This has been an extremely traumatic week, and I never thought such terrors would come from my housekeeper.
In China, it is common practice for anyone middle-class or higher to have a housekeeper (or “ayi” as they are known here). Many ayis also work as nannies, even in expat homes. Usually, you will give a set of keys to the ayi so she can clean when you aren’t home and she will clean once or twice a week.
The ayi I had until this week worked for me for nearly a year. She spoke limited English (which is rare for a housekeeper) and was well-known in the expat community. I don’t know what her Chinese name is, but in English she goes by Annie Law. Annie and I have never had any issues. She did a good job for a reasonable price. She always gave me a hug when she saw me and I was always nice to her. We even talked about her Chinese New Year bonus and I was planning on giving her more than the double rate she said was standard. So what happened this week was a total shock.
On Tuesday, I received a WeChat message from a friend of mine. WeChat is kind of like Facebook and a text-chat program in one. I don’t usually use the Facebook aspect of it, but it is the main messaging app used in China now, so I use it for chatting. Anyway, she messaged me with “OMG, your housekeeper is crazy. I hope you called the police on her.” I was like “Uhh…what are you talking about?” So I moved over the “moments” (the Facebook area) and started looking through the entries. My head started spinning when I saw nude photos of myself posted by Annie.
The last time I was in America, I had some boudoir photos taken as an anniversary gift for my husband. I also took them for myself to boost my self-esteem. They worked, haha. I love the photos and am very proud of them. But they are private, something I don’t plan on sharing with the rest of the world. I had the photos in a black photo album, under a box, on my dressing table. No one would know they were there unless they were looking for them. She didn’t even need to move them to clean because the table is small and doesn’t need to be cleaned. Even if she did move them to clean, the album was inconspicuous and she had no reason to open it.
Not only did she open it, she looked through the whole book and took pics with her cell phone of some of the raciest photos in the book, ones in the very back. She then posted the photos to her WeChat moments with the caption “Take down Amanda.”
As I said, she and I have never had issues – I’m not a bad employer, so I have no idea why she would want to ‘take me down.’ I’m not even sure that was what she meant, though. She has always spoken limited English, but anything more complicated than “I will come on Wednesday” isn’t always very clear.
As I said, I don’t use WeChat moments very much, so I started panicking as I realized that the photos had been up for at least three days by the time I saw them. And, as I said, Annie works for several expat families, many of whom I know. It was a friend of mine who alerted me in the first place. So I have no idea how many expats in the community saw the photos.
As I sat at my desk in shock, I had no idea what to do, but I finally managed to ask my boss for help. She told me to take screenshots of everything and then tell her to take the photos down. I took screenshots of her posts that had to do with me (though I wish I had screenshots of everything) and then messaged her and told her to take the photos down.
This was where things started getting very weird. Everything she posted after this point makes no sense. I asked her several times to write in Chinese, but she refused. This is how she responded when I started messaging her in Chinese:
She also didn’t take the photos down immediately, but instead posted them again.
I looked through her other moments and started noticing other weird things. She had posted pictures of items from other people’s apartments, knickknacks, pics of photos of children, pics of pets, and wads of cash along with captions stating who she was cleaning for that day. She also was posting lots of gibberish that made no sense in any language.
Even though the things she posted about other expat families was nothing near as horrible as what she did to me, they were certainly a breach of trust and was even a safety issue. Posting pics of money and saying where she was working was just inviting thieves.
When I realized that other families were possibly in danger, I started asking around to find out if she was acting weird around other people. Not only had she been acting weird, I quickly came in contact with half a dozen other families who had fired her in the last three months.
Everyone agrees that Annie used to be wonderful. She had worked for other families for years, had tons of references, and even cooked for some of them. She only started acting weird in the last few months. I’ve been collecting stories from people who have had to let her go. Incidents range from not coming to work without notice, gossiping, hitting someone’s cat, and leaving someone’s house keys at a bar in Shekou. She has been cussing at employers who confront her about her behavior and has been demanding money from people.
She eventually did take down all the posts, the pics, the crazy talk, and blocked me, so I couldn’t see her posts anymore. But many of her friends are my friends, so I still have people checking her posts. She has posted several things about me but has not reposted the pics.
Last night, we changed our locks. Even though she eventually mailed my house keys to a friend of mine, keys are easily copied, so I just didn’t feel safe until we got new locks. More and more people are letting her go and are changing their locks as well, but I want to spread the word as much as possible. Something is wrong with this woman. She has gone crazy and is a danger to the community. If she works for you, you should fire her immediately. If she approaches you and offers you her card for her cleaning services, do not hire her. She has broken the trust of many families in Shenzhen. I believe that what she did to me was criminal and I wish I could press charges, but that would mean showing the police my pictures and what she did with them, which might make things worse for me. The best way to make sure she pays for her crime is by protecting other families and making sure she never makes her way into another expat home again.
If Annie Law has worked for you, feel free to share your story in the comments.