Feb 8, 2009

Cleaning lady musical chairs: part 2

I wrote about my challenges in finding a stable cleaning lady back in October. After I wrote that blog entry, the ayi (cleaning lady) agency ended up sending me a more stable girl, this one from Gansu province. She's somewhere between 20 and 25 years old, if I had to guess, and she's very quiet.

The Gansu ayi was one of the more consistent of my cleaning ladies, and she showed up for work on time faithfully for a about 3 months straight. What I've discovered from my experience about ayis is that each one has a major trade-off. There's a big positive but also a negative that goes along with it.

For example, one of the first ayis that the agency sent me was great. She was a 40-something lady from Hebei province, as a I recall. This woman put lots of elbow grease into cleaning my aparment. My shower room would smell like Scotch-Brite pads afterwards because she was scrubbing so hard. One time she even cleaned off the brown crud that accumulates on my Sonicare toothbrush recharging base. It's a tough task that I've failed at myself. That brown gunk hardens and you have a hard time scraping it off, even using a putty knife.

One small downside of the Hebei cleaning lady was that during the process of cleaning and scrubbing so thouroughly, she would inevitably break something. Each time she came over, she would break something new. Never anything expensive, usually just some drinking glasses or similar. I always told her, it's okay, don't worry about it. Her major downside, however, was that she was too good for a one-a-week job at my apartment, so she ended up moving on to an employer that could hire her as a full-time ayi.

If the Hebei ayi moved through my apartment like Hurricane Katrina, then my Gansu ayi moved through like a mouse. She's very careful to clean everything slowly and deliberately. I can't imagine her ever breaking any glasses. In fact, I can barely hear her knocking on my door when she comes. I think she's afraid she'll damage it.

So my quiet Gansu ayi up and disappeared a few weeks prior to lunar new year to go to her hometown, but she put me in contact with her friend, a very presentable, considerate girl in her twenties. This friend of hers cleaned for me a couple times, and she did it as well as the Katrina ayi, but without breaking anything. It wasn't meant to be, though. To start with, she could communicate very well in standard Chinese, she looked young and energetic, and most importantly, she was pretty smart. Cleaning lady was probably not high on her dream job list, so she moved on very quickly to a retail sales job.

I'm now onto another ayi, a 40-something woman from Henan province. This one puts pretty decent effort into the job, more like a bear than a mouse. She hasn't yet cleaned my Sonicare charger's disgusting brown gunk, but she's doing a great job for 10 kuai an hour. We'll see how the situation goes as time goes on.


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