Friday, October 28, 2005

Temos uma empregada!!!

This week Catherine and I had our first experiences with an empregada. That means housekeeper in Portuguese. For the first two months here in Maputo, Catherine and I struggled with our issues of employing someone here to take care of our apartment. To me, the idea of having a “servant,” especially one that was black and female while I am white and male, was difficult for me to accept. I felt that I would have a hard time dealing with the inevitable power dynamic that would be tilted in my favour. I’ve always reluctantly approached situations where I was the “boss.” Now I had somebody working for me…in my own house!! How would I handle this? What would I say to her?

Eventually we convinced ourselves that it was worse for us not to have a housekeeper. We certainly had the means to support somebody to do it, and the work employs a ton of women here in Maputo. It’s quite common place and nobody here thinks anything of it. In the end we decided to support the Mozambican economy rather than hold onto out misplaced North American notions of pride and self-respect.

So now we have Rebecca, and things couldn’t be better. In all honesty, the woman’s domestic skills defy all limits of logic and expectation. Our floors have never been cleaner, our clothes have never softer, our food has never been more fresh, our rooms have never been tidier and our bugs have never been more absent. She easily deserves 100 medals in my eyes. And she doesn’t speak a lick of English which is great because Cathy and I both need to be pushed harder to speak more Portuguese. She is kind and beautiful and has a nine year old daughter named Elsa. She hasn’t had a job in quite awhile and is tremendously happy to have the opportunity to work for us. I know that I am going to get totally spoiled by this!!


Anonymous work at home said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:57 a.m.  
Blogger jfunk said...

Did you forget how to do your own laundry and how to clean. Tell me why it is that you need a housekeeper? If you were back home would you have one?

1:11 p.m.  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Good for you Jared. Personal I am to lazy to do my own cleaning. But then again we are also to lazy to hire a housecleaner.

7:49 p.m.  
Blogger joel said...

not sure what I want to think about this new development... part of me has the same automatic aversion to the thought of having a servant, and part of me wants to believe that its a good thing for you to "support the local economy," in whatever small ways that you might. But then, jfunk had a good point, would you have a servant at home? why do you need this service now for things you are perfectly capable of doing yourself? Perhaps you could share your thoughts on how your situation compares to how you would be living in Canada. Also, what effect does it have on how you are perceived by the people around you? you say it's quite common, for whom? Are you perpetuating a class structure, or is this any different than the local equivalent of the Canadian expectation of all of our luxuries? We have satellite tv, computers hooked up to the internet, machines that wash our clothes and dishes, fancy cars, and clean water... just because these things aren't handed directly to us by individuals doesn't mean me aren't paying for our opulence. is there a difference?

7:40 p.m.  
Blogger winewinewine said...

I think if everybody is OK with the arrangement, what is there to lose?

Having said that, Serge - my man-servant from Chibougamou, QC - just doesn't seem to be working out. No matter how many times I tell him I only want TWO olives in the martini, I get three.

In other ramblings, I love reading your blog - I am glad to know someone who got their MA is experiencing real life.

Take care, and talk soon,

12:55 a.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

To offer some misguided insight:

Ben - "Everyone is OK with the situation makes it right"? Well, clearly stated by Joel's remarks... not everyone is OK with the situation... and in this new era of transnational capitalism, even we (as outside observers) in Winnipeg are affected by the local economy of Maputo, however insignificant the transaction may be. (This is the flap of a butterflies wings in Chile leads to a tsunami in Thailand theory).

Regardless - Jared, you state that the ultimate decision was that it would help the local economy. You know full well that there are more efficient ways to improve the local economy than to pay one woman for her servant-ces.

So it comes not a question of helping the local economy, but more of helping yourself with the side bonus of offering some support to the economy. It's okay to not want to do dishes and to not want to wash your clothes Jared... just don't be afraid to admit it. Moreover - don't use helping the economy as an excuse because you can surely take that $1 a day you're paying the woman and use it to better help the economy through other means.

Side bonus versus intent buddy... I'm gonna call you on it until you come home. You have to make a choice in your life buddy... to live by the word you preach or preach the life you lead... right now, you can't do both!

(I will throw an important caveat here: I make no claim that I practice what I preach... nope, I'm a self-interested person who would probably have a servant (or more). I should also state that I admire you for what you're doing, and that even a little help is better than no help.

Yet another qualifier: Anyone looking in on how Jared and I interact without intimate knowledge of our relationship may find a bitter exchange of words with heated intent - but this is the way that Jared and I show our love and friendship for each other - sorry if it comes out offensive... but it goes both ways.)

2:13 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Senor Jared;
good to hear that your personal life-style is being attended to (just like home eh?) and why not??
You have more important duties of business and personal safety to attend to. Enjoy the Ride!!
Unc Ed.

7:18 p.m.  
Anonymous shannon said...

hey jared man i didnt even know u had this blog! its really cool ur mom gave me the link today (sunday) in church! i miss you alot! oo by the way its shannon from floor hockey! hows it going? ur blogs are really interesting ! i like them:)so any ways e-mail me sometime if u have time its so ya i got to go but i miss you hope u come back soon!

7:44 p.m.  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Damn you hippies.

