September 28, 2006

Panic in the house; Maid Shortage

The war is over, but only now the shit seems to be hitting the fan. How do I know? I’ve had 7 Lebanese people calling me in the past week for help. And it is urgent, they say, really urgent! What’s the problem?

Well, the Israelis may have bombed thousands of houses, damaged the Lebanese infrastructure beyond belief, created an oil spill from here all the way to Tripoli, and caused thousands and thousands of Lebanese and foreigners to run away, but nothing, and I repeat, nothing, was as disastrous, as what they did to the maids! The maids? Yes! The maids!

This society is kept floating by the massive amounts of nannies, housekeepers and maids that come from abroad. Most of them are from Asia, with the majority being from Sri Lanka (80,000) and The Philippines (30,000), but quite a few come from Africa as well.
They clean the houses, do the dishes and the laundry, mop the floors, hang out the carpets, baby-sit the children, prepare and cook the food, carry the groceries, wash the windows and in some cases even walk the dog. They do everything! In my house, the housekeeper is king. Without her, the house comes to a grinding halt. No housekeeper = massive nervous breakdown.

And during the war, when the bombardments were at its heaviest, the embassies of these nationals were getting kind of worried. The stories of maids being stranded in conflict areas and left alone by employers who had fled but who had ‘forgotten’ the housekeeper, were abounding. So they decided to get their people out.
A lot of them heeded that call. Most probably left because things were really getting scary, and they – unlike most Lebanese – were not used to war situations. Some may have decided that this was the moment to leave a job they were not to happy with anyway. Whatever the reasons, there was a massive exodus of maids.
To make matters worse, the embassies of both the Philippines and Sri Lanka, decided to put Lebanon on the black list; no Phillipinoes and Sri Lankees are allowed to go the Lebanon.
Result: Maid shortages!

The first weeks went okay. But now that it is clear that this situation is going to last for a while, panic is in the house. No maid!
Clothes do not get ironed anymore, floors not mopped, bed linen stays on the bed for weeks on end, windows – forget about windows, who cares now? – and take-away restaurants are doing good businesses.
I just had a conversation with a couple of women, and they were comparing their nails: ladies with helpers versus ladies without helpers (ratio 3:4). And indeed, helper-less ladies’ nails were a mess. “I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown!” said one, “I don’t know what to do!”

And so they come to me. I’ve had requests of seven (7!) friends for a maid this last week alone!
Because I have two maids. Not because I am so rich; quite the opposite. It happened that one was supposed to leave, way back in July, to the States, and the replacement came in June to take over her job. However, things did not go according to plan, war and such, and now I have two. They decided to stay during the war (yes, they had their salaries paid, and yes, they had their passports in their pockets, and no, I did not lock ‘em up). They saw other family members staying, and not much happened in this part of town (West-Beirut) anyway.
It seems that the thing that scared them the most was when one early morning, they were walking in the neighborhood, and an Israeli leaflet bomb exploded right above their heads, covering them in thousands and thousands of white flyers. One will leave eventually, as soon as she’s got her paperwork for the States sorted out.

And so right now I am a popular woman. They want one of my maids. Part-time, full-time, an hour a day or a day a week, it doesn’t matter, anything. But they need a maid!

It severely hampers this society’s road to normalcy. So we can put the maid-shortage on the list together with cluster bombs.


AM said...

Haha, now this is hilarious!
Funny and different outlook on the consequences of this war :D

Rasheed's World said...

Somehow I don't feel sorry for all of those Lebanese women who desperately need maids. If only they did a minimum of housework themselves, they would be able to survive this temporary blip in the supply of nurses.
The situation is the same here in Saudi where a vertibale army of maids, nannies and drivers keep the country from grinding to a halt.
By the way, I don't blame the Philippines for stopping the deployment of maids to Lebanon given that some of them were exposed to Israeli bombardment, especially in the south.