Missing Kenya #3: House Helpers

It's funny, but as I reflect on our list of top 10 "Missing Kenya" items, I'm realizing how many of them were strange, uncomfortable, or undesired when we first arrived. The subject of today's post, house helpers, was actually one of the most stressful elements of my first weeks in Kenya. I was uncomfortable hiring local women to work in my house--I didn't want to seem uppity by hiring servants! What would I have them do? Would I have to reprimand or dictate? How much should I pay them? Health insurance/housing stipends? I had never employed anyone before, and didn't know how to act as a "boss." Maybe I could get by without house help.

Two ladies showed up to work on the first day and I was embarrassed. I needed TWO people to help me while I was at work? But all the other missionary ladies assured me this was normal, and acceptable, and I was providing income into the local economy, to women who deserved it. And even though the rate I was paying them seemed absurdly low (really? $2.50/day?) it was much higher than they could earn elsewhere in the area, doing almost anything.

So, that was the beginning. Ruth cooked and cleaned, Rose watched Maggie and did some cleaning. Despite some early on kitchen mishaps (I can't eat a particular fried rice recipe anymore without remembering what Eric termed the "pepper rice" due to a tsp/tbsp mix-up) it actually didn't take long before I was wondering what I'd do without these 2 sweet ladies. Not only was my bed made on a regular basis (the first time in my life that's ever happened) but the dishes got washed, laundry hung to dry and folded, water filtered, milk boiled, vegetables soaked in bleach and cut up, bathroom washed, floors swept and mopped, rugs beat out... And most importantly, someone reliable was watching Maggie (and now Ben) while I worked 3 days a week.
My misunderstanding at the beginning was common, I think. It's not that I need servants. It's that there are so many more things to do in the day here than need doing in the US. We are going home to a land of dishwashers, washers and dryers, drinkable tap water, pasteurized milk, vacuum cleaners, paved sidewalks (less dirt in the house), and prepared foods available at the grocery store, 10 minutes away. I don't have plans to hire someone to do housework for me the in States, although certainly if Eric and I were both working we'd need day care or a nanny, and a nice lady to come and clean the house once in awhile would be nice. :) Ruth and Rose have been a great help, and we will miss them, and wish them well.


Timothy said...

I love Rose and Ruth!! Two precious women, that is for sure!!! Mom

Anonymous said...

Rachel, will they have work for someone else soon? Cathye