Maid in Nicaragua

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 8.50.47 PMTwo times in my life I hired a maid and two times in my life, I had to let them go. The first time was when I lived in the states. I was working two jobs and my obsessive house cleaning routine got the best of me. A friend recommended a professional domestic housekeeper that cleaned for her. She wasn’t cheap and she was bonded, which made me feel better about hiring a housekeeper. She also told me to leave a list of the things I wanted done on a weekly basis.

I followed her advise and included in the list, “Clean the baseboards and the ceiling fans.” The next day the new housekeeper unloaded on my friend, showed her my list, and said that I was a slave driver and she was not a servant. I had to let her go.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I felt extremely uncomfortable hiring a domestic housekeeper. It stemmed from the collective uneasiness many women have in the U.S. of the idea of hired household help. We think it sounds nice, but maybe a little indulgent. I wondered if I would seem snobby, entitled, and spoiled. After all, I was a middle-class woman with all the modern and time-saving devices that made multi-tasking a breeze.

But, most of all, I felt guilty. I read the book The Help, I saw the sexy maid costumes at Halloween, and Downton Abbey sure didn’t help to change my perceptions of servants.
In my mind a servant, a maid, and a domestic housekeeper were all the same. The terms all had a derogatory feel to them. They brought up the same bad connotations, regardless of which word I used to describe them. And letting go of the housekeeper I had for one day confirmed my perceptions.

However, the perceptions of a maid, domestic housekeeper, and servant vary throughout the world. In Nicaragua, it is very common to have a housekeeper for expats and locals. Here is an excellent article about hiring Domestic Help in Nicaragua.

My perceptions still did not change, no matter how common it was to have a housekeeper. I was going to clean my house, my way. But then, the first swarm of chayules infested every crack and crevice of my house, the dust in the dry season blanketed every solid surface, the termites ate my paperback books and left encrusted trails all over the walls, and the chicken poop on the bottom of my flip-flops left impossible to remove tracks all over my tile floors. I had to have help to save my sanity. ( I think my next post will be about helpful time-saving cleaning tips in the tropics.)

Some previous posts of the good fight I attempted in keeping my house clean in the tropics.
Battling Bugs
Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

One small mound of dead chayules

One small mound of dead chayules

My closest neighbor wanted work, and I hired her to clean our house three mornings a week. I knew her well and I trusted her completely. We had been friends for at least four years and we shared our lives as women living in Nicaragua.

I had never really had a housekeeper before and I was not sure how this housekeeper thing worked in Nicaragua. All I knew was that she was my friend, I needed help, and she needed work. I was sure that we could make it work with respect, kindness, and an understanding of cultural differences.

The first day she came to work for us, she told me that she had cleaned houses for foreigners in Costa Rica. As she flapped her rag all over the house to remove the dust, she said, “I didn’t like working for gringas. They were bossy.” Then, she disgustedly wiped her finger across the newly flapped surface of the table to show me how the gringas checked every spot she cleaned.

That was my first mistake. I understood that she was a proud woman, but I didn’t understand how pride ruled her life. She had little in the way of material possessions, but she was very proud of her appearance, her life as a mother, a friend, and her work. As a teacher, I always knew who needed a little extra pat on the back.

Here is my second mistake. Because I understood that she was a proud woman, I never told her what to do and how to do it. She was a friend that came to work at my house and I paid her a good salary for doing just that. Besides, she had plenty of experience in cleaning houses for foreigners in Costa Rica.

Not everything was perfect in the house cleaning world. We had our problems. She was kind of bossy and stubborn, but I could avoid that by going outside to work in the garden and let her have the house to herself. When she was finished, she never failed to show me how dirty the mop was and her filthy dust-flapping rag. She was a very proud woman.

Pride takes a turn for the worst. I should have seen it coming…

We have house sitters several times a year, and I usually had problems with my housekeeper when the sitters arrived. They would tell me that she stomped off in a rage and they couldn’t understand what they had said or done. I was puzzled, too. I asked her what happened and she would always respond, “They don’t respect me. They don’t treat me the same way you treat me.”

