The South African Series

The Magnificent Mainee

Yay! ‘Sister Adjoa’ has come!

When you live in Africa, it is imperative to have some sort of household help. This will be in the form of a house keeper, nanny or gardener, and if you’re really balling, you’ll have all 3. Not only is it important (and very helpful) for a ‘foreigner’ to have this sort of help, it is an obligation that said foreigner owes to the native. After all, you’ve come with your American dollars and British pound sterling, and there are people who need jobs. You must make a contribution to the local economy; Why should you be so stingy! (*In my view, this is South African logic, and does not apply to the West. In Ghana you have a maid ‘just because.’)

I determined before we even got on the plane that ‘Ghana 2010’ would not be repeated. I WOULD have my help.

On Friday, that help finally came.

Michael brought Mainee over to our house to meet the kids and get to know the house. I knew she was coming, so I hoped into the shower to make myself presentable and wash off some baby gunk. I had seen her at Michael house, where she comes to clean once a week, and knew that she was a kindly middle aged lady with a soft voice. I hadn’t met her formally on that day, so I wanted to make a good first impression.

Aya, who has no concept of privacy or modesty, showed Mainee around the house and brought her to our room, where I had just exited the shower. I did not hear them approaching. She opened the bathroom door just as I was oiling my knees.

“Mommy! The lady is here!”

As the steam cleared, I looked over my shoulder and saw a short shadowy figure in the doorway. Mainee and I locked eyes…only after she had gotten a good eyeful of my booty cheeks. She looked mystified. I was horrified.

“Aya!!! You can’t bring people into the room while I’m showering baby!”

I reached around her and closed the bathroom door, throwing full frontal (jiggling) nudity in Mainee’s.

“Och!  Sorry, ma’am!” she yelled.

“It’s okaaay…” I called back.

I waited to hear them both leave, got dressed, and went to meet her in the kitchen.

Michael and Marshall were discussing schedules when I walked in. In the short span of time, Mainee had already put a load of laundry in the wash and was vacuuming the kid’s carpet. Wow!

Every time I turned around to begin some sort of cleaning, it was already done. The woman was just too quick! This was going to work out perfectly.

We chatted with each other during the course of the day, and I found out that she has 3 kids, the oldest of whom is 21 and the youngest was 14. She asked me about my kids. I started with Stone, who was standing with us at the time.

“He’s 2,” I began.

“Och! That’s the age my son was when I got married,” she blurted with a smile.


“Yes. Many of these men want to make sure you can have babies before they marry you. So after I had my son, my husband married me.”

She said it like it was normal, like that was okay. Oh well, at least it’s fornication with a purpose in mind.

Her husband was hurt on the job, and she has to make extra money to put her daughter through school, which is why she jumped at the opportunity to work for us. We worked out a salary that we were both happy with. Sweet! Everything was going swimmingly, until we hit a major hurdle:

“What is your name again?” she asked. “I can’t remember your name.”

“It’s Malaka,” I replied. “Like the song? By Miriam Makeba? Malaika, nakupena Malaika…”

“Och. Your name is too hard. Can’t I call you something else?”

Too hard? I wanted to say. Do you know how I spend half my afternoons? How ‘bout you come down with me to *click*Qolwaynee, and throw some names around with me. Too hard my —

“Well, I have two other names: Abena Owusua. You can try one of those.”

“No, no,” she laughed. “That’s even worse. Don’t worry. I’ll think of something.”

“Okay,” I said reluctantly.

I tried to offer some help as she cleaned, and she told me I need to learn to relax. She told me to get on my laptop and do my work. The cleaning was her work. In other words, I needed to learn to play my position. By the time she left, the floors were gleaming and I was beaming. The kids were quite taken with her too. I missed her SO much over the weekend.

On Monday, she walked in like a little Colored Mary Poppins, the floor cleaning itself up with her every step.

“I have thought of your new name,” she said.


“Yes. It’s Nehneh. It’s like ‘a friend’.”


“Yes, I don’t do well with these local names. They are too difficult to remember,” she confessed.

*long blank stare*

You’ve GOT to be kidding me. Oh, the irony.