If it’s possible at all to be super excited about a few hand-washed clothes dripping over a broken door and some discarded corrugated iron, then yeah, I’m super excited.

And actually the real reason I’m excited is because my life is starting to look like how I’ve imagined it for the past 2.5 years. Where I have a writing space and time to write; a good school, tuition, counselling and medical care for Jerry; space to walk and exercise (plus the time to do it); food Jerry and I love to eat (and the time to cook it).

Last week I got some of my time back after finding someone to come and help in the house and garden. Even though I asked to her to just come in the morning and do a few small jobs like washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom, and clearing food scraps which build up around the deep well — she’s even washing all our clothes and scrubbing the windows and removing all the dust.

Oh the relief of not having to deal with laundromat dramas: Jerry’s allergic reaction to the chemicals; terse conversations with girls after my undies have been stolen; standing in the rain clutching my washing waiting for a tricycle; forgetting to collect before closing time.

a messy garden

When you live in a place where your water supply comes from a deep well and you use a bucket to flush away your number 2s a washing machine isn’t an option. So someone doing the laundry is a big, big deal.

To celebrate my gratitude for Ma’am Julie, my new helper I thought I’d share an email I sent to my Uncle in Australia last week. It’s not about complaining it’s about explaining what life here is like and how I’m determined I am to push aside the obstacles I face every day and … get writing.  Maybe you’ll even chuckle at some of my helper stress. Here it is verbatim.

Dear Uncle R

Hope you and the little wolf are staying warm today. We’ve just woken up and Jerry is lying on the bed in my room trying to get out of doing his morning chores.

I managed to find a new helper this week who seems very nice (though she hasn’t turned up this morning yet). I have high hopes for her though.

– Our first helper was a man named Randy (a friend of the landlord) he came twice and cleaned away all the tree litter from outside, cleared the stormwater drains of leaves and took away the rubbish. The house is sheltered by mango trees which pelt their fruit onto the corrugated iron roof and land on the ground damaged and uneatable. In just a day or two the entire yard is often covered in rotten fruit, leaves and palm branches (and waste collection services are not as we are used to in Australia). So Randy was great, I paid him double what I had been paying others in Estancia and cooked him breakfast. He came 3 times and never showed up again. The landlord told me he stopped coming because I was a white woman and he was shy.

– Next was Rose. I started asking around the little roadside stalls if anyone wanted a job cleaning and a man waiting next to me (collecting a loan payment from the owner of the little bamboo shack doubling as a convenience store) overheard me. He told me he knew someone who could clean for me. His wife Rose turned up a few days later. Rose was excellent and I liked her so much she was going to start taking Jerry to school for me each morning. But one day she didn’t turn up and I never saw her again. A few weeks later her ‘husband’ showed up on the front door step with another woman, telling me Rose had gone to work overseas and I should use QueenRose, his other ‘friend’.

– QueenRose came to clean the next day 3 hours late. She along brought her 6 year old son who sat watching TV with Jerry and wanting breakfast. After completely flooding the bathroom, she did an reasonable cleaning job cleaning. As she left (with a plastic bag filled with food for the boy) she managed to tell me how she was using her salary to enrol her son in school. Then next day she text me 3 times asking to borrow money — I responded with ‘I don’t loan money and please don’t text me again requesting money’. The next work day came and went and QueenRose never arrived: no message, no phone call. Later in the week she text me asking if she could come to work. ‘Yes’ I replied, ‘please do‘. Then we back and forthed texts for the next hour trying to work out a time she could come. She wanted to come at 7am (while I’m still out delivering Jerry safely to his school) and wouldn’t seem to accept the fact that she couldn’t just come here when she felt like it. Finally she said she was coming at 1pm the next day. So of course at 12 noon the next day it started to drizzle, the inevitable text saying ‘ma’am the rain is coming I cannot work’ arrived shortly after. By 1pm the rain had completely stopped and the sun was out so I text her suggesting she come to work. She replied with ‘sori ma’am’. My next text was rather short.

– I found our latest helper Julie on Thursday. I went to the lady down the road and asked if she knew somebody, and an hour later and older lady Julie, was at the fence. She is excellent and has been here the last two days. The first day the garden was full of stinking mangos, sticks, branches and rotting leaves and she did a great job cleaning it all. Yesterday she came back and did a little bit in the house. I don’t know where she is today — she’s already 40 minutes late. But I have high hopes for her. And actually Jerry has just called me and she’s already in the kitchen washing the dishes and cleaning around the deep well. So I think Julie is a winner and she has been the subject of more than a few prayers of gratitude.

Being a single mother in foreign country is bloody hardwork. And when I look back at the decision to live permanently in a foreign country as a single woman, adopt a hyperactive kid with development and behavioural issues, in a place where I have absolutely no support network for childcare (or even a job) I realise now I am completely mental. But I guess that runs in the family.

Anyway things are looking up. I do love Jerry to bits and he improves every day. The house is great and that workplace health and safety writing gig has come off — I’ve got guaranteed $XXX+ of writing with them every week now (plus my other regular clients). It’s a huge relief. And I’m slowly realising that being forced to make a real business out of my writing is something I might never have done in Australia. I think grandma would be happy about it.

And I even found a $205 flight from Iloilo City right through to Australia in October and booked it. I arrive in Sydney on October XXX. You are the first to know.

Ok got to run .. (I think I might turn this into a blog post) I can hear Julie sweeping the floor, the kittens need feeding (that’s for another story for another day) and I’ve got two writing assignments to finish today. I’ve promised Jerry I’ll stop working as soon as they are written and turn off the computer until Monday. We had 2 x public holidays (no school days) this week so the poor little bugger has been planted in front of the TV watching cartoons and Disney movies while I’ve rattled away here at the computer writing articles about corrosive substances, chemical explosions, sustainable energy, MIG welding torches, and pizza. Oh I do have a mix of clients.

Ok that’s all for now.

hugs and pats to the wolf


And since I wrote that email to my Uncle last Saturday, Ma’am Julie has become such a valuable help to me. I feel incredibly blessed to have finally found someone who seems to intuitively know exactly what I need and be willing to attend to the smallest details.

And it’s always the little things that make the biggest difference isn’t it?

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2 responses to “The Washing is Out”

  1. Cindy Avatar

    Julie sounds like a godsend! 😀

    1. Melinda J. Irvine Avatar

      Julie is truly a prayer answered. I’m so grateful. PS: the kittens are seriously cute, Jerry’s already talking about keeping the lot hahaha.