Last October, a friend that lives on the island house sat for me. She told my housekeeper that she was using too much Clorox.  My friend said, “You are the employee and Debbie is your boss. You can be sure that I will tell her about this.” Once again, my housekeeper stomped off in a rage and refused to return.

Pride and Revenge…

Pride can be a wonderful feeling. We all want to take pride in what we do and can accomplish. My housekeeper was proud of her ability to clean houses. I recognized her efforts  all the time…said I couldn’t do this without her. I complimented her because I understood her pride.

The first day she returned to clean after our vacation, she was slapping her dust rag around our house like a woman gone wild. I knew something was bothering her, but she wouldn’t tell me.

The passion for revenge is strong, yet sometimes our intuitive logic about revenge is twisted, conflicted, and dangerous. It is a misguided attempt to transform shame and humiliation into pride. My housekeeper was a very proud woman and she was humiliated by my house sitter. In turn, she took revenge on us because we were friends with our house sitter.

I had to let her go…

I wish I could say that we patched up our differences and discussed this logically, but we haven’t talked in 6 months.

I wanted to tell you this story, not because I want answers about how to fix this problem with my former housekeeper, but to tell you the lessons I have learned from it for I am partly to blame.

Lessons learned…

1. Always create respectful boundaries when hiring help. Sometimes being a caring friend in an employment situation makes it difficult to set boundaries, especially when they come to your house daily to talk, eat, and have fun as a friend. It is hard to hire friends.

2. Try to understand and respect the cultural differences. This is a hard one because I have lived in Nicaragua for 12 years and some of the cultural aspects are still a mystery to me. I am an infant in a strange, strange world sometimes.

3. Accept that you are a foreigner and you will never be a Nicaraguan. I will never fit in completely.

4. Understand pride and the consequences of shame and humiliation. I never intended to shame or humiliate my housekeeper. Yet, now I understand that her pride was deeply hurt and pride is what we value the most.

I bought a wet/dry shop vac. I can whiz through my house sucking up all the chayules, dust and bugs. I love my shop vac now that I am back to cleaning my house.

IMG_1369Will I ever hire a maid, or servant, or housekeeper again? Probably not. I haven’t had much luck in that area. Instead, I will learn to let go…let go of my obsessive routine of cleaning all the time because it is useless in the tropical climate…let go of revengeful consequences of damaged pride…and let go of the hurt and the pain I may have unintentionally given to others.

Let’s talk: Do you use, are you considering using, or have you used paid help? What kind of help? When and why did you decide to hire them? How did you go about it? Did you hit any bumps in the road? 


32 thoughts on “Maid in Nicaragua

  1. Hello , yes it is a good Story, today I was writing a poem about chayules, and I came across your story, funny in a way because i was born and race in Nicaragua, move to Calgary Canada when i was 19 years old ,and guest what yes,we have to do house keeping,and cleaning here , to be honest,when I was in Nicaragua we always have people that came and help us in the house we are so used to it that we take it for grated , when i came here and realize i have to do my own Landry I was in shock , hahaha , so funny the machine does it all , but it is very cultural Nicaraguans are very proud people ,friendly but get offended easily for the wrong things most of the time , it is very Mayan things ,Nahuatl I can explain the used of bleach executive , but chemical abuse in Nicaragua is very common you should know better if you have been whit our country fro 12 years , see how we used Zepol, hahaha it is crazy , i did read the story and the manifesto guy that said the broken things were been hidden from them , frustration hahaha it is typical too we discard things with out asking mostly because we thinks we are going to lost the job , ok Gringos is an other story ,maid are not maids they are called helpers or house helpers something like that now , they are so sweet , but all the drama I understand why you don’t want that in your life anymore at it is true it a bit of luck to find one , but the teacher i don’t know her but stub urns is very common thing back home,i hope this still paradise for you not all us are like that . Nicaragua still is a great Country . to visit and have fun.

