“What, sir, would the people of the earth be without woman?
They would be scarce, sir… almighty scarce.”
― Mark Twain
In celebration of International Women’s Day, I started thinking about jobs. In our travels around the world, we’ve seen people perform all kinds of jobs.
Truth is, they’re pretty much the same jobs we do here at home … just in a different setting.
So today I wanted to share some of the working women we’ve encountered in our travels. Hopefully you’ll see yourself through their eyes. Whether you’re cooking or cleaning, tending to business or enforcing the rules – we have more in common than we sometimes realize.
The Chef. She’s a wizard with a wok, deftly adding mysterious ingredients while chatting with her customers. She prepares every dish to order, making sure that it’s tailored to individual tastes. And nothing seems to phase her. The day we met her, it was pouring rain outside, water was running in front of her booth, and the lights were flickering. She just smiled and turned out delicious food.
The Recycler. In a land where very little is allowed to go to waste, this grandmother is a master recycler. She walks to the steep and hilly tea plantation, collects all the branches left behind after pruning, then bundles them to sell to locals for cooking fires. The load is both awkward and surprisingly heavy, but she wrangles it with practiced ease.
The Performer. Every day these two young women don elaborate costumes and makeup in preparation for their jobs. All day they perform traditional dances and tell stories to tourists who are visiting this famed archeological site. At the end of the day they remove the costumes, wipe off the makeup, and return to their normal lives.
The Proprietor. The dream of owning her own business has become a reality for this tireless shopkeeper. She rises very early to set up her wares and open her modest stall in Luang Prabang’s Morning Market. She knows that managing her business requires long hours and sacrifice to be successful.
The Dream Peddler. In Athen’s Syntagma Square, a Lotto Lady waits patiently in the chilly December weather to sell her next ticket … maybe a winner. Just a few days earlier, this square was the scene of a violent anti-government demonstration that sent police and civilians scrambling for cover as chunks of marble and firebombs were hurled. But she’s back at work like nothing ever happened, selling dreams to strangers.
The Housekeeper. She may be young, but she has the grace and poise that come with experience. Amila juggles waitressing, cleaning rooms, and general housekeeping while tending to hotel guests. She came here from a very small village and is proud of her job and her accomplishments. She has mastered the art of making people people feel comfortable.
The Persuader. As a well-known Athens TV personality, it’s her job to entice people to talk to her. She’s an attractive young woman who generally has no trouble coaxing folks to chat on camera … and if her brains and looks don’t work, there’s the cute puffball of a dog that kids love. As women we can all agree there are times you have to be The Persuader.
The Caregiver. All over the world, taking care of loved ones is a mix of joy, honor, devotion, and duty. And at times, it can be immensely challenging. This grandmother lives with her extended family and lovingly cares for her children’s children. She came to the temple on this day to celebrate a special occasion and proudly show off her beautiful granddaughter.
The Keeper of Traditions. Mornings are a special time in Ubud, Bali. As the town begins to awaken, women draped in sarongs (often covering their jeans) silently make their way through family compounds. They carry trays laden with freshly made offerings, sticks of smoking incense, and a bowl of water. Stopping at each altar, they place offerings and incense, then dip a flower in water and perform a blessing with graceful hand movements. Her traditions are alive and well.
The Enforcer. This may look like a tete-a-tete between girlfriends celebrating a shopping spree, but it’s not. It’s shakedown at Nicosia’s Green Line – the UN occupied buffer zone that divides the Greek and Turkish areas. People come and go through the checkpoint all day, but the Inspectors take particular interest in any shopping bags with prohibited Turkish leather goods. There were a lot of unhappy Greek women who found a bargain on the Turkish side, only to have it confiscated by the Enforcer when they re-entered. Sometimes, the rules are the rules.
The Chauffeur. Driving can be a joy … or sometimes a pain in the neck when we have to chauffeur people around. But we American women often take driving for granted, forgetting that it’s not a privilege shared by all the women of the world. This woman in tiny Ella, Sri Lanka, is taking a driving lesson in a tuk-tuk. She is both thrilled and terrified. This is a risky endeavor because women don’t drive a lot in Sri Lanka. In fact, she is the only women we saw driving in all of Sri Lanka! So the next time you’re tired of driving, think what it would be like if you weren’t allowed to.
And as all women around the world can tell you, sometimes work can be just plain boring. Even if you work in one of the most gorgeous places on earth… sometimes you just want to be somewhere else!
Peace and Love,