Thursday, December 13, 2007

0712132200 Job interview at Chinese Catholic girl's school

I had a job interview with the principal of a Chinese Catholic girl's school. This time there will be no second interview. Instead of showing me the door with a curt "We''ll be in touch" they showed my my schedule and starting date. I have a class on Monday 7th of January. I am to teach the Chinese Catholic girls how to read a book and sing a song in English to prepare them for their exams on January the 14th. No pressure. They wanted me to start on January 4 - but I will still be in Australia and as much as I wanted to dedicate myself to this new job, the pay doesn't justify cancelling an aeroplane ticket with a free night in a foreign city at the airlines expense. The pay is, well it depends how you look at it - as an unskilled laborer, that is a common person with simple sandwich making skills, it is not so bad. It did make me think about it this way - what is required in terms of additional years at university compared to the additional earning capacity? I have already more work lined up as an English speaking teacher's aid than I have as an English speaking computer technician.

The interview was to assess my Australian accent and assure them that I will not be teaching the Chinese Catholic girls any strange English dialect. They will see an Australian accent when I teach these Chinese Catholic girls how to sing Waltzing Matilda and Tie Me' Kangaroo Down. I was given a tour of the school and introduced to the classes - grade one to grade six. My instructions so far are that I am to speak English and read a story. Also they have an English performance every Friday at lunchtime that is also my responsibility. I have already dismissed the thought of teaching them to say "Frank Burns eats worms."
I have read the employment contract and I can leave at anytime as long as I call before 8:30 so they can arrange a replacement before classes start at 10:00. Apparently English speaking teacher's aids are difficult to find. I am still looking for a real job and so I feel a bit like Happy Gilmore who insists that he is a hockey player while he plays golf . The real employment goal is to work at Marriott Hotels. I have made it through to a second interview that will be done over the phone Asia Pacific construction manager on Monday.

Hugo is doing well at Kung Fu. I usually pick him up from school and we go to the library before the class starts and he finishes his homework for the week. Today I bought a McDonalds apple pie for Hugo as an after school snack. In Australian dollars it was $1.35. We bought two more on the way home and had them for desert while we watched T.V. Hugo has his yellow belt in Kung Fu and can do a special move called the "Golden Dragon move series one" which makes Hugo a formidable opponent.

Mash - "Dear Peggy" Season four.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

0712112130 English has two too many "to's".

The language difficulty for today is with English rather than Cantonese - English has at least two too many "to's". I had to find an address, as I keep saying, in foreign country, in another language. There is nice lady, Cora, from church that runs an agency that specialises in farming out English speaking people to schools for a reasonable fee and, considering the type of work, a decent days pay. Cora speaks Cantonese and English and told me the address as "Thirty Eight Two Forty Four" which is quite a big number but not unusual in the city. It is common to give phone numbers as multiples of tens in Hong Kong. My phone number could be said as "twentytwo, sixtysix, fortytwo, fiftyseven". (If that was my number). I searched for number 38244 on Shau Kei Wan Road and ran out of numbers at 6582. Even though I knew where I was, I had no idea where I was going. Several roads converged in a vipers nest of bridges, flyovers and underpasses and I had no idea what road went where. A few minutes before the appointed interview time I was rescued by a courtesy call from Cora that finally explained the true location of the office. Cora's office address is at number 38 - 44. A quick tram ride for HKD$2 and I was only a few minutes late.

The meeting centred around how Cora's agency can make a teacher out of a telecommunications technician - Cora asked me, as if I had planned to come to Hong Kong and be an English as a Second Language Teacher, "tell me anywhere that you have been a teacher". The job seems simple enough - I am to read stories to primary school kids and never speak Cantonese to them. The bit where I never speak Cantonese will be easy. I try to use my limited vocabulary where it is appropriate - this gives the illusion that I know the language.

Cora - "Do not let the children know that you can speak Cantonese"
Me - "That part will be easy because I can't speak Cantonese"
Cora - "I can hear you, you speak Cantonese very well"
Me - "All that I can say is that I can't understand you"
Cora - "That is what you must say to the children so that they will learn English better"
Me - "Do you want me to pretend that I can speak Cantonese, but I choose not to so that I can teach them English"
Cora - "That is what you must do. It is for the better."

A fews hours later Cora called to say that the principal of the school would like to meet me and see if my Australian accent was not too hard for the children to understand. I may have to put on an American accent.

Monday, December 10, 2007

071210 - I thought about it later.

Have you ever noticed how many comedians start their routine with the line "Have you ever noticed?"

I had another job interview today. Have you ever noticed how you can think of what you should have said after the perfect moment has long gone.

In 1990, I was being interviewed to become an army helicopter pilot and the selection board asked me, as if I was only six years old, "what is the tail rotor for?" I was dumbfounded by the fact that I was being asked such a stupid easy question. Clearly, I had not impressed these people and it was obvious that I was not going to fly an army blackhawk. That question marked the moment in time when I decided that my army career had ended. "The tail rotor counteracts the rotational forces of the main rotor" was the standard issue reply. Later, much later, I realised that I could have provided a more substantial answer - like "the seven degree upward cant of the rotor also provides eighteen percent of the total lift during the transition from zero airspeed to eighty knots" - an answer that demonstrated my knowledge and interest.

