Talking about things breaking all the time leads me to my next point. Nothing is urgent here. That totally works with my personality, by the way. But not when it comes to being a “list” person. If you have a to-do list here of 5 things, you are having a fantastic day to get 1-2 things done. It just takes forever to do anything. Standing in lines (or lack of) to get something accomplished to be told you are in the wrong line, is common.
Trying to get a specific item for a menu or to fix something—usually takes at least 2-3 stores to get to—and you usually have to sit in traffic. When feeding a family of 8 and you have a super small fridge (think 2 college dorm fridges put together) combined with very fresh products (no preservative here– yea!)—it makes shopping a daily, at times every other day, activity. And like I previously mentioned, it takes going to a minimum of 2 stores to get the items that we need for dinner.
I use to joke that I had to move all the way to Ethiopia to afford house help! No joke. Not as luxurious at it may sound. One person comes about 4-5 hours a day and she is mainly in charge of doing our laundry (if we have water and electricity both, that is)—because even with a semi-automatic washer, it takes me about 30-40 minutes of actually standing there at the washing machine and then hanging everything up on the lines or inside on our railings if it is raining. Then checking to see when they dry to putting them in the correct rooms. It is the waiting between everything and for the correct utilities to be working that day, that is the biggest catch. And well—if I had a normal washer and dryer and water and electricity all the time, I could easily do laundry at night! But that is not the case here.
She also does housework like sweeping and mopping, etc. It is extremely dusty (muddy right now) here. So things get dirty fast. And we have gone through several cooks to help us out. Hiring help here is not so easy. I will not go into it all. But why can’t we cook ourselves? We can. But meals here take 2-3 hours at times! Remember that we have to wash and prepare all fruits and vegetables here so we do not have upset tummies. But then also know that everything is from scratch. No prepared foods here. And well, it takes longer! Not to mention dishes. And when you come home for being gone all day—7 or 8 dinner times are not great all the time. But trust me, we have had plenty of very late dinners since living here! Throw in there if you need to bake something (like lasagna or pizza) and the power is out at that time….well, you are not having that meal and you need to improvise to make something using your stove top since it is fueled with gas!
And… when having house help, you are now responsible for that person’s family. It is not easy to let somebody go since you know they depend on you. There is not a huge market out there for jobs. Unemployment is so very high. And sometimes, frankly, it would be much easier to do it on my own, the way I want it done. But I know I can’t do it all and we would not be able to function here without the help. Plus, it is just culturally acceptable. Everybody here, whether they are lower middle or upper class—they have a helper. They usually live with the family. Ours does not. We hardly have room for ourselves!