Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Spoiled in Joburg

Sometimes I write blog posts that cast me in a good light and use the blog to give myself a public pat on the back. This is not one of those times. Recently I noticed some things about myself that aren't all that flattering. If you live or have ever lived in South Africa I am hoping you can relate. Part of me can't help but think that what is happening to me is South Africa's fault. At least a little.

I am becoming lazy and spoiled. Not lazy like I don't go to the gym. I do go. Not lazy like I sit around and watch TV all day. I don't. Not spoiled like I don't appreciate how wonderful my life is. I do. It is not lost on me that I have just written about a young woman who is trying her hardest to improve her life by going to university but that in order to do so she has had to go without food or a safe place to live because she has so little money. 

When we first arrived and Christine began coming to clean for us twice a week, I was a little freaked out. Not that I wasn't incredibly excited to have a clean home, as that is all I've ever wanted in life, but I was worried that it would be strange to have someone cleaning while I was home and clearly doing nothing of importance. In the beginning, because I'm American, on the days that she came to clean I would do a little pre-work before she arrived and make our bed. Really, it was just a display (refer to beginning of this post) to reassure her that I was not a useless spoiled brat who couldn't or wouldn't make her own bed. I soon noticed though that Christine was remaking our bed even after I'd made it, so after a few months, I conceded to the power play and stopped. 

It gets worse. For about a year I hurriedly washed the blender containing our morning smoothie and the glasses that we used to drink the smoothie before Christine arrived. Sometimes it would really get down to the wire and security would call to say she had arrived and I would have to use the five minutes that it takes her to walk from the gate to our house to wash these items. I did this because after making a smoothie the blender is gross. It's covered in a thick green pulpy film. While very healthy to drink, it's yucky to clean especially if you didn't make the smoothie and you're not quite sure what the green slime that you are touching actually is. But then I heard from other people that they were leaving their dinner dishes from the NIGHT BEFORE for their cleaning lady to wash upon arrival the next day and while this news shocked and horrified me it did make me think that washing a small freshly used blender and two glasses wasn't so bad and that was the end of my blender washing.

As I write this, Christine is on vacation for several weeks and so I am left to clean my own house and do my own laundry. As the best offense is a good defense, my strategy is to make as little of a mess as possible and try to keep the house looking presentable for as long as I can without really having to clean anything. If I see a smudge or an area that needs to be wiped, I will wipe it, but my goal is not to have to break out any heavily machinery such as the vacuum or a mop. When this inevitably fails I will enter phase two of my plan which is to ensure that no one comes over and sees what a mess we are living in. The first two phases of my plan should get me to within a week or so of when Christine is due to return at which point I will either break down and clean the house from top to bottom myself or stick it out for the duration. 

This is our second holiday season spent in South Africa and I am now realizing why so many people from Joburg go away during the holidays. It's not because they love the beach or viewing the big five but it's because their domestic staff have left town and it's no fun to sit around at home in squalor for three weeks. 

The other task I am handling while Christine is away is our laundry. In the grand scheme of household chores I really don't mind doing the laundry but Christine not only does our laundry...she irons and she irons everything. She irons our sheets, our gym clothes and our t-shirts. She may even iron our underwear. She also perfectly folds every item like they do at The Gap. She stacks the ironed clothing in our drawers and cupboards and the piles look so beautiful that I only want to wear the top article of clothing so as to preserve the perfection of the stack.  

When South Africans visit America the first thing they must notice as they get off the plane is how wrinkled every one's clothes are because in America most people do not iron t-shirts or jeans. When I lived in America I didn't even own an iron. If something was wrinkled I would send it out to the dry cleaners. If I didn't have time for that I would take the wrinkled item with me on a business trip and then use the iron in the hotel. 

So while the festive season is merry and bright, it is also a hard slog as I wait until January when Christine returns. Mr. Deep by the way is completely oblivious to my struggles. He is not trying to maintain our inventory of freshly ironed clothes. He is taking the approach of wearing as many of his clothes as possible in any given day and then after removing them he is throwing them on the floor to quickly wrinkle. I am running after him trying to catch his still presentable and wearable clothing item in mid-air before it hits the floor but I don't always get there in time.  He also doesn't take his clothes from the top of the pile. Instead, he grabs a shirt from the middle painfully disrupting the zen that Christine has created for us. She'll be back on January 9. 


  1. ...I always forget to check the little box to notify me about new comments, so leaving another comment to do that:-) Merry Christmas!

  2. Oh crud, I don't think my other comment was posted. So here we go again in case it's not there, but maybe slightly briefer this time. I totally understand. We all (if we have a conscience I guess) feel uneasy with domestic help, doing precisely what you describe at first and then realizing it makes no difference, so we slightly become more of a slob, in our own eyes. For what it's worth, I think you are a great employer and Christine is lucky to work for you.

    I will never forget my first encounter with domestic help in Singapore, our first expat assignment. We hired our maid on the recommendation of a friend, and I remember telling my husband the night before she was to start that I"d "get up early" and sit down with her first thing and talk about the household chores I wanted her to do on which day. Well, I get down there at 8 am and find a mopped kitchen floor, the ironing board already out, and a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice waiting for me on the breakfast table. My highlight of our stay there was when I was invited to her Filipino church because she'd nominated me - and I had been voted - employer of the year. I didn't quite understand it all but had to give a speech to accept my award. I've never quite felt so proud but also slightly uneasy again in my life!

    1. What a great story. I knew you'd understand. Wishing you a very happy new year. :)


About Me

My photo
Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.