Today's dumbfounding question was "Tell me what you know about Marriott Hotels." The minimal research that I had done was to look a few websites and see what was in the news lately. I did remember that there are about 2800 Marriott Hotels in the world and that 50 of those will be built in the Asia area of the next 5 years.

Another question was about how I came to be friends with the vice president of Marriott Hotels. My immediate answer was that I met him at church, but there is more to it than that. I also know him because our kids are in the same cub-scout troop and we both share an interest in BMW motorbikes. The emphasis on the church association might make me seem like a charity case. I should have made more mention of the scouts and that I am the scout leader of the troop. The Branch President here told me on Sunday that even though it has been said that "it's not what you know, it's who you know", - who you know has to know what you know before who you know will tell who they know about what you know - you know? I have a second interview over the phone with the head of construction in Asia in the next few days.

The building had the most amazing elevators - At the lift lobby instead of pushing a button to go "up", there was a keypad to enter the floor number and then a display to tell you where to catch the next lift. Once inside, there were no buttons - because you had already told the lift where to go. This might explain this bizzare Chinese ashtray that I saw at the border between China and Hong Kong. It might be a combination of the fact that I am not a smoker and that I am in a foreign country where there are many new ideas and strange customs, but this is clearly and an ashtray that is so technologically advanced that I have no idea how it works.

In the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent finally settles on an alien planet and finds out that some his ordinary skills needed for everyday living on planet earth are well regarded and valuable and he makes a comfortable living for himself by making sandwiches. Tomorrow I go for an interview at a primary school where I will speak English to those who can not.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

0712052030 - A typical day

A typical day for me now. Instead of waiting for something significant, or exciting, or newsworthy, I'll just write. Here I am in Hong Kong and everything I do is in another country. This might show how Hong Kong is different.

Today's story starts with Hugo going to scouts and playing some kind of rough-house game with scouts that are twice his size. After all the excitement was over, and while we were waiting to catch a bus home, he noticed that his phone was broken. The screen was cracked. I thought that Hugo could learn a valuable lesson by not having a phone for a few weeks while it is being repaired and this experience might make him realise that it is important to keep breakable, valuable things out of his pockets while playing a scout game that involves him being hurled around a gymnasium. Today I took the bus into the city to the Nokia repair centre. It is located in a hotel - they don't seem to have the same zoning laws in Hong Kong - people, shops and factories are all bundled together wherever it all fits. People live in the centre of the city, about a milion people. I was expecting the repair to be expensive and to take about a week. Hugo's phone was fixed in one hour and cost AU$40.

I mentioned that we were waiting for a bus - there is a bus every 5 minutes so there really is no waiting. The buses can be treated like taxis - they will stop anywhere along the route to pickup and deliver. I have not missed having to park a car. I certainly have not missed paying for petrol and tyres.

I mentioned that we were at scouts - I have joined the Boy Scouts of America as a scout leader. Hugo is also in scouts, he is a cub-scout and has earned badges for engineering and citizenship. He is working at getting the cub-scouts top award called the "Arrow of Light".

Rachel Ruby has a school excursion to China tomorrow - the trip is for 5 days where Rachel Ruby and her fellow classmates will work with Chinese orphans as part of a fascinating subject called Humanities in Action.

We are going to Australia for Christmas. We will arrive in Brisbane on Saturday 22nd of December and stay until about January 4th. In that time I am going to eat whole cans of Heinz All Day Breakfast. I would like to drive a car, which is something that I have not done in six months for a long drive somewhere.

Work - I have had a few job interviews - one particular interview was for an engineer/technician with a company that installs fancy telephones for stockbrokers. I have not had a conversation with a technician for a long time so it was good to be able to talk shop about some computer stuff. I asked to see the server room and the routers. I wanted to see the instruction manuals. I asked it they used 802.5 at all and then asked why. Either I have the job or he thinks that I am some sort of over-enthusiastic tech-loony.

The real job that I want is with Marriott hotels - the interview is on Monday.

I had lunch at a typical Hong Kong restaurant today. Its like this - compare the hamburger that you get at a milk bar to a Big Mac. The milk bar hamburger is huge - it has bacon, pineapple, beetroot and a fried egg. That is what it is like when I go to one of the small restaurants in Hong Kong. I can get a huge meal of fried rice and something that surprises me. I order by the numbers - everything on the menu is food - I say three numbers in Cantonese and then see what they bring me. Today I asked for "Saam Gau Ye" which means 392 and had a fantastic meal. There were things in it from the sea and something that looked round and shiny. They serve a glass of hot water with some meals - I just see what everyone else does with it and follow like a local. I can get by with very little language skills - enough to be polite is all that I have needed so far. I always tell the good people at the immigration office that they speak English very well.

The Chinese are really polite. I have not studied Chinese history, all that I know about the history of China is what I have stumbbled on from the news, but I see it this way. The British invaded Hong Kong and took over the same as they did with Australia, New Zealand, India and other counties that play cricket. The Chinese, instead of starting a war over it, decided to negotiate with the invaders and signed a lease for a hundred years. Meanwhile the English, not satisfied with Hong Kong Island, decided to cross the harbour and setup colonies. The Chinese were very patient and allowed more land. In 1997 the Chinese, wanted the land back according to agreements. The English seemed to take great offence at this. I agree with Eric Idle - I like Chinese.