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Just a little venting.....

SallyBR1's picture

I won't go into family issues, but allow me to touch a few general Brazilian issues

I've mentioned before here that essentially every person lower middle class to the upper levels has maids back home. It is a cultural thing, I guess. People grow up used to the idea that house chores are to be done by maids. THe richer you are, the more servants you have. Some have cleaning ladies, cooks, gardeners - keep in mind it's not like here where some people might hire help to do major cleaning (windows, patios, floors) or do major catering or gardening. No, I'm talking people who stay in your house 24 hours/day (or 8 hours/day) and do all the jobs, from making your bed after you get up, to cleaning the dishes, doing the laundry, ironing (yes, every single item gets ironed), cleaning up your clutter, washing your toilets (daily), sweeping the floors, washing kitchen and bathroom floors (those are usually tiled and have drains to allow for real washing, with hoses)

Even if you don't have a cook, the maid will do the small jobs in the kitchen that my friends rather not do: slicing onions, peeling potatoes, smashing garlic, cleaning meat etc etc etc

the longer I've been away from Brazil, the more these things bother me - I can go along with some of it, but particularly in this trip, I had to bite my tongue so hard, the blood was rushing to my head, because I did not want to ruin a 30 year old friendship for speaking up.

I will give you a couple of examples - when I got to the beach, I was obviously not tanned at all. I put my foot next to my friend's foot, and said wow, you are soooo tanned, look how pale I am by comparison!

her husband, laughed a little bit and said "yes, she's got "maid's feet"

I wanted to smack him upside the head right there. What a disgusting thing to say, even if as a joke!

they just bought the house at the beach, and immediately had to hire a maid, a very nice and quiet 22 year old woman. My friend said they like her because "she is very smart, and learns things fast" - said with a tone that would be more appropriate if they were talking about some inferior species of human beings

during her training, they told her that when they get up they like to have the breakfast table set, but would prefer if she would not be around doing chores in the kitchen while they eat breakfast - she can go out, or start doing something upstairs.

I honestly felt sick to my stomach listening to this.

can I vent some more? This tops it all - they will do a renovation in the new beach house, to change the kitchen sink from one wall to another. I was surprised, because these renovations involve so much work, change all the pipes, etc etc. My friend told me that since they will not do the dishes at the end of the day and they will just pile up in the sink area, they rather move the sink so you cannot see the mess from the sofa!

(and Sally faints)

I've had plenty of discussions with Brazilians living here or in Europe, and everyone shares the same disappointment and disbelief - our families and friends are living in a different kind of setting, and just want to go on profiting from the inequalities of society.

what can I say? They are all wonderful people, but..... I feel like a fish out of the water when I go there.

(thanks for listening... it's good to vent a little)

MadMom's picture

(post #51754, reply #1 of 34)

Thanks for expressing that.  We found the same thing when we went to Panama.  Everyone seemed to have a houseful of maids.  Before we left, I had two maids, one for each of the girls, and a gardener.  This did not include the people we had to look after the horses.  Of course, being an American, I would cook dinner for the maids!  I could never get used to treating them as servants.  I'll admit, it was wonderful to call one of them when the baby needed changing or I wanted to take a nap.  Still, those times I felt queasy.  A good friend of ours, a very wealthy Panamanian, said that she dreamed of the day when she would not have any maids.  She must have had seven or eight.  I asked why, and was told that people would just drop their children off at her house when they reached puberty and expect them to be taken care of.  Now, she thought nothing of working them from before sun up until well after sunset, but I just could not fathom that. 


Before we left, some genius decided that all maids had to be paid the US minimum wage, so, instead of working for Americans (where they were really treated pretty well, plus were paid $40/$50 per month), they were fired and went to work in Panama City for $20/$30 per month, working from 4 a.m. until about midnight.  I know that either wage sounds low these days, but when we lived there, a Panamanian from "the bush" with no education would be thrilled to work for an American, they got better pay and less hours to work.




Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!
SallyBR1's picture

(post #51754, reply #3 of 34)

It is a very complicated issue - I realize that those people need jobs. But it would be better (in my humble opinion) if they would get a much higher pay. If they did, the middle class would not go on acting as if bathrooms need to sparkle 7 days/week, floors need to be washed daily, furniture needs to be dusted, and underwear needs to be ironed before going into a drawer.

