Update to this post by resident guest blogger, John (my hubby) Specht
Just to add a note about the staff... There are so many instances here where you want to help somebody out by giving them a job. The salaries are really not that much and working for an expat family is a very good job here. When you think about it, a good monthly wage to them is what you might spend on a Saturday night out with your friends, and it is hard to say no to people who really want to work.
The original cook we considered hiring was one such person. He really needed a job, and was even going to share the room with Narayan whose room is smaller than our closet. We really liked him, but his English was so poor it just wasn't feasible. We went into a store to buy meats together, and I was trying to tell him what chicken was (remember we hired this guy to be our cook!) I was actually acting like a chicken in the store, flapping my arms and bock bocking to demonstrate what kind of meat that was. It was like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. "Tatanka, Tatanka!", No, this wasn't going to work. Sorry!
We wanted Hema to work out, but she just didn't have the right skill set. It was especially hard for Cynthia, as Hema was her little project, but we just couldn't figure out a way to get anything,ANYTHING, out of her. I actually thought the negotiation was a bit funny. I was impressed with her nerve.....You are an overpaid, incompetent nanny who we let go because we couldn't trust her with our most valuable possession (Bruce) and you think you need more. Amazing.
Yogi and Narrayan are actually included in our rent and their salaries are paid by the landlord, but we still feel responsible for them. We have grown quite fond of them. We did not have to keep them on, we could have declined their services but the alternative was that they would would leave the jobs and the neighborhood that they have called home for the past few years. It was a win win situation for all of us and we would like for them to look back at the time they spend with our family as one of the best jobs they have ever had. We want to make a lasting difference in their lives. By that we don't mean just buy them tv's and give them a better food allowance than they had previously, we are also looking into hiring a teacher to teach them English. A skill that will most likely be beneficial for them with any expat family that might come after us. We don't need to teach them about hard work as they already have shown us that they are very conscientious and hard working employees. When this assignment is over, we think we'll have learned a whole lot more from them, then they from us.
Thou shall not steal. Being raised Catholic I should have known better (not a practicing Catholic but still remember all the teachings). Stealing is bad and you shouldn't do it. I should have listened to the Catholic angel that sits on my shoulder all these years later.....
For those who have faithfully followed my blog (all ten of you, muah!) will remember that I "stole" our new "intended" nanny from Mickey D's. I would love to tell you that her bond with Bruce grew, that she was the most amazing nanny ever and that we trusted her with out most precious little boy and we all lived in harmony for the rest of our days here but alas that was not to be. Not even close. Hema, was soft spoken and had a beautiful smile, she could get Bruce to try ice cream and she melted my heart with her attentions and affections towards Bruce, I had to have her work for me as Bruce's nanny! Perfect fit, right? So wrong. What I didn't realize when I hired her was that Hema already had two children of her own. And they were being raised by her in-laws in their home village. I understood why seeing Bruce would trigger maternal emotions in her, but what I didn't know was that though she could be sweet and could sit and play with Bruce, she didn't have a clue about "taking care of him". It didn't occur to her that he shouldn't be outside of the house unattended or that she should keep him from taking off on his bike down the road. As she was new with us I kept her and Bruce in view while I attended to the unpacking, and home start ups that I needed to accomplish to get us moved in, so it became apparent very quickly that other than being able to be "nice to Bruce" Hema did not know how to keep him safe under her care. Everyone else on our staff was helping me run after Bruce, feed him, keep him entertained while we had various electricians, water people, cable guys, movers etc in and outside of the house these past two weeks. Everyone did an outstanding job of keeping Bruce busy and happy and SAFE.....everyone but Hema. I sat every day with her and told her what I expected of her and what her job entailed. When by the second day I realized that I would never trust her alone with Bruce,( yes two days and I knew) I told her that we would train her to do other things if she was willing and we would keep her on. She agreed. But she showed no interest in learning anything and made no attempts at trying to do better in any role we gave her. I wanted her to work out, I truly liked her and even the rest of the staff would try to encourage her and give her advice on how she could do things to keep her place on staff. But she would just laugh and tell them that she was fine and ignore them. All came to a head this past Saturday when we realized that our driver was stepping up doing things that we asked of Hema and helping us with Bruce on top of everything else. We decided that day to let her go and we had already arranged with our cook to stay over that night and watch Bruce while we attended a party later that evening. It was painfully obvious that we were never going to trust Hema with Bruce. We are not unkind people, we kept trying to think of ways to keep her on as part of the staff but she truly showed no interest. The time came to let her go. So I decided to do it on Monday. Yesterday. She came in and I asked her to sit with me, I had an envelope with a full month's wage for her even though she only worked about 8 days...and only about 3 or 4 hours each day (I would send her home early rather than watch her not try to do things that were asked of her). I knew I had made a bad decision and though we all rallied and tried to find a place for her, she really wasn't interested. So...back to yesterday, me and my guilt and an envelope with a full months wage ready to tell Hema that I was very sorry but that after repeated attempts to get her to do better (she would also arrive late every day) it was time to cut our losses and let her go. She said "yes madam I understand but I require more money". Whaaaaa ut? No really what? She said, yes madam I will leave but you must pay me $2000 more rs. Guilt quickly gone, incredulity sets in....rest of the conversation went like this.
.Me: "may I ask why you think you are entitled to more than a month's pay when you worked less 8 days and for not even four hours a day?"
Hema: "I will leave when you give me $1500 more rs".
Me: "Hmmmm no."
Hema: "Okay madam, will take $1500 rs".
Hema:"Okay madam I will leave when you give me $500 rs more"
Me: I start thinking in the grand scheme of things, that isn't alot of money, and now I was really uncomfortable and just wanted her gone. Her smile seemed less sweet and now menacing. But no matter how I looked at it, we were being more than generous with her with the months pay for such a short time she was with us in which she barely worked. So I did what any person in my shoes who all of a sudden was not sure of what she was doing and was torn between principal and guilt. I went inside and told John what had happened and asked him to handle. See she wasn't budging. She said she would leave when I gave her more money. It was a little unsettling. I walked in, John walked out and the conversation went like this:
John: Hema we are very sorry but this isn't working out. Here in this envelope is a months wage. If you would like we can instead pay you hourly for the hours that you worked and pay you that instead. We thank you for your efforts but this is not working. Do you want the envelope or shall we pay you for actual time worked?
Hema: Big huge smile. I will take envelope, thank you sir:)
Uh why didn't it play out like that with me? Since yesterday, after talking with the rest of my staff, letting them know that she was no longer with us and finding out that two of them were listening in our conversation, I was advised by them that I must get used to most everything being a "negotiation". Somehow Hema had turned her termination into a negotiation. And I obviously suck at negotiation. My husband obviously was very good at it and she earned his respect when she took the envelope. Me and all my guilt and worry about her and her children in their village etc.....the rest of the staff told me she would be fine. She had never truly quit her job at Mickey D's and she enjoyed the more social, busy atmosphere of that environment than working in a home with the same people every day. It was only a matter of time. I hope she is ok and will be fine because I still feel bad about it, but know that she had to go.
So now with Hema gone. I can finally, with a huge sigh of relief, introduce you to our staff. There is a good feeling among us, when we're all together and the communication is good as well as the way that everyone pulls together to make our house run smoothly and make sure that the "little boss" (Bruce) is well taken care of.
Meet Shankar our driver, super dependable, always dressed nicely and always opens my door for me! Takes real pride in his work, we are very lucky to have him. Plus he speaks good English which is a huge help.