Meet Saeng Lah, a wonderful Christian woman we hired to help Mom around the house. In Thailand, women who do this kind of work are called Mae Baan (mother of the house). Saeng Lah has an active life of faith. She attends church each Sunday and attends Bible study at her church on Wednesday nights. We know this because Kuhn Teng (introduced in an earlier blog) is an elder at that church and has told us that he is delighted she is working here. Saeng Lah has two sons: one is 24 and not a Christian and the other is 19 and is a Christian. Both still live at home. One is working and contributing to the household. The other is not. Saeng Lah works for us part-time and fills in her days with work in other places. In addition to working, Saeng Lah is also studying English, so last week, we gave her a Bible that has both Thai and English translations. She was thrilled to receive it and has been using it for her Bible study since then. Her English teacher, a Thai woman who spent forty years in the USA, has included Bible readings in her English lessons.
Saeng Lah comes to our home for a few hours three times a week to help keep the house clean and to cook two meals: lunch on Monday and lunch on Wednesday. She has been working for us for just a few weeks and she does a wonderful job. But we both think she is working too hard. She cleans as though a family of six with four active children live here and, bluntly, the house is not that dirty! She also cooks for a family of six and we end up with more food than Mom and I can eat in a week. Another problem we are having is that, in cleaning the house, Saeng Lah moves things around. This creates a problem for Mom because she has macular degeneration and cannot see very well at all. Mom spends much of her time searching for things that Saeng Lah has carefully put away or rearranged.
A conversation about this with Saeng Lah did not result in any change in behavior and it turns out that Saeng Lah was confused about what she should do when. So, with the help of my Thai teacher, who has employed a Mae Baan and knew what we were trying to do, I drafted a document outlining our expectations to help clarify things and reduce Saeng Lah’s stress. It spells out what we expect her to do each time she comes and divides some other duties between the three days she is with us. For me, it was an exercise in using the written Thai language to communicate. I did make some grammatical errors in my initial draft, but my teacher told me that even that document could have been used to accomplish our objective. I rewrote the document, correcting my errors, and then Mom shared the document with Saeng Lah as I continued my studies. It is good to know that I can communicate in writing, even if the words I choose are simple ones and I make mistakes. It was also good to see that my Thai handwriting is improving – though it still looks like grade school printing. Saeng Lah was grateful for the clarification and the reduction of her workload. Life is good!