Friday, August 24, 2007

Introducing Xiao Tong

Because every good story needs an interesting cast of characters, and I’m getting bored of myself already, I thought now would be a good time to bring someone new into this story.
After two weeks of battling Beijing dust on the floors, I gave up. After two weeks of dragging the kids to the store on their various bikes, scooters and strollers, I gave up. After just two weeks in Beijing, I decided to hire an ayi.

The first woman I interviewed spoke no English at all (a neighbor helped translate), and shook with fear throughout the interview. She couldn’t even smile at the kids. The second lady complained, also through a translator, about the workload (“three kids! A dog! She better not expect me to cook, too!”). The third woman walked in, picked Kyra up with a smile and greeted Aidan in English. A regular Chinese Mary Poppins. So, dear reader, I hired her.

Her name is Xiao Tong. She’s in her early thirties, with a five-year old boy of her own. She’s been here all week, full time, cleaning and ironing half of the day and entertaining the kids the other half so I can spend my mornings writing and my afternoons playing with the kids, instead of yelling at them for the sixteenth time to PICK UP YOUR OWN TOYS OR I’M TAKING THEM AWAY SO HELP ME GOD!

So far, it’s been a big success. I’ve sold another article to the Christian Science Monitor this week, and my husband hasn’t once asked me if it might be possible, please, that there is some clean laundry somewhere in the house that he might be able to wear to work tomorrow. It’s all right there in his dresser already. Doing the laundry, as he’ll readily tell you, has never been one of my talents.

The only problem I can foresee at this early stage of the relationship is that her English is rather good. And that’s a big problem, because I really need her to talk to the kids in Chinese only. I told her that was a major condition of her employment, but she doesn’t seem to get it, because she’s still going back and forth between English and Chinese. So we’ll see. I’ll give her a week or so to settle in, and hopefully she’ll start to feel more comfortable speaking to them in Chinese despite the fact that I can’t understand. Because while a rotating cast of characters makes for an interesting story, a rotating cast of ayis does not make for a happy house.

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Please. Write your own stuff.