Thursday, 26 November 2009


Employing staff to help run and take care of your home. This is one of the aspects of life here that I'm finding it hardest to adjust to. After all, who in the UK employs even one person full time to help at home, let alone more? Only the very wealthy.

Here however, it is definitely advisable to employ people to protect you and your home. Most of the people we know have as a minimum two or three guards who, between them, ensure that someone is present in the grounds of your house 7 days a week 24 hours a day. They often also do some gardening in the daytime. (and most people also have guard dogs and 'security buttons' in their house and grounds, which, when pressed, summon a truck load of scary security officers).

Also, almost everyone who can afford it, Tanzanians and foreigners, employ someone full time in the house to help with cleaning, laundry, food preparation, washing up, taking care of the kids... and many also have a full time ayah if they are out a lot. It's not just for one's personal convenience, it is seen here as a duty to employ others if you can afford it, so as to provide work and income for them. Many people employ the less well-off members of their extended family in order to help them provide for themselves.

So, we are in the position of trying to find staff. We've found 2 askaris (guards) so far and are wondering if we need to find a 'relief' askari too, to help cover the hours. We are also looking to employ a house-keeper (normally called house-girl here but I struggle with the old-colonial-ness of that). Three people have so far offered themselves for the post. 2 have no previous experience and the other one I just don't feel right about, and certain things make me hesitate. What we would love is for someone we know to recommend someone but that hasn't happened yet. But I also feel bad turning down someone without being able to give a substantial explanation. We're definitely a bit out of our depth with this issue, and having to try to conduct interviews in Swahili isn't helping either!

Anyway, on a different note, we're eagerly awaiting this evening to witness Kitty's starring role in the school Christmas production. She is one of several yellow stars (in some creation from an adult sized yellow t-shirt I haggled for in the clothing market on Monday), will be joining in with the Christmas songs (including “The wise men went in 3 by 3, hurrah, hurrah...”) and also a narrator: “Not in a castle, not in a palace, not in a fancy hotel, but in a humble stable: that's where Jesus was born”. I can't wait!

Meanwhile, the Mancub and I are having a rest morning as we've run out of money to go on any more shopping expeditions until next month and we're letting Daddy do the heavy collecting this morning: Kitty's new bed (a four-poster complete with mozzie net), various sheets, pillowcases, laundy baskets and 4 eggcups are the rather random collection he's picking up this morning from some ex-pats who ran an overnight house for pilots flying between here and Kenya. He's also dropping in en route to check whether our curtains are ready and try to arrange delivery of our bed which, I believe (after a bewildering phone conversation yesterday afternoon) is ready. So today it's my turn to sit at our favourite cafe - the Blue Heron - and go on-line in the company of a cafe latte. ("the usual?" inquired our friendly waiter). We've also splurged on a chocolate brownie today. We've successfully resisted up till now but the display case is right behind this sofa and the smell was tantalising.... Anyway, must go and eat some before the Mancub polishes it all off.


  1. Victoria I'm writing to apply for the job as housekeeper!

    I rather like the notion of the secruity guards, it certainly would have been welcome when I lived in Glasgow!

    The seven foot long bed is a puzzle though: are you guys becoming Masai Warriors? I can see it suiting Alexander!


  2. You have a track record on washing up we know about, but how good are your hand washing skills? And the pay is worse even than Macaulay... We'll not pay your interview expenses, but could put you up for nothing whilst you visit. Let us know your dates...

    The bed? Well, the standard length here is six foot and that makes me have both head and feet touching the headboard (a bit like sleeping in a campervan in fact...), so why not have a longer one? It's incredibly solid...

  3. Do you need a specialist to wash your hands then? I can see the need in Alexander's case.

    But yes I can hand wash -- all those years as an impoverished student, toiling away a freezing garret...(cue monty python). Pay not necessary, veranda only.

    I'd love to visit sometime next year -- when I do, give me a big shopping list (to include tractors and pencils no doubt, I know Colin likes them). At the moment I'm still fighting a losing battle against entropy in the barn -- almost finish one part of the roof but the stormy weather here (we live in Wuthering Heights) is knocking slates off faster than I can replace them.

    As for the bed, I can really appreciate that -- do you remember the huge bed I had in that wonderful chalet in Leamington, while you guys were crammed into the camper van? I still feel guilty about that! :)