Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Newsy Update on Household "Goings On"

Nothing here is EVER easy. Ever! Thus, absolutely NO REASON WHATSOEVER that today would be an exception to getting something done in an efficient, uncomplicated, streamlined manner.

We moved into our little house from a fairly large townhouse in October after having had pretty much everything being either redone or replaced. It was seven and a half months of a nightmare that I will not make the mistake of repeating, in this part of the world, again. We had a meeting on March 5th with the people in charge of housing, here on our compound, at the house to see what exactly we would like to have done before we moved in. Absolutely everything I asked for received the same answer: "That is not standard. It cannot be done." Okay. Fine. Why are we having this meeting, then? Just go ahead and do whatever is standard and whatever can be done. There were quite a few issues with the house and in the end but for a couple of relatively minor enhancements I had requested, we got what we wanted. For example, the windows in the master bedroom did not fit their casings and on the windowsills, inside, were piles of sand! That someone thought this was acceptable construction when the house was originally built is probably par for the course here in The Sandbox where you can pretty much be assured of getting a substandard result for everything, but I wanted windows that fit and in the end got all new windows in the entire house when all I really wanted was the bedroom windows replaced. There were other things. We originally had a one-piece stove unit that was installed in the late 60's or early 70's that we were going to have to use. It was a hideous piece of crap and in the wrong place - being placed in front of a drawer that wouldn't open more than three inches and a cupboard that you couldn't get open all the way. Ridiculous design. Pathetic that someone actually thought this was acceptable - probably a man, and probably a "local." This is what the kitchen looked like, originally:

I made some concessions with "the powers that be" in housing, here, and was able to get my kitchen to be done the way I wanted it, for the most part, and in the end it all seemed to work out. I wanted a double oven and I wanted it moved so that the drawer to the left of the oven handle could be utilized. Ditto for the cupboard to the left of the oven. We had a double oven at our townhouse with a separate cook top, but company housing didn't want to put a double oven in at this house - a real one that is, not the hideous one-piece unit in the above picture. After some doing I got the authorization for a new double oven, but there were no separate cook tops available. Well, that'd be great if I never planned on using a stove, but not practical. So, we made a deal - no small feat, here - and got authorization to put a separate cook top in, too, provided that we paid for it. Fine. We did. One of the conditions for doing this however was that we would allow the company to keep the cook top in the house when we leave. Sure. Okay. Whatever. This is how the kitchen turned out.

I'm happy with it.

Or, as happy as I can be, considering that this isn't really my house - we "rent," and the house belongs to the company my Dear Husband works for. It is quite doable, however, for as long as we remain here. The problem right now is that the right front burner on the cook top is not working. It's the biggest burner - the one I use the most! Couldn't have been one of the small burners that I can live without that broke. Nope. Of course not. I've been putting off calling maintenance hoping that my DH could fix the front burner - he's so good that way - but he said this was probably something out of his realm. I finally made the call a couple of days ago to "202" so that maintenance could come and fix my burner and got an appointment for this morning. Maintenance can be counted on to be at least a half an hour early - and he was - the man that came to fix my cook top. He walked in, took one look at my cook top and said, "I cannot fix this. We do not have the parts." Great. Takes care of that, then. "I will call my Supervisor." Okay. So he does. The guy puts his supervisor on the phone and the supervisor says to me, "That is not our stove. You will have to fix it." To which I responded, "Sure. I'll fix the cook top, but if I'm going to be responsible for maintaining it, then I'm planning on taking it with me and you're going to have a big hole in your counter where MY cook top was." Well, that changed everything. The supervisor said he would have to check with his supervisor - that's how everything goes, here, and no one wants to be responsible for making any decision no matter how minuscule or trivial it might be. So a few minutes later the supervisor's supervisor calls me and says that he will come this afternoon to look at my cook top to see what can be done to resolve the problem. Fine. I tell him that I am about to leave and go for a walk with my Kids but that I will be back in an hour. I put the Kids' leashes on them - they are all excited and dancing around because this is the best part of their day - and as we are walking out the front door a truck pulls up with three men in it to come and check my cook top. What?!? I told you on the phone no more than five minutes ago that I was leaving, that I'd be back in an hour or so, and you said you'd come this afternoon. Whatever. None of the men will come in because the Kids weren't "locked up," so I put the Kids in their rooms [their respective crates in our bedroom] and all three men came in to see the problem burner on the cook top. Yep. Took three of 'em.

