Friday, July 29, 2011

Work, Love & Sacrifice

Over the years I have had several Indonesian maids working for me in my home. I think there was once a spell of about 9 months that we survived without a maid. It's possible to cope if it's absolutely necessary, though it would be very, very stressful because both Mia and I have fulltime jobs. When we are not working, I spend a lot of time on sports, e.g. running, cycling and swimming. Mia is into running too, but she's also very much into guiding Jamie in her studies.

Anyway, as I was saying, we have had several maids. Generally speaking, if I had it my way, I would like my maid to work for at least 3 years, assuming of course that there is no problem like stealing habit etc. But unfortunately the reality is that they very rarely can last that long. I see these people for the most part trapped in their way of life. I don't quite know how to explain it, really, but there is this kind of mentality that makes their destiny sealed forever. It's almost like when you see one of them, you see all of them already! I know it sounds almost cruel to generalise people like that, but I don't mean it that way, honest! I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I'm bound to come across, say, one in a hundred of them who are very good in what they do. Just that I haven't been lucky enough to find one—so far. I have had a bit of experience, for example, with anger management. I've had some compulsive lairs and plain lazy bums. Not to mention those who apparently ate more than they worked.

That's why when a new maid arrived at our doorstep in February this year, I knew that she probably won't last very long too. However, y'know, when you don't have many choices, you simply accept something and then hope for the best to happen. Even if they are 99% the people I have dealt with in the past, there is always that 1%, you see.

I need not go into the details of her daily routine. Of course there will be the laundry to deal with; the cooking and washing; and generally keeping the house tidy. She had her 2-hour beauty sleep every afternoon without fail, of course; plus every weekend off day. Needless to say, there were several occasions when she failed to return from her weekend rest days. I threatened to cut her salary when she failed to return to work, but never actually did it. Not that the threat had any impact on her anyway—she was still unable to return home occasionally. I always paid her salary on time each month.

I'm not very fussy as an employer, and I'm not in the habit of looking over her shoulders all the time to check what she's doing; I'm not sure if I have had even 10 sentences on average exchanged between us per day.

There was no restriction on what she could eat or drink in my house. I have heard of some people who would restrict food consumption; and they would even beat their maids. It never failed to amaze me that there are such employers around, but, y'know, it takes all sorts to make the world!

Anyway, she ate whatever we ate. She enjoyed watching TV; and she spent on average about an hour chatting on the phone every morning at about 10am-11am. I've never bothered to find out who's that guy she's been talking to. I only got the hear his voice for a little while when I was on leave one day and the call came in. As my phone bills would show, she would also call that friend on a daily basis. I don't know what was the important discussion all about, but it is amazing how some people can talk for hours per session, really!

She wasn't the only one with the weakness on the phone. I suppose love is like that, you just can never run out of things to say to each other. In fact, I guess even if you talked about a load of rubbish, it is still OK, as long as you can hear the voice of that loved one.

It was around noon last Monday when I received a text message from her. She said that her sister-in-law had passed away in her village in Indonesia. So she had no choice but to make arrangements to try to go back to her village to attend the funeral. The news caught me unprepared. I had asked my previous maids before about the amount of time for them to travel back to their village from KK. Basically, it would take a day to travel from KK to Tawau. From Tawau, they would have to catch a ferry to Nunukan. In Nunukan, depending on availability of seats, they would have to catch another ferry to travel further south. All in all, if there is no delay, the journey would take about a week. But when they arrive in Indonesia, they would have to travel even further inland, sometimes by bus, sometimes by other means of transport. And that can take a few more days.

As you can probably guess, I must seriously doubt that she would be able to make it for the funeral. But it didn't really matter. For one thing, it's none of my business whether or not she's able to make it in time for the funeral. For another thing, of course the whole death thing was just a bunch of craps.

