This is "C," our guard. He caught this fish in the little ravine that runs along side our house. It was a cool day.
Warning: Unless you’re quite a wealthy individual living in a developed country, or someone who has lived in developing countries before, you may think that having “house help” is very extravagant and indulgent. You may also think feeling sometimes uncomfortable with having “staff” might seem weird. (I mean, who doesn't wish for someone to wash and iron their clothes, right?!) This post might seem strange to you. Keep an open mind.
So this is the deal. We have “house help” in Myanmar. Staff. Whatever term you want to use. I don’t talk about it on Facebook because I don’t want to look all fancy. We’re not fancy.
I also don’t want to write emails about it or post status updates about it because if I ever hint at complaining…it may seem like I’m a complete selfish brat. Or worse yet, a bitch.
So I’ll come clean. I mean, how can I write a blog about living as an expat if I don’t spill the beans?
We’re no longer just a very private, sometimes reclusive, family of three. Instead: insta-four-more-people came into our world. By default of expat life. (Well, mostly.)
These are the people in our daily lives:
- "D," the house cleaner. Sometimes she babysits our child in the evening (a few times a month). We pay her extra for this. She’s all smiles, an uber hard worker (we’re messy), and just lovely. My daughter loves her.
- "W," the gardener/guard. He lives on the property we rent. He doesn’t live in our house, but has his own space. He doesn’t speak English, but it doesn’t matter. We get around it. The husband’s company pays half of W’s salary because it’s actually part of our benefit package. (There are perks to living overseas....) He is all smiles, like D, and quite amazing. My daughter loves him.
- "C," the guard. He just showed up one day. We had no idea he was coming! From what we understand, the husband’s organization has required – in accordance to labor laws – that we have an additional guard so W has enough days off. Fair enough, right? So one day, he just arrived. I suppose he was sent by the husband’s company. We don’t pay him. He rarely speaks. He tries to give my daughter ants, but she still likes him.
- "E," the driver. He drives the company car; he works for the husband's company and has been “assigned” to us. He speaks good English. E brings my daughter flowers several times a week. She hugs him and tells him she loves him.
All this may sound really crazy and excessive. It kind of is, I guess.
Still, we actually have a pretty small number of staff. (Don't laugh!) It certainly seems uncommon for families not to have a nanny.
Also, keep in mind it is normal in Myanmar society to have staff if you can afford it. It's normal in most developing countries. Because we’re westerners, expats, we instantly fall into the “can afford it” category. It's expected. It provides jobs in the community.
Still, it's strange for me and it has been an adjustment.
Sure, sure, sure. Laugh at me. Gasp. Mock me! I know. You're thinking I am crazy and spoiled. You're probably thinking that YOU wouldn't have any adjustment to having someone clean up your dirty dishes and do your laundry!
Now look, I'm not going to lie and say it isn't nice. Isn't helpful. Of course it is. It's also weird!
Some of the things I can't really do when people are coming in and out of the house:
- Walk around buck naked
- Keep my bra off all day
- Forget to brush my teeth
- Have crazy, toussled hair. I have to comb it. LOL
- Keep PJs on late into the day
Okay, none of those things are bad, but it just means I can't lounge around like I might on a Saturday or Sunday. D shows up around 10am four days a week.
I have to look kind of presentable by the time she comes or else I look like a complete lazy cow. (She doesn't need to know the truth!)
Anyway. Like I said. Don't think we're fancy. And don't be a hater! LOL