I have never been really comfortable having someone else clean up my messes. (Well, my mother would probably beg to differ, but I don't mean the messes I made as a child!) In Oxford I had to get used to a scout coming in a couple of times per week to clean the kitchen and bathroom and to empty the bins, but I always felt super uncomfortable just sitting there while he or she cleaned. Sometimes, when I was home all day working on a paper, I would attempt to make chit-chat with one of them, but I never knew what to say beyond "good morning" or "how are you" or "quite the storm we had last night; it was tipping down when I got home! Sorry about the muddy tracks in the hallway…"
|Man-eating spider, with toilet for size comparison|
Our cleaning lady here has not yet had a chance to rescue me from blood-thirsty fauna, but she did do an excellent job of cleaning and waxing the floors, scouring the bathrooms, washing all the dirty dishes in the kitchen, and vacuuming all of the upstairs carpets with our brand new vacuum. She even helped me to practice my Spanish a bit, because I couldn't bear to sit at my computer and ignore her, but felt equally awkward standing in the kitchen just staring at her. She is very sweet, and pleasant to talk to, and patient with me, like most people here are when I try to speak their language. Her name is Leidy, which is pronounced just like "lady," and which caused some confusion and amusement when Maurizio called me by his usual English epithet ("my lady") and both she and I responded. She is a little tiny thing, quite young, not much more than a girl, and she told me that she lives a good two hours from the city centre, which suggests that she inhabits one of the poorer barrios in the south.
I am told it is common for the cleaning lady to take meals with the family she is serving, especially if she has done the cooking. We offered Leidy some arepas (corn pancakes) when we breakfasted, but she would not take any. Later she accepted a cup of coffee, and after she had been here nearly four hours she let us share with her some (rather greasy) empanadas and (rather pulpy) orange juice and (rather dry) pain au chocolat. It was the best repast we could do for the moment, having very little fresh food around the house, though our refrigerator was finally delivered later in the afternoon, so I hope to do better in the future.
|There is a good reason for the overalls|
Never mind that in the States you would have been charged a base rate of at least $50 just to get him to your house, plus a surcharge for any work or parts. Never mind that that very evening we bought 20,000 worth of groceries for a homeless woman and her son on whom we took pity, or that we later paid over 100,000 pesos for a sushi dinner that was definitely not in the budget. It is the principle of the thing.