Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Maid Speak and Weird Local Men

I took the kids to see UP this past weekend. "A" went with us. It was a very cute movie; "A" even laughed, which means something because "A" is a really moody and often cranky guy - at least when I am around him he is, which isn't that often really. The kids see much much more of him than I do.

"A" was married several years ago to a Dutch lady. She and their baby daughter died, along with her mother in a car crash when she went home on holiday. Three generations wiped out in a single blow. He never remarried and doesn't have any children of his own. I guess that is why he likes my boys so much. Especially the little one. He is a father who lost his child and they are children who lost their father - they kind of fit. I don't know if I do, but ....

After the movie "A" dropped us at home, and as we were pulling up to the gate, I saw that Sablah, my new Ethiopian maid was outside walking the dog. This bothered me. I don't like her going out like that when we are not there. She just got a mobile and some local guys have started calling her. I am certain they aren't calling her for her great conversation skills since her English is limited to the point that it often frustrates me and her Arabic is even worse. I can only guess she meets them when she slips out of the house like that. The best part of it all was that, when she took the dog out and closed the gate behind her - it latches automatically when closed - she left the key inside the house so that meant she and we were all locked out. Nice! I had to hoist Salman over the wall so he could jump down on the other side and open it for us. I have no idea what I would have done if that was not possible.

Sablah does a lot of strange and impractical things. For example: I bought a Turkey and kept it in the freezer in the spare fridge in the courtyard. Last weekend, while putting some groceries away in the lower (not freezer) part of the fridge, I noticed a plastic bag wedged in the corner. It had smelly raw decaying turkey bits in it - the neck and other parts of the carcass. I opened the freezer and to my horror saw my turkey was not there anymore. I don't think I need to tell anyone that turkeys are not the cheapest things to buy. So it turns out that Sablah, who had never seen a Turkey before in her life, decided to thaw it out - which in and of itself scares me because the only way to safely thaw out a turkey is in the fridge over several days - and had been carving away at it, using it as she would an ordinary chicken. I asked her "Sablah, you see this thing like big chicken?" "yes" she gasped - Ethiopians have this weird way of saying yes where they simultaneously gulp the word in as they say it and exhale at the same time - it sounds like a gasp of sorts. "You know what it is?" "no"
"Then why you cook it?" (I have to speak broken English and leave out any words that aren't absolutely necessary - the extra words just confuse her - I call it "maid speak" since I have had more than one maid I had to use it on - my kids are masters of maid speak, I have to remind myself to speak it and don't do it so well) There really was no reasonable answer for it. If I was in her shoes, I would not just take the frozen carcass of an animal I have never before encountered and decide to cook it without asking about it.

She did the same thing with the expensive steak I bought to be grilled. There were four big fat juicy pieces and then suddenly there were only two. She had cut them up and used them in macaroni of all things! Again, it just isn't something I would do. Common sense would prevent me from doing it. Which makes me wonder if common sense isn't so common after all. I mean maybe different cultures have different common senses?

She also has blown up two eggs by boiling them until all the water dried up and they exploded - lovely smell that makes.

Anyway, after we got in the house, I decided to take a walk - I have been trying to eat right and exercise these days to curb the rapid a** expansion that I have going on.

We live just across from the big mosque - the one used for Eid prayers. Between us and the mosque is a big field and in the middle of the field is a square courtyard used for the overflow of people during Eid prayers. It is walled in, and the locals have made the path around the outside into a makeshift track. In the evenings you will see a lot of people walking or jogging on it - mostly Emiratis. I decided to walk there. I hadn't been walking long when a car full of young Emiratis (18 - 20 years old) crept up on my left side (I was walking clockwise around the prayer yard.) It was a convertible. They turned up their rap music as they passed me and then slowed down ahead of me so that I would pass them and then they could pass me again. I ignored them. As they passed me again one of them sang out his phone number while the other two smirked at me.

