No one is telling us what to do here in Cambodia. Not a boss, not a coach, not a parent. We’re on our own. (Oh, unless you count the Holy Spirit.) (We count the Holy Spirit.) No one’s really telling us how to do it either. (We do ask for/get advice from people who’ve been here longer than us. So helpful. And we have a missions agency handling the money side of stuff.)
But mostly we’re asking God to give us his rhythm, his pace, his agenda. What should we do? When? How? When should we rest? How much? What’s up for tomorrow? Next week? Five minutes from now? Who do you want us to serve?
We have quite a few Things on our plate. Here they are (in no particular order).
The Things: 1.) ministry/serving people. 2.) meeting new folks/socializing. 3.) shopping for food/things we need. 4.) preparing food/cleaning up food & dishes. 5.) washing clothes & hanging them to dry. 6.) sweeping/mopping/wiping/cleaning. 7.) earning money (Gabe-web design, me-writing). 8.) resting/relaxing. 9.) keeping in touch with people we love back in the U.S. 10.) trying to build up a team of people who support us financially so we can eventually do ministry full-time here. 11.) learning the culture.
(Wow, that seems like a lot once I write it all out.)
So far, it’s gone pretty well. We go to bed at the end of the day tired, but not exhausted (okay, sometimes exhausted). Our days are full, but not crammed (okay, occasionally crammed). We get most things done that need done (usually).
But things take longer here (laundry, cooking). And they require more effort (getting places, finding what we need). And need to be done more often (mopping, I’m talking to you).
Before we started school on Friday (the 13th), we kind of had it down (kind of).
It’s awesome (we love it so far! five days down, a million to go!). But it’s time consuming. We leave the house at 8am and get back around 12:30. (Five days a week.) We prepare lunch & eat it. By this time, it’s close to 2pm. Our homework takes us anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours (depending on how much we want to practice–the girls are much more studious than their parents).
We cannot fit #1-11 into our schedule + school (#12) and survive (and school is every day minus holidays for the next year). We need some sort of help. Or we need to cut back somewhere.
I will cut to the chase. We hired a cleaning lady. (gulp) This decision has been giving me fits. I won’t go into all the reasons this bothered me (some of them are lame, some judgmental/prideful, some valid), but it is what it is.
The girls and I could clean our entire apartment at Abbey Lane in about 15 minutes. A little dusting, some quick vacuuming, sweeping the kitchen floor, wiping down the counters, loading the dishwasher. Boom. Done. Company-ready in no time flat. (Confession: we were notoriously bad about cleaning the bathroom. It looked okay–as long as you didn’t open the toilet lid or peek behind the shower curtain. Ew.)
But here? In Cambodia? Oh my. Our living space is about 1100 sq. ft. maybe (Abbey Lane was 800). (We only have 2 bedrooms, but we have LOTS of room for people to come stay with us. Hint hint.) And it’s all tile. And the shower is open (the water just goes all over the bathroom and down the drain). And the windows are always open. And the dust just comes la-la-la in. And our feet are always filthy. And the floors are soooo hard to keep clean. And we also have two balconies. One gets filthy when the water from the washer runs all over it, and the other is covered in fresh bat guano every morning.
(I know, cry cry cry me a river.)
There’s no quick little fix for keeping things clean. The one (and only) time we did a whole deep clean of our house, it took 3 hours. And we wanted to die. (I cleaned a lady’s house once a week for a few months before I was married, and it was my least favorite job in the history of ever.)
Then one of our friends here told us about the sweet girl who cleans her apartment, and she wanted/needed more work. I talked to Gabe and the girls, and we decided to hire her. She’ll be coming on Tuesday & Friday afternoons to sweep/mop the whole house, mop the front and back balconies, and clean the bathrooms (we have 3–ack!). We’ll keep doing our own cooking, our own dishes, and our own laundry (and sweeping most days & spot-mopping as needed).
I could’ve paid her more to do it all (dishes, laundry, changing sheets–so tempting), but I don’t want our girls growing up spoiled. As it is, they’re cleaning more than they ever did in the past. Even with a cleaning lady. It’s just the nature of where we live now.
She came for the first time Tuesday and did an amazing job. It took her 3 hours. I can write/edit for other people for a few hours/month and pay her to clean my house twice a week. Her wage is a fair one (she set it herself–$60/month) but is crazy low compared to what I earn as a writer/editor. I am giving her an opportunity to support her family while I support mine.
Win win, right?
Except. Okay, I’ll just say it. As much as I like to do my own thing and pretend I’m all, “who cares what people think of me?” I care what people think of me. And this is what I imagine them thinking:
“Oh, really? They’re asking people to support their ‘ministry’ financially? And they’re hiring a cleaning lady? I wish I had a cleaning lady. Must be rough being ‘missionaries.'”
So I write a whole 1100-word blog post justifying myself and the decision we made and blah blah blah.
I know some might say, “Hey, Marla. Relax. You don’t have to answer to anyone.” Except, when sweet, generous, sacrificing folks are supporting you each month, I think it’s only fair. (We’re working on keeping track of our spending so we can share our expenses with our supporters.) And I’m thankful for the level of trust people have placed in us. I don’t ever want to mess that up.
So, this is the last time I’ll talk about this particular budget line item. And, for now, I feel good about our choice. Sweet S. is saving us hours & hours of work each month, and I’m paying her out of money I’m earning myself (doing something I don’t hate and even love). I don’t have to give up writing/editing/ministry to mop my house (thank you, Jesus!), and our girls are still spending 1-2 hours/day on chores.
Speaking of our girls, they are amazing. Such great helpers. We couldn’t do this Cambodia gig without them. I hope they don’t ever grow up and leave the nest. (Kidding. Or am I?)
If I’m honest, we still can’t really fit everything in, but we do what we can and say “no” or “wait” to the rest. (It helps to own minimal possessions, own no vehicles, have no yard to maintain, and not watch TV.)
What have you had to give up/hire out so you could manage your life without going crazy? OR if you’re a missionary (or have ever been one), am I being ridiculous about my need to justify hiring help? OR what other questions do you have about life in Cambodia?
(or just read & smile without commenting like I usually do on other people’s blogs)