WHen we stayed with our friends a few years ago in their wonderful house in Sao Paulo, they kept insisting that we gave our clothes to be washed by their maid (PHil and I always bring our dirty laundry to wash at home in the US) - when I politely refused, the husband said that if they don't give a lot of stuff for the maid to do, she will sit and do nothing, and since they are paying her salary, they want to see her work all the 8 hours of the day.

Fine with me - but you see the rationale behind it all, right? All of a sudden because I want to have cheap labor available to me 8 (or 24) hours per day, I better come up with a list of things that NEED to be done, even if the rest of the planet lives quite well with a bathroom cleaned once or twice a week by the very people who own the house :-)

MadMom's picture

(post #51754, reply #5 of 34)

I hear you.  It is a complicated issue, but one which better education and better opportunities might resolve.  I know people need these jobs, but their need might be based on a lack of education and other opportunities.  When I was living in Panama, I learned a great lesson, which I'm sorry to say, our previous administration never learned.  If I am a poor mother living in the countryside and I have a choice between democracy, the right to vote, and medical care and education for my children under a dictator, which will I choose?  The right to vote suddenly means nothing compared to a local clinic or school.  I realize that might be shortsighted, but I cannot blame anyone who feels that way, and I have to say I agree with them.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

SallyBR1's picture

(post #51754, reply #17 of 34)

you touched on a very interesting subject - Brazilian politics has a very different twist from any other country I know.

voting is MANDATORY. That means everyone is required to vote - if you don't you get in serious trouble.

some might think that this is the perfect scenario for democracy - however, what happens in reality is that no matter your level of education, you WILL vote.

Think about tiny little villages lost in the middle of the Amazon - each person there WILL vote, and their vote counts as much as a vote from someone from Sao Paulo or Rio or any other major city.

so how is this situation bad for the country? Politicians use this to their own profit. IN the Northeast of Brazil, a region of extreme poverty, months before elections you see politicians going there and promising all sorts of things - when election day comes, they bring trucks to take those folks to voting locations in the center of larger communities, and... you guess the outcome.

I've always been against the mandatory voting system, although I realize most people in Developed Countries would see nothing terribly wrong with it.

Syrah's picture

(post #51754, reply #18 of 34)

I don't think mandatory voting is what creates the exploitation though. They could be just as easily exploited in the same way with voluntary voting.

I believe in champagne...

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be obtained." -Marie Curie

SallyBR1's picture

(post #51754, reply #21 of 34)

It would be different, though - when every single person in every little corner of the country HAS to vote, a politician has ample opportunity to "invest" in buying their votes. It is a very safe bet.

if voting was not mandatory, I am quite sure less than 50% of Brazilians would vote, and the ones who live in the rural areas, who need to face incredible transportation ordeals to get to the voting boots, they would be the first to drop out of it. They happen to be the main target of bribery.

keep in mind that most of those folks have no education, many are illiterate, easy prey for this kind of manipulation.

there is little doubt in my mind that Brazilian politicians for the most part want to keep voting mandatory

MadMom's picture

(post #51754, reply #22 of 34)

My feeling is that if a person doesn't care enough about the issues to know who to vote for, they shouldn't be forced to vote.  I lament the small percentage of people who actually vote in this country, but think that is better than having people's votes bought and paid for as bribery. 



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Gretchen's picture

(post #51754, reply #23 of 34)

I think there are a number of countries that require voting--like Mugabe's?

Gretchen

Gretchen
MadMom's picture

(post #51754, reply #24 of 34)

That just proves my point, right?  Requiring voting seems almost as bad as prohibiting voting.  People should vote because they care enough to make the trip, care enough to study the issues, care about the candidates.  I know that we are often "bribed" here in the US (after all, aren't campaign promises sort of like bribes?) but at least the person who is elected represents a plurality of those who care enough to vote.  I once thought mandatory voting would be a great idea.  I've certainly changed my mind. 


That being said, I do think that polling places should be accessible to everyone, with people in rural areas not having to make a long trip they could ill afford to vote.  I also think that politicians should spend more time talking about issues and less time talking about their opponent's real or imagined vices.




Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!
assibams's picture

(post #51754, reply #25 of 34)

You can find more than you ever needed to know about compulsory voting here :-)


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_voting



Resist the temptation to over-clean. After all, how many times do you need to kill the same germ.

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
Herm Albright

PeterDurand's picture

(post #51754, reply #26 of 34)

But, but, but was the argument not made a while ago that it is not right that a leader was only elected with (insert a low % here) and so does not represent the people etc? Convoluted sentence, but I think you get the drift. I believe Australia has mandatory voting. Would someone from there care to comment one way or another?

