All in a Day

The house help is disturbed.  

I know this because It was ME who disturbed them.  You see, I like things tidy and clean and in good working order - and therein lies the problem.  

It started around 8:15 am when a carpenter arrived at the door.  He told the housekeeper that he needed to speak with me about a piece of furniture that he was building.  She explained that we didn't NEED that particular piece, since we had a perfectly good one inside.  She also told him that I was sleeping and couldn't be disturbed and to go away - and he did.  I just hope that he will come back.

Charles leaves early - around 6:30am.   Julianne fixes him a smoothie and he is quickly on his way to work.  I get up a bit later - around 7:30-ish (since I really don't have anything at all much on my schedule yet).  I read my devotion, check email, take a shower, etc... which sometimes takes an hour or so, before I come downstairs.   I have explained that I am always available for people that come to the house - so all she has to do is to let me know.  I am NOT sleeping at 8:15 and she is fully aware of that fact.  However, she explained that she thought there was TOO TOO much work going on around this place - and it is disturbing her.   The things that disturb the people that work at our home are items which are not expected, nor even thought about.  

Case 1 - Back to the carpenter who arrived to show me the furniture piece... I had obviously not informed our housekeeper that we had ordered something.  It was concerning her because I was asking for an unnecessary item, when we already had plenty.   She explained in detail that we didn't need anything else and that we should just work on other things.  Al-righty then!   

Case 2 - We had some damaged/broken pieces, mold, etc with our move and have filed a small claim.   We are waiting for the moving company to settle and to pick-up the damaged items.  Since it has been over 3 weeks and I am tired of seeing the articles in the den, I packed it all up and moved it to the covered front porch to await the movers.   This has disturbed our housekeeper.  She feels that we should keep the items inside, upstairs where the guards can't see them.  When I tried to explain, she finally understood that the bags were filled with broken items - so a new situation immediately surfaced.  In pidgin English, she told me, "I take now".  Huh?  "It bad, so I take now".    I explained that the movers were coming to get the bags.  Her bafflement is completely understandable because she is convinced that I like the moving men more than I like her - and am giving it to them instead.  She is completely insulted at the madam and I don't have the right words to explain it correctly.  She is 'no happy'. 

Case 3 - This weekend, I painted an orange/red paint sample on our accent wall in the den - which is currently a bright yellow to test the color that I had ordered.  First thing this morning, the housekeeper explained that it was not a nice look and that I needed to stay with the yellow.  She explained that she liked the yellow and I shouldn't change it - nor should I try to do "art" on the wall since the design that I had chosen wasn't very nice.  About a half hour later, the guard came inside to ask WHO had painted part of the wall - and that the art design wasn't attractive.  I started to explain that a thief had broken into the house with a paint brush, but decided to simply explain that it was only a sample and I was trying out the color.  He politely commented that the yellow was beautiful and that his opinion was that the orangey/red was too bright.  If I didn't like the yellow, and felt that I needed a change, then he would suggest a bright green, which would go much better in the room.  

**Side note: I am not in love with the reddish-orange either since it is WAY too bright, but I do want to bring in the reddish tones, and it is only an accent wall.  The yellow is nice, but it doesn't really match our things.   Maybe some brown glaze might tone it down a bit!  

Case 4 - One of the a/c units downstairs blows warm air.  We have tried new freon and apparently it leaks out due to the age of the unit.  After multiple attempts to repair it, the shop decided to order a new one to replace it.  The item of concern now, is the question of WHO receives the old unit.   The guards are standing in line to get it for their own homes and It is disturbing to them that I did not arrange this ahead of time.  (Do you think this wall needs paint too?) 

Case 5 - The cabana/gazebo outside is full of termites.   The roof is caving in and the floor is rotted completely through.  The insects have even eaten through the broken rattan furniture.   We obtained quotes to repair it and the work started this morning in the rain.  The first item of business was to remove the damaged, termite-eaten wood floor.  The guard approached me this morning to see WHO authorized the removal of the wood.  There was an argument over who gets the termite infested wood - and I was called to solve it.   I should have considered that our own staff needed the wood for their homes before I boldly 'gave it away' to the contractors.   Ok, then - Lesson learned. 

