Archive for October 2008

No speed limit

October 31, 2008

Weather: 9C, Sunny

I am truly amazed by the speed which decisions are made and things happen in small organisations with flat hierarchies. I was always told that “A big ship needs time to turn” when I was working at the College but here we are just a speedboat roaring to go.

Well, I am the best example:

20 Oct: Started work as a freelance part-timer on a one-month contract. CEO wanted to see how it works out for both parties. Was prepared I may once again be unemployed after a few weeks.

27 Oct: Was given an employment letter which to my surprise stated I would be on a six-month contract of 25 hours a week. Good. At least I will have some regular income for half a year.

30 Oct: First mini work review lasting 15 minutes at the cafe. Reconfirmed six-month contract is in place but reminded that it could be terminated if it doesn’t work out for either parties.

31 Oct: Welcomed to join as full-timer whenever ready for the switch. CEO just leaned back on his chair, put his hands on the back of his head and our brief conversation went something like this, “So, do you want to work full-time with us?” Shock and silence of two seconds. “Yeah ok”. “Alright I’d send you an email to confirm.”

Life is fantabulous without HR, line managers, directors and HQs.

And for those of you who are wondering – no I did not sleep with him.

It ain’t heavy, it’s our cooker

October 30, 2008

Weather: 5C, Cloudy

What’s with us always trying to move big and heavy things into our narrow house? First hauling the king-sized mattress which weighed a ton up the stairs and now, moving this monster cooker into the kitchen?

While we can almost always rely on the delivery people in Singapore to move the heavy stuff into any part of our flats, assemble it for us, and even remove our old unwanted items, this level of customer service is unheard of here. Everything is bloody do-it-yourself, even when it comes to lifting white goods.

Well, it’s not really the fault of the delivery men. It all boils down to annoying health and safety rules and insurance policies, which do not cover any injuries or damages sustained if the employee steps into the house or starts helping with the moving.

So for the mattress, they just made sure it got beyond the door, and for the cooker delivered on Tuesday, they actually just left it on the pavement!

It weighed more than 100 kg and with all the packing it was almost as tall as I am. We could push and drag in into the house if we were on a smooth, straight surface, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. There were steps from the pavement to our house and also the plastic door sill in the way.

After much cursing and swearing, fretting and frowning, trying to use ramps and hand carts, I gave up. Partly because I was absolutely freezing and also because I just didn’t have the strength to help R. Fed up, I went next door to ask my neighbour, a fit young hockey player in his mid-twenties, to lend a hand.

It took about 10 minutes and hell a lot of deep growling for the two men to lift and slowly move the range cooker with four ovens and five hobs into the kitchen. Don’t ask me why we need so many ovens and hobs – R was just too fascinated by the wok burner, griddle and look of this industrial size cooking machine that he was willing to part with his £860.

Unfortunately even with that price tag and such professional equipment, I doubt the food we cook would come anywhere close to Michelin Star quality.

October snow

October 29, 2008

Weather: 6C, Cloudy

We are sitting in the office freezing our arses off because the city council will only turn our heating on on 1 November, which I’m assuming is the first day of winter? Well, what can you do when you’re dealing with bureaucracy and inflexible ang mohs? My colleague’s got her woollen hat on as research shows that 30% of your body heat is lost through the head! I’m just sitting her with frozen fingers and toes, and a very slow-moving brain.

Last night, London had its first October snow is 70 years, as the usually early cold snap brought snow to the northern parts of Scotland and south-east England. We were luckier in Wales, since temperatures last night only dipped to 0C and we woke to a landscape of frost and ice.

Thankfully, the freezing spell looks likely to be brief with temperatures recovering to a more normal autumnal 11C next week. Though cold, it hasn’t been TOO unbearable for me and I am now confident that I’d be able to withstand winter at its full force, which looks unlikely to be any much worse. Having said that, I’ve probably now jinx myself and I’d soon end up crying about some freakish Arctic conditions in the months to come.

Cold, colder, brrrrrrrrrr

October 27, 2008

Weather: 11C, Fine

I’ve decided to include the weather update on my end for all future posts, just to give you an idea of what it’s like here as we enter the winter months. And for those of you who go, “Wah, shiok, 11C sounds great. My aircon at home at 16C can barely cool me down”, er, let me just say it’s really not fun at all.

Yesterday the clocks went back by an hour as the UK goes into daylight saving mode for the winter. That means that the sun now sets at about 5pm and when winter solstice comes a few days before Christmas, the skies would be dark by 4pm.

The trees have been shedding their leaves and on Saturday, I dug up the dying plants and weeds in my front garden and put in spring bulbs which hopefully will bloom into beautiful tulips and daffodils in March. It is something to motivate me to get through winter.

I am finding it increasingly hard to get out of bed to the extent I wonder if I am depressed? But actually, it just feels too warm and comfortable to snuggle under the duvet and an additional fleece blanket, that I really DO NOT want to step out into the cold atmosphere in the mornings.

When I wait on the platform at 0800 with my fellow passengers, it seems as if we are all smoking with the breath we exhale being so clearly visible. I feel bulky and restricted in my winter outfits – I almost did not make it when I had to run for a train, feeling so weighed down by all the excess clothing.

My favourite place at home is either in bed, under some kind of blankety type thing, or next to the radiator. Needless to say, my favourite activity is cooking, because it keeps me warm!

