Monday, September 01, 2008

House Elves

Here is a question on the online orientation class you must take in order to employ a full time maid:

If your maid is not doing a job the way you asked, should you:
a. scream at her until she does it right
b. beat her
c. calmly show her again how you want her to do it

Ok, so it was worded in a more polite way, but that's the gist of it. I don't know, maybe if you answered a or b you get red flagged as a jerk and they send someone to your house regularly to make sure you aren't doing them. Unfortunately, it still happens all too often. There are stories in the Singapore Straits Times frequently about maid abuse. Despite the regulations about how you are to treat these women regarding what you provide for them, time off, etc., you hear about women who have to sleep on the floor of the kid's room, or in a chair in the kitchen. I interviewed a girl who got one Sunday off a month, and the man of the house made advances toward her all the time. We're "required" to give them eight hours of sleep a day and a few breaks during the day. But I have heard of maids who are up at 5 a.m. and work until midnight (none of them work for my friends). And all this on measly pay.

Basically, these women are like the house elves in Harry Potter. So I feel a bit like Hermione, wanting reform, though I won't be organizing any clubs to make that happen. It's so ingrained in the culture, and so many of these women come to expect it, there's little hope for change. Plus I have bigger fish to fry. But I can at least provide a good environment for my maid. It's hard though - I have to keep telling her to slow down, take a rest, eat, don't work on her day off. I took her with me to Mustafa yesterday because she wanted to come (and eventually then I'll be able to send her by herself once she's able to navigate that gargantuan place) and she insisted on pushing the cart while walking 10 steps behind me. That felt bizarre and I don't really want to do it again.

It's a whole new world we've entered, where human nature (and by that I mean sin) finds a way to rear its ugly head. And another opportunity for us to live in a way that is contrary to the world.


Ryan said...

Be confrontational! Be direct! Rear that huge USA ego and tell her to do something contrary to the social norm of her non-American society! Well that's what I'd do anyway.

You can do it Gina. Nicorette can help. God will probably help too. :)

Rebecca said...

Hi Gina,

Since you seem to be the queen of Mustafa and good deals, I'm hoping you might know the answer to this question: We need to have the slip-cover on our couch replaced and are looking for an inexpensive tailor. . . do you know of anyone? (I've seen a lot of tailors in Little India, thus the link to Mustafa =)