1st floor corridor
I must say that it was easier than I imagined having the ayi around. I did my own housework for 6 weeks and finally decided to hire help when I started having dizzy spells about a week ago. The house is too big and I have so many other things to do - like blog and/or explore Shanghai.
One of the girls working at the service centre introduced JL to me. She currently has a friend working in the compound. Compared to most of the other ayis working here, she's young, very petite and pretty. I took to her almost immediately for who wants an old and ugly cleaning lady when one could have eye candy on a daily basis?
For she wouldn't work for the initial 3 mornings a week that I wanted her for. Over here, most of my neighbours have full-time help at least 5 days a week, some even have live-in ayis. But I only wanted someone to clean, no need to cook or look after the children. And my kids and Hub will pick up after themselves - no question of them getting used to having someone serve them hand and foot.
View of living room from above
We in our compound are expected to pay double the average hourly wage for ayis in Shanghai. They wouldn't work for less and they want to work a minimum of 5 mornings/afternoons a week - unless you manage to find another family or 2 to share them with. And they also expect you to pay them a 13th month bonus during the Chinese New Year.
I agreed to all her terms because I can understand her situation and I have in any case talked with enough people to know what to expect. Besides, they usually come from poorer towns or villages in China with the hope of creating better lives for themselves - so if I can afford it I do not see any reason to make things difficult for them. With JL, I have also offered to help her teenage daughter with her English - as an additional bonus. Hopefully the girl will have a better life than her parents.
I found out that they live in a small rented flat that is dark and humid, no larger than my bedroom, for about a thousand yuan monthly. They have bought a place of their own in their hometown since real estate prices in Shanghai are too high even for us. I have therefore also offered to let her shower at my place during the very hot and humid months since they share a bathroom and kitchen with other families in their building. I was reminded of one of my late grandaunts in those days when Singapore was still an underdeveloped country. She lived in a tiny rented room in a horribly dark and dirty shophouse and shared a kitchen and toilet with who-knows-how-many other tenants and I can still see the place in my mind more than 30 years down the road. It had certainly marked me as a child.
I will however stop there as so many other expats and even local Chinese friends have warned me not to be too nice with the workers or I would bring trouble to myself. I may have Chinese origins, but I am not Chinese and as such the way they think or behave is quite alien to me. There is no smoke without fire, so I will heed the warnings and try to keep a distance between my helpers and myself. My Ukrainian helper in Italy walked all over me as Hub liked to remind me.
The Teenager's room
The house has 5 bedrooms and a small study room. 3 of them have walk-in closets. There is no basement in the house so we do lack storage space. Since our driver keeps the car with him, the garage is empty and we use it to store our bikes, golf clubs (no more membership at the club for the whole family = all golf bags at home!), boxes etc. It is very similar to our house when we were living in the USA - meaning that the construction leaves just as much to be desired.
The compound from what I heard was built in 3 months. Pre-fab wooden houses in 8 styles. The walls are mostly empty and Hub has proven it by knocking a hole in one of them as he tried to hang up a picture. Everything is electric because of the fire hazard and I now have a fabulous big wok - and no gas for fire.
There are cameras everywhere in the compound and men on bikes and scooters patrol all day and night. You cannot enter without a pass and when you have one, the guard salutes you as this place belongs to the Chinese government. I leave my door open most of the time because you really feel safe here.
View of our small terrace
What a change from Italy I must admit.