The ultimate worst thing about winter is the rain and the wind. We have to dry all our clothes indoors in a dryer since there is little sunshine or daylight. Walking in icy rains and gale-force winds is a miserable experience which makes minutes last forever and sometimes make me feel like crying.

I suppose the only things to look forward to in this season would be Christmas and New Year, and being home in January for three weeks, where I can finally escape from the dead of winter, relish the opportunity to bare my skin and moan about the heat and mozzies again.

Lost and found

October 23, 2008

The peak hour office crowd swarmed toward the train doors and impatiently waited for all the passengers on the train to disembark. The cue comes, for us to start rushing through the narrow doors and find seats, when we see the last foot barely stepping onto the platform. Failing which, one would end up having to stand for part if not all of the journey.

I was one of those “unlucky” ones who lacked the required coordination in legs and arms to get a seat yesterday evening. And so I stood in the middle of the aisle, tired and annoyed that I didn’t have the power to get home just by blinking. Though crowded, the trains are never packed the way they are in Singapore- literally like sardines and some people sadly smell like them too. Thankfully over here, it feels more like being carrots in a plastic bag.

As the doors were about to shut, a frantic woman burst in and squeezed her way through the aisle saying she had lost her handbag and it had a lot of money in it. Apparently she got off the train and forgot about her handbag. Those who had seats looked around for it but she wasn’t in luck and now almost in tears, the poor woman had to quickly get off before our train pulled away.

She must have alerted the station staff because the train was delayed and somebody in a fluorescent vest came on board to ask us to check again. And so those of us standing stopped our impatient tapping of feet, let out an audible sigh and began looking.

Standing in front of two seats arranged back to back, I did my part and looked below the seats, into the dark and dirty bits. And I did so while thinking – “What the hell? I don’t know why I’m looking here but I AM looking! But I don’t think I will find anything apart from empty crisp packets!”

True enough there was nothing and I turned to look underneath the seats the other side and there it was. Right in front of my feet. Tucked between the backs of the chairs. A black handbag sitting quietly, camouflaged in the dark corner. “What the…? Who puts their handbag between…? In the dirty…? %(*$^&? ”

I am amazed that in that moment of shock and disbelief, I actually had some sense to pick it up, shout, “I’ve got it!”, and pass it along to the door. A loud British cheer followed. And the Chinese girl saved the day.

Being @ work

October 23, 2008

It’s nearly the end of my second day at the youth development agency and it has gone pretty well so far. The small team which spans across different ages and nationalities functions without rigid systems of protocol and hierarchy. I sit right opposite the Chief Executive and we share the same phone. Everyday is dress down day with people coming in jeans, though I haven’t quite gotten used to the idea of doing that yet.

Working hours are flexible, and many of my colleagues work from home. I get to decide which days and hours I want to come in to work as long as I put it down in my Google diary, shared by the team so we can easily monitor our schedules. The office is in the Bay, which is something like the Singapore Quays but on a smaller scale.

Superficially, the agency offers a wide range of creative services to and for young people, such as music production, website management. However, on a deeper level the agency exists to build confidence on the part of young people who are often excluded from mainstream society in various ways and have often had difficulty fitting into the educational system.

I’m commissioned to work on a nationwide web project which allows young people in Wales to access useful information, seek help and for them to express themselves. The funding comes from the government and because of that, what we do ties in closely with their youth policies. Technology is another area of the organisation’s expertise, and I hope I get to pick up some useful technical skills after resisting electronic advancements for so long.

Youth work and technology are not exactly something I have the experience of and the organisation’s laissez faire culture is something I am slowly adjusting to. But I get the feeling that I’ve been given an opportunity because of my persistency and so I am going to give it my best shot. It’s too early to tell where all this is leading to, but meanwhile it will be a steep learning journey.

Happy, thankful and relieved

October 20, 2008

I know I should be reading up the materials for my new job tomorrow but I am too ecstatic. Nothing earth-shattering, simpy that I’ve just successfully set up my home broadband after three months of being here (applying for a new phone line and signing up with a broadband took three weeks each, plus we had some hiccups). I’m glad there’s no need for me to trudge to the library everyday and feel bad about using the computers there!

Anyway, I know I’ve moaned about how difficult it was to get a job and how despondent I did become. Just before I was offered work with the youth organisation, I was seriously contemplating returning home since I didn’t seem to get getting anywhere here though I had loads of interviews.

But thinking about it on hindsight, it does seem that He has got everything worked out for me. I spent my first three months settling in, working on the house and applying for jobs. As the DIY jobs got closer to completion and my unemployed status, financial position and internet problems got to me, BANG, somebody just suddenly decided to set everything straight.

I finally got offered a job working on youth websites at the organisation I was so keen about, albeit five months late. During our meeting, they revealed that they actually wanted to hire me after our two-hour Skype interview in May but was worried about me not being able to get the WHM visa, and so they chose another dude. Which made me really annoyed with myself for having been so honest all the time! I should have said I already had the visa, instead of in the process of getting one.

The broadband was activated just a day before I was due to start work, which would be very convenient if I’d decide to work from home. I’d gotten most of the laborious DIY work (i.e. hardcore painting and furniture assembly) out of the way when I was bumming. And to supplement my income, I managed to find someone who is interested in learning conversational Mandarin once a week.  

All in all, things are picking up and I know it won’t be long till I would start to moan about having to go to work and not having enough time to slack. It’s often tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel when everything around seems so grim, but it’s important to know or choose to believe, that my prayers are heard, someone divine is looking after me and the universe is conspiring in my favour.