    • Oh, I enjoy your comments so much! You are writing a poem about chayules? I would really like to read it. Everything you said about helpers is so true. I love Nicaragua and especially the people, but I have to be so careful not to offend because of our cultural differences. I am learning! Jeje
      Where did you live in Nicaragua? It must have been near the lake if you are familiar with the chayules. We are traveling for the months of March-May, mainly because it is so hot in Nicaragua now, and our house sitter had to deal with a swarm of chayules. No matter how we try to close in the house with screen doors, and other things, those stinky chayules still get into the house. But we still love Nicaragua!

  2. We made many mistakes in hiring house cleaning persons, and we knew better than to do what we did. We hired neighbors, we made friends with them, we got involved in their lives and we had social engagements with them. To some degree, they become dependent on us, but so did we on them.

    Our house cleaners are a single mother in her late 40s and her now 21 year old daughter. We knew them casually as neighbors and when we sought housekeeping help, our landlady recommended Sra. S and her daughter Srta. M. This was 4 years ago.

    They are very industrious, although they did not take instruction well. They work very independently, although that has moderated in the last year or so. We had to adapt to their methods and to some extent, we had to accommodate each other as to working hours. In the first year or so, many household items were broken, particularly by the daughter, then about 18 y/o who usually sloughed off responsibility. Although we never insisted that they pay for things that they broke, we were confounded when breakage was hidden from us. Honesty in terms of stealing was never a question, but we considered it dishonest to hide breakage, substitute maladapted replacements from the neighboring aunts house, and it all finally came to an explosive denouement when M broke a bedside lamp, as Susie stood and watched in frustrated rage. Susie exploded when M said something like “It wouldn’t have broken if it hadn’t been placed so near the edge of the night stand.”

    It was not a pleasant moment. I stepped in and with more calm, yet suppressed anger addressed M that “It seems as if nearly every time that you work, something breaks. But worse, you often hide it from us.That isn’t right. You must work with more care. The breaking of the glass microwave plate, that you then substituted with your tía’s …”

    M: “It slipped from my hands while I was washing it.”
    Me: “If you used less soap, things would be less slippery.” (And I thought of stained and damaged bath towels, a result of the excessive cloro used in cleaning the bathroom. and I thought of our damaged stove top, etched and plugged up by alkaline cleaners and abraded by pumice. And the missing (SURPRISE!?) light housing in the refrigerator!)

    Soon after, we went to Oaxaca for 3 weeks. When we returned, I wrote a short manifesto outlining the steps to achieving happiness in your work. From that point, there was a turnaround in performance and attitude in Srta. M. The mother, Sra, S. was never a problem. Maybe it was our absence, maybe it was the manifesto, or both. But from then on, we had almost no problems.

    We are still friends, although we have distanced ourselves somewhat and are involved in each others’ lives. In general, I find this relationship to be both gratifying and positive.
    The social relationship was one fraught with many complications and challenges, but that’s not germane to the discussion here.

    Don Cuevas

    • Oh the account of your experiences with domestic help is priceless. I can’t imagine Susie in a frustrated rant. I don’t think I have ever seen her angry, but it sounds like when she reaches the boiling point, she explodes.
      I do think the social relationship has a lot to do with hiring a housekeeper, and that is probably one of the main reasons it didn’t work our for us.
      Can you share your manifesto with me? I would love to see it. That is a great idea.
      Thanks Michael, for sharing you experiences and your wisdom with us.

  3. Sorry, this reply is long, but wanted you to hear my story.

    I too had reservations about hiring someone to clean my house, but had to admit to myself that I was not very good at it. Thankfully, I am a neat person by nature so picked up after myself.
    When I lived in Costa Rica, I had a cleaner in every two weeks to do the “heavy” stuff. It always made me feel good to come home to a fresh clean house. However, I soon discovered, the culture was to move thing to “show” they had cleaned, and would spend days trying to find stuff. In addition, they seemed to have an attitude that if it was above their line of vision, it did not need cleaning. Much to say, it was rare that the top of my fridge was clean.

