Friday, September 9, 2011

September 9, 2011 - Staff Stories

I haven’t written about our staff in a long time; that is a good thing because it means I have nothing to complain about, right? 

Things with Charles have been good, although because of the drought and rising food prices, he has not had very much business for his stoves.  Some of Kristoffer’s colleagues have bought stoves from him, but mostly times are tough and Kenyans are not buying non-essential items.  There was an incident at his home when one of his neighbors cut down a huge tree that Charles’ father (who is deceased) had planted many years ago.  When Charles found out about it he brought the issue to the elders of his tribe and there was a hearing with the Chief.  Everyone agreed that the tree belonged to Charles’ family and so the man had to pay Charles’ mother for the tree (equal to about $500).   That was a significant amount of money for her to receive and she really wanted to buy a piece of land.  So now Charles’ family has new land on which they can grow food.  His wife is back at school for the last term of 2011 and his son is waiting for the teacher’s strike in the country to end so he can go back to school as well.  He seems happy and yesterday Grace told him, “I want to talk to you, Charles! Don’t go away!”  That really made his day.

Rose is wonderful and I like to call her Noah’s Girlfriend because he really loves her.  He is at an age where he is a bit awkward with other people – separation anxiety and all that – but he is almost always happy when he is with Rose.  She had a death in her family a little while ago, her uncle passed away, and just this week her cousin committed suicide after finding out he was HIV+.  Of course we are sorry for her at these times, but she continues to work hard at our house and we can’t remember what we ever did without her here.

Syprose is another story.  She is a good cook (despite the Kenyan way of using way too much oil in her food) and we appreciate the arrangement we have where she comes one day a week to make 6 meals that we can freeze and eat throughout the week.  Aside from this, though, she drives us kind of crazy.  She is extremely loud and we often think the things she says to Grace and Noah are inappropriate.  She is also very slow.  One day when Rose was gone for her uncle’s funeral, Syprose finished all her work almost 3 hours earlier than other days because she is talking to Rose so much.  But alas, it is time consuming to cook and wash dishes here, so I am grateful for her help.

This week there was a conflict between Syprose and Rose and, of course, I’ve heard 3 different versions of the story. 

Rose’s version: She was in her room having her break when Syprose came screaming at her accusing her of turning off the oven and ruining the food and threatening to tell “Madame” (that’s me).  Rose showed her that she hadn’t touched the oven and that Syrpose had just forgotten to turn the knob all the way to be on.  Syprose apologized, but Rose was somewhat devastated (she had also just found out about her cousin) and cried for a long time. 

Charles’ version:  He had to calm both ladies down because they were so worked up.  He says that they joke around too much and this is what happens; one day, somebody doesn’t think the joke is funny and maybe Syprose was a little mean to Rose, who is a person who never wants to do the wrong thing and takes her job very seriously. He said Rose was sobbing and he had never seen her so upset.

Syprose’s version: She was just kidding around with Rose, never yelled or screamed, and didn’t understand why Rose was so upset.  But she apologized to her a lot because Rose got her the job with us (and I have since gotten her several other jobs) and was very helpful when Syprose’s mother died and so she was sorry that she got Rose so upset.  But still she was just kidding and Rose shouldn’t have taken it so seriously.

In the end, Rose’s happiness working here means more to us than Syprose’s cooking, so should another incident occur that makes Rose uncomfortable we would let Syprose go.  Without saying that exactly, I told Syprose that I think she should be more careful with Rose’s feelings and that we are cautious about the way we talk to each other in our house because it is very important for everyone to feel comfortable.  I told her I was disappointed to hear about what happened, and she did apologize to me saying that she would not do anything like that again and that she would apologize to Rose again because she is a very good friend.

It was an awkward conversation to have with Syprose, but I’m happy I did it.  Add another notch to my belt of managing staff at home. And hopefully Rose feels okay about it when she is back on Monday.  When it comes to our staff, I definitely prefer “no news is good news”!


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