Friday, March 14, 2008


Esta is a part of my life that I haven't written about yet. Mostly because I struggle with it myself so I know that others won't really understand.

Esta is my house worker. She works for me 5 days a week, for 4 or 5 hours a day. She does all of my laundry and all of my cleaning. I pay her under $100 per month, which is still way over minimum wage. You're probably thinking that I am awfully spoiled. And well, you are right. The problem is that missionaries are not supposed to be spoiled. They are supposed to suffer. Yep.

If you live in America and have a house cleaner a couple of times a month, you are lucky. And if you have a full time house worker, you are filthy stinkin' rich. That's not how it works here. Just about everyone has house workers--even house workers often have house workers. Basically, the culture says that if you have money, you share with people who have less than you. And hiring people to work for you is one way to do that. If you can afford to have workers and you don't, it's actually considered selfish.

I am extremely thankful that this is a part of African culture. If I didn't have Esta, I would need to spend a few hours a day doing what she does. I don't have a dish washer. I don't have a dryer, which means everything needs to be hung out to dry and then ironed (dryers get a lot of wrinkles out). I have no glass on my windows--only screens, and we live on a dirt road. So that means that lots of dust comes into the house every day. We have lots of visitors which means sheets and towels are constantly being washed and dozens of glasses cleaned. Esta does all of this for me.

Even with all of this, I still struggle with having a house worker sometimes. Sometimes I want more privacy. Sometimes I want things done "my way," and no matter how many times I explain the difference between Gil's t-shirts and dress shirts, I find his t-shirts neatly ironed and hung in the closet, and his dress shirts folded and put in the drawers.

But don't get me wrong. Having Esta is a huge blessing. Her work is what allows me the time to teach 6th grade Bible at HOPAC, and work on my Master's Degree, and coordinate the after-school program....and...pretty much everything else I do. She is also fantastic with Grace and a great friend to me.

The picture of Esta above includes her brand new baby. Guess what she named her? Amy. Yep, that's right. It is a big honor. Definitely a little strange for me. I am not the closest person in Esta's life. But I probably have the most resources of anyone she knows. Naming her daughter after me helps to ensure that her daughter will be well cared for, in Tanzanian culture.

Having a house worker is actually investing in a family. While Esta has been on maternity leave, her sister-in-law has worked for us. We've helped when her husband has been out of work. We're helping with the sister-in-law's wedding. We paid for her medical costs when she had her baby (you won't believe this folks--total cost came to about $75).

Domie, our night guard, also works for us. So does Gibbie, who is our Saturday gardener (the grass must be cut by machete and watered by hand). We are considered unusal because we don't have a day guard as well, but we feel like our neighborhood is pretty safe. We know many people who also have a full-time nanny and a full-time cook. Many people think it is strange that I take care of Grace almost entirely by myself.
So there you have it. I am a spoiled missionary. You are no longer allowed to feel sorry for me. :-)
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