We call them house help, housekeeper, domestic manager and some derogatory terms like mboch and maid. As a working woman/man and most especially parent it’s not quite possible to do housework as well as office work so house helps are often employed to help out.
Sadly, as an employer you almost never get a perfect fit but you’re left with some funny and crazy stories to tell.
The Panty Thief
“I let out my breath in a sad attempt to calm myself. I have to say nobody has tested my patience like she did. Not even my 3 year old who doesn’t understand that colouring is for paper not my cream coloured walls. I tried to explain to her once again that a combination of vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes and onions is called salad.
“Hio ni ile inakaanga kama cabbage. Sindio?”
I had to assume she was talking about lettuce. Basically, it took me a whole month to train her which involved a lot of repeated lessons but she was pretty good with my son so I persevered. When I suddenly realized my underwear was disappearing and reappearing in her closet I decide to give her the boot. I wasn’t even mad to be honest, just puzzled. I had a good laugh about it with my sister on the phone after she left.”
“Have you ever thought that the day would come when you would find the perfect house help? Well I’ve gotta say I thought that day had come. Cooking? On point. Cleaning? Thorough. Kids? Best friends. Aki thank God my day had come. I never stressed when I was at work and could even stay out late, no worries. Then election season happened! Of course she wanted to go vote upcountry, where she was registered. She even asked for half her salary. I thought, no problem, right?”
“Wrong! It’s been two weeks and I haven’t heard a thing from her. So sijui kama ako missing ama ni kudisappear. I’m at my wits end. Our agreement was for her to come back the Monday after elections. But supposedly the neighbor heard her saying, “Unajua huku ni kubaya.” So I am back to square one looking for a house help that can iron without burning clothes and their food tastes halfway decent.”
“Let me tell you, I have seen a lot of things in my life, but none like this. This girl that is working for me now, has shown me wonders. The first day she was so eager to work and did everything to the letter. I was pleased. Then one morning I asked her to get my blue blouse from the hanging lines and iron it as I showered. So I walk out of the bathroom and there on my bed was a bright red blouse. I was confused. Did I say red instead of blue? No, I’m pretty sure I said blue. Maybe she heard red instead of blue? But those two sound nothing alike. So I called her and I asked her,
“Is this the blouse I asked you to bring?”
“Yes, madam. Si ulisema blouse ya blue.”
“Philomena, hii blouse unaona ni color gain?”
“Si ni blue.”
“Wacha nikuulize, are you color blind?”
“Hio ni nini?”
At this point I’m wondering whether she is color blind or just doesn’t know colors so I ask her,
“Hi towel ni colour gani?” Mind you my towel was baby blue.
“Halafu, gari yangu ni color gani”
She looked around the went like, “Yellow.”
My car is silver. I’m still not sure whether she’s color blind or just doesn’t know colors. So I rest my case and ask her to bring the red blouse. And what do you know she brings the blue one.
“Philomena si uliniambia ulimaliza form 2?”
“Ehhhhhh” she looks down shyly, so I’m sure she’s lying. I concluded she probably doesn’t know colors. I guess I’ll have to teach her at some point.
However, my grievances were far from over. I instructed her to make sure she washes my sheets on Tuesday the next week and takes the mattress out to air because I’d be traveling so it could stay out overnight. I come home Sunday night of that week and I see my mattress out and the sheets were still out drying. I was flabbergasted. Today was Sunday for sure. I just knew this would be entertaining. So, I went in and Philomena was shocked to see me. I walked in on her in the kitchen dancing to loud music while she cooked what seemed to be omena.
“Yessss, madam. Nilidhani ulikuwa umeenda trriip?”
“Philomena today is Sunday. I said I’m going on Tuesday.”
“Aiiiii apana, leo ni Tuesday madam. Si ndio nimeosha bedsheets zako na nimetoa mattress.”
Oh my goodness! This girl probably didn’t make it past class 2. I just left. I laughed for a good 10 minutes. I know it’s not kind but it’s not the fact that she’s not educated but the fact that she insists that she is and carries herself around with that confidence. I resolved not to fire her and instead take her to adult literacy classes. Maybe in a year I can ask for a yellow blouse and not fear that she’s going to bring a white one.”