Thursday, February 5, 2009

What 'having an ayi' does to you...

Clean? Who, me?!

Yesterday our ayi (ayi -literally means aunt but when we speak of 'our ayi' it means our housekeeper) came back from her 10-day holiday and thank lord for that. I feared that having an ayi would turn me and my bf into lazy, non-cleaning, couch-potatoes and that it just what has happened. Three days prior to her return we stopped doing the laundry or taking out the trash, simply excusing ourselves with that 'the ayi will be back soon.'

The day before yesterday I watched the mountain of dishes in our sink with guilt in my eyes, feeling like a spoiled brat, not to mention a pig for not doing the dishes for the last 3 days. So, tortured by a my bad conscience I decided to get at least half of all the dirty cups cleaned.

While I was standing there doing the dishes my boyfriend walked into the kitchen, looking completely gobsmacked by finding me with my hands covered in soap.

-What are you DOING?!
-What does it look like I am doing? The dishes!
-But... but... the ayi.. the ayi is coming tomorrow?
-Yeah well... it's not like she won't have enough cleaning to do anyways, right?

That last comment must have made him felt a bit guilty too because I later found him at the washing machine, shoving a load of white laundry into the machine.

Thinking that me and my bf were complete pigs, I curiously asked around amongst my laowai friends to see if they did a lot of cleaning themselves while their ayi was on a holiday.

"Cleaning?! Me?! Ho ho ho!! No way! Now since she is away I have bought myself paper plates, paper cutlery and paper cups so that I don't have to do any dishes!" one male friend told me.

Paper cutlery? Wow, that's lazier than us I thought and felt a bit better.

"I was meant to do some vacuum-cleaning but then I never got around to it... although I felt so ashamed of how dirty our flat was when the ayi came back that I hid half of our load of dirty laundry," said a female friend.

Mmmm, hiding the laundry. Familiar one.

What another woman (a housewife who lives here with her husband and her 2 kids) told me made me seriously thoughtful though:

"I clean myself while the ayi is away but when I asks my family to help out I get strange looks. They are simply too used to having the ayi doing everything for them and I am worried that they will have a big problems adapting to a life 'without an ayi' when we eventually move away from China. I am particularly worried about the children. Once I was in the kitchen making dinner, and my boy was in the living room watching TV. The ayi was on the second floor changing our bed sheets. The door bell rang and I expected my son to get it, since the living room is the closest to the door. But imagine my surprise when I heard him yell: 'Ayi, ayi! There is someone at the door. Ayi, you should come down and open for them!' He is six years old!! SIX?!"

Yup. That is kind of scary. Guess who's going straight to the sink to do some dishes right now? Not so much for the sake of the ayi, but for the sake of myself.

35 comments:

Matt Snyder said...

I don't think you have anything to be ashamed of. After all you did much more than the others you mentioned. And I'm sure your ayi was quite relieved when she returned from her holiday.

Becky said...

I would like an ayi....Wait, think I am the ayi in my house. I'm sure she will appreciate your effort.

Emil said...

It is hard, I have a battle with the dust, dishes and dirty clothes every week now.

But when I read your post I will try to strengthen my efforts in order to do it myself, and think of all the chocolate I can buy for the money I save! Maybe even be able to invest in my own personal chocolate fountain, though then I am sure it would be even more to clean :(

Desiree Teacher said...

It does sound like you are doing more than others, perhaps trying to contain your mess to keep your Ayi from working like a slave. I kind of worry about the comment from the last person you posted. If she's worried about her family, she should have them do chores or making her son get up to answer the door, not becoming complacent like that. That's a formula for trouble whenever they leave China

Jonna Wibelius said...

Emil -Sometimes I think you are a bigger chocolate junkie than me... but then again, not sure. :) Although I could never have a chocolate fountain in my flat. Not because of the extra cleaning but simply because I would eat under the table... every single day.

Tripfriend said...

Some of the other teachers I work with have ayi's, but my roommate and I don't. I think-scratch that-know I would get very lazy if someone came by to do the cleaning.

kanmuri said...

Wow, it must be really cheap to get an ayi in China o.O In Japan only rich people have them!! Anyway it's good I don't have one, because my laziness would take over me!

Jonna Wibelius said...

Kanmuri -yup, it's quite cheap. We pay 400 kuai/month (about 40 euros... ) and she comes 3 times/week (a 2 hours/time). My Chinese friend pays the same amount/month although his ayi comes EVERY day (!) and also cooks for him.

SUNJUNE said...

you'd better show us some pics about your kitchen/lol

ayi is a drug. giving up and cleaning by yourself you will find your house is cleaner than before. That's true,trust me./giggle

Colleen said...

Wow, that does sound like the good life! Though, I agree that doing chores is good for everyone, especially children.

It's so hard to get them to understand that they need to pick something up if they're used to someone (usually me) picking it up for them. Even if I had a housekeeper, I think I'd still have my kids pick up their rooms or something. It's hard, though. I've often wished I had someone to just come once a week to clean the bathroom really good for me or something.

Good job helping her out a little. I'm sure I would appreciate that.

TASO said...

Hi,
I like reading your blog. It's very interesting to know Chinese daily life from your experiences.

In my language "ayi" is "bibi" (aunt in English). Yes, I agree that having an ayi doesn't mean she has to do everythings for us.

Just Breathe said...

