January 29, 2008

You were right, I was wrong

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

Fool me fifteen times, and I am an idiot.

Once again I feel slapped in the face for believing in someone.

The week before Christmas, the maid Nora was sick. El Jefe talked to her on previous Sunday when he was trying to call her husband about something else. She really sounded sick and he told her not to come until she felt better. So, of course, she took off the whole week. Justified or not, I don't know.

Friday of that week, he called to see if she could come on Saturday and found that she and the kids had gone on a trip way off in the mountains to visit Carlos' family for the holidays. I did think it was odd since the prior week she had to have an advance for bus fare (L.12; US $0.63) to get to work.

Of course, all these days off are always without any sort of notice or warning at all. That's normal in Honduras. When someone wants a day or week or month off, they just take it. Every pay day is a crap shoot as to whether you will ever see your employee again. Seriously. I'm not exaggerating.

I was even planning on giving her a Christmas bonus to make her holidays a little better. I rethought that idea after all the unannounced missing days, then it became a moot point later, because I never saw her again.

Worst of all, El Jefe discovered something missing. Something valuable, not only in cost but even more so in sentimental value. We've had many things taken over the years. A few valuable things went missing before we ever had a maid when the only people in our apartment were "friends." Probably more than half of the maids we've hired have absconded with less important things. Maybe all of them. I don't take inventory before and after. When we later find things missing, we can sometimes pinpoint it to a particular person and sometimes not.

We thought Nora was different. Nora's husband Carlos worked for us for several years and was always honest and honorable. We trusted him outside and inside the house and never had reason to regret that. Nora had worked for us for a few months on and off in the past and we always assumed that she had similar moral values. We've been to their house. We've shared meals with them. We sat with her at the hospital before her last baby was born. One year I cooked them a complete Christmas turkey dinner which we delivered to them hot on Christmas Eve. So when the item was found missing, we originally assumed it had been misplaced.

But the house has been scoured. The item has not been found. It is possible that El Jefe lost it, but highly improbable. From the time he last remembers seeing it until it was discovered missing, Nora and her son Jounger were the only other people who had access to that part of the house. Maybe that is the reason that he came. If someone somehow was able to get into the house unnoticed, there are many more things that would be missing. The fact that she had money for a trip and never came back to work makes me even more convinced that she did take it.

My guess is that she sold it for some tiny fraction of it's actual value. She may have gotten enough money for a "nice Christmas" if one can have a nice Christmas on ill gotten gains, but no more. Probably right now today, she's wondering how she will be able to feed her children this week or buy them a pair of shoes if, heaven forbid, they should grow out the only pair they have now.

I feel so disheartened. This little thing had a deep meaning for both of us. It can't be replaced. Just as bad is the reinforcement that I can't trust anyone in Honduras and that the people who I thought were the honest ones are only waiting for an opportunity.

I was having connection problems yesterday and couldn't post this article. I started talking to El Jefe about it and the situation and I just burst out crying even though it was a month ago! It hurts to lose the "thing" that meant so much to us, but even more so than that, it hurts to be betrayed by someone who we have had a relationship with for five years and have always helped them when they needed help. We thought they were friends.

I feel like I've lost that last shred of trust and faith in the basic goodness of Hondurans that I was trying so hard to maintain. If it wasn't for El Jefe and his good and decent family, I think I would be ready to go back home. How do you live not being able to trust anyone? Now I'm crying again.

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