Thursday, 29 August 2013

One woman too late

I am sitting at the bar, waiting for a friend who told me she was “at the roundabout” an hour ago.  Nothing much is happening.  Two men sitting to my left.  They are eating crisps dipped in avocadoes smashed with tomatoes and chilies.  Talking about internet marketing.  They each have Coronas in front of them.  I do not understand that beer.  On my right, a fifty-something old man, showing the pictures on his phone to his, female “working class” twenty-something year old date.  I wonder about them for a bit. Wonder what kind of pictures.  Nothing else concrete.  Just wondering without actually thinking.  Thoughts that never quite form in the head kind of wondering.

Across the room – two white men sitting face to face across a small low table.  One pudgy.  The other sleek.  They take turns to go to the bar to buy themselves one beer at a time.  Strange.  It’s not a self service bar.  Maybe they like chatting to the bartender.  She is a nice looking gal.  With a mohawk and dark horny rimmed spectacles.  Awesome combination. 
The men on the left are joined by a third.  No space for him – so they all move to the couches just behind me.  Two Indian men join the bar.  Carrying big fat brown cigars.  

They are sitting where the fifty twenty duo were sitting earlier. The duo must have left when I was reading the drinks list painted on the wall just near me.  Strangely named drinks these.  I don’t know any of them apart from Long Island Tea.  That one strikes a chord in me.  Four deep repulsive chords.  I once had four of those island teas.  Correction - three and a half of them.  I cannot remember the other half.  The next day was agony.  Self inflicted long island agony.

Neve walks in.  She is the friend I have been waiting for.  With her is Jenny.  Jenny’s her friend from school.  They went to school “in abroad” long ago.  Jenny stayed abroad, but Neve came back home.  As the evening progresses I find out that Jenny has a number of kids, is single and is doing well financially, spiritually and morally.  Financially, it is obvious – she has just bought herself a top end car.  Spiritually – she has it down pat too.  She has just shopped for some nice African print wear for church and the pastor at her church knows her.  Morally - it all depends on your perspective.  Live and let live is her philosophy.  People should enjoy their lives.  Who is she to judge if God does not judge.

Right now Jenny is not happy.  She has been waiting for Neve for three hours.  She is hungry.  She still has yesterday’s hangover crowding out her brains.  She was supposed to have seen her mum. She was supposed to have shopped for safariboots and bata bullets. She was supposed to have bought some nyama for the chapatti and kunde being cooked right now at the house she is staying.  She is staying at a friend’s house.  The friend is not there, though a niece of the friend is.  The niece was with her yesterday incurring today’s hangover.  

Jenny could not eat whilst waiting for Neve.  She is couth like that.  You wait for your date and you eat together.  Neve has no apologies to make. “You know I have always been late. You cannot expect me to have changed.  These people from London!  When they come they expect to be handled with care!”
Neve has hit off a conversation with the cigar men to her right.  Types and tastes of cigars, individual business interests.  

Neve has spotted a man.  A very tall finely muscled handsome man with a nice buttock.  Ohh the buttock. She spotted the buttock when he walked past on his way to the gents.  She followed him and bumped into him accidentally deliberately.  I'm so sorry. Who knows what else she told him, but right now she cannot keep her eyes off him.  Her unbridled interest is embarrassing to behold.  I turn discretely and look at him.  Turns out he is the Corona eater who was earlier sitting to my left.  I had not noticed anything special about him. Still don't actually.  She wants me to call him.  Chat to him and get him into conversation with her.

Me who?  Yes me.  Never ever.

Jenny has no qualms.  Excuse me.  Yes you.  A moment please.  Can I please talk to you for a moment.  Thanks.  My name is Jenny. How long are you going to be here for?  We need to step out for a while.  I'm from in abroad.  I need to get some Kenyan food. My friend here was wondering if you would still be around when we got back.  She really would like to talk to you.

Corona;  I am not staying for long.  Just another half an hour.  

Jenny; Then could she talk to you right now.  

Corona man; Uhm, my wife is coming to join me just now.

Jenny; Really?  Good try, but we are Kenyan women and can see through that.  Where you from?  How long have you been here?  Your wife – where is she from?

Corona; I am from abroad.  I have been here for a year.  My wife is Kenyan.  I met her here and we got married.

Jenny;  All in one year?

Jenny turning to Neve;  Sorry gal, you are just one woman too late.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

What Madam requires

I work as a domestic for my Madam.  I look after Madam’s big family and her big house.  I tend to Madams big garden and her big cars.  For Madam – everything must be big.  She herself is big.  She is also big on ambition – both professionally and domestically.  Which is where I come in.

Today I had a review with my Madam.  And she reminded me of her expectations and requirements regarding my performance.  Some requirements were new, some she was just recapping.  In my own words and in no particular order let me tell you what my Madam expects.   

