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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Thursday, June 26, 2003
    Malawi: The Servant Problem

    As promised, another post from Chuen-Yen. In case you're not sure, this post does indeed contain sarcasm.

    Greetings! Here are this week's liberating thoughts:

    In commemoration of Malawi�s Freedom Day, I enjoyed an irenic lakeside weekend of privilege with friends. For en route convenience, we toted along a household work-servant. James guarded our belongings while we sipped tea at Kaboodle�s. On rutted thoroughfares, he periodically examined the tires. He removed obstacles from the road as needed. When the windscreen was soiled, he cleaned it. When beggars approached, he shooed them. James performed many bothersome tasks.

    Nonetheless, James himself was sometimes a nuisance. He emitted an offensive odor. His rucksack occupied space in the vehicle. Though we piled luggage atop him, he filled a seat. He had to be fed and watered. Once James even left his post to use the toilet. All of these things were slight impositions on our other wise peaceful journey.

    The cottage staff proved no less troublesome. One of the cooks developed Malaria. He requested 150 Kwacha to buy medicine. Assuming him to be lying � possibly true since the pharmaceuticals actually cost fifteen Kwacha � we purchased the Fansidar ourselves and supervised his consumption of it. After treatment, Thomas overcooked our eggs and didn�t portion vegetables properly. He also pilfered used olive oil for his own purposes.

    Thomas wasn�t the only annoying worker. The garden-boy interfered with our view by watering while we relaxed on the khonde. Housekeeper Mai did a poor job cleaning concealed nooks and crannies. Most vexing of all was that a lovely retro tea set placed in the lounge for decoration was immediately picked up, washed and returned to the cupboards.

    Overall, we were quite dissatisfied with the help. The problem with servants is that they are people too.




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