I ran into my maid this morning, as I was coming home from a whorehouse Christmas party that I’d gone to with the Junkie and the Student.
“Nat?” she said. “Are you just coming home now?”
“Yes,” I said. “You too?”
There’s a lot to unpack here, and although it would be easier to set fire to the whole suitcase, let’s start with the first elephant.
I have a maid.
This happened entirely accidentally. When I first set up my little home here, I was freelancing, working just a few hours a day. But this is a dusty place, and I found that I was spending a good hour each morning sweeping out my house and the patio. I liked it. I liked the rhythm of doing it and listening to all my neighbours sweeping out their houses too. But it was time consuming.
An hour a day, just sweeping.
All the neighbourhood kids had just started their vacation and I overheard them talking about getting summer jobs. “I can give you a summer job,” I told Kat, the niece of my nearest neighbour. “You can come clean my house every day.”
I said it on a whim. I have never had a maid before. I don’t know what one costs and what you can ask them to do.
“Yes!” she said, immediately, and that is how I wound up with a maid.
Kat is wonderful. She comes to my house every day, sweeps it thoroughly, does the dishes, and cleans the bathroom. Sometimes we bake together. Sometimes she braids my hair. She teaches me Tagalog words and I help improve her English.
And when I have a party and get so wasted that I don’t even remember going to bed, I wake in the morning to a clean house, the bottles put away, the dishes done, the floors clean. She’s a fucking champion.
A few months ago, I asked Kat about her birthday. It is in November, she told me. I asked her old she would be, thinking that she must be about to turn 18.
“I will be fourteen,” she said.
I have been paying a 13 year old kid three dollars a day to clean my house.
Don’t get me wrong – she is earning more money than some adults in the Philippines, and the work is fairly easy. For context, a full time security guard might only earn 400 pesos for an eight-hour day, and I pay Kat 100 pesos for about a half hour’s work. Relatively speaking, she’s earning a motza.
I just didn’t realise when I hired her that she was only a kid.
But what a kid. Anything I throw at her – and I’ve had a few parties, and she looks after my cats while I’m away – she just takes in her stride. She never complains, never hesitates, never forgets any instructions that I give her. She’s a powerhouse.
Living in the Philippines has its perks. And one of them is that I can hire a nice neighbourhood kid to come clean my house every day. It’s a win win situation. We hang out a lot, cooking, singing, chatting, and once she told me that I was a bit like her mum.
“Can’t I be your cool auntie instead?” I said, but I don’t think she understood.
Meanwhile, Kat is learning what it’s like to have a regular income, to save money, to buy things for herself. I see her sometimes with a new parcel from Lazada (the Filipino Amazon) and I’m happy for her.
So when I saw her this morning, after my crazy whorehouse Christmas party, I was surprised. She has another job, working at a carnival across town, selling tickets for the rides, and gets home at 2am, like me. She went to bed then, and woke up in the afternoon to wash her uncle’s clothes and then came round to my place to clean the house.
And I, well, I just had another beer and read a book.