Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Leaving behind...

Today I told Morshida that I will be leaving Dhaka in June. I've been dreading this conversation.

For most people I know here, my move is easy. Those to whom I am important with continue to correspond with me via letters, emails, blogs, skype, facebook, etc. At some point in the future we'll probably see each other as we busily bop from place to place, adventure to adventure; visiting, exploring and continuing to be worldly people.

With Morshida, it's different. I find myself at a loss of words- would it suffice to say that when I told her I would be leaving in June I could see her fighting back the tears as they threatened to escape? When I decided to not renew my contract for another year the heaviest thought on my heart was Morshida. But still, we both knew it had to happen.

Morshida. Yes, she makes my life very easy here. She's a dedicated, honest hardworking woman who greets me with a smile every morning before work, rushes her tiny frame around my enormous apartment to complete each task before I can even think it. She prepares my breakfast and packs my lunch. While I'm at work she shops for groceries, carts them to my kitchen, cleans all the scary microbs off the produce and places it in the fridge. She keeps my fridge stocked with homemade apple sauce and pico de gallo. She scrubs the floors and waters the plants. She takes care of arranging the apartment maintenance so I hardly even have to waste a fleeting thought on burnt out light bulbs, leaking pipes, tricky window locks, or moldy walls. She carefully launders my clothes and places them tidily back in my closet- every article pressed, including t-shirts and pajama bottoms. If I ever were the type of person who liked getting served breakfast in bed- I could have it daily, brought to me with a smile. She even makes sure to pick up fragrant flowers with which she decorates my apartment. This is the woman who tended me when I ate out and got so sick that I was in a coma-like sleep for three days. She cleaned up my vomit.

As much as a truly enjoy the pampered princess lifestyle- my sadness of leaving Morshida does not stem from me being demoted from royal to regular citizen. As nice as pampered is- I'm a fully grown woman who can do all of the above for myself. I always knew the lifestyle was temporary.

I worry because I provide over 2/3 of her family's income. And I pay for her children to go to school. I can write her the most beautiful recommendation letter, but that is no guarantee that she'll find stable employment soon. Additionally, I know that Morshida is very emotionally attached to me. I've tried to not cultivate her attachment, knowing that one day I would leave. But it was a futile attempt. By her own admission, I am the nicest employer that she has ever had. She knows that I pay well and, more importantly, I treat her well. She is safe and respected in my home. I will not beat her, yell at her or threaten her- all of which she experiences at home due to her husband. I trust her. I give her the means to earn honest money. Through our conversations, my visits to her and her parents' homes and my knowledge of Bangladeshi culture, I can just start to imagine her world. I know she lives month to month with absolutely no savings or backup plans or, once I leave, job security. Although she has since moved, when I visited her previous home, she, her husband, her two small children and her parents-in-law were all living in a room smaller than any room in my apartment, save for the pantry. That one room housed a bed, a dresser, a chair, a small table and a TV. The cookware was lined up against the wall. The toilet was a communal hole in the ground. (In contrast, my apartment comes with a bathroom with shower and sink plus flushing squat-pot just for her. Her own- and only- private space.) Bangladesh is a country where families must pay impossibly large dowries to sell their daughters off into marriage. It is a country where dejected lovers, husbands, etc can throw acid on women and children to express their discontent. This is not a place of woman's rights or even basic human rights.

Morshida. Her enthusiasm and gratitude for being employed is shown in each and every movement, every word. She tells me frequently that I am such a good employer. Every morning she opens the door for me as a leave and stands there waving as I say good-bye --twice-- once at the door and once at the top of the stairs (a whole 3 meters away from the door)- and wish her a good day. I feel this tradition is slightly silly, but makes her ridiculously happy as she grins widely and waves back. She even suggests that she should come in on her days off. When a huge festival halted all public transportation I had to tell her to stay home in lieu of walking miles to come in to work.

After I told Morshida that I would be leaving in June, she asked me if she could write or call me. I thought this was a great idea- until .5 seconds later when I realized Bangladesh would not send mail to Israel. I told her this. I wonder if refusing to send mail to another country makes any sense to her. We'll try email, but I don't know if she's ever used a computer before. (She said a place nearby in Gulshan 2 would help her) But I'm loathed to think that money that could be spent on food or education or rent would be spent with her pecking her way through composing an email in English.

Five more months until I leave Dhaka. Personally, I wish time could speed up because I'm so excited to be seeing friends in the States and going to Israel. I bet Morshida is praying that time slows down. A few minutes after our conversation, she came to tell me that she already misses me.

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