The nuances of daily maid service…Its different for us…

A glimpse of loveliness.

We’re a bit ambivalent regarding daily maid service which has been provided in many countries we’ve visited to date. We’re still uncertain if we prefer this often included daily benefit or not.

It may be surprising, but in most vacation homes providing housekeeping services, the renters have no alternative but to accept it. After all, this is how the staff earns a living.  To say we don’t want the service, or if we prefer it less frequently would create a dilemma for the owners or property managers with the potential loss of income for the staff, which we’d never want to occur.

They can’t reduce the employee’s wages commensurate with a renter’s preference for “less” service. The employee’s workdays are centered around servicing all the properties in a resort, such as in this property with a total of four units: the separate house called the Blue Banana (where we live), two units on the pool level, and a third top floor luxury unit located in the single building up the hill from us.

There are two housekeepers, Shalote and Usi, that alternate a three-day shift for a total of seven days of coverage. As a result, we have daily maid service.

Bananas growing outside our window.

For us, staying almost three months, it’s different than a two or three days or even two-week stay for most tourists. Our cleaning needs become more comprehensive over time as dust accumulates throughout the house which may usually only be attended to during the time of a turnover. 

The usual daily service includes; making the bed, adding fresh towels and toilet paper, and a quick wiping around the bathroom. Floor sweeping and washing are done based on request. Laundry service is provided at an additional charge, although this has been included based on our long-term stay.

Renters, in some properties, may be expected to do their dishes and keep the kitchen clean if used. From what we’ve heard over these past years, many may leave a mess in the kitchen for the staff to handle. Many other renters rarely use the kitchen, preferring to dine out for most meals, only using the refrigerator for breakfast foods and snacks, and rarely, if ever using the stove. 

When we lived in Marloth Park in South Africa at African Reunion House, a glorious upscale property, Zeff was our daily housekeeper. His job included not only cleaning and laundry each day but also washing, drying, and putting away dishes from the previous night’s meal and a comprehensive kitchen cleaning as needed. We never left dishes or a mess for Zeff.

Orchids blooming due to Junior’s green thumb.

Neither of us leaves dirty dishes in the sink overnight and we have always cleaned the kitchen after food prep and dining, regardless of the availability of housekeeping services.

Now, here in Blue Banana, we leave the kitchen spotless in the evening after dinner.  Tom washes the dishes, leaving them to drain. Later in the evening, I dry them and reset the table putting pots and bowls away. It’s a simple process requiring little time and effort. Neither of us can imagine leaving the mess for a housekeeper even if our visit was only for a short period.

In Morocco, we had a household staff which included a cook and support staff. We’re weren’t permitted to cook, do dishes or prepare anything other than coffee and light snacks that didn’t require cooking. We accepted this situation with the grace and dignity expected from the refined staff.

It’s a little ambiguous here in Fiji.  As we’ve noted in many other countries, including maid service although usually kind, responsible, and competent, is often inconsistent, not only in arrival time but in performing various tasks.

These lovely flowers emit a stunning fragrance.

Preferring not to “ask” for much based on the included daily maid service, we usually do most of the cleaning ourselves; the bathroom daily, the space where we sit in the living room including the glass coffee table and the entire kitchen including washing the refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, and countertops. 

We sweep the entire house almost daily especially after a busy day of food prep. With the tiny counter space, it’s easy to make a mess on the floor while chopping and dicing. With the ongoing ant situation, keeping all areas clean is crucial. 

While cooking a few days ago, I found hundreds of ants trying to get inside the refrigerator as on the indented handle (a groove) on the door for opening.  My hand must have been greasy when I opened the door, leaving the tiniest bit of grease behind, not visible to the naked eye. 

Opening the fridge, I found the entire gasket seal’s grooves filled with ants. Taking everything out of the tiny fridge, we washed everything, including the rubber sections in the gasket, using a rag over a top of a butter knife to gain access. We could hardly have left this for the staff to clean.

We’d love to be able to feast on these coconuts but opening them isn’t possible without a machete and an accurate swing.

Since that occurrence, I make a concerted effort to wash the entire exterior of the refrigerator after preparing meals to ensure this doesn’t occur again. This morning there were multiple long trails of ants on the bathroom counter, including a few in an empty contact lens case I had drying on a paper towel. 

One morning I awoke to find a dead ant swimming in the saline solution along with a contact lens (I tossed the lens and sterilized the case). We can’t expect or wait until housekeeping arrives to handle these scenarios, nor do we even mention it to Mario. The ants?  It’s life in Fiji. 

The longer we’re here, we learn ways to keep them under control without the use of toxic chemicals. We purchased a small spray can of a toxic chemical using it only when washing with hot soapy water won’t suffice, removing all food, dishes, and appliances in the area and staying outdoors until the fumes have fully dissipated.

Our bed is made daily, sheets changed every three days. We receive two fresh towels every other day which we’ve learned to use twice when in our old lives we used bath towels only once. We also received a few kitchen towels upon request but never quite enough as I continue to hand wash the towels almost daily.

These exquisite flowers are easily spotted by peeking over the veranda railing as we look out to the sea.

We certainly don’t mind doing some housekeeping. It keeps us moving, as opposed to sitting on our butts all day. Fortunately, cooking everything from scratch does require a fair amount of time standing in the kitchen keeping me active most days. With no fitness center anywhere to be found, days spent cooking keep me from sitting too long.

The laundry service provided is working well. Usi provides same-day service while Shalote delivers the neatly folded items the next day. Either way works for us. Other than underwear (I hand wash mine), we wear most of our tee shirts twice and shorts several times, hoping a little less washing will extend the life of our clothes.  

In a perfect world, we like having a comprehensive cleaning once a week. Whenever we’ve had that service, we’ve paid for it ourselves when in many vacation homes, it’s not provided.  When we move to Viti Levu in less than two months, we’ve asked the owner to arrange a weekly cleaner for us, for which we’ll cover the expense for the one month stay.

The aspect we continue to enjoy the most with household staff is the interaction with these lovely people including occasional visits from Junior. All locals, with deep roots in Fiji, continue to offer us history and insights into their daily lives which we’ll continue to share over these next months.

Happy day to all.

Photo from one year ago today, October 11, 2014:

Tom was smiling at the menu at the Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant in Waikiki one year ago. The food was excellent and we returned night after night for dinner. I ordered a perfect Cobb salad every night with the big chunks of well-seasoned chicken and ripe avocado. Tom had the burger, fries, and onion rings since he splurges in restaurants and on cruise ships  For more details, please click here.

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