I thought I'd be ranting about Nigerian women today but that
soup is still cooking as my new vet-er (Mr. O, one of my more brutally honest
friends who I'll introduce at some point in time) didn't think I was giving
them as much credit(..And Nigerian women love credit- credit cards).
Onwards onwards..Talking of cooks and other staff that are standard in a
Nigerian household(driver, vet, gardener, laundry guy, window cleaner, curtain
drawer, gateman, pool cleaner, dog
walker, suya master, tailor, market woman for groceries, manicurist for madam,
barber for oga..Ok, or not as my host’s staff list only goes up to the driver
after the cook. However, trust you me, I'm sure there's a Nigerian guy with
that host of staff in his home. Mike Adenuga fits the profile..Hello sirJ)
Today, we discuss Kenyan maids and Nigerian order! I have much bile for Kenyan
maids since I came back!
My outlook reeks of a modern woman who probably (to those who don't know me)
comes off as less bothered by traditions and such other things. What with my
wardrobe ensembles dictated by fashion capitals whose streets I've not
traversed..high waist skirts that call attention to my waist from miles away
and polite three inch heels(presently preferred with metal caps at the tips-
the Kardashians have it!) to give a little rhythm to my hips sway- basically mask
my crab walking tendencies!
However, in my head and heart, therein lies a village girl still colonized by
traditions top among which revolve around a deep profound respect for people
around me especially elders. Somehow, I still manage to occasionally do the
slight curtsey as I greet older folk or place my left hand on my right as I
greet them. ..,and if my aunt Flo does not have me feeling cantankerous, I
might even give the lady with the arched back my seat on the bus. OK, I usually
give them the seat irregardless.
Nigeria appeals to me because the hierarchy between old folk and the young
still holds water to a great degree. It’s not as diluted as much as in my own
I was referred to as 'ma' 'auntie' or madam Kenya'(which I hated of all terms
conjured) by the staff at my host’s place. Initially, I cringed at this deep
respect shown to me by people older than me but got used to it over time.
If you have experienced a Kenyan maid in a regular household, you will
understand my predicament. Kenyan maids are something else. Maybe it’s because
we pay them peanuts- the cheap kind at that- and have them double up as the dog
walker, laundry woman, cook and if we manage to import a second hand Toyota
from Japan, as the driver! We, Kenyans, are a frugal bunch. Nothing like 'chop
my money' on this end. Which money? Whose money?! We love things that serve
multi-purposes right down from printers that serve as photocopiers and
scanners, to cows we can milk and 'wife' in the case of some Kiambu men as well
as maids that can perform all duties not listed in the verbal agreements we forever
forget to pen down and have our maids sign.
The help in Nigeria was not instructed on how to treat me as a guest of the
family. It comes naturally to them. They understand hierarchies. Warm reception
all the way.
Kenyan maids..hmm..*huge sigh* or as we Kenyans would say, ‘wacha tu!’. My friends help has become so accustomed to my
presence she now addresses me as Rosy! My sisters on the hand, when I hint out
loud that I'm thirsty, looks at me as if wanting to suggest that the kitchen is
still where I last left it as is the water dispenser! I can almost read her
dirty little thoughts. Get me something to drink already!!!! She hates service!
Most of them do, yet at the end of the day, they still bag the peanuts- albeit
The Nigerian help(s) served me with so much grace I'm yet to get over it! I
The table was laid out properly and breakfast was served in good time. They
occasionally peeped to see if I was done with my food to come collect the
dishes. If I was too tired to hold my knife and fork or If the pepper in my food was too hot, somebody
was standing by to fan my poor self, hand me water , hold my cutlery every time
asking, ‘madam you don chew your food abi’!! If my outfit had a crease the iron
didn’t capture, they were on stand-by to
request that I ‘OFF IT’ for ironing!! Ok, maybe I went a little overboard there
but you get my flow, right??<..,but if you really push it with them, they
might do just that.>
Kenyan maids! Huh! Wacha tu!! They are a pretentious bunch. Angels
in the first week of employment.
They will rise before the crack of dawn to warm your bath,
prepare your tea and butter your bread. They will play master chef going to the
extent of preparing pilau with tea masala in the case of my friend Kami. Get you
used to their antics and your kids in tow hooked to them. All this is part of
their devious plan to get you hooked. Basically, bait. .., and when they have
you and the kids hooked, they pull out! You come home from work to an untidy
house. First excuse, headache. A few days later you’re already used to the
state of the house as are your kids. (The rampant mention of kids here is
because, most, if not all Kenyans who have a live-in help do it for their kids.
Else, we do just fine sans these trouble makers). Thing is, you can’t let them
go because the kids love them and you need them! Also, we’re a suspicious
bunch, not wanting to expose our kids and property to too many prying eyes!
SMH. That’s how they hold you hostage in your own home..with your own kids on
their side! Enough said.
The Kenyan help sees housework as a form of lesser
employment even when the options they have are limited. Nigerian helps don’t (..,and
if they do, they don’t play it out). They accept the situation as it is at the
moment and if at all they have dreams beyond service in their master’s house,
they give their best to that which they are presently doing as they pan out the
grand plan for their exit to wherever it might lead them.
At the end of the day life is just that, life. We cannot
escape the hierarchies that come with it. There will always be masters as there
will be servants. Wherever you fall<.., and I’m not talking about maids
silly!>, you need to figure out to know to which port you’re sailing so you
can guide your mast in the direction of the right wind.
‘The best way to find yourself is to lose
yourself in service’
‘Everybody can be great..because anybody can
serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make
your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul
generated by love’(<---this I dedicate to my sisters help..get me a
glass of water alreadyJ)
Ok. .., and perhaps a third, 'I slept and
dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and
behold, service was joy!’
Enough said!!<I said this somewhere in