My Madam requires;
  •  I am all-knowing.  I must know everything that happened during my watch - where the bumps on the children came from and where her yellow, blue and green scarf is.  She wore it yesterday and left it in the laundry basket.
  • I am omnipotent - all powerful, invincible and able to do what is inhumanly impossible.  I should make her 2 year old eat all 6 meals every day, and on time, and each meal must include all food types.
  • I am honest.  Loyally honest.  I must tell the truth at all times.  I must tell her that when she is away on her business trip, the husband is away too.
  • I am consistent.  I should do everything correct the first time, and subsequently in the same manner, all other times.
  • I am organized.  I must finish what I start before I move to the next task; even if the door bell is ringing, one kid is crying on the potty and the other one is hanging from the new sheer blinds madam hang yesterday.
  • I must practice order.  Return each item after use, where it was before use.  And before and after cleaning.  Madam usually asks me strange questions like, “can the bath mat be where I step out of the shower?" and “can the bin be under my sink when I come home in the evening and not have migrated to the other end of the bathroom - every siiiiiiiingle bloody day?”.  Of course these things can be in the places she wants them to be, but someone will have to organise that.  Yes?
  • I must be respectful.  I should wait until Madam has asked me for the 20th time today about the baby's poop, before I start rolling my eyes and walking away.
  • I must be able to take correction.  Take it calmly and with the intention it was intended for.  Take correction - without my face swelling like I have multiple allergies and ate mudfish in peanut sauce during the maize flowering season.
  • I must be clean.  I must practice hospital-like hygiene standards, for germs sake!  Personal hygiene is key.  This will ensure she does not choke and gag every time I pass her in the corridor.  I really will try- but you must understand that sweating is a result of working?  Maybe I can use the creams to remove the adult hair in the armpit.  Maybe then she might come to visit me in the kitchen.  And also stop asking me “have you washed your hands”?  I have tried to make her understand that my hands are naturally dark; it is genetic.  My hands are truly clean, they spend more than 10 hours a day in water – what time do they have to get dirty.
  • I must be encouraging.  Especially to the children.  I must encourage the toddler to feed and dress herself, whilst remembering timeliness, order, and organisation as stated above.
  • Yes – I must be timely.  This means not only doing things on time, but also being able to tell time.  Morning means up to 11:59:59 and after that it is afternoon.  The position of the sun does not apply. 
  • I must love “the children”.  Yes I must.  I should not see them as pesky evil things that spoil my work and try my patience.
  • I must be able to multitask.  I should be able to talk and sing with Madam’s child who is also carrying her own baby, and cooking her “nyum nyums” at the same time.  If the child can carry her baby, talk, sing and cook at the same time, surely so can I.
  • I must have a memory.  A good memory.  Madam gets very irritated if she has to tell me today the same things she told me yesterday.  But I do like to hear her voice.  Any adult voice actually, that is not at the end of a very expensive mobile call or from that their TV box, that I am not allowed to watch.
  • I must work fast.  Furiously fast.  Madam says we are all tired, but that it is required that I finish the laundry before the sun goes down, so that the clothes do not dry by moonlight.
  • I must look pleasant.  She does not require beautiful – that we all know would be beyond even the “slim-possible” for beauty.  She does though require I do not scowl so that the visitor’s baby does not cry every time I look towards it.
  • I must be decent. In dress and language.  Tumbo cuts, spaghetti strap tops and miniskirts operate on koinage and electric avenues.  This is Madam’s home, where she is bringing up God fearing children.  This is not a whore-house, she is not a pimp and there is no client trawling the estate and house corridors.  Yes that is baba watoto and that is the watchman and they are not potential customers!
  • I am above average intelligence.  This I think is self explanatory – never mind the fact that I ducked when they were hurling brains out to people.
  • I am educated.  I must check the children’s homework when she is late - as she always is.  Whether I know that there are 32 numbers or not in the alphabet is immaterial.
  • I must have good handwriting.  At a minimum I must be able to construct a comprehendible monthly shopping list.  Scrawled items on the list such “ supolis” make her go crackers in the middle of the new Naivas.
  • I must be a magician.  I must be invisible as I do my work. 
  • I must know my place.  I am an employee and not a member of the family.  I should not be cracking up at the Madam’s stories and correcting the pastor on some bible verse when the jumuiya comes to visit.
  • I must be a child “something” - I forget the name.  It means that I must understand words like confidence building, dialogue and boundaries.  Words like that.  The rod is not a parenting style that happens in Madams house.
  • I must have certificate of good conduct.  No police record!  My behaviour should also confirm the same.  Madam does not need kanju coming to knock on my door with the Mwaura from the kiosk whom I owe three hundred shilling for vitamins (stones) and the lovely bint-el-sudan perfume I took three months ago.  Any stories told to my debtors of withheld salary will get me out of her house so fast my feet will not touch the threshold.
Those are the things my Madam expects for now.  I am sure that the list will grow soonm since it must be time for Madam to be expecting again – she gives birth every 28 months.  Remember - she has big ambitions on all fronts.