    When I settled here in the Philippines, I observed that most people (not just foreigners) have “staff”. A house cleaner, outside worker, nanny, etc. Once I took over the farm, I realized quickly that it was not a social thing, but expected and needed.

    In my first week, I hired the brother of a friend’s worker. He was 19, limited English and no experience. He was super shy and rarely talked. However, it was just the two of us (at the time lived in the house) and through using a translation dictionary we managed. After a year, I consider him my right hand man, protector and guide to the culture. We have built up a respect for each other and our positions, I as the boss and he as my caretaker, but share jokes and life stories. I credit this to my many years in the corporate world being a manager of 20 people and the Philippine culture of being caregivers. It works really well.

    In January, I hired a second person as the farm had expanded to include animals. Again, very shy and no experience. When I hired him, I made it clear that he was to report to my caretaker and not me. This made a big difference in a positive way. My caretaker went from having to cook for us, light cleaning and looking after the farm, too traveling with me, be more active on the farm and built his confidence to be able to manage someone.

    The growth that I have seen in them is amazing. They have come out of their shells and now speak excellent English. (Also my teachers of the local language)

    As they were working all day on the farm, in March, decided to hire a woman to come in three days a week to clean and cook lunch. She was highly recommended by a foreigner friend. At first she was great, but quickly realized she spent most of her time cooking and not cleaning. Even my “boys” were complaining about the waste of food. The floors (my priority) swept, but not washed, windows not cleaned, etc. Recently she has started to back talk to me. Time to go.

    The search began again and I am happy to report that I found a perfect solution. I am sponsoring a 16 year old with an opportunity to go to a private school, live in my house and in return, she will do the cleaning needed. I have created a cleaning list that includes big jobs that she can choose from based on her study schedule. A give and take for both of us.
    P.S. best advice I received is always hire someone from outside your neighbourhood.

    • Oh, Nance! I never thought about the line of vision, but you are right. When the chayules swarm, we get big clumps of them and they cling to the rafters. It bugs the heck out of me…pun intended. 😉 I bought one of those long poles with the duster at the end, but my housekeeper would never use it. She never saw anything above her.
      You make an important point about delegating, managing, and doling responsibility a little bit at a time. With your experience as a manager, you understand pride, limits, and balance. Those are things I am learning the hard way, particularly in this culture.
      What a great idea in sponsoring a young woman. And the list of chores from which she can choose depending on her schedule gives her flexibility. It sounds like the perfect working relationship.
      Thanks so much for sharing your story. Hugs from Ometepe.

  4. I never had problems with having domestic help – I was used to domestic help since birth. My grandmother had a few, my mother only one. This does not mean I never had troubles with domestic help. It happened, though not offen. I lived in several countries, often having – at least at first – a limited knowledge of the local lingo, especially as it pertained to housekeeping, since I am an ignoramous at it: I don’t know how to do it. So I never tell a maid either what I want to have done or – much less so – how to do it. I tell her only what I want the house to look like when it is being cleaned or I will not pay until it looks the way it should. And I usually overpay for housekeeping – relative to the so called going rate. I never lived in Nicaragua, but in several other Central American countries like Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize. My Costarican maid had fun at my expense when she noticed I used a pila to … plant mesclune before a rainy season, as it had a roof. Soon the whole village of Monteverde knew what I used the pila for and they all recognized me and smiled. She helped me fit in. My Belize maid was very efficient and a hard worker (excellent as a launderer, for example), but had a tendency to forget washing windows once a week (those operable glass slats are perhaps not easy to wash or a local habit was to wash them less often) and I had to remind her, but she never took offence. I was always polite and friendly and a good paying job was hard to find there.

