Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Nanny turned housekeeper tests the Almaty Motto

We are still feeling our way here as regards what makes people tick, and so far have not come up with a huge number of ideas about how these formerly soviet Kazakhs like to live and work. Take Baktiyar our driver for example. He has been driving for 17 years, but before that he was in the Russian army (until his mum found the right official to bribe to get him out of the army, but not before he had served in the Balkans or something, a real war anyway). Not only was he in the army, but he worked as a sniper, he said, which would make sense. He is a pretty cool guy who does not easily look flustered, even though he may be underneath. He is an excellent driver in that he will chat at the right times, and not at others. He doesn't jabber away all day long with inanities, but if you ask him a question he is happy to indulge in a little conversation. His most often used spontaneous word is probably "WOW!" which he uses to cover all situations, good and bad, ranging from near-death, hi-speed almost crashes, to seeing an especially fat old babushka bending over to pick up her shopping and revealing inches of bum. In both of these situations he would probably just say "Wow!" 

But he gets very anxious if he doesn't have to work long hours, and if we don't use him on the weekend he reminds us for the next week that he can drive on Saturday and Sunday too if we want, no problem. He always turns up for work on time, even if he has been taking someone to the airport at 2am, he refused to go home last week when I told him that we would walk down the hill to the pub on Friday night, saying, "No problem Gail, I am sleeping all afternoon, I take you then I go home." On a Friday night! I guess this is more a poor reflection on myself, but I would never volunteer to stay at work for longer than necessary on a Friday night!

Allia, our nanny, on the other hand is a different type of creature. She has made it clear that she will not work on the weekends (unless I beg her and pay her heaps of overtime), and gives us a small ticking off if we say we are going out for dinner and will be back at 9.30 and actually arrive home at 9.45. She has disappeared for two days on the piss in recent memory, was off last week with her dodgy leg after falling off the bus (OK, I know, not her fault), and although I like her very much, I would not describe her as having the strongest work ethic. We all have moments when we just cannot be arsed to do thing like empty the dishwasher or hang up the washing, or run a cloth over a kitchen work surface that has crumbs on it but Allia has extended periods of this kind of thing. 

So today, I told her that I needed to go back to England for a week to do a few things, get ready for the summer, get Connie a vaccination that is not available here.  I was thinking that she might find this an onerous task, as I explained that she would need to prepare meals for the girls and collect them from school, prepare supper for husband and more or less babysit on tap for the week as he never knows what time he will be back from work. But she suddenly perked up tremendously. "Pashalusta," she said, which means, roughly, "Of course, my pleasure".

And then started talking about what she could make, and how she could get Baktiyar to take her to the market to buy the things we need for the house (he will love that!), and how she always notices exactly what we have run out of (doesn't mean she actually gets the milk out of the freezer so that it can defrost and be ready to use, but it is reassuring to know that apparently she knows that it is there) and can perfectly well manage everything, thank you very much. And in fact, looked totally delighted to be asked to help out. So perhaps I am not giving her the responsibility she wants? Maybe I should entrust her to keep the house replenished with stocks? I dare not do this for fear of bankruptcy after she spent $40 dollars on asparagus once which I hadn't even ordered. 

I feel slightly guilty for worrying about her ability to do random things when I don't expect them, such as not turn up for work when I expect her to. I do have a small concern that she might not quite get a handle on everything. In fact, I have to admit I do have mental images of husband coming home from work at 11pm to find the gate open to the road, kitchen untidied and Allia asleep on the sofa with her shoes on, snoring her head off, the kids playing their Nintendo DS games upstairs completely unsupervised which I know are probably a bit harsh! But then again, I do have control-freak tendencies of which I am well aware. 

And then she looked at me and said, "Gail, I am a woman. I know these things." I will have to go with the flow. 

Time will tell. I hope everything will be OK. Can it be I am doubting my motto here?No. Surely  Everything will probably be alright.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Gail! Just wondering how you all were doing, and it looks like it's the standard expat comedy of errors. Hang in there, perhaps there'll be some karmic reward!

    By the way, do you have a new e-mail? Couldn't send to you the other day. We are still at johnandpen@msn.com. Would love to hear from you! XOXO, Pen