It’s not ok

Guilt is awfully debilitating and it has a habit of stopping you from doing a whole lot of things because…well because you feel guilty.
So, in reference to yesterdays post about the three lovely ladies that cleaned my house so beautifully (you can read about them here) let me categorically state that I do not feel guilty about letting the dust win the battle of the brooms and it has been fun to watch people slide into our front door with the skill of professional ice hockey players. Dust on shop-polished granite is as slick as ice…and amusing in the nicest of ways. What I do feel guilty about is the fact that eating cupcakes and drinking tea and listening to the stories is one thing, such a small thing that could possibly alleviate the hardship and the hurt for a brief moment in time – but then its back to the same old same old for these mothers as the future becomes the present all too soon in their children’s lives.
So what to do….
I employed, through her agency,  one of the ladies that had a gap in her schedule.   And I don’t feel guilty about it at all. Even though it’s just the two of us in this home and the dust and I are compatibly cozy.
It’s a win-win and I’ve come to look forward to Nona V. Espinola’s weekly visits and the sparkling house she leaves in her wake.
Nona comes from a family of eight children. She’s the only girl and has one daughter of her own and two sons.  Her children are cared for by their grandmother in the Philippines. They are 15, 11, 10 and she’s fiercely determined that all should get a tertiary education, unlike her. At the moment its not happening as the money she earns and sends home barely covers the cost of food for the family. Her employers keep promising a housing and food allowance but so far have not been true to their words. She sends three quarters of her salary home, and the other quarter pays for her bed in a house shared by many. She tells me that this is ok, because her aunt runs the house and allows her to pay a reduced rate. In fact her most used words are “its ok madam, its ok”. She mentions that it’s also ok to live off the food and the extra tips some of her “madams” give her. Some days she eats well, some days she eats very little.
I ask why she doesn’t look for another job as she’s marketable and has excellent English. She’d love to be a nanny in a nursery school but does not have her papers. They were stolen when she first arrived in Dubai and she cannot replace them as she has to return to the Philippines to do so but does not have a passport.  Her employers keep that (illegally) and nor does she have the money for an air ticket. She sighs, then smiles,  scrubbing the sink with extra vigour and tells me “its ok madam, its ok”.
I’m at a loss for words so revert to my standby question: “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” She laughs and replies: “Five years, no, I cannot see or think so far. I go one day at a time and I don’t allow myself to think, it makes me cry.  I sacrifice for my children and I walk with God – one day at a time, and its ok madam, its ok”
Clearly its not.
The system obviously sucks as sadly, so sadly the holding of passports and promises of pay without delivery are all too common. The Philippine Consulate (and others too, no doubt) has rooms full of people waiting for legal counsel – a long and drawn out process which can take years to resolve and that’s not ok.
So what to do….
I don’t know, and that’s also not ok. But in the meanwhile I default to what I do best …. I give her cupcakes and as she thanks me she also asks if its ok to give some to the driver that will pick her up and take her to the next job.
Of course, dear sweet Nona, its ok.  Its very ok.

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