11.13.2012

"the help".

 
(maid's quarters at bunratty castle, ireland. taken in 2010.)

Whenever I chat with someone from the US about my daily life here, it usually comes up in conversation that I have a maid. The convo always comes to a screeching halt as my friends say this:

"Wait...YOU HAVE A MAID?!"

Like suddenly they've discovered my life in Kuwait is a scene from Downton Abby...but with more sand and camels. (If only someone held a silver tray with my yoga pants + t-shirt as I dressed every morning!)

Back home (in America), having a maid is pretty unheard of...at least within my region + social group...so the reaction is completely valid. Perhaps it's not that way among wealthy Americans, but among the lower to middle class, a maid, a gardener or a cook is considered a serious "luxury". Even stating that you have a personal trainer can raise an eyebrow. Frankly, having hired help in America denotes a certain level of "status", yet we sheepishly keep it on the low-down lest someone think less of us for not doing everything with our own two hands. (It's a strange game we all play.)

But here in Kuwait, hiring a maid is absolutely normal...from the middle class to the extremely wealthy, it seems everyone has a maid. Infact, some apartment buildings simply have maid service built into your rent. You pay nothing extra, and thrice weekly a few ladies come to your door and straighten up your place. Often, Kuwaiti families have live-in maids...more than one! And, if you ever visit a mall in Kuwait, you'll see scads of mothers shopping, followed closely by a maid (nanny) pushing a stroller or holding a baby. Occasionally one maid per child, too!

There's certainly no taboo here.

When we arrived in Kuwait, we had yet to purchase mops, brooms, cleaning supplies and the like. So we thought, "Heck. Let's roll with it." We hopped on the maid bandwagon. The cost was a reasonable $100 a month, and three times weekly a very, very sweet Sri-Lanken woman showed up to clean for an hour.

But the past four months have confirmed that I am absolutely rubbish at having a maid...completely humiliated by someone else cleaning up my mess. Gabe would laugh as I tore around, muttering, "The maid is coming! Hurry and clean up!" Smoke nearly flew from my heels as I washed the dishes, and swept the floors. I closed the doors to the bedrooms, and told her not to worry about the office. Every piece of laundry was hidden, lest she think it was her job to fold my unmentionables. (It happened once. I died of embarrassment.)

And once week when the maid rang the doorbell, I'd smile and say, "You don't have to clean today! Have a good day!"

Then I'd tip her as she left...

...it's that dang American guilt. Or maybe it's because I spent a brutal summer working as a hotel maid and several years as a waitress. I couldn't help but feel badly about sprawling across my bed, reading...while a kind, underpaid woman scrubbed my floors. Floors I was perfectly capable of scrubbing.

Either way, continuing with maid service made no sense. After four months of this charade, Gabe and I put an end to our maid service...and I'm so happy to clean. There's not much to do during the day, so sweeping a few floors and doing my own dishes is a welcome distraction.

Sorry, Kuwait. Hire your maids, do your thing. No judgement! But maids just aren't for me.

Also, I've funneled the "maid money" into a new dining table + chairs. So, there's that.

Win, win. ;)

Do you have any hired help? I promise I won't judge! If not, if you had the spare cash, would you spend it on a maid?

11.08.2012

holly + jolly.



Do you ever have those days, weeks or months where it seems like everything is in your favor?

Lately, the only thing that's gone wrong was my drinking three bottles of water before a trip to the grocery store...which means when I rounded the corner to the ladies room, I was greeted by a row of frightening squat toilets....to which I replied, "NUH-uh. Never gonna happen."

Lesson learned: Always go before you leave the house.

Not to get too colorful, but just a little dose of expat life. Some things will always be trickier. ;)

But, what I meant to say before that forray into uncut reality, is that life has been coming up roses lately:

(one)   This week my girlfriend, Rachel, and I took a taxi to the mall and spent the entire day shopping. Such a treat to get out, just us girls! Not that our guys aren't a good time, but shopping with former-military husbands in tow is usually more of a mission (Operation: Get out of Pottery Barn as fast as possible), and less of a nice, girly, consumerist stroll. We both splurged for crazy over-priced glitter deer at Debenhams, sampled perfumes and planned our holiday decor.

(two)    Our house has been on the market for a week...and in that time we received four viable offers! We can't believe it. This morning we signed papers and accepted an offer that was a tad above list price. Now, it's just a truckload of paperwork...and keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes as planned. If it does, we'll be mortgage-free by December 27th...just in time to celebrate...

