Monday, March 17, 2008

Booze for the Munaqiba, part 2

Our Shirella, or cleaning lady came this morning to clean the apartment. For a 9am appointment, she came 45 minutes late. When I greeted her, I asked if there was “zachma kiteer” or a lot of traffic. She simply said, “Malesh,” which is the Egyptian Arabic equivalent of “never mind” or “oh well” in this context. Um Ahmed is munaqiba, or veils herself from head to toe, revealing only her eyes. She came with another lady...maybe her sister? Friend? An older lady, who is not munaqiba. They spend two hours cleaning and finish just before 12pm. I am already late for my noon Arabic class, so I pay them, leave and tell them to just close the door when they’re done.

When I returned this evening, I looked around the apartment. They did a great job of cleaning. Such a good job that they also cleaned the kitchen of a few beers from the beer supply. Seven missing beers, to be exact. They were taken in a very interesting way. One can was taken from one case of Stella. Two were taken from the Saqqara case. And two were taken from the Heineken case. And two more beers were taken from another box next to the fridge. They were taken in such a way that it would not be immediately noticeable. Had she simply asked me, like she did last time, I'd gladly have given her a few or more. However, she helped herself to a five finger discount.

In the Arabic culture, accusing someone of being a thief is perhaps the worst thing you can call someone. My Sudanese students tonight advised me to go the indirect route. I should call her and say, "hey, there were a few cans that were misplaced in the kitchen today. Maybe you know what happened?" and go from there...

If she confesses and returns the beer, then I may be able to forgive. No matter what happens, I think this will be the last time that Um Ahmed will be cleaning Apartment #6, floor 5.

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