Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ayi Anguish

21 September 2005

As I wait for my ayi of 2½ days to leave … and never return … I’m left with the dreadful question – “now what”! After finally giving up on finding someone by word of mouth, I had the relo company source a maid. Interviewed two. Picked the one with a good reference (references being unusual) from her former madam, an Indian, who could cook Indian cook, and seemed pleasant. Day 1, hesitant with me but pleasant. Used the office to translate a couple of times. Learned how to use the washer and dryer and cooked a decent Indian meal. And left a mop with a rag draped over it in my little garden area.

Day 2, we go grocery shopping – an opportunity for her to buy what she needs to cook with. She didn’t pick out anything, and I’m wondering why I’m doing all of the meal planning. Wet rag from the mop draped now over Douglas’s electric motorcycle (already rusting enough, it didn’t need help). Dishes washed without dish soap. Dress shirt ironed without benefit of water, starch or sizing and thus ironed but not wearable. And the crowning glory. I went up to get ready for bed. She had changed the sheets, correctly. The bed is 200cm x 200cm; the sheets 230cm x 260cm – long enough to tuck under the bed on three sides (there being no fitted sheets for a king sized bed in Shanghai). How was the bed made? BOTH the top and bottom sheets tucked in at the head and foot of the bed, dangling on the sides. Sherry’s moment of meltdown as I rip the sheets of the bed and remake it!

Day 3, if I’d had any hesitation left in morning about firing her, the sight of the leftover curry sauce from the night before (with bits of meat still in it) left on the stove aging for her lunch was enough to turn my stomache and confirm the unscaleable gap; particularly with no common language. Had the relo company talk to her on the phone to terminate the relationship – and now she’s gone.

So back to what next. I’m told it’s not unusual to go through multiple maids until a suitable one is found. But, ick!! These people are in your house going through your stuff while you decide whether it works or not. And being totally spoiled by our housekeeper in Singapore doing everything – no training, only a few course adjustments needed, and everything in the acceptable range (except all her personal problems) - I’m not fond of the idea of having someone here full-time who still doesn’t do the meal planning and grocery shopping and needs to be trained on how to clean and make beds!! And it’s hard to see how this could be full-time job anyway. I’ll just chew on this for a bit, and go back to doing the laundry and getting cleaning from the housekeeping staff of the compound.

October 2006: Posting this a year later, I have learned that my expectations were the majority of the problem. There are some great maids in Shanghai, but like every other place, it's best to find help through contacts and to have an understanding of the local market.


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