Thursday, June 2, 2011

Life in Botswana: Staff!

Another excerpt from the journal, Life in Botswana. Just to put this post in perspective, my mother abhorred the idea of having a maid, gardener, cook, etc. She never hired anyone to do work for her, either in the house or outside in the garden. She even felt this way when my dad was getting sicker with dementia, when she sorely needed the help. As ex-pats living in Botswana, it was expected for my parents to employ help in order to provide jobs for the local people. Houses came with maids and guards. Though she hated the idea of having someone in her home every day, she put up with it because it was the right thing to do.

Our maid's name is Mary. We "inherited" her from the previous tenant. She is from a small village near the South African border, is in her forties, and she has two daughters and a grandson who do not live here with her. Mary is one of four sisters, no brothers, and she finished sixth form [grade] but her parents couldn't afford to continue her schooling though she is bright and was disappointed to leave school. She speaks and reads English. She lives in the attached room and bath but works only Monday through Friday. She begins work at 7:30 A.M. and is usually finished by noon except on Tuesdays and Fridays when she washes and irons our clothes. [Ironing of clothes is important in Africa since most people don't own dryers. Clothes are hung outdoors and therefore susceptible to mango, tumbu, or putzi fly eggs settling in while they are blowing freely on the line.] When not needed in her village for planting, harvesting, or family function (funerals are frequent here) Mary spends the weekend here but we see each other in passing only. Nancy still looks forward to weekends, enjoying our privacy and, even more, relief from guilt at having someone else do things she is perfectly capable of doing herself.

We also have twenty-four hour security guard service and Ernest, our day guard, has become another member of our menage. The guards work 12 hour shifts – imagine! Ernest has been with us for more than a year now. To counter the incredible boredom we pay him extra to be our "gardener". Nancy despairs of his incredible clumsiness – if he doesn't kill plants by raking or hosing them right out of the ground, he breaks them by stepping on them. He knows nothing whatsoever about gardening but he is a good "waterer" which is vital in this weather, especially when we are away, so we must forgive a lot. We were very fond of our night guard, Toto, who was with us for almost two years but had to leave because his commuting time and cost from his nearby village made it impractical. Their daily pay is about 10 pula (5+ dollars) which is paid by the US government.

One of our fondest memories of Botswana will be the sight of Mary and Ernest (just like Mom and Pop) standing in the driveway, smiling and waving as we left on holiday.


  1. Sarah, What a wonderful post! It reminds me of how my mother felt when we lived in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I just blogged about your house on the vineyard.


  2. Genevieve, that's so nice you wrote a whole post on my house! Just think of all the traffic it will get now. Sell, sell, sell...