Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August 1, 2012 - A Big Lesson

There is a lot I have learned since becoming an expat in 2007.  Most of that education happened in Kenya because we haven't been in Tanzania that long, and I discovered yesterday that the things I've learned from Kenya are continuing.  This is what I'm talking about:

Rose and I had a conversation about our driver from Kenya, Charles.  I started the talk by asking her how he was doing; things between them were not so great when Rose moved to Tanzania with us because apparently Charles hoped that we would bring him as well and has been holding it against her that we didn't.  She said that she hasn't talked to him since April when she was in Kenya but that he was happy with his job and everything.  So that was good - it was what I wanted to hear.  

But the conversation continued and Rose told me a lot about the way Charles was when they were working together for us in Nairobi (and we are working under the assumption that she is telling me the truth).  His behavior towards her (the way he acted and talked, specifically) was quite different than the Charles we "saw".  When Rose started working for us, Charles told her: They have made me your boss.  I am watching what you do and reporting to them.  So be careful.  They are not easy to work for and they are very strict.  Watch yourself.  

So she said she was terrified of us the first month and thought that Charles was her boss.  Then she said she realized that we were kind and not difficult to work for, so she stopped believing him.  She said he did the same thing when Syprose, our cook, started working for us as well.

So that was news!  Although not entirely surprising: just because he is polite to us and is a good driver doesn't mean we know ANYTHING about who he really is.  I told Rose it is the same with her:  We really like you being in our home and with our children, we think you work hard and are nice and loyal.  But we don't know what you're doing outside of work - you could be killing people!  Or telling people bad things about us.  We just don't know.

Then she told me that Charles was actually talking a lot about us to her.  He was saying nice things about Kristoffer but was talking bad about me.  He couldn't understand why Kristoffer would discuss things with me first if he asked for money or something.  He is the man, so Charles thought he should make all decisions, and he thought that I "wasn't good".  But Rose told him:  Don't you know?  It is the Mama who makes decisions in the home.  You should always talk to Lisa because he will ask her anyway.  You have to go to the Mama, not to the man.  And he didn't like it that Rose was so "close" to me - and he was always trying to find out how much we paid her and what kind of benefits she had.  He was always complaining.


I would like to say that this news didn't slightly devastate me.  That it doesn't bother me that this man, who we employed for 3 years, who we trusted to drive us and our children, whose family we met, whose wife we helped to educate, for whom my parents bought goats, for whom we bought solar panels and a water tank and so many other things, whose family we medicated when they were sick...this man would think of us (or just me) this way.  I felt that we were generous and always fair with and to Charles.  So I would be lying if I said that I didn't feel a little bit betrayed. is the lesson I have learned:

You cannot give because you want a big thank you or recognition or appreciation or acknowledgement in any way that you did it.  You cannot give to receive that kind of gratification. You cannot give with any expectation of what the receiver of your gift will do.

You give because it is the right thing to do.  It is the Christian thing to do. Because at the end of the day I know that we helped to improve life for one African family, even if they will never remember that we did it.

So with a small crack in my heart, I still wish the best for Charles and his family.  I hope that his wife is graduating from school this month and will start her teaching career soon.  I hope that Charles continues to work for kind, generous mzungus who will help take care of his two adorable children and his old mama who has had a very hard life.  I hope this for him.  And, secretly, I hope that one day he remembers how much help he has had, and pays it forward it some way.  


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