House help. It means to hire someone who helps around the house. I knew this was an expected part of life in Kenya, especially in Nairobi, but I didn’t expect the myriad of emotions involved!
Meet Sarah. She was introduced to me shortly after we arrived. Her first day with us I felt awkward. Embarrassed. Inept. Curious. Excited. Unsure. Expectant. While Sarah speaks Swahili and Kikomba, she is also pretty fluent in English. So when I asked her if she could make tortillas, she said “Ndiyo!” That means yes! She can read recipes with little assistance, organizes her day to get everything accomplished, works hard, doesn’t complain, has a cheerful attitude, and is an amazing cook!
Those first few times I hovered. I felt a bit useless in my own house as she swept and mopped the floors (which get really dusty in just a day), did the laundry (everything is hung on the clothesline but we do have washer!), did all the dishes, cooked meals, made chai, cleaned vegetables (water is not safe for us to drink or wash veggies/fruit in, so we have to soak them in a special solution and then rinse in filtered water), etc. etc. I kept thinking, “I can do that” or “I SHOULD be doing that” or “I’m secretly glad she is doing that but I feel bad about thinking that way!” (example: I hate cutting up a fresh pineapple, so we tend to have pineapple only when Sarah is here.)
But slowly, slowly I’ve realized that not only is Sarah a huge help to our busy household, her twice weekly presence allows me to focus on the kids’ schooling more, catch up on emails without worrying about laundry and supper prep, spend time with God, take a walk to the market, visit with a friend, have a language class, get to other tasks that I keep putting off. You get the idea.
While I still tend to hover a little, Sarah and I have become comfortable with each other. The boys love her cooking skills and are grateful for the two days a week they don’ t have to help with household chores! We are still in the “experimental” stage, as Sarah calls it – trying new recipes, finding foods we like or don’t like, exploring Kenyan cuisine with her expertise. Matthew likes to watch her deft fingers make chapati or tortillas or cinnamon rolls.
I still have to plan meals and make sure we have ingredients on hand for what Sarah will make, and decide what things need to be cleaned, ironed, washed, etc. Tuesdays and Fridays are Sarah days.
The other day I was purusing a cookbook and had written “Chicken Divan” on my meal wish list – thinking about
when we might try that recipe. The following morning Sarah was here and she said, “Do you like Chicken Divan? It has broccoli and chicken? Do you have recipe?” Um, YES! Great minds think alike. So, if you are in the area next Tuesday, come on over for Chicken Divan. Sarah is cooking!