Reminiscences from Eastern Europe


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A Cleaner World:

Two years ago today, I have retired from working as American cleaning lady. I clean apartments and houses for the busy families of my neighbors here in Chicago. I pick up after their mess, make everything tidy, and save them time. In two years, I have learned many things about American way of life. For one thing, the people do not like to clean. They are above it, or it is not important. To me, this seems very strange. After all, I think to myself, all is so easy to clean in America!

I grew up in Prague and my mother owned a simple shop. We swept the floors, kept cobwebs at bay, and our needs were simple. When Soviets take over, we moved into a block of flats in the new housing center. This is where all people must live, they tell us. It is modern, they tell us. This is new world.

My apartment block was very plain. It was concrete. All grey. Each house was the same–white walls, low ceiling, lots of metal. There were carpets inside, and they quickly became dirty. They turn from white to yellow to brown in year, two years.

We could no longer sweep, with these carpets, and all the house was hard to clean. If you had dogs, fleas come, and the bed bugs come in summer too.

The Soviets wanted us to have taste of new world, but we never learn how to deal with it. They do not let us have American machines or American goods. So we have flat like Americans, but cannot clean it. One day we get news-there is vacuum in the city store. We all go, but they are out of stock. We all make orders. They never come.

When you live like this for years, hearing the scratch-scratch of cockroaches, feel the crawling of bedbugs, the first night in America is blissful.

I want to tell my bosses, but I do not because I want to get paid, that they have it so good. All so easy. There are vacuums here, there are hundreds of different vacuums. You have whole shelves of cleaner in stores, you have

Aisha, they tell me, you are beast with cleaning! I am. It is because I remember that flat. Every time I clean, it is my war against my memories of the filth, the bugs.

Now, I clean only for myself and my son when I visit his wife and little girl at their house. He does not like to clean, and I like to help when I can. They are good to me.

I still go to the store, every so often, and look for new cleaning gadgets. I cannot get enough of them. I bought myself a big vacuum, the best I could find. I have whole shelf of cleaners, scrubbers, brushes. My favorite new toy is steam cleaner. It is death to cockroach, fleas, all the crawly things! I love to steam. It also saves my back–I am not so strong as I used to be. I decided to buy my steam mop when I read “best steam mop reviews” from site called Steam Clean Reviews. I am big fan of reviews. There are so many things in America and it is very hard for me to see which one is best. I like to watch QVC, and I love when they show new products on morning news. ABC is my favorite. Good Morning America!

In the end, I love many things about America, but one of the best is the cleanness. I am sure that if you have lived in a place that is not so nice, you can understand. There is never a feeling like you are helpless and cannot make the mess or the pest go away.