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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Abode of Peace or Port Charles?

It is no big secret to those of you who know me well that I used to be addicted to General Hospital (GH). From the time I was 13 until I was 37 I spent some piece of every weekday (except when I was traveling) with the residents of Port Charles, NY. I enjoyed following the twists and turns of character’s lives. I enjoyed the intrigue of the latest mystery adventure to hit the people of Port Charles. (Why was it snowing in July? Did someone create a new “winterizer” machine?) And I even enjoyed the drama of loves found and forsaken, lives lost, and new babies born.

I know it doesn't seem like the kind of thing someone like me just annouces freely. But I'm not embarrassed about the mindless escape that GH provided me for all those years - the stressed out urban up-and-comer.

Anyone who ever watched GH knows who the Quartermaines are. They are the anchor family (every soap has one). The Quartermaines were rich, rich, rich. And they had a lot of servants who often appeared in episodes. There was the butler who poisoned family members (and got away with it), the maid that helped hide fugitives in the house, and the cook who was terribly temperamental – especially at Thanksgiving time when inevitably the Quartermaines would break out in a food fight or burn down the kitchen and end up eating pizza instead of turkey. Goofy, I know. But it was a tradition, after all.

The Quartermaines made the life of the rich and well served look very exciting and almost sexy.

So why am I waxing poetic about General Hospital from here in Tanzania?

Well… one could make an argument that I am sort of the Tanzanian equivalent of Monica Quartermaine – that is if Monica were an unwed mother of twins doing HIV and malaria prevention work in Africa. I am queen of my house. I can throw out the riff raff (if any tried to move in) and I have a whole bevy of “servants” at my beck and call.

OK… here is where I stop being so glib and become more PC (politically correct) than possible in PC (Port Charles).

I actually have 6 (sort of 7 if you include the relief guard) interesting individuals working for me. They are:

Secunda: The nanny/cook, who is serious and moody, but takes great care of Jaden and Rowan and they just adore her even if her moodiness sometimes drives me up the wall.

Raymond: The gardener/pool guy/generator dude who despite the multiple job titles really pretty much does nothing all day but entertain the guards and occasionally the kids. (I’ve added child-walker to his job description – as he and Secunda take the children for walks around the neighborhood several days a week). Raymond is an aspiring rapper – and thanks to my friends Molly and Phil, Raymond just went to the JZ concert here in Dar and I think it made his life (so far).

Secunda and Raymond live on the property in their own little “house”.

Margaret: The housekeeper, is a pretty mediocre housekeeper, but a nice young woman so I keep her. In fact, I’m paying for her to learn English and I’m paying for me to learn Swahili, but still we seem unable to communicate in much more than grunts and pointed fingers. Nevertheless, she loves to do laundry – and who can complain about that?

Paul: The driver who the kids and I all adore. I’ve written about him before. And by the way, baby Jaden II is doing just great.

Robert: The security guards technically work for a company called Knight Support, but when you have the same person guarding your house every day or night for 6 months they pretty much work for you. Robert is harmless and sometimes sweet. (Last week I wore a new shirt thanks to Jane – the mule – and Robert noticed and told me I looked pretty.) But I’m pretty certain that just about any criminal type coming over the fence could “take” him within seconds.

Thomas/Douglas: The other security guard, currently Thomas, is newer (just a few weeks) and perhaps only a short-term replacement for another somewhat new guard named Douglas. Thomas, like Robert seems pretty harmless and helpless. Douglas on the other hand is one majorly pumped up dude. Turns out he is a boxer in his free time.

So why am I taking up your precious time telling you about all these people? When things are going smoothly in the compound, these are the people who make my life easier here in Tanzania. I am grateful for them all.

A few weeks ago when I was in the US, my friends Molly and Phil and their kids stayed at my house for two weeks. When I got back to Dar es Salaam (literally translated as Abode of Peace) they told me that they were so impressed by the fabulous team at my house.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

The next day, Secunda accused Douglas of steeling my big red cup (the special cup that no one but me usually uses, but was put into use by my guests – understandably and unknowingly).

Then Douglas accused Secunda of making Raymond and the guard on duty wait too long for dinner. And he accused her of being a cold moody bitch (not quite in those terms, but close).

There was a lot of yelling and screaming that day. So much so that it prompted me to invite my colleague, Abdulrazak, to lead an intervention for the staff. On a Saturday afternoon, they all sat in a circle in my driveway eating Pringles and drinking Cokes and Fantas, as Abdulrazak led them through a focus group-type process to talk about how they can all get along and how important it is to keep “Mama” happy.

Problem solved, right? Wrong.

Three weeks later (just last week), Secunda gets hysterical one morning (I’m at work). She says that 500,000 TSH (about $400 US) is missing from her room. She accuses Thomas and Raymond. Raymond in return accuses Secunda of poisoning him. He says that he has been sick after dinner (which Secunda cooks for them) lately and that Secunda eats the best food inside the house and brings out the bad food for him and the guard to eat.

My Abode of Peace was shattered again.

When I got home from work that day all I could think was, what would Monica Quartermaine do? WWMQD? She has a household full of fighting servants and yet she handles every situation with grace. Well, sort of.

And all of a sudden I knew what I had to do. I decided to take a tough love approach. (Which in all fairness had also been suggested by more than one long-termer friend.)

I told them that I would have to fire them all if money went missing in the compound again.

And I told Raymond and the guards that they would no longer be getting dinner from the house if they kept complaining about it. If they thought the food was substandard, or wanted to eat before the kids were put to bed, they should spend their own money to get their own food.

That pretty much shut everyone up for now. And I’ve even heard that word spread through the nanny/house guy grapevine that I threatened to fire everyone. (One friend, who was told this by her nanny, actually called me up to ask if it was true.)

Yup. I’ve learned a thing or two over the years from watching the Quartermaines on General Hospital. With wealth comes power. With power comes a lot of headaches. Many of those headaches are caused by out-of-control staff. And sometimes, just sometimes, you need to lay down the law to get your estate to run smoothly.

I’m ready to return to my Abode of Peace and leave Port Charles behind. But I’ll be taking a little piece of Monica Quartermaine with me.

Thank you General Hospital.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't Monica Quartermaine disown her children multiple times?

9:26 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Oh this is wayyyyy better than General Hospital! I've already spent more time here, in facct.

3:24 AM  
Blogger KathyB said...

Good job acting as Queen! And you're getting great practice using tough love, because you'll probably have to use it at some point when your kids are teens. I really enjoy the tales from Tanzania. Thanks!

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Blogger debbie Segor said...

Go get 'em Monica.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what it's worth: Laura just woke up from her several year long coma.

Thanks for keeping us informed.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you know where I was when President Reagan was shot? At home watching GH of course!! WWMQD?! Love it - how empowering. Now I am ready to take on anything!
xoxo Lisa

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My sister and I loved GH and watched for years. We alway loved Monica whose name we could not say without adding "dahling".

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