Thursday, November 22, 2007

The path to true happiness is cut up fruit for breakfast

Living in Hong Kong is not real, it is not how normal people live. It is slightly frightening that the only difference between travelling between Hong Kong proper and Hong Kong Disneyland is the mouse, annoyingly perky music, and that everything is designed for people who are three feet tall. Hong Kong is a playground, where everything is easy and life is fun.

Transport works and is clean, taxis are as cheap as your average London bus ride, you can find pretty much anything you need here, for a price (except nursing bras in size 32H, but that is for another post) and you get invited to wonderfully glamorous parties where you can guzzle free drinks all night. Put simply, this place is not real.

Until recently, I have firmly subscribed to the feet on the ground principle and tried to make my life as normal as possible. I have done the weekly shop on my own, run my own errands to the immigration department, tax office, or to licence the motorbike (when there are endless people happy to be paid to do so for you). I try to always cook when I am at home in time, and try to tidy up after myself. The Boy does the washing and we clean the cat's litter tray (she, however, does nothing).

However, things are changing. I am about to have a child, have a busy full time job, and a husband who travels a lot. Something has to give, and I am determined it will not be my sanity. So, I have done something I thought I never would, and employed a full time, live in, "helper".

In HK "helpers" (maid/housekeeper/nanny) have to live in and most are required to work 6 days a week, pretty much 24 hours a day. They tend to come from the Philippines or Thailand and are paid a pathetically small amount. We didn't even have a cleaner growing up and so I was very hesitant about having someone. We investigated all options, but in the end this was the only practical one.

I needn't have worried, it has changed my life. I was lucky in that H had previously worked for two colleagues of mine who were leaving HK, and looked after their small children so came with a great recommendation. She is in her early 40s, has had her own children and I am becoming rapidly convinced is channeling my Mum. Not only is the apartment always spotless, but she takes care of me in the absence of the Boy and this morning even cut up fruit for me for breakfast (unasked, I would have been fine with Special K) because a few girlfriends came round for pizza and chick flicks last night so H had decided I wasn't eating properly and should have fruit this morning.

H has completely changed my life, however pathetic that sounds. She is organised, caring, looks after me and the mad cat, and we get on brilliantly. We chat over brekkie in the morning, and she gives me my space in the evening.

She is rapidly, even after a couple of weeks, becoming such a part of our little family that all the worries I had about handing over my child to a stranger are diminishing. Once bump comes, H will move firmly into nanny territory and the Boy and I will get back to doing the shopping and washing ourselves at least some of the time, but for my final trimester H is just what I need.

So, if anyone wants to know the path to true happiness, she is living in my apartment right now.

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