Most of you attacking Jared for this have advanced degrees in Political Science. If that isn't the biggest sign of wealth then I don't known what is. We all like to makr our lives a little easier every day.

If you could afford a housekeeper then you would have one too. Never look at the world for your idealism, look at it from the facts

12:21 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jared,

I'm all for making life easier at home - it frees up time for other things whether it's work or pleasure!! And who doesn't enjoy coming home to a clean place at the end of a long day. So good for you and your roommate. Enjoy having the help around the house.


PS I still remember how much you don't like telling others what to do ... LOL

4:40 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Patrick is my hero :)

2:30 p.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

"Advanced degrees in Political Science. If that isn't the biggest sign of wealth then I don't known what is", Patrick? I can think of a few things that signify wealth more than advnaced poli sci degrees. I'll spare you and the rest of the forum what they are - I don't want to shatter what small world view you (may) have... but you can email me to discuss further. That is, if you feel you're ready!

I don't know if we're really attacking Jared... but those of us that may seem to be a bit harsh towards him don't hold said advanced degrees. Sorry to say but J-Funk, while bright and really fun, doesn't have an advanced poli sci degree (or even a basic one to my knowledge). I think Joel may be working towards one, but he's not quite there yet. Certainly I, the comment section idiot, have not even taken a political science course, much less have a piece of paper that says "political smartie pants".

Also for the record, I am not now, nor have I ever been a hippie.

What is wrong with noting societal injustices and thinking about ways to level the playing field? What is wrong with pursuing goals of freedom and equality (in a non-Bushist "we give you bombs, and bombs give you democracy" sort of way)? Why must the status quo be so easily accepted? What would you have said to slaves on some massa's cotton field? "Oh, put up with it Jim, that's just the way things are...?"

As to your last point of "we all like to make our lives a little easier every day." This is true, and Jared should not feel ashamed for what he's doing, so long as he feels comfortable in the decision... it's just that the questions raised by j-funk and joel are serious and the answers that Jared (hopefully) will provide them (us) will offer some insight into the societal climate in Mozambique. Hopefully he will emlighten us as to the workings of the servant woman micro-economy in Maputo. Hopefully, while enjoying the benefits of her labour - AND improving her personal well-being, he will figure out new ways to help her and the rest of the community so that they won't have to clean houses for the rest of their days. This is for learning... not for attacking. (I hope you see that Pens - email me if you've a problem with this)

7:31 p.m.  
Anonymous Patrick said...

I consider any university degree a sign of wealth. As it shows that you don't have to throw yourself into the workforce in order to support yourself. As the women Jared has hired to clean his house clearly does.

10:50 p.m.  
Blogger Sean said...

"As she clearly has to throw herself into the workforce" - this is what the debate is over Patrick. Why is this so? What can be done about it? Is hiring her just perpetuating this automatic position in life or will it help her in the long run? Are their possibly alternative ways to both help her now and in the long run? These are the questions being asked, not blaming Jared for hiring someone - because it's clearly been stated that put in the same position, many of us would do the same thing and not feel one shred of guilt over that decision.

There are a lot of University students who give up a lot of both time and money to get an education. University students do not all sit back on fat piles of cash, a lot of them (and there are more every year) depend on going into debt to upgrade their position. It's a choice that people make, and you clearly identify that we have that luxury of choice that the mozambiquan woman are not afforded.

12:19 a.m.  
Blogger jfunk said...

"I consider any university degree a sign of wealth"

I almost can't help myself from laughing and crying after reading that sentence.

Do you know what a student loan is or how it feels to live on little to no money while trying to get a degree in order to buy your kid a freakin' house and you don't have to wait on tables anymore? Time to crawl out of your hole sir. And if you wanna donate to my debt I won't say no.

12:01 p.m.  
Anonymous MWP said...

So jfunk, are we to understand that you CHOSE to wait on tables, probably cleaned up after people, "served" them food and drink and were paid for this,in order to support your child and yourself? MMMMMMMMMMM?

Is Jared's househelp not chosing the same thing? You possibly had other options for employment, but being a "servant" was what you chose. In Africa, womens' options for employment are often limited. Being employed in someones home is a safe, admirable and in many cases a very well paying job.

Jared I am glad you made the decision to provide employment for one of the locals. Being considered one of the miserly wealthy who horde their affluence could possibly have a very negative affect for you there. Maybe this is why you where mugged?

Being seen as a wealthy foreigner who gives back to the Maputan community through the work that you are doing and the lifestyle you are living, will hopefully allow you to connect with the locals and enrich your experience in Mozambique. When in Rome.......

12:10 p.m.  
Blogger jfunk said...

Wow, That one actually stung a little. Chose to work as a waitress. Yes I guess I did without having any other options. I also had the pleasure of pumping gas before that. It's a question of chickens and eggs again. If society didn't breed a world of servitude then maybe we could get our own food and pump our own gas. But I treat every gas jockey and waitress with the utmost respect and wish that they could all have the opportunities that I did. Luckily in this country every one does have those oppotunities.

12:18 p.m.  
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This is one to watch.

Many thanks,

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12:33 p.m.  
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3:20 p.m.  

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