Morning Gweilo’s! (gweilo is the chinese name for a white person/white ghost etc…in other words..me!)
As my brief bio explains – I have recently (well almost 6 months ago now) moved to Hong Kong from Sydney Australia. The first few months involved a plethora of domestic duties, nesting, hunting and gathering (aka decorating, space-bagging, cleaning, cooking, socialising and orientating). I first had to find my partner (we will just call him No.13) and I a ‘home’. After trudging Hong Kong’s pavements for weeks and weeks and viewing, what felt like 1000’s of apartments, I was DONE! An expat village, 5 minutes from the city was where we were to rest our blackened feet.
Task one was out of the way and then came the hunt for furniture. We had shipped most of our belongings from Australia (that’s another story – OSS you were the bain of my existence for far too long and you will not get the better of me again).
After weeks of trawling the internet for bits and pieces, having a beer with our Tasmanian landlord (???), joining the Hong Kong Football Club, learning to play squash, offering some time to a local Hong Kong Charity, many Skype sessions with friends and family, eating and drinking, getting acquainted with the copious bars and nightclubs that central and Lan Kwai Fong (LKF) have to offer, shopping, beautician appointments, learning how to use my induction stove and familiarizing myself with recipes that don’t require an oven, a visit from the in-laws, parents and siblings, a trip back to the homeland…it was time to find a job.
So many interviews…so many weird and strange (and not the good kind) employers and placement offers… I was getting over it. I had donned my ‘lucky interview outfit’ more times than I had hoped, been offered more crappy roles than I would like to say and been knocked back for not speaking Cantonese…I was starting to get lose my cool. The frustration was seeping into other aspects of my life…a stay at home ‘nothing’ was not on the cards for me…not yet anyway (for those stay at home mothers gasping in offence right now…hold your breath. You have an excuse…I only had my King sized doona cover that I turned to ironing and that was wearing thin…).. I began to visualise the perfect job…and even if it wasn’t…whatever came up next I was going to hold on to my girdle and go for…
The role I have taken is in sales for an online marketing company. I have to be a little illusive with names and titles with this blog for obvious reasons, so if you know who I am/who I work for etc then please try to follow suit (thanking you kindly in advance).
Today will be my fourth day in the office of my new job…and it’s been more than interesting. Day one was a little mundane (if anyone can remember their first day, it’s usually full of administration, orientation and trying to remember everyone’s names and learn the hierarchy and Monday didn’t stray too far from the script).
Tuesday was a little more interesting. I was given my desk and my computer. Being an early bird and starting work in an office that doesn’t open until 9.30am is a rough gig (this is pretty normal for HK as nothing opens till 10am usually). I waited outside the door for more than 20 minutes before the accountant finally arrived with the keys. Unfortunately her English isn’t fantastic and her idea of an orientation involved showing me where they keep the toilet paper and the bathroom key. (Yes, I do have to walk 20 meters to the toilet, down a busy corridor lined with other firms and businesses, with a roll of toilet paper in one hand and the keys in the other, thinking to myself “everyone knows that I am on my way to the toilet…”).
As everyone started to arrive, the Cantonese began in loud proportions. At one stage, the ‘class clown’ of the office (who wears Ray Ban Wayfarers without any lenses??), we will call her Bozo (the clown), cracked a joke which caused a raucous laughter across the board…everyone that is…except me. For some strange reason I felt the need to join in…I gave a small giggle at which the girl that sits next to me gave me a strange look. I can only hope they weren’t laughing at me?
Being the newbie in an office that speaks a foreign language is tough going…my usual ‘getting to know you’ period is made THAT MUCH HARDER because I have no idea what they are saying, its hard to pick who the bright ones are, the shy ones, the funny ones, the loud ones…because they all sound the same.
That same morning, I was gob smacked when Bozo moved towards the window and lit up a cigarette. Let me clear something up. We are located on the top levels of a high rise in the center of town. There are signs in the bathroom that I assume imply a $5000 fine for smoking inside the building and yet in our office – we are above the law! Shortly after Bozo lights up, she is joined by a gentleman from IT (who’s teeth appear to be rotting from the outside, that or he ate 5kg’s of Cheetos for breakfast and forgot to brush his teeth?!?) … They proceed with their highly original interpretation of a ‘smoko break’, and when they realize that I have been staring at them, Cheetos asks “Can you smell that Emma-ahh?”…I laughed…”Of course not Cheetos…I’m only sitting next to the window…ha”…sarcasm = LOST CAUSE.
Moving along, minding my own business I am tapped on the shoulder…the companies Graphic Designer taps me on the shoulder and then proceeds to point at a tray of small glass mugs filled with a brownish-clearish liquid (think sewage water). Turns out she doesn’t speak English that well and is too shy to try her skills out with me (we will call her Head Chef). Cheetos explains that Head Chef always makes soup for everyone in the office and that I should try it, “its amazing”. Delighted (or far from..) I accept the cup of liquid crap and place it on my desk; “N-goi” (thank you) I say hoping that she walks back to her desk. Nup. Cheetos then proceeds to tell me, that I have to try it, she wants to know what I think….CRAP-TASTIC! I bring the cup to my mouth and start gagging internally at the smell of it…I swallow the tiniest little gulp and praise her for her culinary skills…”whats in it?” I asl…She giggles and walks away – EXCELLENT!! That’s comforting!
Yesterday I just went to lunch with everyone at my office. It was the office assistant’s birthday. We went to yum cha and I sat there the whole time, the ONLY westerner (not just at my table but in the whole restaurant), while they all spoke Cantonese to each other the whole time. Bozo sat next to me and kept putting strange things on my plate and because I was sitting next to the boss (who was paying), the pressure was on to consume the strange ‘delicacies’. I thought i was going to need a little spew bag when the chicken feet landed on my plate. You’re probably asking why I didn’t take this as an education into the local feeding time?! Well…it’s a little difficult to ask questions when your ‘feeder’ (Bozo) is wearing a pair of the BIGGEST headphones you have ever seen and singing to her i-phone during the entire lunch.
I sat there in silence while they all laughed and giggled and talked to each other – then the birthday cake came out. It had a picture of the birthday girl’s faced spray painted in icing sugar on the top (kudos). We were all served a piece (the cake was made by a woman in my office who is the size of a house…Head Chef no less), i waited for the forks…they never came…everyone ate their cake with their chopsticks. Okie dokie then…Soon after, the girl opposite me (who happens to be on my sales team) broke out in this rash on her face and had to leave (we will call her Rashy). I later found out that she is allergic to alcohol and that there was baileys in the cake (which i push around my plate, with the chopsticks until everyone was finished eating because it was THAT foul).
After getting back to my desk, with a tummy full of god-knows-what, I start to see smoke billowing up from the building next door. The office assistant (who I gather takes great pride in her special jumpers adorned with various stuffed animals. Think ‘Human Key Chain’), decides it’s a good idea to shut the windows and the building next door goes up in flames. Hmmm…good thinking Key-Chain…you’ll go far in this company with that kind of initiative!
Any who…today is Thursday, day four. Its kind of exciting just waiting around to see what is going to happen next…now that you are all up to date with the last few days, I can begin dropping smaller bloggettes rather than epic tales…
Till next time Gweilo’s..peace.