Blogs by Ann Massey
Thou shall not wash dishes
1/15/2011 2:02:39 PM
A green ex-pat struggles to come to terms with life in Borneo and the demands of her young amah.
Two months into a relationship and my partner, a petroleum engineer, whisked me off to a life of luxury in Miri, on the island of Borneo.
For the wives of oil field workers, life is one round of shopping, bridge, golf and tennis. For the most part, children are at boarding schools back home - paid for by the company and husbands are on rigs in the South China Sea, so for women, life is one big social whirl! We didn't even have to clean up after ourselves. Why should we? We had our amahs. Like Curly Locks in the old nursery rhyme:
'Thou shalt no wash dishes nor yet feed the swine ...,
our amahs took care of all the household chores.
An amah is the Asian name for a servant. All my married friends, had amahs, most of them were older Malaysian women who worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for a pittance. Back then in the 90's the going rate was MR$250 a month. Converted to Aussie dollars, that's about 35c an hour.
Wives of men earning $10,000 a month plus free house, free car, free utilities, first class flights home for holidays and school fees paid for, at the best and most expensive schools, saw nothing wrong with this. As Mary-Grace from Calvary (not her real name), said to me,'They don't need much. I mean how much is a bag of rice."
The women who worked for ex-pats weren't complaining. They knew they had it good compared to the foreign girls who worked for the locals. The Chinese family who lived next-door to Mary Grace employed a Filipino. The first thing they did when she arrived was confiscate her passport so she couldn't runaway. Sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs - poky, stuffy,without a window and filled with the family's clutter, her duties went beyond housework and baby sitting - the male of the household took it as a given that she would sleep with him.
Not that the locals were the only ones to enjoy their amah's favours. Hundreds of single men and married men, (temporarily available), flocked to the oil town. I noticed their amahs were always the beauties, the delicate, ultra feminine Iban girls, straight from the jungle longhouses.
A lot of these men formed relationships with their amahs and, many of them married.and took their sweethearts back home. But, many others, just used them as pretty playthings and forgot about them when their contracts were finished.
I've written about a girl who was exploited by an ex-pat in my latest book The White Amah. You can read an excerpt and reviews on my website: http://annmasseyauthor.net/
For three years, I was the only ex-pat, in my circle of friends, who didn't have an amah until I employed Jelimah. I wrote how that came about in my previous blog. Next time I'll tell you about the beauty pageant fiasco.
Till next time,
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