Thursday, October 11, 2007

Green Fingers and Lemon Grass.

It's official we have no gardener! I know, I know. Colonial outpost. Yes, gardeners are the stuff of ex-pat life. Job creation. In developing countries where lablour is cheap there is someone to do everything for you. This, in a supermarket includes, someone to unpack your trolley onto the belt, someone to pack the bags the other end, someone else again, to push the trolley to the car, and load i tintoyour car. And there's me, interfering, unpacking all the bags to reduce the number of plastic bags that are being used so wantonly, pushing my own trolley, loading the car, generally 'unjobbing' everyone.

In a clothes shops it can mean someone handing you a basket, someone else removing the hanger from the item you have picked up, then there will be about 3 people round the till to help too. And at least one assistant close on your heels (very different perameter of personal space here) as you browse. I find myself, increasingly irritated, playing childish games, like stopping suddenly, or changing direction. trying to outwit them. I know job creation is good, but I also don't want to get used to having someone do everything for me....

Housekeepers are the norm, many Sri Lankans and ex pats also have drivers, a security guard, a gardener, a cook or nanny. It's unbelievable. But affordable for many with each one's salary about US$100-130, a 'good' wage here. A garment factory worker here would earn US$80 a month, and could live on that.

Anyway Our Next Door Neighbour (ONDN) has refused to let us use his gardener anymore after my polite note (see post 'Tropical Fatigue'). Furthermore he has broken off all diplomatic relations with us. He has banned his gardener and 'cook' and cleaner, from talking to Maheswary, our househelp, or to us (even though they only speak Singhalese. so presumably hand gestures are banned too.......). He has also complained that he has to receive all our post at his house. It is not a conspiracy with the post office, they just choose to deliver our mail to him. (our house is at the bottom of his garden. He built it there) The gardener now comes to deliver our bank statement under cover of darkness, in case he should incense his boss at this flagrant breach of the rules of engagement.

Our landlord, Our Next Door Neighbour's son-in-law, who is utterly charming, gave us the number of a gardener. Turned out to be a gardening business by tuktuk. Lawn mower, brushes, spades, shears, you name it, all stuffed in the back of the little trishaw. This guy charged us 2 1/2 times what we used to pay, even Maheswary couldn't beat him down, but the grass was reaching snake-habitable height. It had to be cut, we have no mower, we have no gardening implements at all. As they say here (a lot) "What to do?"

I miss the 5 previous gardeners. (live-in gardeners of ONDN, who 'allowed' us to use him so he could then dock our payment to the gardener out of his monthly wages) The longest serving one came to say goodbye and shake our hand, the day before he slipped off in the middle of the night to go and till his own patch of soil back in Kurenagula. He exerted tremendous effort in his bid to communicate with us. We had the longest conversation we had ever had with him. He thanked us and said we were a 'good man, good lady'. Not really gratfiying, more sad really, when all we had ever done to gain this accolade was thank him for his work, pay him the going rate with a bonus at Christmas and Singhala New Year, as is traditional, and a glass of cold water while he worked.

Then there was the one who had run away from the army. Strictly Winston didn't drive him away, the army caught up with him and took him back. He didn't seem to think this such a hardship though strangely after a few months in ONDN's boot camp.

One of my favourites was the perpetually smiling guy who I found bent double pushing the lawn mower along on his knees under our trampoline because he didn't know it could move. He had evidently asked our househelp what it was. Must have thought us very strange to have this enormous circualr launch pad in our garden. M offered him a go on it. He wasn't at all keen.

All of these gardeners used to bring me lemon grass from ONDN's garden. I guess technically this was receiving stolen goods, as it came from ONDN's garden, next door just didnt use it. I didn't realise it was a clandestine gift until Maheswary told me. Still ONDN solved that dilemma for me. No gardener, no lemon grass.

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