July 18, 2006


I'm in my nightgown writing this by hand since el Jefe has control of the computer today. I'm sitting at a little table on the upstairs terraza (terrace) at 9 a.m. on a perfectly lovely morning. The weather is cloudy, 80°F (27°C);, almost balmy, and a little breezy. My two chihuahuas are at my feet, sometimes sticking their heads through the railings to see what is down below. Carlos didn't come to work today. With clouds (meaning rain soon) and no Carlos, not much point in trying to paint the house today. Besides, I have aheadache from staying up too late writing blogs.

Here's what I see when I look around. The first picture on the left is my nice neighbor's house to the east. Oh, by the way, the rope is for the hammock − I see that it looks a little odd dangling there.

The next picture is of the southeast with the mountain peeking over the trees.

The third picture is the southwest. It shows some of my unused birdhouses. It seems Honduran birds don't like houses.

The last is west and the main terraza below. That's Chloe, the Rottweiler/ Doberman mix, or Chloe, the Rotten, as I affectionately call her.

Yulissa (pronounced Jew-lee-sa) has brought me my coffee − a luxury I don't often indulge in. Not the coffee − I drink lots of coffee everyday − I was referring to being served the coffee. I haven't gotten used to being a dueña (mistress, boss lady). In fact, as good as Yulissa is, there are occasions where I find that I am working while she is taking her afternoon siesta (nap) or watching telenovelas (soap operas) on cable TV. I don't like to get dependent upon a housekeeper because most don't stay longer than three weeks and then I am back to cleaning toilets and washing dishes. It's like being rich. It's easy to go from being poor to rich; a lot harder to go from being rich to poor.

Everyone says Ceibeñas (women from La Ceiba) don't want to work. Everyone has trouble keeping a housekeeper, not just La Gringa. Instead of the weather (which is always the same), women of the middle class and above have small talk about housekeepers − "I need one. Do you know one? Do you know anyone who wants to work? Mine quit. No, no, not that one − I've had three more since her."

Everyone has a housekeeper, usually live-in, and some have two or three, one for cleaning, one for cooking, one to watch the children. Even the housekeepers have housekeepers sometimes. It's sort of a national duty − there is no welfare, social security, unemployment benefits − there's no telling how many families would go hungry if it weren't for these jobs. Some families send off their daughters to work when they are about 14.

People go to extremes to find a housekeeper, sometimes even stealing a good one away from a neighbor by offering a few Lempiras more. El Jefe and I once went housekeeper hunting out in the country. We drove for hours stopping at every small village to ask if anyone wanted to work. The answer was always no, with a sheepish smile.

We've had a series of housekeepers. We really only need someone to help a couple of days a week, but they always want full-time work. I can understand that − the poverty is so awful in this country − so we have hired several on a full-time but not live-in basis. The problem is that full-time means working 2 - 3 days a week and taking 2 or 3 holidays/sick days/emergency days. I did not know that.

When we say "nos vemos mañana" (we'll see you tomorrow) at the end of the day, they always respond with "si Dios quiere" (God willing). While it may be commendable to put your life in the hands of God, what they really mean is "if I feel like working tomorrow." Having the typical over-developed work ethic that North Americans often do, I have a hard time understanding this.

We absolutely did not want or need a live-in housekeeper, or a young one. I always joked that I wanted an old, ugly woman − you can never be too careful. Haha! So we got Yulissa. She's 16, very cute, and living with us. She's a good girl, very smart, and (mostly) pleasant to be around. The thing I like best about her that she's willing to learn. I can tell her she did something wrong and she doesn't start slamming my dishes around or quit. So far anyway.

Yulissa has been here 2 1/2 months and that's a record at La Gringa's house. She likes to cook and is enjoying eating and learning how to cook American and Mexican (really Tex-Mex) food, which is very different from Honduran food. She likes to be outside so she helps with little things in the garden. She likes to paint, too, and would always rather be outside painting with us instead of cleaning inside. We often say, just put a water hose or a paint brush in her hand and she's happy.

Here's Yulissa feeling very self-conscious about having her picture taken.

Yulissa wanted to work to save money so that she can go back to high school next year. Very commendable. Her father quit paying for her school and I guess is happy to have one less mouth to feed at home. To show the incredible difference between Honduran teens and American teens, who might be saving their money to buy a CD player or IPod, Yulissa is also saving her money to buy a bed for herself and her sister.

I guess she's gotten use to the good life here. She has her own room with a brand new bed, a little TV and radio, and private bathroom with hot water. She goes home on the weekends where they have a one room concrete block house with a curtain down the middle that divides the living area from the sleeping area. The kids all sleep on mats on the dirt floor.

So we are happy with Yulissa and she seems happy with us. I hope it stays that way for a long time.

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