Per Raftbuddy’s request – a little escapist humor. All the downer news is at the bottom.
How often do you get two Transylvanian taxi drivers in the space of one week? If 2010 hadn’t already started out any weirder, this would have sealed the deal. Both drivers spoke a slightly off version of Spanish and both mentioned Count Dracula’s castle …. [pipe in Vincent Price’s voice right here]. Like I wouldn’t have known! What else is there in Transylvania? And just exactly where is it?
To add to the strangeness of the new year, two Spanish (well, at least I think they were, but maybe they too were Transylvanian) cashiers were actually nice to me last week. One offered me a discount card (price: 9 Euros) at the tintorreria’s. Can you believe? It was not La Mentirosa but the other one. Then The Dreaded Carrefour cashier lady offered me one (price: free)! Will wonders never cease?! She actually asked me “why” I did not have one. Why? Because no one, in the preceding 10 years, has ever offered me one, that’s why! At the gym, in a fit of liberation, I cancelled my membership (how’s that for an anti-resolution?) but not one “why” from from the male Spanish cashier. Which would be part of the reason I cancelled my membership and signed up at another one, where all the madres from la escuela sweat it out. All of these new cards will join my favorite discount card in Spain: el Museu del Jamon. Andale, pues!
I have a new helper, Esmeralda, from Colombia. She kisses me hello and good-bye, something new in a maid. She has worked for the same Spanish family for 10 years – her four sons all live in Colombia, where her mother has raised them. There is a story there but it will eventually tell itself. I am trying not to be nosy.
Recently, I finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett, per Flaky Friend‘s recommendation, which examines the roles of black servants and white employers in the deep South in the early Sixties. I have been ruminating on it ever since. Like the rest of America, I loved it, all of it. Rumor has it that it is especially wonderful to listen to as well. It helped pulled me out of my funk. (That and a can of Flarp.)
I, myself, could write a book about domestic help. “My Life in Maids”, by the Expat Princess, however, does not have the same story arc, despite the fact that many of the non-racial domestic help issues are familiar. As a child of the early Sixties, I grew up in a different part of America and there were no maids in my neck of the redwoods. If my mother was lucky, sometimes she found the one college student who was not too stoned to clean the bathrooms (this was a bit later, the Seventies) but mainly, it was my mother who cleaned the house and later, my sisters and I were forced to help out. (Can you hear already my mother’s fingers as they hit the keyboard? Insert here her claim that we did nothing.) As I have said many, many times, I know how to clean a toilet and I can do it well. There is nothing I would ask a maid to do that I would not or could not do myself. Well, okay, maybe windows … I’m just disorganized and hate to iron – that’s my problem. A little less Starbucks, a little more starch in my ironed sheets. The Deep Cleaning Class for Children starts this Saturday, starring Esmeralda and the Things. So, God Bless, Esmeralda who is a real pro.
Last week, I incorrectly gave the URL for Charity Navigator. I have corrected it and will now repeat it: http://www.charitynavigator.org. This is important for the following reason.
When we lived in China, we participated in a charity called Heart2Heart Shanghai – http://www.heart2heartshanghai.com. Thing 1 is continuing to support them as part of her service project for the International Baccalaureate diploma. The organization provides surgeries to low-income Chinese children who suffer from easily reparable congenital heart defects. To raise money, the organization sells teddy bears, assembled by volunteers, dressed in hand knit cardigans, also crafted by volunteers. There is no paid staff and really, in the PRC, there is no framework for charitable organizations. (For example, you cannot deduct a donation to them on your taxes – the charity doesn’t “exist” so therefore neither does the donation.)
In researching the market for bears in Spain, I was told that most Mainland Chinese would not support a charity benefitting Chinese since they donated a lot of money for relief efforts after the 2008 Sichuan quake and the money did not reach the victims. Once bitten, twice shy are the Chinese living in Spain. Which is a terrible, terrible shame – a travesty that there is no willingness to try again to help a fellow countrykid out and that the money did not reach it’s intended recipients. In the blogosphere, however, there is Charity Navigator which susses the organizations out for so you; credibility is important when you are passing out cash.
I have also been chatting up my friends and family to sponsor a child from Haiti via World Vision or Save the Children for roughly $30 a month. Until the dust settles, this is a measurable way to help, especially, the orphans. Before the quake, our family had decided to skip our post-church Starbucks run and “adopt” another child. Sorry, Howard [Schultz] and Klab. If you don’t want to sponsor a child, the purchase of five ducks, a goose, or a cow can do much to help a family or community. Martita used to receive a goat every year for Christmas through Heifer Project International (3 stars), fodder for many jokes. But then MCV gave me the rear end of an ass/ ass end of a donkey for Christmas, one of my all-time favorite gifts, notwithstanding the fact that this time the joke is on me. It might just be on Starbucks too – as an employer, I think they match contributions to Save the Children. Think about it next year for Christmas.
To end on an upbeat note, I’ll skip the section on the child/human trafficking that is starting to occur in Haiti. (Just one more reason to send more US Marines. That Italian dude who has been sounding off about our military showboating can just stick a can of Flarp in his piehole.) I will leave you with my personal favorite, all-time best, uncensored Chinglish name to come out of Asia: Creamy Lay. I’ll still laughing myself.
Questions for the week: What is your favorite discount card? How are you doing on your resolutions? I am doing terribly!