Friday, September 3, 2010

Too Much of a Good Thing?

Have you ever noticed that when you read a novel, especially a historical romance set in 1700 or the 1800's, it always takes place in a rich persons house and there are servants all over the place? There cooks and chambermaids, footmen and doormen. There is a servant for every want or need. It all sounds like such a good idea. If only life were a novel.

Well apparently I was reading those novels when I was hiring staff prior to our arrival here. In a facebook conversation awhile back I said that it is a good idea to consider hiring staff prior to arriving at post, especially if you are heading to a third world or developing country where having help is the norm rather than the exception. I still think it is a good idea. When we arrived in Jakarta, at the very end of transfer season, it took a long time to find a maid. Most of the ones who had experience with Americans and spoke some English had long since been snapped up. So yes it is a good idea to consider hiring household help before arrival.

On the other hand it is probably a good idea not to get too carried away hiring people before you get to post. I got carried away. Big time. Drat those historical romances with all those footmen and handmaids. Now I have to deal with it. Someone, or a couple of someones, will have to go. There are too many people in this house and in the yard all the freaking time and it is driving me nuts. Plus they are costing us money, quite a bit of money actually. So how many people did I hire? Four. Yes, I am nuts, thanks for asking. At the moment I am really thinking that EF'M is on to something with his refusal to hire help.

So how do I fix this? This is one of the poorest countries in Africa. The level of poverty here is shocking. I am thinking if I was given a choice of being a trash picker in Jakarta or living in a village here, I am going with the trash picker's compound, hands down. Yes, it is that bad. So how can I fire someone for my mistakes? They haven't done anything wrong, there are just too many of them. Two of these people live-in so if I fire them I am not only costing them money but a safe place to live. The other two are gardeners. While my yard may look like a tropical paradise, I assure you the other side of those brick walls is a whole other story, a story of red dust, stunted hacked off trees and not much green, so what does a gardener do besides work for an expat with a big yard? This is truly a case of be careful what you wish for, you might get it, and then what?

So has anyone out there had to deal with this situation? Please tell me I am not the only crazy one. What would you do?


Kate Husband said...

It's an awful situation. Can you try to get them another job -- for some late arrivals who are looking? That's what I would do first.

Jakarta Rocks said...

If life for a trash picker here is better, then it must be terrible. I'm with Kate. Try to get them into another job. That way your problem is solved. Are you surrounded by other expats coming and going?

Monica said...

shoot, if i was rich i'd say - SEND THEM MY WAY! they could watch these crazy kids and tend MY yard. ;o)

Connie said...

Arrgh! Very frustrating, but at the same time, you have just arrived. Why not give it some time and try to get used to it? Having your life and home INVADED by strangers is tough to get used to, even if they are helping you! Especially as all of your senses are still probably reeling and rubbed raw from the whole new country experience.
Providing good jobs to folks has benefits, good local employees take care of you, since you will always be the 'not from around here are ya?' expat. I like having my house to myself, so sharing MY space, and my family's time/privacy with even a part-time maid... who I really like!... is hard. I have to keep telling myself that it is good for me, and pay is good for her. win-win. But it takes getting used to.

Bryn said...

Oh wow, what a tough situation. Have you thought about severance (sp?) pay for the 2 you let go. Maybe it will hold them over until they find another job.

Good luck!!

Shannon said...

Right now it looks like we will lose the cook, the husband half of the live-in team. We are working to find him a new job. Until we are sure that we can find him a new position at equal pay he will stay, and he doesn't know we are going to let him go. He and his wife can continue to live-in (their quarters are attached to our house but it is like a duplex, they are on the grounds but not in our house). We will keep both gardeners for now because the yard is huge and right now it is dry season, everyone keeps assuring me all the plants will really take off during rainy season.