Friday, 30 April 2010

Pink bags and staff

When Grannie and Grandad left they left behind a few surprises for a rainy day. This afternoon was bright and clear, but Friday afternoon is my easiest time to do something special with Kitty as she comes home at lunchtime and the Mancub sleeps for an hour or two after lunch.

So, we opened up a surprise package and got sticking and sewing. And the result?

Beatifully coordinating with her butterfly costume. She even did some of the sewing herself.....

The Mancub was somewhat less happy today, with a dodgy tummy and a very slight fever at one point. Nappies definitely back in action today... He seemed reasonably cheerful by tea time though so let's hope it passes soon.

On a completely different note, it was payday today, when I hand out brown envelopes stuffed with cash to our four staff. I know, anyone not living here must balk at those words. What, 4 staff, for 4 of you??! I felt the same at first. Seems ridiculous and bourgeois in the extreme. We have a house-help here Monday to Friday from 8.00 till 4.30, who does all the cleaning, laundry, washing up and occasional childminding and vegetable chopping too. (I have never lived in such a clean house before!!) and we have 3 askaris (guards); 2 full time and one part-time, so that there is always someone on site at any time. They double as gardeners and wash the cars too.

As I said, I struggled with this aspect of life here more than perhaps any other to begin with, and yet I am now almost fully reconciled to it. Why? Because we are providing an income, and a reasonable one by local standards, for 4 families in our neighbourhood, and because I have seen and heard what life is like when there is no income, which unfortunately is all too common. Walking the paths through the shambas (fields) and houses round about one can't avoid being invited in, having conversations, being offered avocados (definitely the season for those) etc. And yesterday I was invited in by a granny looking after a flotilla of small snotty nosed children. "Why are you crying?" I asked one. "Because she is hungry" was the reply. Mama J, our house-help, is a widow and was out of a job for a few months last year, after the family she had been working for moved to a different area. Some days there was nothing for breakfast and the kids went hungry to school, and then sometimes they came back and there was still nothing, or maybe she had found a banana or two ripe enough to pick and boil to make a sort of porridge for the 5 of them. Amazingly, most people, even children, grin and bear it and still find great joy in life. To my shame, I'm sure I would be a Moaning Myrtle after the lack of a meal or two. I'm constantly humbled by how people rejoice, smile, laugh and are friendly here, even when they have so little. I think back to some of the moany conversations we used to have at toddlers groups or in playgrounds over matters that seemed so difficult and unfair, and which I would be ashamed to mention here for their insignificance.

So, here is to having paid staff! (And having the dishes done too)

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