They went around and passed me again, and again the driver sang out his phone number. I was annoyed at this point so I turned to them and said "NOT INTERESTED!" and then went back to walking. The other two laughed at the driver and he sped off. I thought I was free from them and continued walking, but again they came back and again the driver chanted his phone number. I just rolled my eyes and kept walking. I can't imagine why they would think that such behavior would actually get any woman to look on them favorably and call them?
They passed again. This time one of them asked, with almost a bewildered look on his face, as if he couldn't understand why I hadn't got my mobile out and started dialling yet, asked "why aren't you interested" at this point I was thoroughly annoyed so I turned to them and shouted "Listen little boys! I am old enough to have given birth to you. PLEASE LEAVE ME ALONE!"
They drove off after that :)

After that, I went back to the house and got Max the dog and continued my walk in the neighborhood with him. As I was getting back towards home, one car pulled in front of us and the local guy behind the wheel whipped out his camera and asked if he can take a picture of Max. My brain doesn't operate very quickly when I am surprised so I kind of just gaped at him digesting what he was asking and then he just took one. I don't really care if anyone photographs Max, but I wasn't too happy about the fact that I was in the photo too in all my shocked and sweaty glory.


Pu├ža said...

you seeeeee you're daily life is so interesting, and your way of explaining it is great!
I feel sorry for A, his is a sad story.
About the maid story, the russian maid of one of my mother's friend, once put the mink coat in the washing machine!!!!

I agree, you knever know what common sense means in other

I find very different this way of exchanging phones, I find it funny
to read, don't know what to say if it happened to me as it happened to you, I gess it would be annoying.

About the picture sure you look great, and max, the excuse, too :o)

desertmonsoon said...

Yes! Sablah will wash anything she gets her hands on too - I had to rescue my leather jacket from the washing bin where she had dumped it and all of the clean clothes from the ironing basket when she first arrived. She also washed some beaded decorative thing and I think she ruined my Persian carpet somehow because I just noticed a big stain on it - probably tried to wash it with bleach or something.

Again, I just don't get the logic she operates with.

I don't know how local girls respond to this type of number exchange - maybe they call them? Maybe that is why they do it? I have no idea.

Aalia said...

*rofl* @ "little boys"

Awww, I'm srry you're going thru issues with ur maid... Are uu able to get a new one?

desertmonsoon said...

@ Aalia,

I was trying to shame them into leaving me alone - a lot of 18- 20 year old local boys have mothers around my age because of the young marriage age here before - so I thought maybe they would feel shame for harassing someone who could be their mother. Plus it made me feel good to call them little boys :D.

I am looking for a new maid, this one is driving me nuts. She isn't a mean person, but she is really hard to deal with because of the language gap and just plain weird behavior. Plus she is too young and this business of talking to local boys on the phone is worrying me. I am afraid that if I go out sometime with the kids, maybe she will entertain visitors.

Have you sorted out your maid problems yet? I saw your post about that before

Ahavah said...

My mum once put my best (and most expensive) dry clean only - work suit (long skirt and long jacket) in the washing machine - it shrunk so badly that my 10 year old niece would have had trouble getting into it....

She also has no sense of smell - so will ignore completely cakes cooking etc. I am getting a real dab hand at cleaning of burnt on food on saucepans etc...

Mum does'nt give me any trouble when it comes to 'boys' though... although I was getting quite worried by her reaction to (what she termed as) her dishy young dentist....


desertmonsoon said...

Ahavah... how cute, your mom has a crush on her dentist. That sounds like my grandmother talking about her dentist. He was a kind and jolly young Jewish man. She just loved him and would go on about what a hoot he was.

Lisa said...

Okay I'm totally divorcing after what you said sweetie. This is what I needed to hear, that a nice man like "A" can come along. Mashallah that you are there for him!

And for him to be willing to go see "Up", what a great film it was. My husband can't be bothered with kid's films, he took off to some action film I think The Transporter 3 or something when he went to see Bolt, and we had to stay there alone at Bolt...

