It’s that time of year again, every weekend, double and triple booked with parties, parties, parties……..going away parties.
The end of the school year always sees an exodus of the expats. Homeward bound or back on the merry-go-round not knowing which destination to jump off at next, people are coming and going all the time. Of course one of the biggest considerations, outside of summer holidays, are the children and their education, so they complete the year in school, apart from the final week or two, and you bolt.
Preferring always to say ‘hello’ rather than ‘goodbye’, at first, I found the constant string of goodbyes difficult, but as time goes on and ‘one gets used to the comings and goings’ (ref. Fiona’s Granny), and you begin to think of what is being left behind. Jenny and Dave depart for Hong Kong and leave their banana leaf outdoor sofa set. Natalie and Dave are homeward bound for Sydney and leave a handmade solid wooden sideboard and 32 piece handcrafted salad bowl set. Christine and Dave are going back to London and are offloading a hammock and a barbeque. Their homes, on lease by the employers, are cleaned out in a matter of hours by the shipping company, the car goes back to the hire company and the children already plan to make new friends in their new home. On the day they actually leave, there is nothing tangible left behind, not a physical trace that they were ever there.
But there is something left, there’s the driver, the maid, the nanny, the pool guy, the relief driver and the cook that you used every now and again as the occasion arose. All these people who depended on just one to provide them with honest work and a salary. Yes, that’s right, an average expat has an average of three staff, three people that they keep in full time employment. The outlay c. 2.5 million rupiah, equivalent to Eu.150 per month, was keeping an Indonesian household afloat. Unlike the Middle East where all the ‘help’ is imported, and the associated responsibility of same lays directly on the shoulders of the employing expat, here in Indonesia, it’s a cash-only affair. No week in hand, no agent, no one month’s notice, no holiday pay and no sick pay. However, all that being said, many madam’s and mister’s pay these benefits, as the cost of same to the expat is almost insignificant and the loss of earnings would have serious significance to the maid/driver. Just as expats are dependent on locals to help them settle in and make a life in Indonesia, locals too are dependent on expats……for their disposable income. The effect of every Rupiah spent by an expat, ripples and reaches out to tens and tens of locals, improving the lives of many, albeit to varying degrees. The realisation that it wasn’t just you that depended on them, they also depended on you to provide gainful employment and a regular monthly salary.
So the race begins, right after you offer your condolences to those moving to Afghanistan and congratulations to those moving to Singapore, they quite often come back with a strong recommendation for their maid / driver. ‘She’s a good worker, kind, gentle with the kids, nice temperament, strong teeth, shiny mane etc etc’. The niggling guilt that unless they find a good home for your beloved maid before they leave let she may well live thereafter hungry and in squalor, as opposed to, not hungry in squalor.
Enter, ‘domestic social responsibility’, the bain of every expat wife’s life. As the end of a beautifully mutually dependent relationship comes to an end, it remains the unwritten responsibility of the expat wife to ensure that Yanti or Warti find a new family to care for in return for cash.
This month, take time to think of what is being left behind after the expats depart, and it’s not the sofa or the patio table and chairs, it’s the lives of the local people that benefited while they were there.
Hopefully a new ripple of opportunity will come again for them in September.