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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Time to Climb Back Up

I have a confession to make: I am not fit for the diplomatic lifestyle.  I don't drink tea.  I haven't had a pedicure since the Arab Spring.  I drive my own car.  And I can't stand having someone in my house all day cleaning up after me.

I have had my housekeeper come three times a day since I hired her in November.  The previous housekeeper had been coming two full days and two morning, so when I hired my current housekeeper I consolidated it into three days so that she could work for someone else the other two days.

At first it worked out okay; I had three mornings where I could have school without Edwin and Joseph interrupting.  They could take a walk and get some time outside while Kathleen and I talked about Alexander the Great.  I didn't have to fight off Edwin while struggling through a reading lesson with Sophia.  

Then winter hit and walks weren't so feasible.  So instead Edwin came down and kept us company, mostly playing nicely.  When the weather was nice, Edwin preferred to stay and join everyone else in school.  So then Joseph just kept my housekeeper company while she cleaned.  I realized after a few months that I was paying her to do twenty hours of work and she was hardly ever working more than sixteen (since I couldn't think of anything else to do, I let her go when her work was done each day).

And she was driving me crazy.  It wasn't her, it was just having someone, anyone else in the house with me.  My house is my sanctuary.  It's my own bubble that is not Baku, a place where the alien culture, foreign language, and curious looks are left at the doorstep.  

I know people who embrace living in a foreign culture and love nothing more than to go and explore the special nuances of another way of living, grow to love the people of their temporary home, and feel enriched by their experiences.  

I don't.

I once got a very nasty comment (that I deleted) on this blog that accused me (among other things) of not having cultural experiences and being a sad bitter person because of that.  

Everybody deals with life differently, and I deal with my life - four small children home every day all day - by having a sanctuary that I control.  As my children get older, that will probably change, but for now, I like it that way and no nasty comments will induce me to be a better person.

And having someone violate my sanctuary three times a week - putting my possessions up in strange places, folding my laundry wrong, giving my children candy to stop them crying, and most of all thinking their foreign-culture thoughts about me - was just too much.  As I said, everyone deals differently, and I have have come to the firm conclusion Brandon can never be Mr. Big Important in the embassy because I would have a mental breakdown after a week of having full time staff (not just one! several!) around.

So when my housekeeper announced that she had found another position for three days and could I just have her two days I could have cried for joy.  And then I thought that there must be something wrong with me.

So there you have it.  I'll never make a true diplomat.  But I hope we can still be friends.


Sarah Familia said...

My father-in-law works for Chevron, and so my husband's family spent three years in Indonesia when he was a kid. The company had built a whole village for the expat employees to live in, and it was expected that everyone would have at least three servants (housekeeper, cook, and gardener), partially just to bolster the local economy.

My poor mother-in-law hated it, not least because the servants were from a matriarchal culture, so they didn't respect her because she didn't completely dominate her husband (and they didn't respect him either, because he was a man).

Living with cultural differences is difficult, and living with them intruding in your own home is more difficult.

Having had my own experience with successive difficult housekeepers in Tunisia, I can now never watch Downton Abbey without thinking what a difficult full-time job it must be to manage an entire house full of "help."

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. Signed, been in the FS 20+ years, never had a pedicure or a driver, and would much rather have a messy house than deal with household help ever again. Ever.

Bridget said...

I have a full-time housekeeper...and I agree with what you said in this post. Sometimes it bothers me more than others, having someone else in the house all. the. time. Lately, it's been bothering me more than not. We're trying to decide what to do when her contract runs out...

PaulaJean said...

Lacking anything clever or thoughtful to add to the conversation I'm simply happy for a simple solution that doesn't involve cleaning toilets. :-)

UnkaDave said...

Thoughts such as, "she'd complain about the rope with which they hung her" come to mind.
No, really, I get it. Especially the 'putting things in strange places' comment. I'm glad it worked out well for all involved. How do you say, "win-win" in Azerbaijani?

UnkaDave said...

Thoughts such as, "she'd complain about the rope with which they hung her" come to mind.
No, really, I get it. Especially the 'putting things in strange places' comment. I'm glad it worked out well for all involved. How do you say, "win-win" in Azerbaijani?