Rach's Ramblings

Thoughts from another world

The Cleaning Fairy

You may not have been aware of this, but over the last 13 years of marriage, Andy and I have employed a vast staff of house help. Think Downton Abby downstairs and you’ll get an idea. Jeeves was our first and longest serving employee. If the Lord and Lady were both sitting down at the end of a hard day, we would call for Jeeves to make us a cup of tea. Our nanny was called Mary and she would often be called upon to change nappies and break up squabbling children. Betty was our cleaner – dishes, bathrooms and floors were her tasks. Unfortunately, each of these staff were quite inept- in fact they never even raised a finger to help and we were left to do all these menial tasks ourselves. (nb. Except when Levi had a pooey nappy and we would encourage him to run across to grandmas:-). ) So the problem with our staff? Well, they were the figment of our imagination and the products of our longings and therefore they were unequivocally disappointing.
So, fast forward to India, and the staff is now a reality! She’s a one woman show called Latta and although she doesn’t come in the evenings to make me a cup of tea and she doesn’t help with the kids, there is nothing else that this woman won’t do!!! She is sweet and petite and as strong as an ox- and we love her to bits.
I struggled so much at first with the whole concept. I felt like a lazy slob and I would follow her around apologizing and picking things up around her. It even got to the point where my guilt would lead me to flee the house so as not to suffer my feelings of embarrasssment.
Truth be told, having an Ayah (maid) in India is indispensable. It is a cultural norm, providing employment for local ladies ( but at a rate that is next to nothing for Australians) It is the way things are done here and most significantly for me, it also means that I can leave the house and be engaged in meaningful activities at school and in the local community.
It would be a full time job to just keep the house clean here- no brooms, just stick brushes, no mops, just a cloth. Stone floors, dusty mountain, soaking all fruit and veg to kill germs, an ancient house with cleaning quirks. Oh, Ayahs are a gift from heaven!
Back in Australia, my very being used to rebel at the inordinate amount of time I spent in cleaning up and then just re cleaning up again and again and again ad infinitum!!!! I knew it had to be done, but as every woman knows, it was the undoing of the doing that really drove me bonkers! I would even find myself discouraging the kids from playing with their toys as that would just require more cleaning up. Well, now that is a thing of the past! I leave the house a shambles, and come home to find it clean. I bake and bake and leave the dishes and they are gone when I get home. The cleaning fairy is real and her name is Latta. My boys are turning into little slobs as she even makes their beds and cleans up their toys. I’ll have some catching up to get them ready for their future wives:-) In the days pre- Latta I would go to hop into bed and remember that I hadn’t put the fresh sheets on, don’t you hate that! Well, now I just put the fresh sheets out and she makes the bed for me.
It’s not all perfect, and before you scoff there have been some issues, for example, her acceptance of mould and refusal to clean it and her tendency to turn off the hot water when she leaves subjecting us to cold showers. There were some extreme tantrums when she packed up what looked like Lego mess but was actually a complex Lego space base. And she does water my plants every day and their roots are rotting. She also doesn’t speak English and even though I have excellent sign language skills that involve lots of waving and gesturing, we never have any idea what the other is talking about. My Hindi lessons will help in time, but at the moment unless we are counting to 20 or discussing how many kilo of carrots I would like to buy, it’s not really a help!

Living in India has its very real struggles- struggles that make me long for home and sometimes feel like giving up. But it also has Latta and when I’m feeling down I remember that I haven’t cleaned a toilet in 8 months and I feel a whole lot better.

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A day in the life of me

A day in the life

6.30am – We are reluctantly pulled from sleep as Levi, then Samuel, then Josh fight for space in our bed. Luckily it’s a big bed (no such thing as double beds here so it’s two singles pushed together).
We roll out of bed and face the icy reality of no heating. Our showers are lightening fast. There is exactly enough hot water for two people to have a 1min 40 second shower each. Andy has learnt not to linger or he will face the wrath of Rach. He feels this is unfortunate as most of his best thinking used to be done in the shower- I guess it will mean a huge outpouring of retained great thoughts when he visits Oz.

7:00am – we quickly down a bowl of cornflakes ( they come in mango, strawberry, chocolate and honey flavors- we stick to original for the sake of our sugar intake:-) ) then job alert goes on. The boys have 10 minutes to do their jobs and be ready to walk to school- this includes being coated, beanied and gloved as the mornings are icy.