Love your blog!
Geez, I would love an "ayi" even for a day. . .
Are you required to tip your "ayi" as well?

Jonna Wibelius said...

Just Breathe -nope. No tipping in China is the general rule! (and I LOOOOOVE it!) We always give her a 'hong bao' (a bonus that u put in a red envelope) on Chinese national holidays like the CNY or the national day in October.

febriana said...

Lucky you. I am jealous. I want one ayi too :-))

2L3Bs World said...

Hi Jonna,
We used to encounter that kind of guilt whenever we leave dirty dishes in the sink to wait for our "ayi". We don't call her that, we call her "pangyaw" which means "friend" in cantonese. Our pangyaw is like a family and has been with us since 1996. We love her. And you know what? whenever we ask her to take a day-off or a vacation, she will always decline worrying that nobody will take care of us. See how kind-hearted she is? We are deeply touched and now I have a problem. We might be migrating to Canada within 4 months and I do not want to leave her. But of course it's not possible, right? so now I am looking for good people out there who could employ her when we leave. God I love that woman and I would definitely miss her so much.. She's a very dear person.. If you are near Shenzhen maybe you could employ her? Or your friend here?

Thanks from Loida or 2L3B's

candy fish said...

wah! because i live in australia, we don't have any 'ayi' here, but nobody employs any ayi where my relatives are, which is in Hong Kong, Guangzhou or beijing.

فرزاد said...

I was shanghi... i love your weblog

The Other Woman said...

Nice post. My ayi had a tough time with my 12-day accumulation of dust, laundry and dishes too. But it being still Chinese New Year, I gave her the token red packet haha.

asweetcakes said...

Lol.Its funny what people do to appear cleaner than they are. Your experience with your ayi is funny. Actually, its practically normal to have an ayi (or just house help) in Nigeria. And yes, it makes everyone lazy. But if you're married, guys usually insist you cook dinner if nothing else.

They've also been many instances of husbands cheating with house helps. Mmmm...

Jewels said...

I think we all deserve to be a little spoiled now and then. I'm sure if you move some where else, you will miss your ayi, but adapt to the change.

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
flowrgirl1 said...

It's nice to be spoiled and easy to find excuses! I do the excuses game all the time. I'll get it done eventually though.

The Casual Observer said...

I'm jealous.

We have a cleaning service come in twice a month. 2 people, about 1.5 hours each time.

We pay about $160 (US) for this. Pricey, but it helps free up some valuable spare time. I get up at 5:15 AM and get home from work about 5 PM (commute time and day care drop off/pick up add substantial time). I don't feel like scrubbing toilets when I get home.

My wife and I do maintain a good level ot cleanliness between cleanings, though.

Zata Time said...

I jealous with you...... but i happy for you too....

Christina said...

Wow, I never heard tell of such a thing. This was an interesting blog. I have never had the privilege
of traveling outside of the United States of America, but I can relate. For example, my Father and Mother have always raised us to take care of ourselves and be independent, to help out others and to help with the household chores and I feel that for that we are now strong, individual people who treat human beings with respect.

However, my Mother's friends' daughter was spoiled and raised by a made because her parents were always working and now she thinks that she is above everyone.

"You are no better or worse than anyone else in life, but no one will be as good as you."

Abhishek said...

Well my mom makes me do chores at home... Though my real grandmother helps sometimes (I let her)

Reggie said...

My mother always referred to her grandfather as Ayi. I thought it was his name, but one day she told me it meant "nursemaid" and that her cousin always called him that because grandpa said to him one day after doing everything for him, "You must think I am your Ayi" Apparently the little boy liked the sound of it and everyone started calling grandpa William Ayi from then on. That was back in 1910.

Whitney said...

This reminds me so much of growing up. In my house my Mom did it all. My brother, my Dad and I were so lazy and my poor Mom was left to do everything around the house for all of us. Although now when I go home to visit she insists that I do nothing while she STILL does it all!

pinkpackrat said...

Hmmmm I definitely have ayi-envy and hope you'll be posting a pic of your squeaky clean cupboards once your ayi is back and on the job--love reading your blog and will be checking back often:-)

andtheniknew.blogspot.com said...

Your blog is great. It makes me want to travel right now.

David Wang said...

It's thoughtprovoking and gets us another chance to think about the topic further.

Probably, we need to care for those people more humanistically and with our action who work for us while we pay them.

Jason said...

Don't let yourself rely on ayi.
That's too bad!

Lauralynn Stefureak said...

Our family has had a housekeeper for the past five years, ever since we left Stockholm to work overseas. First there was Natalya in Azerbaijan, now Subin in Qatar. How do we keep grounded? By spending summers at our summerhouse in Sweden...washing our own dishes, doing our own laundry, cleaning our own house! It's a great reality check for both of us and our 11-year-old son...and at the end of each summer, we appreciate our housekeeper so much more. We are getting prepared for a move to Suzhou in August and will be looking for an ayi of our own...so if you hear of an ayi looking for a new family, Joanna, let us know...

MaryAnn Cleary said...

I had an ayi while I lived in China. At first I felt guilty, but after two years I got over it. She would try to find things to do if I did not have enough for her to do. I usually did do some of my laundry and picked up after myself a bit on the days that she came.

I also enjoyed the two hour massages and usually wore a iPod ;-). The foot and back were one of my favorites.

Hippomandak said...

I want your ayi! Because now I'm the ayi in the house!!!