Friday, April 10, 2009


April ’09

Gladys has left. She came to the big city in search of glitz and money and the life she will live with us just doesn’t cut it. There isn’t much of a social life, there is lots of work and too many new things.

I don’t blame her. The last few years of her life have been spent idly or at the very least on her own schedule. She used to sell ampesi (boiled plaintains) in Obuasi. Then she stopped and spent her days in conversation, waiting for her guardian to find the money to put her in a trade or training. Eventually bored with the wait she came to Accra to seek her fortune.

During her first week here, I had a lot of errands to run with the children so we went out a good number of times. She reported herself happy to the aunt who brought her to me. But the happiness didn’t last long. Her second week was spent all at home. The third seemed to be going that way too. On top of which there were so many things she didn’t know how to do or use that I expected her to master.

Early Wednesday morning she came to me and told she wanted to go. She preferred work in a ‘chopbar’ or some other eating place she said. After work, she could do what she liked and that was more her style. We agreed she would leave on Friday. But her aunt asked me to let her stay till Sunday when she would have the day off and could return her to their hometown. She didn’t say it aloud but we both knew what she meant. She didn’t want to be responsible for her niece falling into prostitution. She wished to wash her hands off her officially and let the burden of her lifestyle in the city be upon her own head. I understood and told Gladys I would pay her on Sunday when her aunt came for her.

Ordinarily, when someone lives or works under my authority and they want to leave, I feel bad that I must have driven them away and I reexamine my interactions with them to be sure I am not the reason for their departure. I didn’t do that with Gladys. As I told her aunt, I had never lost money in my own home until she came into it. Within a week of her arrival more than two hundred dollars disappeared from their secret location. We are expanding our house and there are workmen about. They could any of them have taken it, I accept that. But they have all been working here for over four months. I have never lost any money.

So I couldn’t help but be more suspicious of her than of the old faces. And she had the irritating habit of not admitting it when she didn’t know something and would keep me waiting until I asked irritably about it then I’d discover she didn’t know what it was. I wasn’t sad to see her go.

I imagine it wasn’t all peaches and cream for her either. Being wrong and ignorant so often is unpleasant and can make a person feel insecure and unhappy. Veronica has harsh opinions of her employers before me. They were her first job. First jobs are hard on these girls. They are full of instructions, new lessons and new gadgets; impatience, irritated tones, raised voices and rules. I told myself I would get used to Gladys. She would pick up and we would get along famously. I didn’t really believe it but I like to think I give people a fair chance. So I braced myself to stick with her another few months at least and hoped I got over my hostility or that she gave me honest cause to sack her. Fortunately I’ve been spared the burden.

Finding somebody else can take over a month. I have gotten lazy from having two efficient women who know what I like manning our little station. Until I find and train somebody else, I will have to knuckle down and help out with the work. I’m not looking forward to that. But thank goodness Gladys has left!

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