I’m renting a room in a large house, sharing it with about eight other foreigners, mostly Germans. Juanita, the cleaning lady, works here five days a week for four hours a day and then moves on to another gig.
She cleans the house and if you leave your door open, she’ll clean your room — fresh sheets, bathroom scrubbed, floor mopped. The works…
Many of the people here delight in this every day. It’s included in the (relatively) high rent. I don’t really think I need fresh sheets (which she washes by hand) every night — I certainly didn’t have them when I lived in the US. So I only ask her to clean my room once, maybe twice a week.
I believe in leaving a tip, whether it’s part of the local culture or not. I lay a 20 cordoba note on the pillow each time. I’m no hero — that’s just less than a buck but to someone making probably less than $100 a month, it’s a dinner for her family.
The first two times, she places the bank note on my side table, cleans and leaves. The third time I follow her into the room and point at the bill saying, “this is a tip”. She smiles and thanks me.
Juanita speaks very little English but she’s dealt with gringos enough that she’s learned to speak slowly and keep things simple. I’m very thankful for this. We’ve managed a few conversations about her life in Nicaragua and I’ve met her husband and chatted with him. They’re good people.
She likes me and I want to think that it’s not only because I tip her but that I engage her as a fellow person. Too few tourists do.
Getting back to the main subject, yes, the cleaning lady sees it all. She changes the sheets and knows if you had sex last night. She empties your trash and sifts through it — there might be something that can be recycled for pennies. Or there might be something that you decided to toss out that she can sell to that vendor in the market for a dollar.
And she knows, from cleaning my room, that I drink too much. She’s seen the empty bottle of rum, the occasional half-full beer can that I hid in the corner. She knows.
This morning I find something that was not there when I moved in. The bathroom wall doesn’t go to the ceiling, it is a seven foot tall slab in the corner, obviously added long after the building was constructed. The top of the wall creates a small shelf.
And now, sitting on that ledge is a tiny crucifix with a small tag covered in scripture, something bought at the market for pennies.
I’m not a religious man, but I know a blessing when I see it. She isn’t pushing her beliefs on me. She’s trying to help me in the only way she knows.
The person who washes my clothes, scrubs my sheets, mops my floor and empties my trash is praying for me.
The world continues to astound me. Those who have the least give the most.