April 21, 2009

Here we go again on the new maid roller coaster

Image from: Picdit.com

I kept the new maid a secret from you. If I wrote about my excitement of having a new maid, I was afraid that I would have to write to say that she didn't show up for work the next day. I've written sooo many of those articles that I had to set up a separate category. I was glancing through some of the articles and it was very sad.

One day last month, the neighbor's cook came around to ask about something. She and El Jefe got to talking and he asked if she knew anyone who wanted to work. She immediately answered, "Awwwk! The women in La Ceiba do not want to work!" and went on and on about how lazy and undependable the (poor) women of La Ceiba are. But she ended the conversation by saying that she would try to find someone who wasn't from La Ceiba. We weren't hopeful.

The following morning she showed up with a woman originally from Tocoa, a middling-size town near Trujillo, Honduras. She rattled off that this was her neighbor Arexy, that she (the cook) had told Arexy we would pay L.150 per day on a bimonthly basis plus L.60 daily for taxi transportation, that it took too long and too difficult to get from their barrio to our colonia by bus. El Jefe was a little taken aback since we hadn't discussed the pay or transportation, but we said (to ourselves later), "What the heck! Who knows if she'll even come back tomorrow."

We had a brief chat with her trying to find out a little more about her situation (to see if she was going to be another one- or two-day wonder − not that you can ever really tell). Our house was admittedly a filthy pig sty so I tried to reassure her that we didn't expect that she could clean it in a day or even two days, and that the most important thing was to clean thoroughly − for the mother-in-law's inspection, as they say here − not to clean quickly.

She mentioned that her father has been mean to her, telling her to "get out and get a job!" She is 27 and has a child here in La Ceiba as well as two more children living with their father in Tocoa. She doesn't say much about the former husband, but she seemed definite that she won't be going back to him.

She methodically cleaned the first day and I was impressed with and complimented her on her detail work. At the end of the day, when I gave her the taxi money, I asked how she felt about the job and she said she liked it. "So you are coming back tomorrow?" She laughed and said yes. I asked, "Are you sure?" and she assured me again.

The next day, she continued on with a couple of more rooms. She is very quiet and seems afraid to ask questions even though I've told her several times that it is better to ask than to make a mistake and that I won't mind her asking questions. I know that the variety of cleaning products and the fact that the labels are in English can be confusing.

El Jefe asked how she liked working and she again said that she liked cleaning. She mentioned that she never had a job before (we didn't know that!) but that she liked cleaning her own house and her dad's house. I think that she also likes the luxury of taking a taxi to and from work. She also expressed concern that maybe we thought that she was working too slow. El Jefe reassured her that a good job was more important to us than speed.

Each day, El Jefe and I had discussions like, "I wonder if she'll come back tomorrow" and "I'm glad that we only have to pay her twice a month so maybe we can at least get the whole house cleaned before she quits". I would excitedly tell El Jefe about seeing her stick the dust rag in between the carvings on the wood furniture to remove ALL the dust or moving the furniture to get the corner of the floors clean. He would look at me worriedly and say, "Well, just don't get too hopeful." He even discussed his concerns with his mother, that I was going to get attached and be disappointed yet again. You can see how all of these bad maid experiences have turned me into an insecure wuss.

Arexy has been like only one other maid that we've had. She comes to work every day (it has generally been 2-3 days per week), she comes on time, she doesn't leave early or ask to leave early, she dresses neatly and modestly, and she does a good job. She never complains or argues with me or asks me to give her things and she seems very happy to have a job. It's only been a month, but I'm so hopeful.

(We had one maid who dressed as if she had an after hours job hooking on the streets. She was a big lady but squeezed her body into clothes 2-3 sizes too small for her with rolls of fat protruding from every edge. I can tell you that she has had C-section births and how long her scar is. I never knew that a C-section scar could make a belly fold in two lengthwise. It was not a pleasant sight.)

Arexy only came late one day. When El Jefe said that he thought that she wasn't coming that day, she sheepishly admitted that she overslept. I didn't say anything to her about it, but she ended up working an hour late − on her own − to make up for it! In fact, she's not a clock watcher at all. I have to remind her when it is 4 o'clock but she will always finish what she is doing first. I have to nag her to take a lunch break.

At the end of second week, she asked for an advance of L.500. My mind immediately went into red alert since our experience has been that paydays or requests for advances are always a crap shoot. Once the worker is paid, you really never know whether or not they are going to come back. My only hope was that since we owed her much more than L.500, she would be back. I sadly told El Jefe later about the advance. He raised his eyebrows and gave me that knowing look: "Hmmm, we'll see."

She came back. And she came back after payday, too. We are now beginning our second month and I have such high hopes! Again!
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