Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Culture shock part II: in the house

I forgot to mention but the day I came home for the first time, the house cleaner was cleaning the bathroom. And when my mom introduced me to her, I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to but I hugged her. And I think may be that might have been weird, or unexpected. But yeah I have never had a maid or servant or house cleaner, and I don’t know what to call her when referring to her. In Brazil I hear “doméstica” “moça/ moço" [pr:/mossa/mossu/] and I’m not sure which one is preferable.

All families in this program had some kind of helper. Most of my friends had females, a couple I knew had male cooks/house cleaners who did laundry too. I also have to add that all of the ones I’ve met are African descendents while the families tend to be “white”.
It’s not recognized as institutional discrimination that 90% of the poor population is African descendent. And I believe over 95% of domesticas are black females. And honestly this to me, really brings to life all the history that we’re learning about slavery in Brazil, and like I said usually our middle/upper class families are “White” (mine is what would be called “morena” I think and they have a different background than most of the families in the program; both my host mom and host father grew up in the interior on farms) anyway, then I see Fernanda (I changed her name for this post) barefoot in the kitchen (before this was considered a sign that someone was a slave, freed blacks wore shoes) and exposing herself to all these harsh chemicals in the bathroom and just working sooo hard all day more/longer than she had been told…I feel like it’s really unfair that this labor is reserved for only a certain demographic.

Anyway..so yeah my family had two moças at first but then only one that did cleaning and cooking, and then a male cook for special occasions like the Caruru.
I was totally not used to that or having other people do my laundry and dishes all the time, but Fernanda and Barbara, and Ed (pronounced /edgy/) were so nice to me and especially Fernanda that it wasn’t hard to interact with them. I mean they weren’t like afraid to talk to me or anything and I’m sure they kind of have an interest in not making me dislike them, but I see them as friends. I have become really close to Fernanda because she comes three times a week now and on one day that my mom goes to church to volunteer so she’s who is keeping me company (since the rest of my family leaves super early in the morning to school and work). While I’m having breakfast or lunch she’s preparing the next meal right there in the kitchen next to me so we have a lot of interesting conversations, we'll joke around a lot too.

I can really relate to her a lot—even more than my host family sometimes, not saying that our experiences are necessarily comparable, but we both have single mothers and have had similar experiences in certain circumstances. Her mom also moved to a different place in search of better opportunities. And then we talk about relationships and how her daughter is doing, well I don’t want to divulge too much information about her but she’s told me some pretty funny things. Oh I love Fernanda she makes my day she’s just such a genuine person and always seems to be in a good mood. I actually hug and kiss her good-bye all the time now. I don’t know if that is against social norm, but she seems to be fine with it and does it too. :D

I see that my host mom and family all have a personal relationship with her too, they know a lot about Fernanda's personal life and family. She's been with this family 3 years. My mom is always telling her about what's going on in her life, she's complain to her, share joy too. It would seem like she's a part of the family, but not really. I also see how they can be a little disrespectful to her time too, but I don't think I should mention some stuff, but generally my host mother tries to do things for her.

In this picture is Fernanda and one of my mom's sister's cooking for the Caruru, a lot of help was needed that day. But also to bring up the point that in my family, my mom and her sisters and my host sisters also do chores once in a while. My mom has done my laundry and she does cook a lot for me, and washes the dishes and kitchen counters etc. But I've never seen them wash the bathrooms or floors.

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