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To Ayi Or Not To Ayi

An Ayi (pronounced, ah-yee, or I-E if you have a terrible accent like me) is basically a mother’s helper (or a *domestic* helper).  In theory, she cleans and helps with the little trolls, but from what I gather, doesn’t do much in the realm of cooking (though I can’t be sure if those who I’ve spoken to have asked their ayi’s to only cook western foods – in which case, I understand the failed attempts).  At any rate, every expat I’ve met, has one.  Generally either Chinese or Filipino.  The English speaking aye’s command a higher wage, roughly $4/hour (which we don’t actually prefer – part of it, for us, is someone who will speak to the kids in Mandarin).

Pretty much every in-depth-small-talk-conversation I’ve had since we’ve been here has included either the question, “Do you have an ayi yet?” or “Have you found a cleaning lady?”  Can we settle down folks, I can barely keep my fridge stocked and butt clean (toilet paper in bathroom), let’s just take it one step at a time. 

BUT THERE IS MORE TO IT THAN THAT, AS IT TURNS OUT.

I have a really difficult time letting go, imagine that.  The complicated part is that I LOVE THE IDEA OF AN AYI.  LOVE.  Someone to help clean and hang with my filthy beasts while I go to THE GYM or, get this one, PUT ENERGY INTO PURSUING MY VERY OWN CAREER – a novel idea indeed.  It sounds mouth wateringly divine.  Can I put those thoughts into action though – that’s the issue.  Can I let go of my children enough to trust them to the care of a stranger?  I’ve always had a tough time opening up to the idea of a babysitter – just ask my husband – and rather than just making myself a bit uncomfortable (albeit for a very short amount of time), I just haven’t given myself the option.  After all, it’s easier to stay where you’re comfortable, right?  Well, that would be hunky doory (what the hell kind of slang term is that, anyway?), if I didn’t both inwardly AND outwardly (less so) bitch about being trapped by my children.

My husband’s answer:  HIRE A DAMN AYI.  SHIT OR GET OFF THE POT.

Well, we nearly hired one last week.  We basically did (I shat) and then, shortly after, I got off the pot.  Decisions in my life are never black and white and nearly always come with hours of thought and research.  (YES, I would LOVE to turn that switch off, any ideas?)  Pro’s and con’s, this’s and that’s… for hours, sometimes days.  Psycho-Lauren-Analysis much?

Bottom line is that I’m used to cleaning and cooking and soothing and comforting and reprimanding and resolving, by myself, for many hours of the day.  Though, yes husband, it’s been AMAZING having you around more and YES, you are incredibly helpful and engaged, no complaining here.  And we get on just fine this way.  Do we really need someone else in the picture to help out?

And there you have it, the million dollar question, TO AYI OR NOT TO AYI?

Shall we save it for another day?  Wink, wink.

The Freedom of Being Illiterate

Now I know what you’re thinking, illiteracy is no joking matter.  And you’re absolutely right, I mean that.  HOWEVER, taken out of the context of one’s own language and put into the context of a foreign tongue… let me enlighten you (or at the very least, explain to you).

As mentioned in my post yesterday, the art of communicating in a language you no next to nothing of, is quite infuriating and quite humbling (I may have left that part out, but it’s true).  This extends to most every form of communication (reading road signs, shop signs, and directions included)… with the exception of reading food labels.  I’m an AVID food label reader.  I like to know what I’m getting/choosing not to get myself into.  ALL THE TIME.  Well, guess what folks?  I can’t read Chinese characters (nor do I aspire to, ever) and as such, I’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT INGREDIENTS GO INTO ANYTHING PACKAGED (in China).  SO, you’d think the obvious answer would be to just boycott anything packaged, right?  Wrong. The answer is actually: pretend there ISN’T any partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, MSG (and a myriad of other things dreamed up in a lab), FREE YOURSELF!  Leave worrying about what potentially harmful consequences are lurking within your cells after consuming packaged snacks bought at the convenient store.

…right?  Maybe I got that wrong; that outlook is only excusable for so long (and in certain situations*, see below).

I’m here to tell you that this philosophy works well when you’re traveling and know that your time in that particular place is temporary, so sure, what harm is a package of local flavored Doritos really going to do (you don’t fully know a place until you know what flavored Doritos are offered there, winky face)?  And for the first few weeks here in China, it was sorta, kinda my outlook.  And then I was like, wait, I’M LIVING HERE NOW, this behavior MUST STOP.  But then I was like, come on, what about the children, the children!  This is the asterisk: the hardest part is having kids whose bodies tell them they should/could survive off of packaged crackers, candy, and cookies and when you’ve been dragging them around all day and they turn up starving (and all your normal go-to’s have been consumed) and your only option is a food kiosk where said packaged foods are the only convenient form of sustenance, you FOLD.  You buy the funny looking cracker sticks, flavor unknown, and pretend they’re not full of shit.

So, I’m sorry to say that this isn’t the end of consuming foods that could contain arsenic for all I know (I’m a realist), BUT THEY DON’T because what universe would do that to me when I’m illiterate?  Have some sympathy, for fuck’s sake.  I’m also going to pretend that feeling illiterate equals freedom, what other choice do I have?

And just in case a Chinese reader comes across this and calls me out on it, yes, I know the photo is of a bag of goji berries and as such, the label probably doesn’t have any other ingredients.  I had to make due with what I had in the house, and that was only healthy crap.  Don’t hold it against me… thanks.

I Am Cavewoman, Hear Me Roar

Not knowing the language of the country I’m in makes me feel like a cavewoman, which is both exhilarating and terribly frustrating.  Sometimes I feel like I’m mute.  Sometimes I just wish we could all roar, in different tones and frequencies, and miraculously understand each other.  Homo sapiens have come a long way, oh have we.  We’ve evolved from roaring nomads living in perfect balance with our environment to device infested, sedentarians (that’s not really a word, FYI) living FAR outside the means of our planet.  But that’s neither here nor there and not the point of this rant.

The point is, don’t you feel like a total asshole when your in a foreign country and actually make someone’s day harder because it takes 20 minutes (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration – point being, far too long) to ask where the bathroom is?  Or when you actually have the audacity to get frustrated WITH THEM because they don’t understand YOU?  What do you mean, you don’t know english, english!, doesn’t EVERYONE know english?  And then you’re just the arrogant a-hole who moves to a foreign country and can’t speak the language.  Or better yet, you’re the a-hole American whose country is so superior that your education system doesn’t make learning any other language a priority.

I REALLY don’t want to be this a-hole for much longer, so either I need to learn Mandarin or start a campaign to de-evolve into roaring cave people.  What do you think?