He sounds like a soulmate! Even if it's just a friendship, walahi I am SO happy for you today habibty. Did "A" cry when the old man thought of his dead wife in the movie?

This Ethiopian maid sounds strange. Sort of reminds me of some of Aalia's weird maids...I'm worried for you.

Love you lots!

Aalia said...

Just came by to check up any reply (which there was, yay!!)

Sorry for the late response, been having computer/Net problems :/

The whole talking on the phone with men is something to be worried about... My Mother-in-Law once had a maid who did that, and later found out that she would sneak in men when no one was home!!

It's best to be better safe than sorry OR have to worry if your maid is into fishy stuff.

All the best!!

desertmonsoon said...

hey Aalia,

yeah, I know the phone thing was bugging me, I have been living here a long time and have heard all the stories of what maids can get up to. However, until I find a new maid, a good thing has happened, she has lost / broken her charger for her phone and she has some weird brand of phone and it isn't easy for her to find a new one - so no calls for now :)

Hajar Zamzam Ismail said...

Maybe you could explain to the maid what each kind of meat is for, before you stick it in the fridge or freezer. I used to cook for some of my Indian friends and they were astonished that a chicken could be roasted whole, and be delicious to boot. Also, they had never imagined cooking a chicken breast whole - that didn't go over as well as the whole roast chicken though.

Anonymous said...

Ohh you poor thing – life must really suck. What could you have possibly done to deserve such an incompetent maid? Perhaps you could get another one, after all these maids are dime a dozen just like going to the souk and buying a new pair of shoes (@ Aalia).
Your maid might not speak any English/Arabic, but I bet you don’t speak a lick of her language either. I almost feel sorry for you to have to go through the inconvenience of having to speak to your maid in lowly domed down maid talk which you are quick to point out that your kids have mastered after all they are far more competent than that slow and backward maid you got.
Here is a suggestion for you, why don’t you lock her down in the basement, confiscate her passport and when she does something wrong beat her senseless.

These maids leave behind their homes and their families to move to Emirates or other Gulf countries. They work hard and most of what they make they send home to support their families. Their phones are the only means of communication they have with their loved ones whether in their native countries or those living in the Emirates – yet you were quick to assume that she must be chatting it up with Emirati men, which I find doubtful since you yourself said she doesn’t speak any Arabic. I don’t know your maid from Adam or Eve, but really your attitude towards her is just sad, get off your high horse lady.

desertmonsoon said...

Anonymous weird commenter, why are you commenting as Anonymous?

You don't know a god damned thing about me.

My maid is strange, there is no denying that. You have no idea how I treat her so your diatribe is quite out of place. I never yell at her. I pay her twice what other people pay. I let her go for long weekends to visit her sister in Dubai. I also give her extra money to get to Dubai when she goes. I GAVE HER the phone for the very reason you mentioned. When I leave for work in the morning she is still asleep so she is hardly working her fingers to the bone. I also went out and bought her new clothes and shoes that I thought a young woman would like - not the weird flannel looking PJs that many people seem to keep their maids in here. I gave her a TV and DVD player too for her room so she could watch movies or listen to music when she feels like it. I never ask her to do anything for myself aside from routine housework. I am sorry if it offends you that I find mutilating a turkey carcass without bothering to enquire about it first strange, but I still do.

and Yes she is speaking with local guys - I caught her doing it more than once - she had her phone on speaker (I have no idea why) and a local friend of mine was over and told me what they were (trying) to talk about. He was trying to get her to sneak out and meet him. It is for her own protection as much as my family's that I don't want her to do that.

But I guess you would know better since you don't know either me or my maid.

Her Arabic is better than her English I realized after I noticed she knew the Arabic words for things that she did not know in English. I thought she didn't know Arabic because one Arab lady know would try to speak to her she would just stare (one of the things I find strange about her). But since then I have realized she actually does know some Arabic.

I find people like you who go to other people's blogs just looking for something to get mad about just plain weird. YOu don't know jack shit about what you are talking about so why don't you shut up.