Whilst I am happy that it’s so affordable to have a maid in Costa Rica to do everything around the house that I do not want to do…

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Once in a while, even though I am genuinely thrilled to be living the life that most people have always dreamed of, another ‘reality’ smacks me in the face!

Cecilia is a very simple and conscientious Nicaraguan housemaid of about 38 years old. Unlike many of the Nicaraguans in Costa Rica, Cecilia is a legal immigrant having obtained her legal residency papers, her ‘cedula de residencia.’

Cecilia works for three different Costa Rican families cleaning their houses, washing cars, doing laundry, ironing clothes, polishing shoes & furniture and the other chores that we would all prefer not to do … She cleans my house for three hours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, she does a good job, she is honest and she looks about 20 years older than she is…

US$1.50 – $1.75 per hour is the ‘going rate’ for housemaids in my ‘upscale’ area although many people pay less and outside the city – much less! I’m not mentioning ‘upscale’ to try and impress you, merely to stress that this is supposedly where the big money is (not including me of course).

Cecilia always finds quite a bit extra in her pay cheque every week, an ‘old’ piece of brand new clothing that ‘just doesn’t fit me anymore’ finds it’s way into her bag and “…because a client invited me out this evening, I’m not going to be able to eat that big, new bag of rice and that chicken so why don’t you take it home with you?” I’ve also helped her to buy a sewing machine so that she could try and start her own business …

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Why do I do this? Because I’m a big ‘softie’ that’s why…

Cecilia has six children, the oldest is 18 but she stays at home to care for Cecilia’s youngest who is only six months old. This last child was a bit of a surprise because Cecilia had decided not to have any more children when her husband fled to Nicaragua because he was wanted by the police for beating her badly…, again.

Unfortunately, a few months later her ‘husband’ returned and after they ‘made-up,’ Cecilia became pregnant with their sixth child… Upon discovering that she was pregnant again he nearly killed her (literally) and again fled to Nicaragua…

This is not a happy tale and it probably won’t have a happy ending either but believe it or not! Cecilia is happy to be living and working in Costa Rica because she’s making ‘big bucks’ in Costa Rica compared to the near certain starvation her and her family would face back home in Nicaragua.

According to the US Dept of State, the per capita income in 2001 for Costa Rica was US$3,850 and for Nicaragua? US$470. Think about that for a minute!

Her ‘husband’ pays nothing to support her and how Cecilia pays the rent, feeds and clothes six children and herself on the equivalent of US$286 per month is beyond me… So next time, you’re feeling ‘down in the dumps’ about not earning enough money, take a second and remember Cecilia!

“Even dirty and unpleasant work, such as shovelling manure or washing diapers, is pure and holy work if it comes from a pure heart.” Martin Luther

PS. If you happen to know where Cecilia’s husband is staying, please let me know as I would love to ‘bump’ into him…

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