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Friday, June 10, 2016

#19 Nigeria: Staff

One very different thing about living here is having household staff. We're required to have a driver, and I think everyone also has a stewardess. You could also have a nanny (ours does both cleaning and nannying), cook, or gardener. Since I am the one at home, I am, for all intents and purposes, their employer. It's weird to be called "madam" by people older than me and work out salaries and just be a "boss"! I also think since I know it's short-term, I ignore a lot of things I should probably talk to them about, so I don't think I'm necessarily the best at managing my staff, but I hope they think we are nice and pleasant to work for.

Driver - In general, a driver is a necessity, but mostly inconvenient. Their time is about 25% driving and 75% waiting around (either in your garage, in the car when you're out, or washing the car just to keep busy). But I think drivers are used to that. It's part of their job description, so it's probably only weird because *I* feel weird about it. And since they have working hours, if you want to go out or do something during their off hours, you pay them overtime and arrange it ahead of time (well, at least we Americans do that. I think Nigerians just tell their drivers they are on call 24/7, and work them as needed). Like I said, it's pretty inconvenient - especially on nights when dinner turns out to be a bust and I you just want to run and get fast food! (Not that there's fast food to go get anyway, really...so you order lots of pizza)

Stewardess - When we first got here, they assigned us a temporary steward, and it was STRANGE to have someone around the house all the time who I had to tell what to do. But, I assure you, having someone to clean is something you get used to VERY quickly (and when you get into a routine rather than them constantly asking what to do next, it's also a lot easier).  It is going to be hard to go back to reality after 6 months of having someone clean my bathrooms, do my dishes, vacuum, iron the clothes, and basically do anything else I ask. She also does extra cleaning I don't usually do often - like wiping down the fridge and pantry, cleaning the oven regularly, and even scrubbing the kids' shoes! Our house has never been so clean on a consistent basis. :) She was especially invaluable to me when I was so, so sick and tired in the beginning of my pregnancy. Normally during my first trimesters, the house falls into a sad state of messiness!

Another great perk is that now that she's been with us for a few months and is familiar with what's in the kitchen, I can send her to do grocery shopping! She just gets the staples though, so I also go out another time each week to get the more specialty items, but then she stays with the kids, so I can go by myself! Here, though, you have to remember that grocery shopping is a totally different animal than in the states. It ALWAYS takes several hours and requires going to at least 4 stores to find everything you'd find in your ONE regular grocery store, and you also usually sit in a traffic for quite a while. So taking kids with you to do that is a disaster waiting to happen.

I also figured that while Sophia was in school, our stewardess ended up watching Grace for at least 10 hours a week! That's 10 hours a week of me being by myself! Those hours included bus duty for Sophia, grocery shopping, her taking the girls to the park once or twice a week while I cooked dinner, toddler playgroup twice a week, and when I'd go to Bible Study/lunches/book club, etc. That freedom to go out and do things during the day is something I'm definitely going to miss, but I feel guilty that Grace still cries every time I leave her. :(

Cook - Now, a cook is a real luxury. We don't have one, but one of our friends does and we hire him when his usual families are on vacation or sometimes on Saturdays. It is wonderful! I think my struggles with food here being weird or missing food back home or lamenting about my weird stove that always overcooks or undercooks would be alleviated if we had a cook regularly, but I also think we'd gain about 100 pounds from being so pampered.

Gardener - The camp has gardeners assigned to large areas of the grounds, so everyone technically has a gardner who waters and rakes and takes care of weeds. Some people pay their own gardeners or pay the general gardeners extra to do extra for their houses. Those people really do have some pretty flowers and yards, but for 6 months, we didn't see the point of having our own gardener.

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