I have a housemaid. She is Palestinian. Her name is Miesa, and I pay her the equivalent of $35 NZD to spend a day at my house once a week. My house is spotless when she has been. Literally spotless. The tiles on the floor look like they have been polished. They haven't, by the way. Miesa gets down on her hands and knees and cleans it all with a cloth, then re-does it with a squeegee. We don't even have a vacuum cleaner because she doesn't use one. The woman works miracles and I pay her a measly $35. I feel like I'm cheating her, but apparently that's actually quite good money.
We are rich here. I'm not talking ridiculously 'own a super-yacht' rich, just very well off. Its such an odd feeling to be living on one income and be able to have this, and its sad that reality isn't this rosy! God bless the UN and their excessive allowances (but to be honest, even without all that we'd still be well off).
My children are noticed everywhere here. In the street, random men smile and click their tongues at them, and strange women bend down to kiss them in the stroller. Juliet (the lovely Argentinian across the hall) and I took our sons for a walk along the waterfront yesterday. Her son is 10 months, and the combination of my lads and Augustino was just about too much for the lady that bought us our lunch. She sat down with us and had Harry on her lap almost immediately. The rest of her customers got ignored. Lebanese think nothing of picking up strangers' children it seems. I'm told this is normal, and not to freak out if they disappear with them, they are just showing them off and they'll come back eventually… its not just women either. At home you'd call the cops.
I actually quite like it. We had coffee with the other UN wives this morning and it hit home to me how the children here are raised by their community. The toddlers were busying about talking to all the customers and smiling continuously at strangers. No fear apparent in their behavior. I'm glad my boys will be exposed to this for the early part of their lives. It seems like such a nice way to be.
We don't lock our car here. I leave my expensive twin stroller on the ground floor of our building (it doesn't fit in the elevator and its a bugger to drag up the stairs fully loaded) and the only people that touch it are the maintenance men who move it to clean the floor. Hayden tells me no-one steals anything here. They just don't. Maybe its a fear of god... whatever the reason the extreme poverty of some of these people would make theft excusable. It makes me wonder what we are doing wrong at home.
Already, I have the impression that the Lebanese mafia have their eye on me. I don't mean that in a bad way, and when I say mafia I mean that Tyre is quite small and no-one seems to miss much. I guess the twins are fairly recognisable, which helps people know who we are. We've only been out a couple of times walking, but the locals already smile at us. Its just a feeling, but it comforts me to know there are people who know who we are and are looking out for us.