Ordinary Adventures

Like Night and Day
Yet another adventure in actually living abroad: finding a decent house cleaner and figuring out how to say everything needed in the local language.
For the past year or so E has used the same cleaner, a buxous Turkish-Kyrgyz woman who once used to clean kind-of well. Or at least, if she wasn’t the best cleaner, she was at least honest and, while the last two oranges in our fridge might disappear, at least our money and valuables wouldn’t. Until she started getting worse, and worse, and worse. Coming to the flat and immediately complaining about being tired, mixing up some of our clothes in the wash so one white dress I had half turned blue (she then hid it in the bottom of our closet), dusting and mopping so haphazardly that if I moved the coffee table even an inch I’d find dust bunnies and stray pistachio shells, putting stuff in different places all the time so we never knew where anything was, ramming the vacuum against the kitchen table until the legs wobbled. It was time for her to go.
Part of the issue was just lifestyle differences. She was a poor, uneducated village Turk. We’re educated professionals (or semi-professionals in my case) living in a modern, urban apartment with modern, urban tastes. A woman who probably doesn’t have a shower in her home isn’t going to place the same importance on regularly changing sheets and towels. Our lifestyles were differen, tour values didn’t match – and I don’t think she really had any way of knowing what our values were, or understand them to the point where she could uphold them in cleaning our apartment.
She also wasn’t very skilled at ironing dress shirts, which was Erdem’s biggest complaint (mine was that I could never find anything). So we asked around and were recommended another Turkish woman by a co-worker’s wife. $13 to clean the apartment instead of $10, but she was highly recommended, so we decided to try.
And this woman is amazing. She came, changed into sweats and worn but clean purple shower sandals she brought in her bag – and I understood that she was actually professional, was someone who actually put consideration into her job. An hour later, after she had just cleaned our porch (and without a complaint) I knew it. She even moved our fridge and cleaned under the fridge – something I’d never seen before. All without complaint. And I understood – our old clearer viewed her responsibility primarily as picking up after us – washing the stove and whatever dishes were in the sink, cleaning and ironing the clothes, picking stuff off our tables and wiping down the surfaces, sweeping and mopping the floor. Swish-swash surface stuff. But this woman actually cleans – actually makes the house a cleaner, healthier place to live. The co-worker’s wife advised us that she usually gives her some tea and a light lunch around noon, which is something we never did or would have done with the old cleaner, and we might actually have to figure out how to use the washing machine (which is in cryptic technical Russian), but it’s worth it. When E asked about the new cleaner, I told him it was like the difference between eating a greasy kebab in Bishkek, and having the real thing at an authentic age-old eatery in Bishkek.
Not to mention that the new cleaner is friendly and (as I have yet to learn any cleaning-related vocabulary in Turkish), it’s a *great* chance to practice my Russian.


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