(three)   ...in ROME. That's right, I finally made a decision. Thanks so much for all the input! We really did consider a trip to somewhere new and Christmasy like Prague, but here's a little honesty: I just want to reconnect with my husband in a place that's familiar and still romantic. It's been a stressful, emotional year...which isn't to say it was bad...but it was a non-traditional newlywed experience in an unfamiliar country. We're prone to spatting when we travel to new places (are we alone, or is that an every couple thing?), and neither of us want to spend our time figuring out new metro cards or hopping language barriers in restaurants or cabs. So, we're sticking to a place one of us already knows...and ensuring that we're focused on each other + reconnecting after the crazy year we've had.

Well, in addition to focusing on drinking wine + scoopfuls of gelato, that is. ;) Honestly, I can't wait to return, to show Gabe all my favorite little spots in Rome.

Maybe it's the glitter deer, maybe it's my early Christmas tunes. But life is feeling pretty good.

Hope it's the same for you, friends! :)

11.06.2012

holiday choices.

oh, holiday bokeh. i love you.
 
Throughout the past two months, I kept pestering Gabe about the holidays: Where are we going? Who are we seeing? Can I afford to buy a glitzy holiday dress?

Answers were: No clue. We'll talk about it later. Duh, yes, that's a wife's non-negotiable.

With November 1st looming, Gabe and I finally had to get serious about holiday plans. The most time we could take away from Kuwait, given that we have a little furball who would have to be boarded, was 12 days...and with travel days to, from and within the US...that left us with 4 days with each of our families. All of those days we'd probably spend completely jetlagged. And one of those days, New Years Eve, is our first anniversary. Tres romantique? I think not.

The total airfare cost: six thousand dollars. (Not included: rental cars, lodging, incidental meal costs.)

We love our families. But we also love logic. So, we decided to forego the US, in favor of a week-long Christmas-New Years getaway in Europe. Much less travel, cheaper than a US trip, and actually relaxing for my husband...who works 12 hour days and has not taken more than a weekend off since we arrived in Kuwait.

Obviously there are a lot of emooootions (said with dramatic flair) around not being home for Christmas for the first time in 26 years. But whatever. Emotions-smotions. We're skipping all that today, because I just don't have it in me. And a holiday in Europe? Shut yo' whiny trap, girl!

We narrowed down our getaway options to two:

Paris. Ah. Paris feels like that amazing five inch heel you see in a window. It's glitzy and glamorous...everything you aren't. You know it's going to be a teensy uncomfortable. It's going to pinch and leave you fully aware that you do not fit the shoe...but you don't care. You just want to try it on, and totter about for six hours pretending it belongs in your life. Then, you spend the next few days nursing the wounds, wondering how foolish you looked pretending that shoe fit. But who cares! It was fantastic.

Or at least that was my first experience with Paris. Regardless, the Paris "pro" list is still long: The Eiffel Tower. Skating rinks galore. Macarons. We got engaged there, so spending our first anniversary there would be apropos. (Ew. Please note that I only reached deep into the recesses of my vocabulary for that word because it's French.) Baguettes and wine and fancy cheeses. Making out in public. I know a passable bit of French and could bone up on it throughout the next few weeks.

Cons: A bit of a language barrier. The people are more reserved, and I find getting around to be more difficult than I did in Rome. And, contrary to every photo you've seen...no fireworks at the Eiffel Tower at midnight...fireworks are reserved for Bastille Day, and the turn of the millennium (apparently they did it up in '99).

And then there's Rome. Rome is so, so easy it feels like my favorite ballet flats...pale pink with gold tips. Sensible, comfortable...and it's got a sweetness to it that can't be beat. You could probably wear those shoes forever. The people don't look at you funny and you don't stand out as much as you thought, so it's not a stretch to feel your shoes might belong in the sweet streets of Rome for a very long time.

Since I visited Rome in August, it's still close to my heart and the "pros" are fresh: I know the lay of the land well. It's absolutely charming...cobbled streets, shuttered windows. Gabe hasn't visited. The food is delicious, the wine flows like water. They're said to have a fantastic New Years party in a few piazzas. Also, making out in public.

Con: It's not Paris....? Really. It's dreamy, but there's no Eiffel Tower.

Gabe has left this in my hands. The hands of the MOST indecisive person you've ever met. Naturally, I'm so torn and if we don't make a decision soon...we'll likely find ourselves in Kuwait for the entire holiday. Womp-womp.

What do you think, guys...Paris or Rome? If you had to spend Christmas  + New Years away from home, where would you go?

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