Jaya is with us again.
(Back story here and here.) Jaya worked for us in what we call our jungle house, back when we first lived in Goa, in a different town named Assagao. She lived with us then, and I remember always feeling a bit like it was Jaya's house, Jaya's kitchen, because she already lived there when we moved in. She was wonderful, though. She taught me to cook and helped so much around the time of Solo's birth.
Then we moved to where we are now and Maria, next door, came over daily to sweep and do a few dishes, spending a hour or an hour and a half, and I felt like I had a house back. I was home a lot anyways, with a newborn. A season went by, and then another season, and then Cypriano (my landlord) told me that Maria couldn't work for me anymore because he'd had a fight with her husband over boundary lines. Another neighbor came over to work and I didn't exactly know what to do because she wasn't really very good at the work she did... I didn't know how to fix it. I felt like with my involvement in the meditation center and my writing, and homeschooling, that things were crashing in on me a bit.
And then Jaya came back into my life. She wasn't working for anyone. She needed work.
At first I hired her to cook lunch for our retreat. She is the best cook of North and South Indian food that I have ever encountered. And a little seed of hope sprang into being. It felt so timely. But so many fears encroached. Last time, she lived with us, this time, even if we had the space, I don't think it would be an option. We don't have the space. We are six people living in 900 square feet. Where would she live? Would my neighbor be angry if I let her go? Would my landlord disapprove because she is not Catholic? Was it ridiculous to have full time house help?
But I am working on coming up with a new set of criteria for making decisions like these. When you end up in another country, in another culture and another land you lose your old normal. Your old criteria for making choices doesn't apply. Everything is different. You can't line things up with your old life.
This is my new criteria: Does it lead to connection?
Connection with God: if something is morally out of order with my faith, it won't lead to connection with God. This one becomes almost instinctive. I just won't choose something that will be poisonous to my friendship with God.
Connection with Others: This one can be tricky because some choices that feel like they don't lead to connection actually do, and vice versa. For instance, setting good boundaries or having time alone. Times of solitude bring me closer to people because I come back refreshed and ready to jump back in. Lack of time away makes me withdraw, emotionally and spiritually. But too much solitude brings isolation, so it is always a balancing act.
When I looked at whether to hire Jaya again, this question really helped. In the end, I connect with Jaya, I spend more quality school (and fun and both together) time with my kids, I connect more with my hospitality-based community because I have more time, and I connect more with the bigger community of our town because I can spend more time with them.
And she is so lovely. She's had a really hard life. She loves working for us, in a home of love and with a community of people around who take the time to say hello and chat with her. Having her here has been amazing. We cook a lot for the meditation center community lunches, and besides that for ourselves and I literally run to the market once a day, if not more. (Usually to many different shops.) I can do it without worrying about leaving the kids behind, without taking Chinua's time. I can take on the garden project. I wouldn't be able to do those things without her.
All the practical things worked out. She lives with her sister, coming and going on the bus, which is much healthier for her and for us, I think. And my landlord acted a little touchy about it, but I let him know it wasn't something I was discussing. He calls her my servant, which always makes me shiver. I prefer to call her my Partner in Crime, as we both putter around the house doing our things. While I am teaching the kids, she is cleaning the kitchen. When it is my turn to cook, she helps me chop vegetables. If the kids haven't cleaned their room yet, she tells them she won't make them chai if they don't do it quick. (They hop to it!)
There is a lot of connection around our house, as we roll our eyes over Solo, Jaya corrals Leafy into a hug, or paints YaYa's nails (with shiny stickers on each one *shudder*.)
I feel that I learn a lot from her, too. She brings a lot of joy and intention into her day. Like the way she planted mint in the garden, and ginger, or brings flowers to put in, knowing that I am working on the garden. She just thinks of something nice and does it. And this is a girl who had to leave home at ten years old to work, because her parents were so poor.
I am so, so thankful for Jaya.
*I imagine that you could think I was crazy, turning up here and finding the long unedited block of text that this post turned into. I tried posting from the ipad, but this is what happens. Not working.