09 January 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name

Friday 8th January 2010

My maid returned from her Christmas leave. How absolutely marvelous to have domestic help. At one stage I decided to do away with any help and do my own housework, however I soon realised that if I could I should give someone a job in order to help with the country's huge unemployment problem. Having help at home also makes me more productive at work. As long as I pay a fair wage and provide decent working conditions having a maid in South Africa is a good thing all round.

Another dilemma to overcome is my reference to her. Is she my maid, the char, my helper, or my domestic worker? My black friends usually refer to their domestic workers as their helpers, whilst most of my white friends call them maids, but I wonder if mine is not more of a char as she works comes to me only two days a week? Why am I even talking about this? Obviously it must mean something to me if I am even thinking about it? I suppose that how I think about her will determine my potential relationship with her. As I am a recruitment consultant I prefer to refer to her as my domestic worker. Well, no matter what I call her, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet. Her name is Veronica and she really is such a lovely person. She is half Zimbabwean and half South African.

Veronica arrived back from Zim after her vacation sad as she had buried her grandmother on Christmast day. Her grandmother was more a mother to her, firstly because it is an African custom to be raised by your grandmother - the parents go out to work in the cities and send all the children home to be raised by the grandmothers in the rural areas. Secondly because Veronica's mother died when she had just started high school. This meant she Veronica had to leave school and find a job to support her brothers and sisters. This is a common story in this part of the world - there are over a million CHH (child headed households) in South Africa caused primarily by AIDS related diseases.

Veronica is very happy to be back in the city. She like many others has come to the city in the hope of a better life for herself and her children. Her stay at home was not a happy one as she encountered extreme poverty and she spent the Xmas period burying people - one of them being her older brother who was in his early forties - also probably AIDS - difficult to say as the death certificate will not state the cause of death as AIDS and hence not easy to convince people that AIDS kills and so thousands of people are dying everyday ignorant of their status, leaving those behind continuing with their often promiscous lifestyle. I have to say that this new government is doing a great deal more to educate and protect people howeover I am not convinced that much of this intervention is aimed at the rural areas.

As Veronica chatters away and relays colourful stories about her life and friends I feel extremely happy to know that I can now leave the day-to-day chores in her capable hands and continue with my work. This is the greatest plus factor for living in South AFrica ....

Till tomorrow ............

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