If you’ve been following my blog then you know all about my staff and the various dramas
we’ve had along the way.
But I have to say, the last few months have been pretty calm. (I just threw salt over my shoulder.) We haven’t had any knock-em-out fights and everyone is (sort of) doing their job.
Raymond – the gardener cum pool guy just finished learning to drive (thanks to my Mom who paid for classes). I’ve got my fingers crossed that he aspires to a career driving a taxi and will eventually leave. At the moment, he mostly just keeps the guards entertained and when pushed will plant a flower or two. I suppose that – for now – that is enough.
Paul – the driver has only offered to come visit a friend in her hotel room on the weekend (off hours) once. His Jaden is growing well – but looks nothing like my Jaden. Recently he asked to borrow a million shillings – about $1000 - to help him start to build his house (on the land he finished buying with his X-mas bonus). At first I couldn’t believe the nerve! I thought, where does he think I could get that kind of money from? And then I realized – shit – I do have that kind of money. But he could never pay it back in the lifetime of my contract here. Instead I offered him $200, which will take him four months to pay back. If all goes well… I’ll loan him $200 more, etc.
Margaret – the housekeeper is really getting good at English (again thanks to my Mom who paid for classes). She is now a little bit less shy and the kids have finally (after 10 months) warmed up to her. Now if only Mom will pay for Margaret to go to housekeeping school!
Secunda – the nanny cum cook is doing a great job and is only totally crazy/paranoid once or twice a month – a very sustainable situation considering all that she does for us the other 29 days of the month. Ever since I threatened offered to hire a part time cook Secunda has been busy reading my cook books and coming out with more and more fabulous (mostly vegetarian) dishes.
Robert – the security guard had been taking computer classes and recently enrolled in school full time. He is only “working” the night shift now. (I’m sorry. Really I mean he is only sleeping during his night shift now.) Between going to school, shooting the breeze with Raymond, and sleeping on his shift, I really don’t know when he has the time to study!
Sunday – the other security guard is the newest addition to our extended family. He has been here about four months – ever since I fired Douglas who was steeling diesel fuel. Sunday is so nice he couldn’t hurt a fly – or stop a thief for that matter – but he is harmless enough and so I keep him.
Sure, we’ve had our share of drama in the Mahler household over the past year. But I can tell you that really we are doing pretty well. I have friends whose household staff chased each other around the compound with machetes until the police came and arrested them, friends who have had jewelry and other valuables stolen from inside their homes, and even one friend who came home at lunch one day to find her housekeeper sleeping in her bed. (Alone, thank god.)
Really, I thought I had heard it all, until….
My friend, Alisa, arrived in Tanzania a few months ago and spent a long time looking for the right place to live. Just three weeks ago, she finally moved into a great ground floor apartment on the ocean with a housekeeper who is the 20 year-old cousin of Alisa’s Dutch bosses’ Tanzanian wife. During the past few months, the housekeeper was actually living with the Dutch guy and his wife, waiting for Alisa to finally settle in.
Thursday afternoon, the housekeeper came to Alisa and said her head hurt, could Alisa give her something for the pain. Alisa dispensed two Ibuprofen and told her housekeeper that she should go ahead and lie down and not worry about her for the rest of the day.
Two hours later, Alisa heard cats having a fight outside her window. She walked down her hall to get a better view and realized that the sound was actually emanating from her bathroom, not outside.
Aliza opened the door to the bathroom, only to find…
The housekeeper sqatting on the floor, and a newborn baby boy screaming his head off - on the floor of the bathroom. The placenta was still inside the girl at this point. According to Alisa, the bathroom was a mess (as you might expect). It is a scene she will never forget.
Luckily, her boss, Eric, is an MD. He raced over, delivered the placenta, had Alisa boil water to sterilize scissors and dental floss, cut the umbilical cord, and pronounced the baby a healthy, full-term boy. (He has since been named, Little Eric.)
No one had any clue this girl was pregnant.
Not Eric’s Tanzanian wife – cousin of the girl.
Not Eric and his wife’s housekeeper who shared a room with the girl for the two months prior.
Jerry Springer… we have a show for you.
Instead of making light of this situation I should be taking the time to educate you about the situation of women in Tanzania. As fast as Tanzania is advancing in so many ways, it still has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the world.
Perhaps it would be enlightening if I told you that when I told this story to my colleague Abdulrazak his response was, “that’s all?”
He thought the story was going to end in the girl’s suicide. After all, babies born in secret, and without antenatal care, and out-of-wedlock, and at home, and without anyone knowing the woman was pregnant at all is not so uncommon here.
Or so Abdul says.
He also says that suicides related to the shame of all of the above are not so uncommon either.
But I’m going to save the lecture on the state of women in the developing world for another blog entry.
For now I’m just going to tell you that I’m grateful that this didn’t happen in my household. As messed up as Team Mahler can be, so far we’ve managed to avoid a hidden pregnancy and secret bathroom birth.
However, if the Mahler compound is really like General Hospital
, I need to be on the lookout for a weather changing machine or an alien invasion.
But those things I think I could handle.