Awkward In Lesotho – Me and My Maid

Does this get easier, I wonder?

I am living in Lesotho; unemployed and alone during the day in a UN compound surrounded by fencing and guards. When I walk outside the compound, either the freakishly scary dogs chase me or the UN drivers try to run me over. So I try to blend in, try to find a place to fit in but still it is hard.

I feel stuck between the expat community and the local one… not really in either.

To make matters more unsettling, it is viewed as “necessary” to have a maid. Now, I understand this and I value giving someone an opportunity to earn an income, but I am unemployed; hence at home a lot of the time.

What do I do when she comes to clean; sit and watch her? READ: awkward. I try different things; I leave, I pretend to be “busy”, I try to help but never do I feel comfortable. This much older woman is in my bathroom with running water and electricity scrubbing my clothes in the bathtub. Imagine how guilty I feel when I visit her at her home to see that she has none of the above; no running water, no electricity and no bathtub.

I felt so conflicted.

In the end, she is why I loved Lesotho. The fence between my compound and her was always present but little by little the divide lessened and I began to feel a bit more comfortable; gradually the cleaning was less about the cleaning and more about the sharing.

P.S. If you ever have the chance to visit South Africa, try to see Lesotho for its other worldly scenery, its people and the most fascinating thunder and lightning storms I have ever experienced. If you are a storm junkie, this is the country for you.

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