Tuesday, April 21, 2009

April 21, 2009 - Not About Grace

This blog will not be about Grace! I figure, people were reading our blog before I was pregnant because they were interested in Kenya and so every now and then I should get back to writing about Kenya! Here is a bit of what's going on around us while we live in Grace-land:

Politically, I think Kenya is in a bit of a mess right now. There is a lot of tension and collision between the two ruling parties of the coalition government, which means that stability is quite tenuous and could potentially break down with just a very small straw on the camel's back, so to speak. Parliament is long overdue to begin holding a local tribunal to try those political and business leaders accused of financing/supporting/inciting the violence that took place last year after the presidential election. They are way past their deadline which means that the trial should go to the Hague, and yet for some reason they have been given more than one second chance to get their act together. Personally I think that the ship should have sailed awhile ago and the ICC should just get involved...especially given that the coalition is so fragile and there is evidence from around the country that groups of young men have continued to stockpile weapons since the last violence took place in order to be ready for new violence if the coalition breaks down. Isn't that a scary thought!?!

Not necessarily related to post-election issues, there is a sect in Kenya called "Mungiki". They are from one tribe (the largest tribe in Kenya, Kikuyu) and there are considered to be the Kenyan mafia. Some people claim they are a religious group as well - I'm not sure of that because they commit many, many criminal and violent acts. A few of the Mungiki were recently killed by the police (police never try to arrest criminals, they always shoot to kill) , and last night there was a violent outbreak in the central part of the country (north of Nairobi, where the president is from actually) between the citizens in one town and the Mungiki, which left 24 people dead. Sigh.

The country continues to face rising food prices, drought in many parts of the country (and where there is not actual drought there is a definite lack of rain which has spoiled most of the harvest), and major educational gaps due to teacher shortages. In other words...in recent months I have not seen any major improvements in Kenya. There are still several corruption scandals which are also affecting the effectiveness of the ruling government, as well as turnover in cabinet positions. And I assume you've heard of Somali pirates?! Well...these darn pirates are really screwing with East African countries - including their own! - because the ships they have been capturing are often bringing necessary food aid to this part of the world. What a mess!

Of course, we did have a Kenyan woman win the Boston marathon yesterday, right?! And in our neighborhood we have seen improvements in roads being paved (albeit paved so horribly that after a few days they are pretty crappy again!). At least our weather is good!

I didn't realize how depressing this post would be until I started writing it - Kenya needs some good news I think! Kenyans are still clinging to the developing-legacy of President Barack Obama and in a time when their own country might not provide them with a lot, at least he gives them hope.

In our own household, things have been a bit interesting lately. We are having some challenges in managing our staff - Ida, our housekeeper, and Charles, our driver. The major problem seems to be that they both want money from us. When we first hired them, we learned from others that we were paying them on the lower end of what most people pay their staff, and so we gave them a substantial raise after one month because we liked their work and we didn't want them to look for other jobs. But because we did that (and apparently we went a little bit overboard on the raise) and were probably too nice and friendly, they now seem to think that we have a money tree growing in our backyard.

Ida wants more money for her son to go to school and has also recently seemed to be very sad, often giving me a bit of an attitude. So we had a meeting with her last week to talk about her performance, her hours (because she complained about them), and how she is feeling about the job. The meeting went really well and she said that her sadness was related to her personal life not to her job (we didn't pry into that because we are trying to establish more of a professional distance) and she said she was happy with everything (why wouldn't she be - she has five week of paid vacation coming up!), except she said "I don't feel that I get to hold Grace enough." Well! I reminded her that we told her that she was being hired to be our housekeeper and cook, and maybe to babysit sometimes but not to be a nanny for Grace. I am not working right now so that I can spend all of my time caring for Grace! Kristoffer reminded her that in our countries, it is generally considered to be a gift for a mother to be able to spend all of her time with her baby (which is not the case in Kenya). She didn't seem that happy about it, but we have always been honest with her. I wouldn't be surprised if she was looking for another job as a nanny, but I doubt she will find people who will pay her as well with as much vacation and cooking classes! We did give her a loan to help her son take computer classes - since the college thing didn't work out - and she is paying that off in the next two months.

As for Charles, he is constantly telling Kristoffer, "I need X amount of money for my wife to finish going to school to get her teaching certificate..." or "I need x amount of money to finish building my new house..." This is his subtle way of asking because he is hoping that Kristoffer will say, "Oh! Here's the money!" Finally, yesterday he specifically asked Kristoffer for a loan and when Kristoffer asked why he thought we should give him the loan he said, "Because I have never asked you for a loan before!" As if that is a reason! He has only worked for us for 4 months! We think that is pretty gutsy of both Ida and Charles to ask for loans, because most people have told us that their staff haven't asked for money until they worked for them for a long time. Anyway, I am sure Ida told Charles that we gave her a loan for her son's education so he thought he could get one too. So, Kristoffer told Charles that we would give him the loan this time but that he shouldn't ask us for another loan and we will tell Ida the same thing this week - no more loans!

Particularly because we feel they both have pretty easy jobs - neither of them works that hard (that is the Kenyan way after all) and we know we pay them better than anyone we know pays their staff - it is frustrating to always have these awkward financial interactions with them. We have definitely learned a lot should we employ staff in the future (either here or in another country) about what to do and what NOT to do from the very beginning. I think when my parents were here, it was interesting fir them to observe all of this too.

Hmmm...I guess that's all that is going on here right now. Blogs about Grace are much more fun and positive I think. Wouldn't you agree?

LMW

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