I suspect that if you have declining number of voters the eventual outcomes could be somewhat unpleasant.

Cheers,

Peter

edit:shudda read Assibam's link before blubbering away.
 
Better life through Zoodles and poutine...


Edited 1/25/2009 1:12 pm by PeterDurand

SallyBR1's picture

(post #51754, reply #27 of 34)

I like when you blubber.... :-)

assibams's picture

(post #51754, reply #28 of 34)

*G*


I just barely missed the mandatory voting in Austria, it was abolished in 1982, I turned 18 in '83. Can't say I'm proud of it, but I have only voted once in my whole life. I haven't lived in Austria since '88 and have not followed much politics, don't know many of today's politicians. So, even though I get a ballot for every national election, I have chosen not to vote. Furthermore the outcome of any Austrian election has little to no effect on my life.


I would, however, appreciate if I could vote in Germany (without having to give up my Austrian citizenship) on more than just the lowest levels, like for the town mayor. These are the political decisions that affect my life and I do follow the politics.


Now if it was mandatory, my post-pubertarian oppositional little ego would keep me from voting ;-)



Resist the temptation to over-clean. After all, how many times do you need to kill the same germ.

"A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
Herm Albright

SallyBR1's picture

(post #51754, reply #29 of 34)

I should add that even Brazilians living abroad have to vote - only if the Brazilian Consulate is more than 100 miles away you are forgiven.

When I lived in France, I had to vote in Presidential elections - here I don't have to because the closest Consulate is in Houston, too far away

MadMom's picture

(post #51754, reply #30 of 34)

I think that if only 50% of the people care enough to vote, and the President is elected by a bare majority, approximately 25% of the people, that would show that we either have a poor system or poor candidates.  In 2004, I was hardly excited by John Kerry, but hoped to get rid of Bush, so I voted.  Frankly, if it had been Kerry vs. Bush in 2000, I'm not sure whether I would have voted at all. 


The key, my friend, is education and candidates who inspire people to work for them, to study the issues, and to vote.  I would rather see a level of 60% voting by people who actually cared, than compulsory voting by people who could care less.  Even though the president represents us all, and his actions affect us all, some people never get that message.  I believe that the US 2008 election set records, both for early voting and total votes and percentage of eligible voters.




Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!


Edited 1/25/2009 3:14 pm ET by MadMom

PeterDurand's picture

(post #51754, reply #31 of 34)

Actually I was not thinking about your friend Bush, but the turnout for our last federal election up here. The turnout was dismal and it left me feeling uneasy. Even though my candidate of choice won.

Cheers,

Peter

 
Better life through Zoodles and poutine...


Edited 1/25/2009 4:42 pm by PeterDurand

MadMom's picture

(post #51754, reply #33 of 34)

Perhaps the low turnout indicated a dissatisfaction with the candidates in general?



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Syrah's picture

(post #51754, reply #34 of 34)

I'm for it, but truthfully, it is the only system I've known. I can see how Sally views it with suspicion, but in an relatively well educated country such as Australia it works well.

People are more likely to be well informed because we have to be.
There is a fine for not voting, but it's fairly insignificant at $50. There are various exceptions too - like if you are out of the country on a holiday and don't organise an absentee vote. Polling booths rock up abroad for troops, at hospitals and nursing homes so lucid people can vote. We get voter participation in the 90 percents.

Election day is a big deal. Always on a Saturday, always at your local school or community centre. The kids fundraise and have sausage sizzles, more recently Krispy Kreme drives and cake stalls.

It's a cultural thing, and I imagine we didn't get here from the minute it became compulsory. It makes it easier to accept a leader you may not approve of when you recognise your country voted for their party, and they are the leader of such. Of course, we also have preferential voting, which complicates it a bit - but you get the idea.

I believe in champagne...

"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be obtained." -Marie Curie

MadMom's picture

(post #51754, reply #19 of 34)

I am totally against mandatory voting.  If a person doesn't care enough to vote, their vote is worthless.  I hear what you are saying, though.  People vote for empty promises, which might be what happens here, right?  I'm hoping this administration is different.  If he isn't, he will be a one-term president.



Not One More Day!
Not One More Dime! Not One More Life! Not One More Lie!

End the Occupation of Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now!

And Take Care of Them When They Get Here!

Gretchen's picture

(post #51754, reply #7 of 34)

We used to go to a medical meeting in Mexico every year and there were several Mexican members who had trained in the US at Florida. The way they spoke of their servants was indeed distasteful.