    • Oh Maria, I agree with your thoughts on the operable glass slat windows. I have them in my house too. I was warned not to get them because they are a pain to clean, and my housekeeper only cleaned them once. I should have listened. Someday, I am going to replace them.
      We use our pila to start sweet potato cuttings. I never thought it was weird because we use it for the garden only. But, I had to laugh at the comments of your neighborhood. We experienced the same thing here, too.
      Thanks for sharing your experiences with domestic help. Everyone has different perceptions and different experiences.

    • I would sincerely advise AGAINST replacing the glass slats windows with ones that have metal slats instead. They can be a death trap, especially if there is only one entry/exit. I once almost died when accidentally locked in a remote mountain cabin (with not even an emergency cell phone coverage) in Puerto Rico with less than two liters of water and NO insulin, while not expecting a soul to come by for at least three days. Glass slats could be broken in an emergency, metal slats cant.

  5. I don’t know how typical your ex-maid was of Nicaraguans in general, but it sounds like her obsessive pride led her to forget who was boss. In the absence of abuse, an employer paying someone has every right to tell them what to do and how to do it. I’m 68 and have had many jobs, some that weren’t fun, and some with difficult bosses. It was my choice to suck it up, or walk.

    It seems you feel guilty over this situation; you shouldn’t. You tried to help this woman out and she dropped the ball with her attitude. I keep hearing that poverty is terrible in Nicaragua and that people there are in dire need of paying work. Apparently your neighbor didn’t think so.

    One more major lesson learned beyond not hiring friends. Don’t hire people that live so close to you that you have to see them daily if things go south.

    • Boy, your last sentence is the key, Tom. I have learned the hard way for sure. 🙂 I try not to generalize because every situation is different. I only wanted to share my story. However, I must have written about an issue that many people can relate to because it has been shared so many times.
      Thanks for your comment and your thoughts, Tom.

  6. We’ve enjoyed having a maid on and off during the years but found the intrusion inconvenient at times as well. It’s too bad that your misunderstanding with your neighbor has cost you a friend but oh, that pride thing … And it really can be difficult to balance the dual roles of boss and friend/neighbor at the same time. However, it sounds like a wet/dry vac has come to your rescue (plus you can admire the piles of dead bugs) and letting go of your former ideas of spin-and-span in a new environment will keep you saner, too! Anita

    • Anita you have verified my reservations about hiring domestic help. It is a shame that my neighbr’s pride destroyed our friendship. Friendships and work relationships can be complicated, then you throw in the language and cultural barriers and they become mysterious and frustrating at times. I tried to stress the dangers of hurt pride in a work relationship without going into all the details of the revengeful acts of my housekeeper. I still don’t it understand completely.
      Truthfully, I am relieved that she isn’t working here anymore. There was a lot of drama. Sometimes I felt like I was living in a novela. But, she is still my closest neighbor, and now I have to watch out for her revengeful acts. Let me just say, they aren’t pretty.
      At least I have my shop vac. Lol

      • IMO, it was your house sitter who was to blame for not keeping her (?) criticisms to herself. It is not the privilege of guests to instruct or correct “the help”.

        Don Cuevas

        • Well, it goes much deeper than that, but I didn’t include all the drama. I think it was my house sitter telling her that she was an employee that caused things to escalate. Things went downhill quickly after that, and then the revengeful acts started. It was horrible. I am glad it’s over.

  7. I live in the States and for years had a Housekeep for 5 1/5 days a week, then 3 , then twice. Now that the majority of children are gone, once a week. I hate having to find new help…this last one lasted about 5 years, but I have had them last 10 years. I lost mine about a month ago and it will probably take me six months to find someone I trust. Do they clean like I do…? ..NO…but they do the heavy scrubbing…and as a matter of fact my last one was useless but useless was better than my having to do get on my knees and scrub showers, bathtubs, toilets etc. but something you mention is the most important…BOUNDRIES . They are not your friend. They are there to get a job done.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Jones. Yep, lesson learned. Boundaries are so important and I think that by hiring a friend who felt comfortable and at ease in my house, it led to many problems. Good luck in finding your next domestic housekeeper that you can trust. I think you will be successful as long as they understand your expectations.

