Home Bookstore Sample Chapter from The Word for World is Work: The Life of Women

Sample Chapter from The Word for World is Work: The Life of Women

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Of course, Sor passed the test, so then I had to teach her to cook. One day we were late coming home from work; I called her and suggested that she cook whatever she knew. She dished up a tasty soto ayam (chicken noodle soup Indonesian food). It was so good! We were very hungry, but she only had one small bowl for each of us and no extra; she surrendered her own bowl for us, but we objected. We let her know that it was okay to cook extra food, and not just small bowls for each of us. Sor has become such a good cook that we prefer to eat at home rather than eat out. She can cook Indonesian, Chinese and some Western food.   Sor prepares a different dish every day. We thoroughly enjoy this diversity.

Sor is a quiet and considerate employee. She has never carried tales nor gossiped to other people and keeps all secrets that happen in the house to herself. Sor understands us very well and never causes any disharmony in the house. In her own thoughtful way, Sor is very protective and cares for us. If we are not well, she will take care of us like her own family. Sor knows we love her, and she always shows us her love and care. She is part of the family, and we protect her interest. I hope to keep her as long as possible. A powerful social exchange is fully operating in my household.

Like Nadya, Sor is quite ambitious. However, her vision of the future has not just focused on education. Sor has always wanted to be a landowner—and more recently has wanted to own her own business. She saved up her money and soon bought land, and set plans in motion to build a large, beautiful house with modern sanitation and kitchen equipment. Sor also bought land for farming. She asked her sister to help take care of her land and farm while she was still working for us in Singapore.

Eight years ago, when I was in Cilacap doing some training, I went to see her family. At that time, Sor didn’t yet have her own home, but lived with her eldest sister when she went back to Indonesia for short visits. Sor was in Singapore at the time when I was in Cliacap, but she called her sister to let her know that I wished to visit her family. It took me four hours by car from Cilacap to where her family stayed. Her family members were all at her sister’s house to welcome me. I met Sor’s mother, sister, and aunties; they showed me great hospitality. Unfortunately, I did not have much time, and only stayed for an hour before I had to leave. Her family has imparted Sor with strong values. They continued to remind Sor that she must retain her traditions and culture while working in Singapore. Sor is very honest. There is no greed in her nor does she demand any material things from us. Even when we ask her if she needs certain things when we are out shopping, she will say “no”. Effective social exchange often is accompanied by a deeply felt commitment to traditional values and interpersonal respect.

Sor’s ambitions and friendship have been extraordinary. She only had a primary school education when first arriving to work for us. Sor finished her six years of study and then completed her secondary school education through part-time study every Sunday. Sor’s educational ambitions extended even further. She completed several certification programs in cooking and can now handle computers, the Internet, and Microsoft office. We have encouraged Sor to continue her learning. This remarkable woman subsequently attended a marketing course where she learned about entrepreneurship. With all this rich and diverse education, Sor could realize her newly emerging aspirations to open a restaurant when she returns to Indonesia. She could offer a Singapore cuisine or provide many other Asian dishes. Sor could also cook some Western food—for she picked up cooking very quickly. I can vouch for the quality and diversity of food that Sor can cook. There are certain dishes I will not choose when I am eating out—for Sor is able to do a better job with these dishes than the restaurants or food outlets.

Two years ago, Sor went home for a month to marry a man whom her family thought was a good match for her. Sor went through the ceremony, respecting the cultural and religious traditions of Indonesia. She called us for permission to extend her stay in Indonesia, but later called us to let us know that she was pregnant and would not be able to come back to work for us. We gave Sor our blessings and remained closely in touch with her. Unfortunately, four months into the pregnancy, Sor called to tell us that she lost her baby as it was an atopic pregnancy. She wanted to come back to work because in her culture, if she wanted to build her house, she had to do it immediately. If she was still pregnant then she could wait for a few years—but not now (having lost the baby). Given these circumstances, Sor indicated that she preferred to come back to work for us, so that she would be able to build her house very soon, financing it with her own money. She already owned the land where her house would be built. It was now only a matter of earning enough money to pay for the construction.

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