When we went home at Christmas time we asked our neighbor friend, Marta (name changed for confidentiality) if she could help us out with watering our plants and sweeping the patio. She gladly agreed and we handed her the key. She chuckled at the Nacatamal keychain that we had bought at the market and commented that it was perfect, one of her favorite foods!
When we arrived back after our trip, we thanked her profusely (her work was way better than anything we ever do), gave her a little Christmas gift and paid her our agreed upon amount.
And then she kept coming.
At first it was because we have a hose and are the only ones in the neighborhood who have one. She wanted to water our dirt road to reduce the amount of dust. This is another Nicaraguan custom that we haven't quite learned to fit into our daily schedule. That was fine, but then she moved her way back into our home, watering our plants and sweeping the patio.
We debated how to best respond to this situation, knowing that if we continued we were providing her with much needed income but also realizing that we have sort of been sticklers about not wanting to utilize outside help. MCC does not have a policy, but most expats and middle to high income Nicaraguans that we know have hired help in their homes. We don't really have a quandary with this as there are pros and cons to both sides, but we decided that for ourselves we would do our best to live like our neighbors, with no hired help.
But after talking with Marta, she presented a different perspective. This money that we are giving her is helping her to buy the school uniforms that she needs to purchase for her boys for the upcoming school year (starts in February). Without these funds, the boys would most likely not have the uniforms that they need. We are certain that there will be other upcoming needs that this money could contribute towards.
So here we are, trying to find a balance in this world of grey. We hope to make the best decision, one that considers our original perspective, but also one that takes into account the needs of our neighbors.