Today I dragged myself out of bed late and put off cleaning the floor of the house until after I’d whittled new rawl plugs for the towel rail which keeps falling off the wall in the bathroom.

After sweeping up most of the sawdust and wood shavings I set off to the computer lab… to pick up a galvanized bucket with mop-squeezing attachment. There were a supprising number of teachers present for a Saturday. I told them I wanted to borrow the bucket and one said incredulously:
“you’re going to wash your house?”
and another — female — said:
“you should contract me!”
I looked at her:
“You want to wash my house?”
“Youre crazy!”
and I walked off clanking my bucket behind me.
“Why don’t you want me to clean your house?” she shouted behind me.
I just laughed.

Later, while watching the spiders running up the walls in fear (I let them live: they help catch mosquitos) I started to wonder. Its a hot day and the water I was cleaning with would evaporate on the floor . The fluff balls under the sofa would get blown about by the wind from the open front door. I was struggling to keep ahead of the elements .

. o O (why didn’t I want my colleague to clean my house for me?)

I think its because she’s my colleague: She’s my equal. My perception of British culture (correct me if I’m getting this wrong, Britts) is that we employ inferiors to do our cleaning. Philippino maids … Kenyans perhaps. With all the weight of British colonial occupation of Kenya behind me, I’m not sure I want to employ someone to be my cleaner — because I’m thinking of cleaning as somehow inferior to teaching IT. And I don’t want to subjugate my colleagues.

Perhaps in Kenya cleaning and teaching are both equally regarrded ways to make a few bob.
I’m not sure, but I like the idea of that.


  1. Mark Says:

    I told Christine about this over the weekend and she put forward a different theory: she said I don’t hold cleaning in such low regard because I am happy to do it myself.

    how did it go after that Christine?

  2. natty Says:

    Sorry I couldn’t carry on with my extreme punditing down there. Hurricane Ivan didn’t turn and I think we may have to evacuate tomorrow.

  3. natty Says:

    Yep. Mayor Nagin has asked for voluntary evacuation of New Orleans. It may not be a direct hit, but it’s going to be very, very close.

    We’re heading out tomorrow (tuesday). Not very religious, but please send us good thoughts that we have a house, or even a city to come back to.


  4. Mark Says:

    Natty! Safe journey and safe return.

    I forgot to put a title on this entry, I’ll add one now.

    Ive remembered what came next from Christine:
    the reason I dont feel comfortable having a colleague clean for me, she says, is the we (in the rich idle West) just dont get cleaners until we have attained a certain level of wealth. Certainly I have never had anyone do my housework for me. Whereas here its more common for what we might call normal people to have house helps (house boys and house girls they are called).

    Christine says this means we get used to clearing up our own shit whereas here everyone assumes its someone else’s job and the mess we see is a consequence. I can’t rule this out, it makes some sense. And I feel like adding that a likley reason for it being so is that during colonisation the British never cleaned their own shit but got East Africans to do it for them, setting a precident for behaviour: as soon as you can, get a house boy and never clean up your own shit.

  5. tygger Says:

    no, i don’t think its been brought on by colonisation. We have a similar thing in Bangladesh and I’m sure it was in place well before the colonials. I think its partly to do with the sheer number of people we have, and so many of those live in poverty that any kind of job, even cleaning ones, are good. Most people, even those that under western terms you would class as lower middle class, have household helps, ayahs for the children, drivers, etc, etc. Its traditional. They are often live-in as well so these people get to get out of poverty and have a roof over their heads and food on their plates. I know my mum is always saying to me "how can you bear to live somewhere where you have to do everything for yourself?". In Malaysia at the moment I would probably put ourselves in upper middle class and can now afford to have a live-in Indonesian maid. But if we were at that level and in Bangladesh, we’d probably have housemaids, cook, driver and whatever else necessary. Its also often a family thing. The people that work in my aunt’s now, their parents used to work for my grandparents…

    Basically, the culture is labour intensive …

  6. Mark Says:

    That’s interesting.

    The house girls here are residential too. And as far as I know it serves a similar role in getting people off the streets. There is someone in town who I’d like to be able to help and I’d contemplating employing her somehow (as Ive bought everything I can from her) so I can pay her a little over the odds for what she does, rather than just giving her money. Sounds cocky as I write it here, but the books I’ve been reading have made me very wary of giving to those who have very little, if the motive is to help (as opposed to disempower, for which it seems to work excelently.)

    But I think the idea of having a colleague come in and wash my floor quite alien. I know that, for a while, there were two (male) kenyan teachers living in that house and they had a (female) colleague do their washing and ironiong. I’m trying to see what’s going on in my subconsious about it.

  7. tygger Says:

    hmm … I must say I agree that getting a colleague to do the housework a bit strange to me as well. Its not quite the same as asking a friend to help with the electrics in the house and offering to pay for it because you KNOW he’s good at that stuff, is it? So maybe she’s a whizz at doing the washing up – whats her motivation? Does she need the extra cash? Even if she does, do you NEED someone to help around the house? From what I can gather you seem to have plenty of time on you hands to do housework in. I guess, if you can afford it and want someone else to do stuff that you find unpleasant, then …

    maybe you just don’t want her invading what you consider your "personal space" …


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