Thursday, May 29, 2008

"I just want to get back to my family alive."

Doesn't seem like getting back to your family alive would be asking too much. Ya think? Why is it that so many "employers" of domestic help, here, seem to think that they have the right and are permitted to abuse the people that work for them?

I have three people working for me - HB15 [Houseboy No. 15], G6 [Gardener No. 6] and Poolman [the same one for eight months! a record!]. And, although I've fired a slew of houseboys and replaced my gardeners due to circumstances that have absolutely nothing to do with whether their work was satisfactory - not once in the five years we've been here have I ever abused the help.

Not once have I thrown a shoe at a houseboy or beat him senseless with a mop. Not to say that I've not spoken sternly to a few of them - or walked away muttering under my breath that HB13 was "dumb as a box of rocks" or that HB14 "just doesn't understand that this is my house and he doesn't know who he's dealing with..." I probably swear at them under my breath as I walk away muttering. No, not probably. I do swear. "Fucking idiots. I'm surrounded by fucking idiots." But, in all fairness, these guys really can't be blamed for being "fucking idiots." They probably aren't; they just don't understand English, for the most part, and I speak none of whatever language it is that they speak so communication is a big problem. Along with the fact that in Bangladesh or India or Sri Lanka they probably don't use the variety of different cleaning products that I require them to use and therefore they have no idea that Clorox Clean-Up isn't furniture polish, or that Lysol Bathroom Cleaner isn't supposed to be used to spot clean carpet. They have never seen a Hoover FloorMate before coming to work for me, and they probably think that my liberal use of Bounty papertowels is disgraceful. [Yes, Mom, it is. And I'm not going to feel guilty about it so just don't even start with me about the papertowels.]

In their countries a bucket of water, soap [?], and a rag is probably used to clean everything - and it is likely that their wives or mothers or sisters take care of the cleaning, so cleaning in my home for me is something they've had to come here to do because they need a job and what I require of them is akin to sending them to walk on the moon. But still, it has never once occurred to me to beat them for some minor infraction such as putting a waste basket on my buffet.

This poor woman came to The Sandbox "hoping to make enough money to build a house" for her "aging mother and only daughter." Jamila was hired for a monthly salary of 600 Riyals; that's $160.85 in U.S. dollars. Even if she would have worked a forty-eight hour week - that's six, eight-hour days - her wages would be about seventy-seven cents an hour! Seventy-seven cents!!! I have no doubt that she probably worked twelve and fourteen hour days - seven days a week - thus her hourly wage would have been between thirty-seven to forty-four cents an hour. Thirty-seven cents an hour!!!

What are the benefits she got, on top of her thirty-seven cents and hour? Leftovers - if she got food at all, no medical care, put outside when her "employers" left the house, not allowed any contact with her family, and beaten unconscious. WTF?!? Slavery may have been abolished in the rest of the world, but it is alive and thriving in The Sandbox. Honestly, no matter how hungry or desperate you are in whatever third-world country you live in, coming here to work is NOT the answer. Do not do it. Just. Don't!

Although this article says, "Though majority of these housemaids are treated well, cases of abuse and torture by abusive employers have increased recently, reason why housemaids run away." [Sic.] [The Saudi Gazette can never be accused of doing a thorough editing job... Perhaps it should have said, "Though the majority of these housemaids are treated well... increased recently, and is the reason why housemaids run away."] Regardless. It is the very, very rare article that demonstrates a housemaid has been treated well - I've seen only ONE in the entire time I've been reading two papers a day, for FIVE years. ONE. That's it. The rest of the articles published in the papers detail the abuse and torture the housemaids are subjected to at the hands of their merciless employers here in The Sandbox and my archives are laden with posts detailing just some of the horrors subjected upon the housemaids who come to work in The Sandbox. I don't believe for one skinny minute or split nanosecond that the "majority of these housemaids are treated well." Nope. Not buying it. Just. Not.


  1. Interesting blog. I can identify with this. I am an Indian, and lived in Kuwait for quite some time. Housemaids there are treated maybe a tad bit better, but it is equally common to hear stories such as this one. The only good thing is that they have the right to run to their embassies, and they usually take care of it. However, things are still difficult because employers keep their passports, and many believe that suffereing abuse is better that poverty. Anyhow, the shocking point is that Indian employers dont treat them with respect either. I have seen my so called friends verbally abusing their maids. And because these maids do not get the specified salaries, they work 2-3 houses more, at the end suffering not only the abuse but also overwork. Poverty makes people bear a lot of things.

  2. I suspect you are right, SS, that "Poverty makes people bear a lot of things." What IS despicable though, is the treatment of these impoverished soles meted out to them by employers. Where is the humanity?!?


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