But lest we all continue to ignore the elephant in the room, this was, and in some places in the US, still is VERY similar to what has been going on for generations with our black population. It is NOT very far distant in our past.


Gretchen
Gretchen
SallyBR1's picture

(post #51754, reply #8 of 34)

there is no doubt in my mind that this is the case. THe origin of this behavior is slavery, in Brazil too.

Regality's picture

(post #51754, reply #10 of 34)

I'm sure that you know that yours is not the only country where this sort of situation exists.  I have an acquaintance who grew up in a presidential palace.  She married a US government employee and moved to the States.  They had two lovely, well-mannered children.  Every time she took the children "home" to visit her relatives they would be extremely spoiled by all the servants and attention and would return here miserable little demanding brats and it took some time for them to revert to their better natures.  My acquaintance eventually was widowed and the last time I saw her, she was mowing her own lawn.

 


“For me, patriotism is the love of one’s country, while nationalism is the hatred of other peoples.”–Dmitri Likhachev


http://regality3.livejournal.com/



Jean's picture

(post #51754, reply #2 of 34)

Just curious if you experienced this same culture shock only in reverse when you first came here.  Do the women have work outside the home? If not, what in the world do they do all day?


What was the best thing before sliced bread?



http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/

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sally ryan's picture

(post #51754, reply #4 of 34)

I certainly wouldn't like to see them treated poorly, but at least it's employment and a wage.


If no-one hires them, what will they do?

SallyBR1's picture

(post #51754, reply #6 of 34)

I am not sure I experienced a cultural shock from that situation in particular - in some ways, I think I was already a fish out of the water while growing up, and coming to the US only made me realize a different way of life was out there, which I embraced with no problems whatsoever. GOing back to Brazil, back in 1989, I did not have a maid and stayed without one for 2 years, then it became a huge issue with my ex-husband - he would not boil water or wash a glass, and got on my case every time he saw me clean anything. So we hired a cleaning lady twice/week, and she is still working for him - almost 20 years later.

women for the most part work outside of the home now, but when I was growing up my Mom did not, and still had a maid, seven days/week.

SquarePeg's picture

(post #51754, reply #9 of 34)

I hear you.


We went to see the South American property opening up of one of our big wineries. it was lovely. Beautiful ground, beautiful hacienda. Staff everywhere. Mimosa on silver trays.


Until we realized that all those little huts, many with no roof or door, were the living quarters of the people that worked in the house. They were born to it and had no choice in the matter.


In the cities, the rich lived in compounds with razor wire.


Vast divide between the "haves" and the "have nots"

Marie Louise's picture

(post #51754, reply #11 of 34)

It would make me very uncomfortable to have someone hovering around to do things for me. I've never quite adjusted to the fact that I have a weekly cleaning person.

But, it is complicated. These maids are probably supporting their families with this income, and the people are helping their economy by having them. What else could this person do besides be a maid? It sounds like it is a sign of status in Brazil to have maids, and I suspect that is part of what you are reacting to. You are becoming more American and less Brazilian.

As far as as inequalities, well, I'm of the school of thought that the important thing is not how "good" your job is, but rather how good a job you do at whatever job you are in. I have a lot more respect for the housekeepers at our hospital who take pride in their work and do a great job than the surly physician who is always whining about having to see another patient.

The real problematic thing for me would be to observe someone treating their maid poorly. I would lose all respect for anyone who did that. And the crack about "maid's feet" would make me cringe too.

Jean's picture

(post #51754, reply #12 of 34)

Re. the hospital housekeepers. During my last admission I watched how they worked and made sure I greeted them and thanked them every time they came in my room. They in turn went the extra mile. They were great. The hospital couldn't function without them.


On the other hand, when I worked the night shift in our little hospital here I was everything from acting doctor to cleaning lady, ward clerk to maintainence man. Somewhere in between I was the nurse too. LOL. BTW, I retired from nursing in the mid 80s and I still dream about work. I did again last night as a matter of fact.



What was the best thing before sliced bread?



http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/

A  clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
http://www.thebreastcancersite.com/
help to provide free mammograms for women in need
Marie Louise's picture

(post #51754, reply #13 of 34)

That is scary about your dreams...

In one ED I worked in-big trauma center-the nurses had to clean the sinks! That was in the late 1970s.

soupereasy's picture

(post #51754, reply #20 of 34)

Too funny. I also retired from nursing, though in the late '80's. Amazing how far a please, thank you and well done can get you.