Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why I Need an Ayi

You may think it arrogant of me to ever assume I could live without our Ayi.

And yet, somehow, those moments do occur when I imagine myself in all my domestic glory, able to single-handedly carry out all the tasks and necessary duties my household requires. "I could really handle this..." I think confidently to myself. "Maybe I should consider trying it on my own next year..."

short digression: an Ayi, for those of you who don't know, is a polite term meaning "Auntie" which is what we call our paid helper who comes 5 days a week to help cook, clean, iron, can I say again IRON (God bless this woman), and babysit if needed.

Today, after nearly a two week vacation from the confines of our rascal-filled home, our blessed Ayi returned. This is what she found.

{told through the eyes of a sweet little Chinese woman, from the pen of a tall American one who cannot, in fact, speak much Chinese}
Oh, hello! Oh my. I see the boys. But where is Sadie? And where is their mother? There are shoes everywhere. Did they just get home? No. The boys are in underwear and nothing else. Surely she doesn't let them run around like that all day. Oh! I hear the baby... in her crib by herself again. the Mother must be in the shower. Why doesn't she wake up earlier to do that?

Hello sweet girlie! Did you miss me? Did your mother feed you? Did she let you out of the house at all? From the looks of things, it appears not. Oh, you want to get down... okay, run along and play. Goodness. This floor is filthy. Did she wash it at all since I left [No. No, I did not.] Well, at least she did a little laundry. But why are the folded clothes still here on the piano, stacked nearly to the ceiling? And look at this dust. They'll probably get sick from inhaling all this dirt. She's had nearly two weeks with her husband home, ever heard of spring cleaning?? [Yes. Yes, I have]

Oh, so she wants me to vacuum the floors and wash them while she takes the kids outside. Does she realize that half the vacuum bag will be filled up with dead leaves from the plants that are strewn all over the floor? Does she know that they in fact need water to live? This poor fern is half the size it once was... Speaking of water, have they used any on these dishes lately? Well, I guess they must have done some since there is still a little counter space left. What in the world have they been eating?... these strange westerners leave some serious mess when they are done cooking [I don't think it's a western thing- my mother has long said the same.]

I'll cook up a little dinner before I head home. I love these kids, but Lord knows how they stay healthy when all they eat is peanut butter and jelly on bread every single day. And the looks of this veggie drawer is pretty scarce. Do they seriously just eat meat and cheese all day long? Poor dears. Maybe I can restore some order now that I'm back.

I am sorry, my sweet, faithful, hardworking and gracious Ayi, we and specifically I, do in fact NEED you.

As a disclaimer to all my western friends, you must know that I thought long and hard about hiring an Ayi when we first moved here. I could never afford a maid in the States, and I worried over whether or not it was an aristocratic thing to do here or if we would be abusing the low-paid labor force. But, from what I have learned neither is the case. And I promise you I do not sit around all day eating Bon Bons (which we don't have, and I don't like anyway), or looking at Facebook. I make my own bed, clean my own bathrooms (some of the time), cook several meals throughout the week, bake all my own bread and other eatable goodies, take care of my children, clean up after myself...(have I defended myself sufficiently yet?)

So, here is my "Why I Need an Ayi" Manifesto:
  1. I have a 15 month old. Do you know how busy she is? She makes housework about as possible as ridding your body of all the unwanted cellulite.
  2. It takes me about 1 week worth of shopping for every 1 day of errands it did in the States. In other words, shopping and errands are a long, arduous and time consuming task. 
  3. I have a washing machine the size of 5 gallon paint bucket, and zero dryer. This equals lots of loads, lots of hanging, lots of waiting (it's humid here, or freeze-your-pants-off cold), and lots of folding.
  4. It's crazy dusty and we have all wood (nasty fake stuff so no need to drool) or tile floors. That means, lots of mopping. And sweeping (did I mention the 15 month old?). And vacuuming with the world's most pathetic excuse for a sucking machine.
  5. I just want to mention the 15 month old again.
  6. Cooking takes a lot more time and effort to, a) think of something to cook with the locally available ingredients, b) shop for said ingredients-see #2, and c) cook them:) I like cooking, I just relish the break I get from it 3 days a week.
And last but not least, my Ayi is one of the only windows I have of this still vague and unknown world around me that is China. She shares her family, her language, her love and her culture with me each and every day. I trust her her with my children, feel comfortable in her presence, feast upon her cooking, and thank God for her presence in our lives. 

Next week I may relapse into another fit of self-sufficient seizures. Funny how that always happens while she's cleaning my floor. But for today, I think I have seen the light.


  1. So I am thinking of moving to China and having an Ayi of our very own. It seriously might be worth the move.

  2. I will send you an Ayi if you will send me a Target and a Trader Joe's:)