Sunday, June 10, 2012

Time To Tell About Telling Time

About 2 months ago, a friend of mine introduced to me an Indonesian woman who was looking for a job as a maid. I was kinda desperate for one, and I did not quite bother about the interviewing part of the process. She's not young—in fact, she's in her fifties. She had no working experience in her entire life. All these years she's been raising her children in her village in Indonesia; and now that they're all grown up, she reckoned that perhaps she could use her remaining years to earn some money.

She knows a bit of A-B-C, but of course she's not a highly educated woman. The day she arrived at my house, I had to teach her how to lock the doors and how to use the padlocks. She had a curious phobia of my cooking stove. She'd light the stove by reaching out her hand and trying to keep her distance as far as possible, as if afraid that the stove would explode. She said in her village she had never used modern cooking stoves; that she has always been using firewood in her kitchen. That first night, she threw chicken bones into my kitchen sink and I had a tough time to unclog the drain pipe.

Over the next few weeks, we managed to teach her how to use the cooking stove; that frozen stuff should go into the freezer, whereas the vegetables and fruits should go into the lower compartment of the fridge. She also learned how to use the electric kettle. She has even learned how to use the phone. After about a million reminders, she has managed to program her brain to lock all the doors before going to bed at night. She is still essentially a forgetful person, but I suppose I can't expect her to be perfect. However, even if she's not perfect, I'm expecting at least a minimal standard.

She is always having stomach ache, and although I'm not a doctor, I believe it has a lot to do with her inconsistent eating habit. She doesn't really eat at the same time each day. Sometimes she'd eat her breakfast very early; sometimes late; sometimes none at all. Same goes for lunch and dinner. So I've been reminding her to eat her meals at around the same time every day. That, I think, may help to solve her problem. But I'm disappointed that she doesn't heed my advice. She would sometimes eat her lunch at 2pm or even 3pm. She has no sense of time, you see.

Oh well, I guess if that has been her lifestyle in her village, I can't expect her to change overnight just because I tell her to. But then I'm not happy when her ignorance to time is affecting my family. Time and again when we told her to cook lunch or dinner at specific times, she would disobey. At first, I thought she did not understand the instructions. But even after we repeated several times, and in fact we asked her to repeat the instructions, we were satisfied that she understood our instructions. Yet, when it's time for lunch or dinner, she's always either cooking too early or late.

Each time when we ask her why she hasn't started cooking at the specific times according to our instructions, she'd say something like "I forgot", or "I was confused" or "I thought you said...". During her off days, too—when she visits her relatives—she can never get her time right. And I find that very annoying because I'm the one who's supposed to fetch her from the bus stop in the city. She would be either too early or too late.

How should I deal with the problem?

Well, this is a bit ambitious, but I've dug up my digital clock which comes with a time stamp (I usually use it when I'm clerking a treasure hunt). I'm putting this clock in the kitchen and told her to refer to it; for the moment forget about the clock on the wall which is the type with the hour, minute and second hands on it.

Knowledge, as we all know it, is very powerful. But sometimes, we tend to take things for granted. Things such as knowing how to tell the time by looking at the hands of a clock is almost expected of everybody! It's almost embarrassing to admit that we don't know how to do something which the vast majority of the human race knows how to do it. But would you believe it, there may be some people out there who don't know how to tell the time! I know she will never admit it, but let's see if she can remember our instructions with the help of this digital clock.

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