Case 6 - In the midst of the day, Arno (local store) arrived to deliver some chairs.  I found some 'Scratch and dent" chairs for about $20 each and bought them.  My plan is to paint them to use at various places around the house - which seemed like an inexpensive option, giving us extra seating for guests when needed.   Unfortunately, the store required a receipt to deliver.   I obviously didn't understand the system since Charles put the copy of the receipt in his wallet.  I called him at work and he scanned a copy of the receipt to me and I printed it.  Initially, they told me that a COPY of the original receipt was not acceptable nor official and they wanted to deliver the chairs another day.  After a bit of arguing, they decided that the copy would work after all.   I signed it and dated it to make it legitimate, per their request.   They brought in the chairs and then handed me THREE copies of the original receipt that they were holding and asked for my signature!   Apparently, they needed to see that WE had the same receipt to prove our identity before delivery.   Our guard and driver are both bothered that we didn't know the system and they don't understand why we need more chairs anyway, since there are only two people who live in the house.  

Case 7 - In my quest to have a clean home, we have used too much bleach.  I was told to purchase another gallon of bleach when I go out and that we were using TOO much; therefore it was going to be very expensive to purchase more.  (So, there!)  Clorox is my new best friend and I am happy to add it to my shopping list.  In fact, I am thrilled to take stock in this product and to have a large supply on hand for everyone.  

Case 8 - The painter arrived to start on the office upstairs.  He was disturbed since we hadn't ordered enough paint.  Who knew that two gallons for a SMALL room was less than HALF of what we needed? I have placed an order for three more gallons, which will take 2-3 days to arrive.  The holes that were in the wall also did not get repaired.  I shouldn't worry since he will repair the wall AFTER the painting is complete.   This disturbs me more than the painter.  

Case 9 - Midway through the day, we had a little 'incident' with the car.  I had gone out to the vegetable stand (no onions today) and to Casino, our local grocery.  When we returned, the guard only held one side of the heavy gate.  The other side was caught by the wind and did some minor damage to the side of the car.  They were disturbed at the situation and suggested a different type of gate.  I think that we'll come up with another solution, since I am disturbed at this too.  

Case 10 - A few weeks ago, our pool pump started spewing water.  There have been MANY arguments (yelling) between the pool guy, the guards, the drivers, etc about the broken cap to the pump... with the words, "His tongue no speak truth" occurring often amidst requests for me to settle the 'score'.  Today, the pool guy came and was very disturbed that the madam did not have the right cap YET.  Thankfully someone showed up later in the afternoon explaining that they could not find the correct cap, so they fabricated a new one - which fit perfectly.   In full disclosure, there still is a small leak, but they intend to fix it with some string tomorrow. :)   I am totally amazed and appreciative of the work that went into creating a new cap, so I praised the guy who made it and thanked him.  I was rewarded with a "Thank you Mommy".  :)  Obviously, as the madam of the maison, I am everyone's 'mommy' - when they are not disturbed at me.  When they are pleased, we are all one big happy family!  
**It's so interesting that the pool guy comes with his equipment on a motorcycle.  

Case 11 - After discussing dinner plans this morning, I went to the store (mentioned earlier) to get the ingredients needed.  At 2pm, our COOK explained that she had too much to do and didn't have time to do dinner.  She is disturbed that we like to eat - every single night - and it is a lot of work for her to prepare.  I really don't know where to go for this one, since she is PAID to clean and cook.  However, there are too many people around, too much work and we STILL want dinner.  We are disturbing the schedule a LOT!  I obviously need to pitch in and do more around the house!  We compromised and came up with something simple that we could complete together.  

In all seriousness, I have to remember that this is a big change for the staff as well as for me.  They had a routine and we have upset it with our new routine.  Our requirements are different (not better or worse, but different) from the prior people living here.  I can only imagine that where we see dirt and chaos, they see excess and luxury - and it's hard to wrap my brain around sometimes.  We are humbled and thankful for this help, and yet we are expected to 'contribute' to the local community through employment.  I am also reminded that there is nothing too trivial to throw away and that everything has a use, far beyond what I can see.  Most days, I have a choice of how to respond to this craziness and it needs to be a conscious choice.  I've decided that it's much better to see the humor in things and choose to laugh rather than cry.  And this stuff is just hard to make up.   It helps to share our experiences for a little therapy too!  

And by the way - this is only ONE day's disturbance.  ALL of the above took place within a few hours, and I'm sure that it will continue tomorrow.  

And for those of you who are laughing, we have an invitation.  Come on over to central Africa and join us on this crazy journey.  We'll leave the light on for ya! 


Carolee said…
Oh Janet, yes I'm laughing! It seems like there is a very different mentality toward work in Cameroon than Lagos. But some things sound very familiar. You have such a great attitude toward it all and it is true that it makes for some great stories to tell and you can choose how you deal with it all. You are doing much better with your sense of humor and perspective than many people would be! Good luck with the settling in!

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