So here we have a paid cleaner, I think I have mentioned that before – she comes in a few days during the week. We’re obligated to pay for a cleaner – she’s part of the family who own this house – it’s the done thing by malae. Timorese expect that if you rent a house you will also pay for a cleaner, usually a relative of someone who owns the house.
I have difficulties with this. My first problem is that although I argue to myself – hey, somebody is getting paid here to do a job – well, she’s not getting paid very much. And is the person who actually cleans getting the money? I don’t think so. I think the money just goes to the family. Of course, in a society where the family unit is more important than the individual, perhaps this isn’t such a worry – it probably pays for food she eats or something. But, I still find it difficult. Especially because we just happen to be white and she just happens to be black. And it is always a she who cleans the house.
My second problem is much more selfish. Basically, I find it difficult that we are obligated to have a cleaner – who doesn’t clean in a sense of what I understand a cleaner to do – and does other things that I wouldn’t expect or want a cleaner to do. I’d expect a cleaner to sweep and mop our floors, clean the bathroom, and perhaps the kitchen, if it was empty enough. Instead, the cleaner occasionally sweeps and mops the floors, makes our bed, occasionally changes the sheets, washes up, and – most regularly – rearranges the stuff on the table in my room, and my underwear drawer. Oh, I nearly forgot the washing. They do our washing, which is great because we don’t have to buy a washing machine, but is not so great when our clothes go missing, they don’t do the washing for a week or when our clothes become inexplicably stained.
Seriously, I don’t need my underwear drawer tidied. And I can never find my damn torch because it is always being tidied away.
The final, tiny, lame difficulty? The insistence on leaving the broom and mop outside in the muddy puddles in the backyard, where they also get wet in the rain. I just don’t get this one. I’m considering buying another mop and broom to hide in our room so that I can have clean, dry ones to use myself.
And then I ask myself, again: why the hell do we have a cleaner I feel uncomfortable about having if I have to hide cleaning products so I can clean parts of the house myself? Why?