7:30am – we begin our walk to school. Along a quiet mountain track then past the dorms where we are joined by groups of secondary students, bags on backs, making their way up the mountain. Eyes just showing above our layers, we puff our way up the mountain. Levi occasionally lags, but he is getting so much stronger and doesn’t need to be carried now. The path winds in a zig zag up the steep side of the mountain. Along the way we greet the guards with ‘Namaste’ – they are there to protect us from the monkeys that lurk on the path and bounce in the trees- they are armed with sling shots and long sticks.

7:50am- we arrive at school, breathless and sweating, an attractive start to the day. The boys make their way to their lockers where they leave their bags and run to play with their friends on the simple wooden playground. Their friends are a kaleidoscope of cultures- Canadian, American, Indian, African American, French, British, New Zealander – different skin colors and accents which our kids are now completely oblivious to. It’s a beautiful thing.

8:30am- an enthusiastic school worker vigorously rings the hand held bell and it echoes through the quad and into the old buildings. There is a mad dash of students from every direction and within seconds there are well formed class lines and the students are welcomed to the day by the principal.
Andy leads his grade 5 class to their room and every second day, I lead my grade 6 class to RE.
The school day has begun.

9:00am – my RE class is finished and it is now time to teach a young boy food technology- some days we cook together and other days we do theory lessons. He is enthusiastic and sweet and a real blessing.

10:30am- I jump on my scooter to head into the bazaar to do my shopping. The bazaar is still quiet at this time and I make good time past the monkeys, cows and children playing by the road side. I pull over at a fruit and veg vendor, and without even hopping off my scooter, I buy my weeks fresh produce. I buy everything in kg and half kg and he weighs it on old fashioned scales. He always sneaks some old or damaged produce in when I am not looking- and I understand that he needs to sell this too. Balancing the produce between my feet I arrive at the grocers- a tiny shop with two aisles. A shop assistant follows me through the shop holding a basket. Much of what I want is not displayed and he keeps disappearing out the back to find what I need. Cold food will be added later. The owner tallies up my purchases on a piece of paper and i leave without paying and without my shopping- it will be delivered to my house later in the day and I have an account at the shop that I pay once a month.

11:45am- back to school to pick up Levi from the ECP (early childhood program). He is delighted that he has done another purple picture ( his life revolves around the color purple). He and I sit down for lunch in the staff dining room- he doesn’t eat much of the Indian style food but I quite like it. We are joined by other staff and spend a lovely time chatting. We pop in to see Andy in his class and spend some time helping out with his students.

12:30- with Levi positioned between my knees, I ride the scooter down the mountain to our house. It is bumpy and precarious but we love it- Levi keeps up a constant stream of chatter- pointing out obstacles and encouraging me to run over monkeys- its all I can do to stay on the road and not be distracted by his observations. We make it safely home, helmets off and walk back down the path to our house at the bottom of the hill, surrounded by forest.

2:45pm- after playing duplo, baking, emailing etc… it is now time to scoot back up to school to pick up Samuel. In the old school dining room we all share the afternoon tea- hot chocolate and cake. Samuel’s teacher has just announced that she is pregnant and the kids are buzzing with the news. I sit and pass the time with the other mums, sitting on the benches and trying to thaw out in the patches of sun.

3:50pm- Josh finishes school and he appears at a run, gives me a huge hug and kiss and disappears into the dining room for his snack. I try to muster the boys for the walk down hill, but Levi keeps disappearing and reappearing surrounded by girls. Samuel is playing 4 square and Josh has disappeared into the library and is curled up with a Tintin comic. I finally gather them together, we say goodbye to Daddy and join the throngs of students making their way back down the hill. Our pace is much quicker now as it is downhill and we chat about the day just been. By the time we get home the sun is already sinking and there is not much of the day left. Andy is home an hour later after tutorials. The boys play with their toy soldiers and Lego then do their homework. I have finally worked out cooking in India and dinner is mostly Western food, prepared on a gas cooker.

7:30pm- the old wood burner is lit and the house warms a little. Bedtime rituals for the boys and then snuggled up for sleep- exhausted from their walking, learning and playing.
Andy and I sit around the fire and do our preparations for the next day. We are tired but happy. There is much to miss from our life in Australia but also so much to be grateful for in our new life here.
10:30am – Another day in India has closed and we gratefully snuggle under the covers and rest to be ready for a new day.

(this is just a sample of one of my days- other days might have Hindi lessons, mums lunches, coffee with a friend, friendship club, rural village visits and lots more. )

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