Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 4, 2010 - Staff Stories

Last week proved to be another interesting week with our staff. Friday in particular.

I was due for a conversation with Jonipher about her work and it was pay-day so that seemed like a good time. We had agreed to consider Jonipher for a raise after she worked for us 8 months (per her request) and we did talk about it a lot, but decided against it. For one, she is late to work every single day and stays much later in the evening than we would like her to in order to get her work done. She also talks on her phone A LOT during the work day (also contributing to her staying late) and finally, she makes a lot of money already. That sounds a little strange, particularly in Kenya, but between the salary she makes from us and the salary she makes from her other family, she is paid more than any other housekeeper I have ever heard of (and most of those include live-in, 6-day-a-week housekeepers - trust me, I've asked around) AND she is paid more than both educated teachers and registered nurses who have four years of formal education. So really, no raise. I explained all of this to her in what I thought was a clear and friendly way and she said she understood what I was saying, but she abruptly stopped talking to me and was pretty rude before Grace and I went out for the day. I encouraged Kristoffer to talk to her later that day (he had the day off from work for May Day) and she told him that I told her that I didn't want her to speak again at all, as opposed to me telling her that she shouldn't speak on her cell phone while she is working. Kristoffer talked with her and thought everything was cleared up (he also did a little seminar on hand-washing for her because that is another battle altogether).

Come Monday morning I tell her that I'm sorry we had a misunderstanding, and she goes on again about how she couldn't believe that I don't want her to talk anymore (again...REALLY not what I said or how I said it) and that we went back on our promise to give her a raise. So I had to go through the whole speech again, speaking very slowly and politely. Again, she said she understood - which probably means that she still doesn't - and went about her business, not totally like "normal" but not as mad and rude as on Friday. I tell you, having staff is definitely my least favorite part of living here.

Then there was Charles. Poor Charles. He got into a car accident on Friday on his way to pick me and Grace up from a birthday party. It seems likely that he caused the car accident, because we think he was rushing: the sooner he got us home, the sooner he could leave to see his family for the weekend. We don't know for sure, but that is our hunch and at any rate he didn't hit anyone but was actually hit by two cars. Charles was fine and our car was fine, but there was some damage to the two cars that hit him. The bigger problem was that one of the drivers that hit him was a Kenyan that we know pretty well and this man unfortunately didn't treat Charles very nicely. He spoke to him in a very degrading way using foul language AND it appears that he paid the policeman a bribe to report that Charles was at fault (even though the law says if you get hit, it is not your fault...whoever hits you is at fault). When Kristoffer arrived at the scene the man we knew acted very charming but Kristoffer says he looked at Charles as if he were the devil and he was very patronizing to Kristoffer, "Oh your driver made a big mistake." He intimidated Charles so much that he was afraid to speak and probably thought we would fire him. Any given person could get into an accident in Nairobi on any given day, because everyone drives by his or her own rules and some drivers have no rules at all (this is why I don't drive here!), so we wouldn't let Charles go for such a minor incident. But the situation has us very upset and disappointed: on a personal level, because we know this man and he acted so inappropriately, but on a much larger level because corruption in Kenya shows up at every corner and in every interaction.

So here were are 5 days away from going home, and I'm ready for it. I always get really annoyed with everything here right before I know I'm going home. Don't even get me started on...our recent four days without internet...or our greedy landlord increasing our rent by a large percentage even though she did that last year...or some pretty sad news that we got from the By Grace Orphanage about a fraudulent promise of financial aid from a UN impostor...or my visit to a cafe yesterday (our house was being fumigated so I had to take Grace out for lunch) when they told me they had a high chair for Grace but had really lent it to another cafe so it wasn't even there to begin with but they didn't tell me until after I ordered food ("we do have one, it just isn't here..." AAAHHHH!!!!) and so I had to hold her and feed both of us at the same time which made for a really unpleasant lunch...and oh yeah, I said don't get me started...

At least today I have both book club and mom's night out with my friends which should bring enough laughter to get me through the next couple of days and well on our way (door to door we have a 32-hour trip home this time!). Now all I can think is that the water in Boston better be clean for me by Sunday night because the Dunkin Donuts at the airport is calling my name.

And this little girl is ready for America too...