Friday, May 25, 2007

Greener Pastures

I thought long and hard before attempting this post as it is very likely my last for quite some time. There are two reasons for my temporary departure from the blogsphere; firstly, I am going to Sydney to give birth to our first child Luca Alessandro (not surprisingly I rooted for Italian names to match Guillermo's Italian last name) and secondly, my new job which I love is taking all the spare time I used to have. I haven't had the time to read blogs, let alone writing one.

Rather than a sentimental farewell to all the wonderful people I have encountered through this blog, I would like use this post to talk about the serious issue of bullying

As the fabric of society disintegrates, bullying has become a problem common to many societies around the world. In some countries, it has become a social issue that is discussed at government level and visibly tackled at school and workplace where bullying most commonly occur. However, it seems this behaviour which denotes poor mental health and discontentment of the aggressor is spreading in cyberspace too.

It is often difficult to explain to children who are victims of bullying that it is actually the bullies, through their aggressiveness, who are expressing their disillusionment, anguish and bitterness due to their own failures because children do not have the benefit of hindsight and life experience we adults have.

Following this logic, it is therefore also difficult to fathom that adults who should have the maturity and sophistication to conduct themselves appropriately would choose to act as hysterical bullies which effectively render them as mature-aged adolescents.

Personally, I feel there is no need to engage with such people. Some may feel by choosing complete disengagement, I have lost the battle. To them, I say this: what is one battle when I've already won the war? It is a well known fact that overwhelming majority of bullies are underachievers at school, at work and in life.

Anyone who is educated and cultured would see for themselves how these over-aged schoolyard thugs disgrace themselves through their own low-minded words and underhanded actions (I have heard much whispers that there are quite a few Miss Cupcake wannabes trolling the blogsphere these days).

Hence, my parting words are simple..just stay true to yourself and conduct yourself with integrity and those who can see will see; those who can't will never be able to anyway and they are definitely not worth your time - good blogs deserve an audience but the audience has to be a deserving one too.
All the best to everyone!!

Saturday, May 12, 2007


I had spent much time away from my blog in the past week due to employment of a very different nature – it has nothing to do with cooking or food in general. While it is only 4 hours a day, it requires much concentration and intensity so I'm taking baby steps in my adjustment. On the whole, I'm relishing this opportunity in which I use my grey matters a lot more and that I get to work with a bunch of capable, yet very nice people.

Of course, my tiredness is compounded by my growing belly. Almost 6 months into this pregnancy, I'm finally feeling the load I carry everyday. Since I'm determined to stay active, I compensate my deskbound hours with a walk from Alto Palermo, along Santa Fe, to as far as I can walk towards home every afternoon.

I enjoy this time of day very much as I get to explore what are on offer in yet another part of the city. On the other hand, as a mother-to-be, my concern about the outrageous level of pollution in Buenos Aires is escalating every time I set foot outdoors. I have seen other mothers pushing their strollers among the hustle and bustle of the city; but just because others do something does it mean I really want to do the same? And to my baby?

The answer right now is I don't know – it hurts me to think that my fragile baby will have to inhale this smog instead of the fresh scent of pine and eucalyptus in our North shore neighbourhood in Sydney. However, our lives are still tied to this city until we are ready to make a permanent move.

Sometimes, I wonder if all parents-to-be feel torn this way or am I just being over protective? As my mother-in-law admits she doesn't worry about the future of her grandchildren growing up in Buenos Aires at all because she doesn't know how; she said that she has't seen the world and doesn't know better. In her case, ignorance is definitely blissful.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Slave Masters in Buenos Aires

Most middle class porteños and expats in BA take advantage of the availability of domestic helpers. Our domestic goddess is truly a Godsend; Guillermo and I treat her as our family and she is avuncular towards us.

While our Graciela has passed child-bearing age, we feel we are responsible for her welfare and are ready to step-up. (In fact, we paid her in full during the 10 weeks we were away in Sydney). Hence, I was really disturbed to read the following email circulating among a group of expat women.

The email is written by a U.S. trained lawyer who is married to an Argentine lawyer, in response to a question posted to her about whether maids are entitled to maternity leave.

"...D (the husband) and I (the U.S. trained lawyer) looked over the law. It is true that maids are not entitled to maternity leave. I don't know if you do or don't want to give it to her.

1. If you don't want to, when she asks for one you can say she is not entitled and that she has to quit if she wants to leave. You wouldn't owe her anything in that case. Although our experience is they don't quit and instead start doing things to piss you off so you are forced to fire them and pay them a severance payment.

2. If you want to, you can always pay her for a month or whatever you feel is a reasonable leave and then take her back afterwards. Of course you run the risk of her keeping the money and not coming back..."

I was disturbed by the reference to the law. All employees working en blanco are entitled to maternity leave. Should a person be employed en negro, like many in this city are, the employers have already broken the law so it is ironic that they look to the law to protect themselves from coughing up maternity leave payment for their employee. I have been told that a separate, Dickensian law exists and applies to maids, working en blanco, which still strips them of the benefit of maternity leave.

My personal opinion is that the law should, by all means, be respected. I am also of the humble opinion that, as human beings, we can sometimes do more and above what the law (the lowest common denominator) expects of us; I'd like to call that a moral obligation.

The writer of this email referred to her personal experience of refusing her maid maternity leave, thus resulting in the maid pissing her off to get severance. Well, all I can say is if one cannot treat one's maid with the common decency one should show towards another human being, despite the protection given by a defect in the law, one has got one's just dessert.

Lastly, the writer warned the employer asking this question that if the employer decides to pay the maid, she risks the maid running off with the money and not coming back after giving birth.

I was stunned by the mean-mindedness of this last bit of advice; this woman maybe a damn fine lawyer but what a human being! Most of these domestic helpers are working as such because they desperately need money and they have no other skill; it is not like the maid has plenty of job offers to choose from and the world is her oyster.

When I examine my lifestyle in BA carefully, I am truly thankful to those who have made it comfortable for me. I have also come to appreciate that I am in a fortunate position and should never take it for granted. Today, I feel disgusted as I have witnessed those around me who are choosing to use their relatively advantageous financial position in exploitation of others...and the worst is that they feel no shame or guilt since "the law" is on their side! What has this world come to?