December 5, 2008

Housegirls and Cold Water

(This is part of an ongoing series chronicling memories of my life growing up as a missionary kid in Vanuatu. For links to previous posts you can go here)

When we arrived we were assigned a housegirl. I'm sure there was some sort of procedure to do with that but I wasn't ever aware of it. She was the bursars sister-in-law (I think), - in Vanuatu its more a case of who you're related to than anything else.

Most families have a house girl. It's generally an early teen girl, a relative of the family who helps around the house.
Emma was our housegirl, though she was really too old to be called a girl. She must have been in her mid thirties when we arrived (I really have no idea, to my six year old self she seemed OLD).

Emma lived on the road down to the point and would walk up to Talua every morning to arrive just after collage devotions, when Joshua headed off to Kindergarten and Mum and I would begin school work.
She would help Mum with the house work and also tend our garden.

It was through Emma that we had our first experience of the 'shame' culture, which was best dealt with by going through another person. Everyday just before Emma was about to go home Mum would give her a drink of cordial and they would sit and have a drink together and attempted a conversation (which was a bit difficult with Mums limited Bislama and Emma's non-existent English).

As it was so hot Mum would make the cordial using water from our gas run fridge.

But if you have only ever drunk room temperature water drinking cold water isn't very pleasant (so I've gathered from several reactions I've seen over the years). However Emma couldn't tell Mum this because it would bring shame on Mum and would cause a break in their relationship.
So instead Emma went to her sister, who then came and had a meeting with Mum, explaining the situation. Then Mum went to the Scott's on advice on how to be most culturally appropriate.

From then on Mum always offered Emma cordial made with tap water. Emma never mentioned the incident to Mum and Mum never mentioned the incident to Emma. And everything was good.

1 comment:

Rachael said...

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