I can tell that the supervisor of the group wants to help me - but he tells me the same thing that his worker had told me half an hour earlier - that they don't have the parts for my cook top and that they can't fix it, that I will have to have an outside source come in to fix the burner. And I repeat to the man the same thing I said on the phone, that I'm willing to do this - to take care of maintaining my own cook top, but that I have absolutely no intention of leaving it behind when I leave if that's the way it is going to be. Either the company maintains it and I leave it - or I maintain it and leave a hole in the counter. He says to me, "Yes, yes, yes, okay." Yes, yes, yes, okay, what? Yes you will fix it and I leave it? Or, yes, I will fix it and I will leave a hole? The three men leave. Then, I take the Kids and we leave. It wasn't raining until we were a good half mile from the house - and even once it started raining it's not raining hard enough to get really wet - it's just drops of water here and there falling from the sky... Just enough to dampen all three of us. We get back to the house and the phone is ringing. It's the supervisor's supervisor again who tells me the same thing we've now discussed earlier on the phone and again face-to-face - that they will get the outside source to come repair my burner and they will come in a few days and we set the time and day but still who will be responsible for the burner has not been resolved. I tell the man, for the third or eighth time that if I have to pay to have the cook top repaired I will do so - but that I will NOT be leaving the cook top in this house when we leave. That apparently isn't acceptable - that I might be leaving a hole in the counter where the cook top is. Ahh. Finally you are understanding the problem and he promises that he will get back to me, "In Shallah." In Shallah, nothing. I know what "In Shallah" means. It means if the day doesn't end in a "Y," and if the moon and stars are all in alignment that I'll get an answer. And, since those two components are an impossibility then I'm not going to have an answer or get a resolution without making myself a crazy woman. Be forewarned...

So, if getting a simple burner fixed on a cook top that I'm not supposed to keep isn't going to be enough to make me a crazy woman I did something else today that I've been putting off because I just didn't want to deal with all that is associated with this. I called for a new houseboy. None of them have worked out so far. I've had a long list of them. I know that if I was a houseboy from some other third world country visiting this third world country in order to make a living the very last person in the world I would want to have to work for is probably me. I am beyond fussy. Everything has to be done in a perfect order and in a particular way. Lord help you in this household if it isn't done my way. I guess it's a plus that I'm not abusive - or it will be to the new household help, anyway. There is a new company here that supplies houseboys through a contract they hold. My conversation with the man I spoke to was a bit convoluted to say the least, but hopefully he understood what it is I am looking for. I've decided that I only want a houseboy three days a week for five hours each of those days. I called the number I was given and got no answer - straight to voice-mail for five or six calls. I don't want voice-mail. I want a real person. I finally get a real person at another number and am given someone's "mobile" to call. No wonder he doesn't answer his phone - he's on his mobile. Typical. Just typical. So I reach the man, we'll call him "Mr. Contractor" or "MC" for short. Our conversation went something like this...

Me: Yes, I would like to inquire about getting a houseboy.

MC: You need today? What time?

Me: No. I just want to know how I get a houseboy through your service. I have some questions. How much is it - do you charge by the hour, or per day? Do I get the same houseboy each time or are you going to send someone different? What nationality are they? Do they have experience? Will you be responsible for replacing my new vacuum* if it gets broken? You need to send someone that is not afraid of dogs - I have two big dogs.

MC: I have houseboy. It is 8 Riyals an hour. You want dog walked?

Me: No. I don't want anyone to walk my Kids. I just need for you to send someone who isn't going to be afraid of two large dogs because I will not be keeping them locked up for fifteen hours a week!

MC: Yes. Yes. Okay. Houseboy will not break machine - they experience machine. [They "have" experience with a vacuum? I'm still not sure what he was telling me, here.]

Me: 8 Riyals an hour? That's it? [That's $2.37 an hour in U.S. dollars.] How do these poor guys get paid? Do you split it 50-50?

MC: That is in their contract, Madam. You pay the supervisor.

Me: Do I pay every day, or can I pay weekly or monthly?

MC: As you wish, Madam.

I'm thinking, Good Grief, this is the cheapest rate in the entire world for a houseboy - I've been paying 20 or 25 Riyals an hour [$5.93 or $7.41]! Heck, for that rate, I'll take someone six days a week for ten hours a day! Still less than what I've been paying.

MC called me back a while later to tell me that he has someone for the hours that I want, and he assured me that whoever it is will not be afraid of my Kids, and to tell me what country he is from - which is NOT the Philippines - because I will not have another houseboy in my home that is from there. Call it racist if you want, but the Filipino houseboys have been nothing but problems for me - they are ALL trying to get over on you in some way, shape or form, they are out to beat "the system" here and don't care whether or not you catch them lying to stealing so I've had my issues with them and I have my reasons for NOT wanting them in my house. Either way, I've got a new houseboy starting on Saturday - along with a new gardener - we've got some problems with the one we have not being able to get everything done on his lunch half-hour - and it's not his fault, but I need someone who can really do gardening. Wish them both luck! And, I've got someone from an outside source coming to fix my right front stove burner, too. Oh, Saturday is going to be a great day. I can just tell!

*I purchased a new vacuum from Sears while I was in the States in February. I got a decent vacuum - not a great vacuum - and I got a canister so that I could get rid of the piece of crap upright that I had that the previous 14 houseboys have abused. The shipping - to get the new vacuum here to The Sandbox - cost more than the actual vacuum! If the vacuum gets damaged - no matter how slightly - someone is going to pay and pay dearly - to the tune of 2928 Riyals!!!

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