  8. I’ve never hired any help, although at times it has crossed my mind. I work PT and sometimes it ends up being more hours than I previously thought. I’m usually too tired to clean house. This place is always dusty too, living in a desert environment. Plus I don’t think anyone can clean the house the way I would. I guess, because of these issues, it’ll have to get cleaned when I get to it.

    • Sunni, thanks for your thoughts on hiring a housekeeper. I am so obsessive about keeping my house clean that it has become overwhelming at times. Now that we live in the tropics in an open air home, it is really hard to keep it clean. One day a friend came to visit and she asked how I kept my house so clean. I told her that it took several hours every morning and by the afternoon, it was impossible to tell that I cleaned. Such is life in the tropics where everything from the outside makes a home inside. I am learning to let it go and not be so meticulous about my house, but it is hard!

  9. When went to Tanzania in 1974 on a USAID contract with three sons ages 5,4, and 9 months, we were provided with housing. On our very first day there, we walked into our new house and there stood Lori, a woman who had taken care of the house for previous residents. She walked up to me and said -” I come with the house!”. I didn’t dare disagree and thought, well, let’s see how this is going to work. She was an older woman with grown kids and she became our boys’ second mom. She allowed me space to work; she took care of our sons for the 8 years we were in Tanzania and, Peter, our youngest who is going to be 43, still talks about Lori and returned to work in Tanzania after he finished college. Lori passed away many years ago, but I am every grateful to her for insisting that we give her a job on that first day in Tanzania. She taught me that it takes a village to raise a family, to take care of a house, to run a business. I think there is potential to have a very positive experience in both directions as long as there are clear expectations from the beginning. Thanks, as always, for raising an important issue.

    • Joyce, I had no idea that you lived in Tanzania for 8 years. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. You were so fortunate to have Lori in your life. She sounded like a beautiful caring soul. I think we need to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about housekeepers and our experiences with them and your thoughtful post encourages us to look beyond the differences and stresses the similarities that we, as women have all over the world. Thank you for this.

  10. My impression is that Nicaraguans do use a lot of Clorox for sterilizing things — and probably here that isn’t a bad thing.

    I have snapped at someone who brought me sweetened coffee at breakfast. I was teased for months about my lapse from proper adult behavior. I did have enough sense not to whine to their boss about the teasing.

    My thinking is that my Nicaraguan friends will be my friends far longer than the average expats who’d never have lived in a Hispanic neighborhood in the US, or had Hispanic friends and who will go back home once they figure out that Nicaragua is run by people who are not Anglos or even that white.

    Why not tell the woman who has been your friend in a strange country that she doesn’t have to worry about that particular pair of fussy, demanding gringos in her or your life again?

    I have heard from a Kazakh who was amused by how the gringos and the Nicaraguans saw each other that we are considered fussy and demanding. It’s true.

    Our children’s readers don’t have the stories about the smart servant and the dumb patron that the Nicaraguan school books do. Treating Nicaraguans as “the help” in the US style will not work. They don’t see themselves as dumber than we are, and a housekeeper considers herself an expert on cleaning houses, not a menial.

    • Rebecca, you always post thought provoking things and I am grateful for your perspective. I wish the problem with my housekeeper was only about Clorox. But it goes much deeper than that and is more complicated. Basically it is about damaged pride and the revenge that follows. Her revengeful acts have hurt me so much, and I continue to be at a loss as to what to do. Things have calmed down a bit after 6 months of ignoring her. But, she lives beside us, so it is very difficult. One of my local friends jokingly suggested building a wall between our properties and she can pay for it. I wonder where he got that idea? Haha
      Your last paragraph is truly an eye opener. Yes, it is true. The Nicaraguan women are proud and hard working women. They are the glue that holds the family together. Nothing is considered menial in their lives. For some of the women living in poverty, the only real thing they have is their pride. And it can be a dangerous thing when one feels as if they have been shamed or humiliated because it turns into a twisted kind of revenge for what one perceives as righting the wrongs…and that hurt and pain transends cultural boundaries.

