Thursday, July 03, 2008

Irene's Story

Irene has worked for us for 2 months now. Her last day will be Wednesday.

As she has nearly completed her time in our home, I feel a bit more comfortable asking her personal questions. She should no longer feel pressure to answer - I certainly can't fire her.

Irene lives in a boarding house, with other ayis from the Philippines. I have asked her to find her replacement from the ranks of her boarding house, which opened a wonderful window for questions.

Apparently, most women come to China on a 2 or 3 month visa. During their stay here, they will request 1-month extensions on their visa. They may be granted 1 or 2 extra months, so they may stay for 2-5 months. Their main expense is the plane ticket over - about 500USD, if I understood correctly. I pay our ayi about 1,000 RMB per month, and she works for another family as well. She earns above average wages - I pay her 20RMB ($3) per hour, and average is 12-15RMB ($1.75-$2) per hour - probably pocketing 300 USD per month total.

Her expenses must be low. She pays rent at the boarding house, which she needs my cash to pay. But still, I must assume rent is low - she has missed work because the road outside her house was flooded, so she's not in a high rent district.

Many women, upon their return to the Philippines, will apply for another visa to return to China. They may or may not be granted this return visa. Irene does not plan to apply - she has a lead on a housekeeper position at a hotel in South Africa.

Irene has children back in the Philippines. She has a home and family. But she says that although she could work in the Philippines, she could not make nearly as much money there as here. Remember, she makes no more than 300 USD per month.

Irene is a hard worker, smart and personable. Growing up middle class in the states, I must assume that she would have her pick of careers.

I suppose its disappointing to live in a world where a person like Irene is stuck living all over the globe to be able to support her family.

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