Saturday, June 07, 2008
She came to me at the front desk this morning with a question mark clearly on her face. Sasha was her name. About 21 years old, slim, tall, awkward and possessing of a natural beauty without makeup, she asked me in a heavy accent if she could change. At first I didn't understand her. I thought she was a guest of the bed and breakfast where I work part time at the front desk. I said "What?" She repeated her question. Still I didn't understand. If she wanted to change, why didn't she do it in her room. Perhaps she wanted "change" for the soda machine. I asked her again. She told me she was "in housekeeping." Oh, she is a new housekeeper. "Housekeepers", for those of you initiated to the terminology of the hospitality industry, are those people (almost always women) who clean the rooms. I did not know we had a new housekeeper but that was entirely possible since I don't work at the Inn everyday. Sasha had her uniform in her backpack and wanted to change into her work clothes. I indicated that she could use the ladies room. She gathered up her backpack and went around he corner to the ladies room. A few minutes later she emerged in her uniform ready to begin work. I could sense that she was new because of her unease. She went into the kitchen to retrieve a laundry cart to take to her first room to clean. Sasha is one of the thousands of students from mostly Eastern European and Russia that provide the backbone of employees for the hotels, restaurants, amusement and entertainment, retail and services industries in the Greater Ocean City, Maryland area as well as the Delaware Beach resorts of Fenwick Island, Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Rehoboth beach and (where I work) Lewes, Delaware. She has joined our small housekeeping staff which consists almost entirely (save one worker) of local Nanticoke Indians. Sasha is an outsider, much like the Determined Sparrow is an outsider in my backyard. Like the Determined Sparrow, she is determined to make a better life for herself. She will have many obstacles to overcome to reach her goal of summer employment in a strange land far from her home in Russia. She has the language barrier. She has to learn the local culture and, most important, to find an affordable place to live. Sasha is one of thousands of foreign students who arrive on the eastern shore resorts of Delaware and Maryland each year to take jobs that many of the locals do not want. Several times during the morning, Sasha passed my my front desk pushing her full laundry cart, her facial features full of determination. At noon, I retreated to the kitchen to have lunch with the other housekeepers, as is our custom. Sasha came through the kitchen door pushing yet another full laundry cart of dirty sheets, towels, and pillow cases. She emptied her laundry cart, and with eyes tentatively looking back and forth, took a seat at the small table near the refrigerator. One of the other housekeepers asked her if she had something to eat. She said "Yes" and pulled out a granola bar from her uniform pocket. However, before she opened the packaging of the granola bar, she went to the kitchen sink behind me and turned on the water to wash her hands. She washed her hands then went back to her chair. I noticed that she had not dried her hands. I looked behind me and saw the paper towel dispenser was almost at my back. Apparently she did not get a paper towel to dry her hands because she didn't want to disturb me. I tore of several paper towels and took them over to her. She looked up at me, slightly surprised, then smiled for the first time and accepted the paper towels that I had offered to her. She dried her hands, then got up and placed the now used paper towels in the large kitchen trash can and returned to her seat, the most relaxed I had seen her all day. I don't know if if this was her first day at work but I do know that she will feel more comfortable tomorrow when she returns to work. Even though she was not a part of our "back yard" when we started out, she is part of our team now. Welcome Sasha.