Maid in Thailand
It was 1987 and we had arrived in sunny Kuala Lumpur from rainy Holland. But it was not just the weather that was different. Living and working in an Asian city was massively different from the comfy familiarity of Europe. One of the biggest changes was that our house came equipped with a separate little housing area. Is that for when relatives come to stay? I enquired innocently. No, that’s for the maid.
The idea of having some sort of domestic help was completely alien to us. My wife was a competent home maker, and I was competent at knowing the limits of how much of a mess I could make before she complained about tidying it up. Neither of us liked the idea of a third party clumping around our living space and invading our privacy, and the concept of employing someone to clean up after us seemed contrary to our slightly socialist tendencies.
But employing a maid seemed to be expected of us, a way of contributing to the local economy; and this expectation was confirmed by the crowd of women that appeared at our front gate once the news leaked out that there was a new potential employer in town.
So, with considerable misgiving, we took the plunge. We eased our conscience by paying her much more than was necessary, and eased the level of intrusion by restricting her duties to weekday working hours. As a result, I rarely saw her; although I did hear her on occasions as she specialised in screaming loudly whenever a snake appeared in the garden. I think she expected a snake alarm bonus payment, and she may well have received one.
The maid employment responsibility continued as we moved to Sarawak and then to Brunei. The cycle of domestic assistance was only finally broken when I returned to The Hague some fifteen years ago. By this time I was a single man and had been grateful for the help I had been receiving in Brunei. I went to work in the morning and when I came home the house was clean, the washing basket was empty, and freshly ironed clothes awaited in the wardrobe. It was a kind of magic I was happy to pay for.
This magic failed to work in The Hague and I would come home in the evenings and spend an hour or so in the company of an ironing board, not always with acceptable results. I had a tiny apartment so the dusting duties were infrequent, and toilet cleaning was only undertaken when the porcelain looked in danger of being permanently stained; not that I ever looked. And it’s amazing how long you can go without changing bed sheets.
It was therefore a huge relief to return to Asia and find myself once more with domestic support, courtesy of Khun Su in Bangkok who would arrive every morning and ensure that I left my condo with a full complement of trousers, tie and briefcase; and then do clever things while I was away such that I returned to an oasis of cleanliness and calm which I could then mess up at my leisure. She was even unfazed by the occasional special friend that I left littering my bedroom when I departed in the morning, making sure that said friend was also cleaned up and ushered out of the building before yours truly returned in the evening. Good times.
Retiring to Pattaya and a new maid was acquired who has provided reasonable service for the last few years. She needs pointing in the right direction occasionally, and the level of breakages escalates on occasions; but she has valiantly battled the combined attempts of me, my wife, the cats and the ever intrusive Pattaya dust, to turn my condo into a tip. Most important of all, she is completely trustworthy.
So somewhat of a shock to our cosy little system when she announced she is leaving at the end of this month to run a business with her husband. Knowing her husband to be the idle layabout that he is, and the fact that she is paid more for a twenty hour week than most people receive for forty; I am not sure that this is a good career move. More importantly (for me), it means that the magic stops.
We don’t fancy embarking on the search for a new maid. She would have to be diligent, experienced, trustworthy and be either unattractive (she who must be obeyed’s requirement) or look good in a French maid’s outfit (my requirement). So we are heading for a maid free environment.
She who must be obeyed has announced that she will tackle the housework and my only role will be to do the washing up and take out the rubbish. Noble words, but my wife has a very busy working life and even a man of my limited conscience cannot allow her to take all that on. And if she has to come home from work and start ironing and scrubbing, when will she have time to cook my dinner?
So it appears that my life of extended idleness is coming to an end. Expect to see more photos of toilet bowls, pre and post cleaning. Expect to see little difference between the two.
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