at the end of last school year, so my HOD bailed and got another driver (she still visits K and brings her food on a regular basis). K then sent her friend, T, to drive for us. There also was some drama between K and T -- T supposedly wasn't giving K any of the money he was making from driving her taxi. My HOD wanted us to give T only half of the fare we usually pay him, and half to her, and she would then give it to K. But I didn't want to get in the middle of all that and jeopardize our ride. Now T drives another taxi, so I think K is back at work driving her own taxi. But, as usual, we have no idea what's going on since T speaks very little English and we speak very little Thai (though my son is starting to be able to translate simple phrases and sentences for us!). As long as he shows up every morning, we're good.

Now we're adding another person to our employment -- a cook. A couple of friends have a woman clean and cook for them twice a week and said she was looking for more work for one day of the week. Since I'm also working full-time now, we thought it would be nice to have someone cook two or three meals for us once a week. So starting this week, she will grocery shop and cook a few meals for us on Wednesdays, which is extremely helpful because we have meetings and my husband plays basketball after school every Wednesday, and we always get home late on those days. She can cook Thai, Asian, and western foods, but we told her to cook mostly Thai and Asian foods because western ingredients are more expensive. Besides, we want to take advantage of her ability to cook Asian foods; we can cook western foods ourselves! When she came to discuss the terms of her employment with us, my mouth was watering with her descriptions of all the foods she could cook for us.

The best part is that we get all this help for only about $300/month total. We're getting so spoiled living here. It'll be difficult to live without all of this help when we leave here. It's been especially nice not having to clean the house ourselves. By next July, we will have not lifted one finger in cleaning our own bathrooms for two years straight! It will be hard to have to go back to doing it ourselves again. 

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