Monday, January 21, 2013

Confessions of a Charge

Between my time in the Peace Corps and traveling, I've spent some time in West Africa, so I feel pretty comfortable saying I can "do" the region-- for the most part. I can haggle down from the tourist price to the local price, I can find almost any obscure thing I need, I can verbally beat the crap outta any jerk who demands a bribe in order to do his job, and I can make any child (read: person) laugh by doing my funny white lady dance (it’s basically the Carlton mixed with River Dancing, and it’s awesome, although Mr. Kate assures me people just think I'm having a seizure). 

Before we arrived I was determined to keep certain things minimal. I would not remain in a little American bubble, as it seems so many expats had the opportunity to do-- I would experience the wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) things that made this country what it was. I would live by incorporating myself into the world around me.  I would not hire a chauffeur or a housekeeper or a cook. I know how to take a taxi, I know how to clean (well, perhaps Mr. Kate knows better than I), and I know how to buy vegetables and cook them!
And then we got here.

And as I continued with my job search, finished up some work from home, took French classes, started an online certificate program, walked to the market, cleaned the house (sometimes), walked the dogs, cooked dinner and received crate after crate of stuff to be cleaned, organized and unpacked, things became somewhat chaotic.
One day Mr. Kate received a call from our predecessors' nanny. Since our predecessors had left she had been out of a job and was wondering if we might consider hiring her? Even though she was a nanny before, she also did the cleaning, shopping and she could cook, too! Mr. Kate hired her immediately (I think he was sick of doing the dishes) and she started the next week.
When Pierrette arrived, life got better. My clothes were clean. My dishes were clean. Even Mr. Kate seemed clean(er). I had someone to speak French with, and a buddy to help me haggle. My ADD no longer had an excuse to exist—I now had plenty of time to complete endeavored tasks. Like the addition of Michael to the Jackson family, life became awesome with Pierrette, and incomplete without her.
Last week, we received our final shipment of unnecessary things from the US. As we were putting the last of the boxes away, I pulled out our Bocci ball set. I love Bocci ball, so naturally, Pierrette and I went outside and played. Later that night, as I was telling Mr. Kate all about the Bocci ball champion I had trained Pierrette to be, he started cracking up. “Good thing we hired a nanny!” he teased.
That night as I was going to sleep, my mind started racing. “My god, we have hired a nanny,” I thought, "and I am certainly her charge."* There was no doubt. The sequence of the past few weeks played through my mind.
My days all begin by being awakened by my sweet Pierrette, with a cup of tea in hand. After we chat about what we did the night before, we discuss what we will do that day. Then I go to my computer and work for a few hours. Around 11:00, lovely Pierrette interrupts me and asks me what I want to eat for lunch. I insist that a croissant or leftovers are fine, as she demands I eat a large meal and bien grossir (this is a very real possibility, as anyone who knew me in the Peace Corps can tell you. I readily succumb to “Il faut manger”).
After my large lunch, I am praised for all the hard work (or Facebook, or blogging) I’ve done throughout the course of the morning and sent to my room to take a nap. Resting is good for your health, my angel reassures me. After I wake up, we hang out together, unpacking boxes, going to the store, chasing down the ice cream man or playing Bocci ball. Then, as I take my afternoon shower, she makes dinner, making sure to exclude any meat products, and cuts our fruit into pretty shapes so we’ll be more inclined to finish our plates.
When she leaves for the weekend, she makes meals for the next 2 days, lest we starve to death. When I’m sick, she makes me mint and lemon grass tea and brings me medicine. When I forget to brush my hair she gently pats me on the head to remind me. When I try to walk outside without shoes, she squeals and pulls me back in. She never gets mad, but if they spoke the same language she and my mother could start an I’m-not-mad-I’m-just-disappointed club. How does this girl keep forgetting shoes??
As I worried, I found solace in the fact that there must be someone else in the world like me: an adult who is perfectly normal, but likes having an "adult nanny," and I had just the tools to find out: the INTERNETS. As my friend Disco says, "When placing bets, check the Internets."** 

So I googled "adult nannies" expecting a statistic from the Bureau of Something Important  that told me yes, in fact, one out of ten people have adult nannies, confirming my normalcy. And it turns out, there aren't many people with my problem. Except this guy:
...And he got a reality TV show on TLC out of it. This, in turn, game me an excuse to sit and watch several episodes, for "research purposes." Reality TV, like heroin, can be terribly addictive, making the viewer lethargic, unmotivated and defensive of both the characters and herself. As I fell deeper and deeper into reality TV land, I came to understand and relate to Stanley.
The next night, as I was explaining the benefits of an adult nanny to Mr. Kate, I mentioned Mr. Stanley Thornton Jr. and how it's possible that we are kindred spirits. As I explained his life story, Mr. Kate interrupted me, "Have you been watching reality TV again?"
"No, of course not!" I lied, "It was on NPR. Diane Rehm found him fascinating!"
He didn't believe me. 
I start a new (temporary) job next week, and I am already distraught thinking about how much I will miss my wonderful Pierrette. What will I eat? What if I work too hard? Who will remind me to rest? How will I attain my daily intake of tea? But, these are all concerns for another time because, right now, Pierrette assures me I have worked WAY too hard this morning, and it’s time for a nap. 

*Email between me and my mother:
Kate: What does a nanny call the children she nannies? Her charges?
Satan: Yes. You were often also referred to as "little shits."
**She has actually never, ever said that, but it'd be cool if she did. 

1 comment:

  1. Mad me laugh!! Isn't it true though that, once you are actually overseas, all of a sudden NOT having household help seems crazy? I think, to some extent, its an issue of isolation and parity. If you are going to be the one keeping your house clean then that is all you will have time to do. Your spouse will go off to work and have "fun" while you sit home alone scrubbing floors because there is simply not enough time in the day to do that plus laundry plus dishes AND go exploring. And, of course, inviting your new best friends over to help you scrub your floors because that's all you have time to do in a day isn't exactly a super awesome bonding activity.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm so glad you have a nanny! :) Keep up the posts, they are lovely!