Monday, January 17, 2011

But For The Name

We've been without an amah since the end of November last year. Our former amah, Esi, resigned about 3 months into her second one-year employment contract on grounds of having to go back to her hometown because her mother was seriously ill.

Based on my past experience, "sick mother" usually means "getting married" or "better job offer elsewhere". But to be quite honest, it didn't bother me too much what the reason(s) for the resignation was(were). I'm a realistic person—I don't expect these people to work for me until they're old. After all, I can appreciate that they will want to have their own families too someday. So it's just a matter of time. However, I didn't find it very amusing that after paying for the cost of renewal of the work permit, I only received 3 months' worth of that one-year work permit!

That said, obviously there's nothing much I could do to prevent her from resigning. And even if I could force her to remain working for me until the one-year work permit expires, I doubt that that's a good idea anyway.

So instead of grumbling, I wished Esi all the best. I said I hoped her mother would recover soon. Within the next few days, I arranged with the agency to get her work permit cancelled. On the last day, when I sent her off, I paid her salary plus a bit of bonus, and thanked her for working for us for a year plus.

After Esi left, Mia and I had to adjust our routines for a bit. I must admit it wasn't easy without an amah. House chores can be quite a challenge, you know. But these days it's no longer easy to find an amah. It's still relatively easier to get a Filipina amah, of course, but I'd rather suffer with the house chores if I had to hire a Filipina. And so we've been asking around—friends, relatives, anyone who might be able to find us an amah. But for weeks our search has been in vain.

And then suddenly last Friday I received a call from a friend who said that there's this Indonesian girl looking for a job as an amah. That must have been my lucky day. I was told that she had been working as an amah for about 4 years before, but had to go back to her hometown for about one year. Now she's back in Sabah again to look for a job.

Well, I quickly arranged to meet this girl—possibly even on the same day. But it wasn't meant to be. In the end, she arrived at my home after 7pm yesterday. Within a few minutes, we could see that she's an experienced amah. I dare say that her claim of four years' working experience was genuine.

She quickly familiarised herself with the electrical appliances in my home. She was very much at home with the washing machine, electric kettle, and the remote control gate system. She also didn't burn my expensive pants with the iron.

In all this, I'm not forgetting the phrase "New broom sweeps well". That's a favourite saying of my late granduncle, although I didn't like it coming from him, since he frequently used that when referring to his younger wife.

Anyway, I didn't get to taste her cooking this morning, as I only eat cereal in the morning. This evening, I tasted her cooking for the first time, and although it's not the kind of cooking one would expect in a posh restaurant, I can say that I'm satisfied.

So right now, about 24 hours since her arrival, I'm happy with what I'm seeing. Perhaps the only thing that I'm a bit uneasy with is her name—Lin. It's a short and simple name, of course, and I really shouldn't be complaining, especially since I'm not famous for remembering names, particularly those complicated ones. But "Lin" in Hakka is an obscene word. Even the non-Chinese in KK would know the meaning of that word, since some Chinese folks frequently swear with that word!

Mia suggested—though her suggestions are not always brilliant—that we call her "Lyn" instead. But I reminded her that she's missing the point—whether it's "Lin" or "Lyn", that word still sounds like that ugly obscene word anyway!

This morning, I was in a rush going to the office. So I forgot to ask for her cellphone number. But upon reaching the office, I called home to ask for it. She said she had just bought her phone and hadn't memorised her own number. I said that's OK, she can just text me later.

A short while later, I received an SMS from her:

No Lin, +6012XXXXXXX

Upon receiving that SMS, I said to myself, "Well of course she has no "lin" because she's a woman. I'd be extremely worried if she has one!"


Anonymous said...

Astaga Uncle.. Punyala panjang cerita dia, rupanya tula jak dia punya conclusion! Hahahaha!!

Cornelius said...

Alaaa, kau ni Win, kalaupun iya, bagi tau lah siapa yg komen. Kau ingat uncle ni Nujum Pak Belalang kah? Ndak dapat control, Win, kalau pasal cerita, suka mau guna jalan highway... lebih jauh jalan, lagi menarik bah!

Anonymous said...

Lin is a neutral word, referring to a normal organ of the male body. You should not be too overly concerned, unless of course you call your wife "ling" as short for darling. One call, two responses, not bad eh.

unsettledsoul said...

It is funny that you don't want a filipina maid. In America the fashion is to have a filipina maid with a masters degree.

yes we are a strange bunch.

unsettledsoul said...

P.S. I hope you are paying your maid decent wages :)

Cornelius said...

Anon (January 20, 2011 12:02 PM),

I didn't think of it that way, but you are right, it can be a bit confusing - "Ling" and "Lin". Thankfully, however, so far so good, no major confusion. But I suppose both of them may have to listen carefully when I call out "Ling/Lin" to make sure who I'm calling out to.

Cornelius said...


I'm convinced that the higher demand for Filipina maids is not only unique to the US. In general Filipinas are more sought-after when compared to the Indonesians. Although I haven't conducted any research on this, I believe that the main reason is that Filipinas are usually able to speak English - and asset which Indons don't normally have. In fact, the Filipinos usually claim that they speak with the American accent. But of course actually they speak nothing like the Americans at all!

In terms of intelligence, I think I can safely say that the Filipinas are generally more intelligent than the Indonesians. In terms of trustworthiness, the Indonesians are generally are more trustworthy than the Filipinas. When I balance between the two, trustworthiness means much more to me.

Yes, I'm paying my amah decent wages.

Socrates29 said...

May I suggest the following simple solution to this "lin" and "ling" confusion.

Just add "Kak" to your servant's "Lin" and identify her simply as "Kak Lin" since we commonly call our servants "kaks".

Hope this helps.

Cornelius said...


That might be a good idea. Only that I feel a bit awkward addressing Lin as "Kak Lin" since I'm about 20 years older than her! After all, strictly speaking, Kakak is the Malay word for older sister? There is of course no problem for JJ to address her as Kakak Lin - in fact, that's how she's addressing her now.

unsettledsoul said...

maybe adik?

Cornelius said...

In this context, "adik", although a polite way to address someone is not, I think, appropriate to use for Lin. I see "adik" as someone much closer, like family members or cousins or people we really treat like a younger sister. "Adik" may also sometimes be used for a lover, for example "Cik adik" (the opposite is "Cik Abang").

I suppose, strictly speaking, there is nothing wrong to address Lin as "Adik Lin", but I'd expect others who know the language well to find it somewhat strange!