Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Happened

Here's the thing. The woman who has cleaned my home for the past couple of years has vanished. I will call her Sonia.

Sonia knew I would be away and the last time she cleaned my home before I left she left a note saying goodbye, wishing me a safe trip, and asking me to call her when I return. This has happened over the past few years, and she has always returned.

I called her as I said I would, but her cell phone is now blocked to incoming callers. This is new. I called her home number and a child answered. He spoke english perfectly, in other words it did not sound like her seven year old son. I asked for Sonia and whomever answered called a woman to the phone. She had no idea who I wanted and confirmed that I had dialed the correct number.

I am at a loss. I know Sonia's last name, but I also know that her husband has a different last name, because the woman always keeps her maiden name. I know they live in Richmond Annex, but I do not know the exact address. I do not know where her son goes to school. A short while before I left she told me she was having problems with her young son. She didn't elaborate, but she said he was 'misbehaving' and that she and her husband were concerned. I gave her some phone numbers of places I thought could help. What I never asked Sonia was whether they were here legally.

Because I left South Africa at a very young age, I never had a servant. I felt conflicted about hiring Sonia, after all, I am perfectly capable of cleaning my house, but I don't have much time or energy for doing so. Now this situation feels a bit like South Africa where people had servants, but never knew their last names or anything about them.

Where can she be?

My mind is reeling - could she be a victim of domestic violence?

Could she or her husband have been taken away by the ICE?

Have they just upped and left?

These concerns are not just flights of fancy, I have come across of domestic violence situations too frequently. Sometimes the mother takes her children and runs to a shelter. All too often she returns to her abuser. Of course services such as counseling and shelters have suffered tremendously from the recent cuts, so who knows if she even found a place.

I know many families who live in fear of the ICE.

I have come across families who have upped and left. I have arrived at homes where I had been a week before and the home is empty, as if an entire family had never been there just a few days ago.

I don't know where Sonia is.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I am back

Hi - I am back. I returned two weeks ago, straight back to work, and the nitty gritty details of living!

My trip was really good. It was meaningful in terms of my parents and my family. My sister kept all of my mom's stuff and we went through the meticulously filed piles. It took a week during which we entered another world, that of our ancestors. Our sifting through photos and boxes and objects shed light on where we are now, our life choices, and our history. We alternated between crying and laughing, sharing memories. Mom kept all our letters, our school reports, a lock of my hair, essays, all carefully preserved, and shipped from South Africa to Israel. I read my fathers' letters he had written home during his years of service as a legal officer during the Second World War. He had such a clear vision of South Africa, of Capitalism, of his experiences in the Middle East. I found the letter in which he announced his engagement to my mom. We sorted out paperwork, put aside objects for relatives and friends. Thus we worked through 90 years of a life well lived!

Then my sister, brother-in-law and myself went with a tour group to Montenegro. No, it is not in Africa, nor is it in South America. It is the newest country in what were the Balkans, nestled between Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania and the Adriatic. Quite beautiful - rugged and raw. We drove jeeps up forested mountains on hairpin bends which passed for roads, hiked through the last remaining rainforest in Europe, and had hair raising adventures. Besides anything, it is so refreshing being away from any news, from the internet, from microwaved food, from the ridiculous pace of life we all live.

Returning is always somewhat unsettling. First, there is that state of jetlagged induced insanity to overcome. Then, for me, the shock of America, with, as a friend put it, its 'tidy widy' sterile suburbs and malls. In the Safeway in Marin the clerk nearly fell over herself with her pleases, thank yous, have a good day and false smiles, I felt like slamming her! Of course, when I am dealing with gruff rude clerks in Israel I miss the bland and polite American way. Such is life!

Of course ...returning to work which I will write about very soon.