  11. I remember last October! Someone was busy reading e-mails from two different parties and trying to figure out what was going on in her house.

  12. Oh Debbie, you brought back so many memories of my own struggles with this! I remember the day I decided I needed help around the house. I was in a Master’s program and working full time. I noticed one weekend, that the bathroom really needed cleaning, but I had a paper to research and write. I was frozen trying to figure out how to manage both: “Clean the bathroom?” “Write the paper?” were going back and forth in my head like the proverbial angel and devil on one’s shoulders. That was the day I decided to hire someone to clean thoroughly, once a month. I could manage the rest. That it even occurred to me is undoubtedly because my mother had a weekly cleaning lady, even though my mother didn’t go out to work. However, our neighbors in London had a full-time maid, so hiring a cleaner seemed reasonable at the time. Currently I live and work in California. I typically leave my house around 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. and return around 9:00 p.m. By then, I’m exhausted and hungry, so I veg. out in front of the TV over dinner, check email and Facebook, and go to bed. That’s 4 days a week. The fifth is dedicated to my health: doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping, chiropractic, massage–whatever it takes to keep this within-shouting-distance-of-70-year-old body functioning. The weekend is all that’s left to prepare for retirement, which means emptying out my house in order to sell it. And the longer that takes, the longer I have to keep working. The saga of each of the cleaning ladies/crews I have hired over the years is probably worth a blog post in itself, but overall, I’m happy to have a clean (if untidy) house and the time to dedicate to preparing to retire.

    One other thought: when I was in a Spanish language home-stay with one family in Granada, I learned a bit about Nicaraguans and their own hired help. My hostesses were two sisters with two sons the same age who had undoubtedly inherited their full-size Colonial from family members (there were dressers full of sets of china and glassware suggesting elegant dinner parties). The sisters both had academic credentials, however their work was selling cleaning products in a little store close by. One day I came home from Spanish school to find a complete stranger in the kitchen: an older woman who was cleaning dishes and who served me lunch. Another day, it was a young woman. Neither made any attempt to introduce themselves to me or socialize and I came to understand that the sisters hired them to take care of household chores while they minded the store. I don’t doubt that when I finally settle in Nicaragua I will be paying someone to clean for me and I won’t feel at all guilty, since I will be providing employment and have to follow all the laws about how to do that. To my mother, a vacation meant not having to cook. To me retirement means not having to clean!

    Gosh, Debbie, this is longer than your post!! I’m sorry! I guess I must have needed to get it off my chest!! Thank you for a memory- and thought-provoking post!

    • Oh Claire, I love you. I am glad that some of my posts encourage people to respond and provide some thought provoking questions to which we can all relate. Off topic, but I wish I could put prepositions at the end of my sentences. It sounds so formal to say “to which”. Lol
      Anyway, you brought up many memories for me of trying to juggle work and household maintenance. I don’t know how I did it all. I can’t imagine how you are juggling all those aspects of getting ready to retire, selling your house, and preparing to move abroad. It makes me exhausted just reading your comments. Jeje
      I think I know where the local ladies live in Granada. There are many beautiful old Colonials that have been passed down through the generations. And they are huge, with open courtyards, and in need of constant maintenance. It only makes sense to hire housekeepers to keep the household organized and running smoothly.
      I can relate to the the pride issue, too. For months I have asked Ron if I can hire someone to close in our bathroom, so it isn’t exposed to the outside. I like the open air feeling, but it is impossible to keep clean. He refuses to hire someone because he says he can do a better job than a local construction crew. He is probably right, but I really don’t like the idea of him climbing ladders and carrying heavy materials anymore. We are getting too old for that, and we really need some help. His pride stands in the way, and of course we get into arguments about it and it never gets done.
      OK. Now, I’ve written a book to respond to your book. I really need to go clean my house, now. I send you patience, preserverance, and strength as you prepare for a big transition in your life. I have no doubts that you will accomplish everything in a thoroughly organized way.

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