I arrived home at around 6pm that evening, immediately sat down at the dining table and told her that I'm cancelling her workpass. A few hours earlier I contacted the agent who helped to get the paperwork done. Then I paid her salary. She had by then packed her belongings in a tiny bag. I thanked her for her services and wished her all the best, and then she was off, and that's the last I saw of her.

That night I was thinking what did I do wrong. Have I raised my voice or have I offended her in some way without realising it. Or perhaps my wife scolded her? I could think of no such incidence. But then again, maybe I just did not realise it. I'm after all just human and not immune from making mistakes?

The next day, I started making phone calls. And then finally I found the actual reason why she quit. Never mind how I found out, I just did. Now I invite my readers to guess what's the reason of the resignation. Some of those people I have already spoken to about this—you know who you are—are disqualified automatically. Let's hear it from the rest of my readers.


kkchai said...

My guess, she is taking advantage of the ongoing 6P amnesty program that allows her to work for another.

Socrates29 said...

Sorry if I am being a bit crude here with my assumption.
My guess is with all the wooing going on between her and her boy friend over the phone and the weekends off,she is going to be a mother soon!
Just my 2 old Malaysian cents!

Cornelius said...

Hmmm... I had expected to get many more guesses than just two.

kkchai, that is a good guess, but from the little that I know about the amnesty program, I don't think the aim of that program was to allow the freedom of these foreigners to secure jobs anywhere as they please. Rather, I think the aim was to register, i.e. to trace those who entered Malaysia illegally. The amnesty in this case is that if they would report themselves to the authority, no actions would be taken against them, except that their presence will be recorded, and then allowed to return to their respective countries without serving jail terms etc. People like my former maid who I understand have taken up huge debts to come to Malaysia legally would not want to find another employer, because the process itself can cost even more expenses to be incurred.

Socrates29, as crude as it may sound, you are absolutely correct, my friend! You know your Indonesian maids well!

But in all fairness, kkchai, I have been fair because I have given a bit of hint in the heading of this post... as well as some more in the post.

Tekko said...

If there is a contest for the best maid employer, you will win hand down. 2 hours siesta everyday, unlimited phone call on your phone, every weekend off, never come back on time and you still so kind!

Cornelius said...

Haha!... Tekko, trust me, I am not usually so lenient. I suppose this is a classic case of supply and demand. If I can very easily find a replacement, then I think I would be very strict in how I deal with my maid.

But apart from the very delicate relationship between employer-employee, I always remind Mia not to forget that in a way, the maid has the whiphand. Don't forget that we eat the food that she cooks.

There was a case in Brunei some years ago where the maid put a small amount of weedkiller in her cooking because she wanted to get back at her employer for scolding her. That is a rare case. But, y'know, I'm not willing to take chances with that sort of thing.

Socrates29 said...

You are lucky in your case that the culprit responsible for making her pregnant was someone she knew on the outside. Could be her own country man or one of those p*k*sta*i cloth merchant who goes round house to house selling his wares.

A few years near where I am staying,a similar "condition" happened to one of our neighbour's indonesian young maid.When the home minister interrogated her it turned out not only was her hubby responsible for her condition,her school going son also got into the act and was responsible as well.

The poor woman had to pay her off to go back to her home country prompto before news spread out.

Cornelius said...


I think I have heard of that story before, but although I tried very hard to trace the source, I failed to find anything concrete. I heard the story from several people, all of whom could not give me further leads other than hearing from their friend's friend. And all of them ended with something like the poor woman had to pay a lot of money to send the maid home "before the news spread". All I can say is that she wasted her money, because obviously the news did spread! Quite honestly, I did not take that story seriously; in fact, I did not believe it!

But anyway, if it's indeed true, I really wonder how the husband AND the son were able to do it, presumably right under the wife's nose. It takes quite some imagination. I'm thinking if I wanted to cheat on my wife, I'd prefer to do it with some women from outside. But then again, I guess if there is really a will, there is always a way!... hehe