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The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Maid in a Muddle

My life has begun to assume some kind of normalcy now that boxes occupy only a few corners of my house. Things are still missing, and we still need to fish the odd spatula or undergarment from sealed cartons, but at least I can walk from my front door to the kitchen without having to clamber across cargo. My kids are adjusting to school and my husband has settled into a 9 to 5 routine. I'm halfway between housewife and Saiffuddin's girl friday--and not getting paid for either role--but I'm not complaining just yet. The one thing I miss more than money is my wife, Ti.

For some reason, it is taking longer than usual for Ti to sort out her working permit, and her absence is making my life miserable. I find myself whispering her name whenever I see piles of laundry. We desperately needed a temporary maid, and when Mba Wati was offered to us, we jumped the gun and gratefully said yes.

We knew this woman could not replace the uber-efficient Ti, but we thought we could rely on her to keep the house in order. We had no idea.

Mba Wati is a frail woman who claims she's forty and hails from East Java. I had my doubts about her age, because she later tells me that she's post-menopausal, and has grandchildren. She does not understand Javanese, and worse, has a poor grasp of Bahasa Indonesia as well. I also found that she's woefully illiterate. She cannot read labels: she used ironing liquid in the washing machine, Johnson & Johnson Peach Baby Bath to wash the dishes, and stored the girls' toothpaste in the refrigerator (because it had pictures of strawberries and mint). I spent days rummaging through my kitchen cabinet looking for two boxes of kuah pecal, and finally found them among my books--she had no idea they were not reading material. She only eats fried tofu and soybean cakes, and therefore does not know how to cook anything else. She was a planter back in her boondocks, and one morning I found my lawn completely devoid of weed, as well as of grass.

Worst of all, she can't keep house. My home works on a fragile system of storage, and with Ti, everything is in its proper place, and she knows exactly where every little item would be. Mba Wati on the other hand, probably did not own cupboards in her own house. Aiysha has lost countless textbooks and writing books, only to discover them at the back of the kitchen, together with the pile to be recycled. The woman stores clothes arbitrarily, even though we have tallboys and armoires designated for them. We'd find clothes stuffed into bookshelves and underneath the TV cabinet, if we could find them at all. We keep wearing the same outfit, because the rest of our clothes are in some hitherto undiscovered hiding place, or worse, out there in a mound at a jumble sale.

Saiffuddin and the kids agree that Mba Wati probably didn't turn up on the day God doled out common sense, but I have since discovered that you should never discount the possibility of learning something from even the dullest of dolts.

My husband is in the planning stages of setting up a jatropha plantation, because his company would later be refining and producing biofuel. As he was not trained in agriculture, he had begun to search and devour any jatropha-related information he could get his hands on. He attended a course on it, he scoured the internet, he bought books. While he could academically expound on the virtues and theories of jatropha planting, he had never ever seen the jatropha tree. Recently, we brought Mba Wati along to an agriculture show, where she correctly identified the plant, told us the best way to grow it and recounted its medicinal properties. We brought home jatropha stakes and seeds, and Mba Wati happily planted them. Saiffuddin said she did everything that was prescribed in his books and was greatly impressed.

Our clothes and books are still missing, and we still have to look for toiletry in the fridge, but the jatropha trees are now sprouting leaves.


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