a Filipina amah?

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Filipina amahsOutside of the NTU hospital they are distributing flyers advertising Filipina amahs.  An amah — from Portuguese ama — is a domestic servant who combines the roles of maid and nanny.  She cooks and cleans and looks after the children.  Amahs from the Philippines are reputedly the best.  Meaning, they work hard, don’t complain, and they are cheap.  You can get one, the flyer says, for 15,000 NT a month ($475 US).  Considering that the agency no doubt takes 5,000 NT, she’s unlikely to make more than 10,000 ($ 318 US).

Amahs are common in Hong Kong and Singapore, but in Taiwan they are mainly employed as helpers for old people with relatives who have theIt’s one of the things I like about Taiwan: this is not a post-colonial economy with large discrepancies in wealth.  Lots and lots of people are middle-class and even poor people aren’t that poor.  As a result you can’t make a Taiwanese girl work for that kind of money.  Would it be right to make a Filipina do it?

I’m instinctively against having a servant around.  I don’t function well in hierarchical relationships.  I don’t know how to give — or receive — orders.  Besides, I don’t want my children to grow up in the belief that there always will be someone around who will clean up their messes.

But I guess the Filipinas need the money.  Maybe, out of liberal guilt, we could double her salary?  Undoubtedly, if I end up hospitalized in Taipei in the next couple of weeks, Diane will need some help at home.  She can’t at the same time work, look after the kids — and me.  Maybe the Taiwanese system of using relatives as nurses isn’t so great after all?

No, on balance, I think we’ll try to survive without an amah.  I’m not in the hospital yet and if I end up there I’ll have to look after myself.  In any case, this hospitalization won’t be like the last time — not as dramatic, not as painful.  I’ll just sit there in the day-room together with all those old guys, with a drip running through my nose, watching Chinese soap operas for a few weeks.

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