Hope you enjoyed "Upon Further Review" Week. I might pull use that method again after I've arrived at post to see how my views have changed.
One view of mine that could definitely change is the topic of domestic employees, or hired help, or maids, or whatever you want to call them.
As we began sharing the news that we were entering the foreign service, the few people who knew what that meant congratulated me on the life they figured this meant for me: Natalie goes to work at foreign embassies and consulates; I lounge about in a life of luxury as our maids cook and clean around me.
Well, I never saw that in the brochure. And quite honestly, it is not a life I would want.
I'm from the Midwest (sorta). I never knew anyone who had a weekly maid service, let alone a live-in maid. And I grew up in a fairly opulent suburb of Cincinnati. Maids and servants were more of a Victorian ideal than a reality to me.
Little has changed for me. I'm still uneasy with the idea of a maid, live-in or otherwise. For one, I like cooking, so I don't want to give that up. Secondly, the idea of a stranger washing my underwear seems odd and invasive. Finally, we don't have any children, so it isn't like I need help with the household chores because there are kids to feed, entertain, change and observe.
As more and more information filtered down to us, reliable or not, I came under the impression that there is a level of expectation that American diplomats hire local help as a way to support the local economy.
So I've been tussling with a way to reconcile my preconceptions of what having hired help will be like with my preconceptions of what is expected of us in terms of being American diplomats on foreign soil.
I definitely could use a little help when we arrive in Mexico. For example, I probably could use some help with Spanish and local customs. And while I would not want to give up the cooking duties, it would be great to learn how to make Sonoran cuisine from someone who knows the ins and outs. And driving in a foreign country doesn't sound like much fun either. (Side story: I studied Mandarin in college, and one of my teachers related to us how shocked she was to see that Americans voluntarily follow traffic laws. I've heard similar stories about several other countries, that traffic laws or more of suggestions.)
Then again, if these preconceived notions that diplomats out to hire local domestic employees are unfounded, then I'd much rather not have to put myself through this. (Though Natalie disagrees. She likes the idea of not having to do laundry.)
So I will pose the question: What are the expectations regarding hiring locals to give back to the community? I imagine, like everything else in the foreign service, it varies from country to country, from post to post. But are there any guidelines?
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