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Our first employee

From several blogs I’ve read, it seems there is a common plot line when it comes to maids:

  • Family doesn’t need a maid (we did all this ourselves in the States),
  • Family gets a maid (and is a little embarrassed/hesitant/apprehensive),
  • Family loves having a maid and recommends it to everyone (how did I ever manage without her?)

That was never my plot line. As soon as we got the Nicaraguan flag on Flag Day, I knew we would get a maid. It might be because I grew up overseas with both parents who worked full time (not with the F.S.) and we always had a maid. She kept things running: laundry, cleaning, and helping my mom as sort of a sous chef. Our maid would clean and cut vegetables and make rice (removing bugs and rocks) so my mom could walk in the door and whip up a delicious stir-fry with out all of the prep work.

Our maids also taught us so much of the local culture, perhaps not always intentionally. But as we gauged their reactions to things we did or asked questions about some parade (or strike) going on outside, we were educated to local customs and current events.  In Ecuador, my mom taught our maid (I’ll call her “V”) English and learned Spanish in return.  Mom would use a dictionary to write Spanish phrases of things to do or make and V would correct them and attempt to translate them into English for my mom to correct. V became much more marketable after that and went on to make a career of working with expat families who needed someone with English skills.  Our maid in Malaysia, on the other hand, spoke at least four languages. She taught us words in Malay, Chinese, Tamil and even some British English words we were unfamiliar with (The lorry to take the rubbish comes today).

It took about a week and a half, but I just hired someone yesterday. “M” started today and it was great.

Here they call maids ‘domesticos’. There are many labor laws that apply in Nicaragua including health insurance, vacation that accrues at 2.5 days per month, time and a half pay for holidays, and a Christmas bonus called the aguinaldo that accrues to equal a months pay, paid during the first 10 days of December.  Common practice in Nicaragua requires that you also provide transportation and lunch (or lunch money) for a maid in addition to her salary. If you have a live-in maid (which we will NOT have) there are all sorts of other rules established by Nicaraguan law and common practice.

Since labor is so cheap here and jobs are so in demand, it’s not just the richest of the rich that have maids in Nicaragua. When I was a volunteer here, I met many working class families who weren’t rich by any means (maybe worked as a secretary or as a store clerk in a mall) but they employed domesticos, often younger girls from rural areas or poor neighborhoods.  The fact is that many people don’t follow all of these labor laws for their domesticos.  As much as it does seem a bit excessive for us (a couple with no kids or pets) to employ a maid, I think it would be stranger to many Nicaraguan’s if we didn’t.  Every day since I’ve been here, I’ve had 1 or 2 women coming to the gate asking for work. I think a job that pays well above the government established minimum wage with health insurance and payments toward the social security plan is a decent job to get in this country right now.

This will be such a luxury for us though. For the last 6 years in DC, we didn’t even have a washer/dryer in our building so we used a laundromat 2 blocks away. Not only do we now have our own washer and dryer (which feels like the height of luxury) but we’ll have someone actually do it for us! Amazing! I feel very blessed.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Megan #

    Hooray! I’m glad you got your own “V!” I remember her as the one who taught you Spanish and you would sometimes translate between her and Erin. Will she come everyday or just a few times/week?

    August 26, 2010
    • stmemory #

      I guess you’re right. “V” probably taught me more Spanish than Mom because I stayed home with her a lot. Our maid will come 5 days a week. A lot of maids here really don’t like part time because it’s a bit tricky coordinating with two families, especially if they live far away. I don’t think they will be long days because there’s not that much to do around here, but she will help out with going to the market sometimes when I can’t, and today she made guacamole…Yum.

      August 26, 2010

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