Sunday, May 25, 2008

080525 District Conference

080525 2130
I have been in a quandary this week. I have to choose between a solid job offer from the nuns at the Chinese Catholic girls School or a "maybe-in-July" offer from the Marriott Hotels. The nuns at the Chinese Catholic School have been very kind to me in a bid to make me stay. They have done what every temporary contractor dreams of - they have offered me a permanent position. When I did not accept their offer right away, they offered me something that I was told simply does not exist in the corporate world. A thing so priceless and intangible that its value cannot be underestimated. It is a gift of such exquisite rarity that it is offered to royalty and visiting dignitaries. The lovely kind nuns at the Chinese Catholic School offered me a free lunch. Its persuasive power can not be underestimated.
The managers at the Marriott said that I have the job, they are expanding their team and I can expect to start in July. My current contract with the school ends on June 10th. I will be refusing a full time teaching job on Monday morning but it just doesn't feel right. I have never refused a job before - maybe because I have never had two jobs from which to choose. Also, the nuns are good at guilt - I think that guilt is their primary weapon.

I went swimming at night at Stanley beach. I have not been swimming for a while and it felt really good. I slowly remembered all the fun things that I used to do my pool - the "juggling jellyfish" and "the washing machine". Swimming for exercise has its advantages: there is none of that getting hot and sweaty that usually accompanies a good solid five kilometer run. The other is motivation - when running, when I get tired, I look ahead and pick a spot in the reasonable distance and tell myself that I can stop there. When swimming there is a tremendous amount of motivation to keep going, especially when the water is deeper than I am tall. There are reserves of strength that cannot be called upon until I am hit with a genuine fear that I am about to die. It is amazing how far a person can swim when their life depends on it. It was good not to have the worry about chlorine levels and water restrictions. I was underwater for a while and realised that I could hear snapping shrimp.

We had our district conference today.
Our visiting General Authority told a story about when he was a mission president.
There was a young girl who joined the church, went on a mission and served with honour. When she returned, she served in a few callings and all was well. Then she started to miss out on her daily scripture study, then she met a boy. After a while she stopped going to church and fell away. She married outside the temple, experimented with his religion, had some children and trudged through a good portion of her life. 30 years later after she left her abusive husband and alone in her one-bedroom flat she finally prayed. She prayed and said that she would like to start again and would Heavenly Father please send the missionaries. Please send them tonight.

Meanwhile, our visiting GA, who was at this time a younger mission president, was arranging the transfers and was inspired to send an odd companionship to a particular area. The companionship was a sister missionary who had just been made a senior companion and a young woman who was helping out for a few weeks. The missionaries asked why he would do that and told him that it was not right. He persisted and said that he felt that it would work out.

The scene shifted to two missionaries out on their bikes, it is getting late and they must be home in time. As he told the story - the two missionaries stopped their bikes at the same time and looked at the streets around them. They agreed that although it was late, they must go down a particular lane, there is something that needed to be done. They knocked on all the doors and with only minutes until they had to be home, they knocked on the door of our heroine. Our heroine was amazed and overcome and wanted the missionaries to start teaching her right away. They couldn't because it was late at night, but they promised to send the sister missionaries.

The "strange companionship" called on our heroine and they began the task of teaching. Our heroine recalls how she has been baptised but has fallen away and does not have the courage to return to church. The sister missionaries asked her to do one of three things: either pray every night until the next lesson, read the Book of Mormon, or go to church with them on Sunday. During the conversation, our heroine asked the name of the young woman who was helping the missionaries. It was a name that was familiar to her. "Who is your mother?" she asked. When our heroine heard the answer, she knew that this was beyond co-incidence and this particular young woman had been sent by a loving caring Heavenly Father. Our heroine said "I taught your mother."


Saturday, May 17, 2008

0805172100 I have the job, however there is no job.

I went for another interview at the Marriott this week. They called on Monday and said that the manager was in Hong Kong for two days and could I drop in and see them. I was introduced to some of the people at the office and we discussed what the job entailed. Travel. Travel as far west as India, as far east as Hawaii, as far south as New Zealand and as far north as Japan. The interview was going well until we started talking about references. This is a bit of a problem for me in the same way the the atom bomb was a bit of a problem for Japan. I explained that Telstra has a policy of not giving references by managers and all I could show them was my "peer reviews" that say in a dry and technical way that I have fulfilled my duties according to the standards of my job description. There is no mention of character or attitude. The next event could not have been staged if we tried. The Vice President of Marriot Hotels in the Asia Pacific region, who also happens to be my home teacher, stuck his head in the office and said "David! I thought it was you, how are you? Good to see you." He shook my hand and slapped my shoulder. There was a short explaination of where I met the Vice President of the company - at boy scouts, our kids are in the same boy scout troop. There was no need to say anything after that. My new manger just looked at me as it to say "Well that about covers it for the references."

The interview covered three important questions:
1 - Do I like to travel? Yes. One of the managers said that she travelled in and out of Kuala Lumper airport so often and so regularly that she could recognise the aeroplanes going to New York. I told them a few short stories about how I love to travel - even on an army cargo plane. They asked about speaking foreign languages and I had a short conversation in Cantonese with one of the managers. She said that all she has learned in Mandarin are a few essential words: left, right, straight ahead, rice, coke.
2 - Do I like to eat foreign food? Yes. I told them how I go to restaraunts and order by the numbers and eat whatever in is put in front of me. As a result I have eaten things that westerners regard as by-products. Apparently someone quit because they could not handle eating in other countries any more. The poor woman had to live on biscuits and coke whenever she travelled. Sometimes I get chicken's feet. I mean that litteraly, the good people at the Chinese restaraunt serve me the severed and deep-fried feet of dead chickens.
3 - Can I navigate in a foreign city? Yes. I demonstrated this by pulling a map and compass from my bag and explained that this behaviour is a bit "boy scouty" but it works. There are a few things more frustrating than getting lost in a strange city. Getting lost on holiday is not so bad - it can lead to an exciting adventure. Getting lost on business is not acceptable - time is money and promises must be kept. The good people at the Marriott seemed to like this attitude. They appologised for the late notice for the intervew to which I replied that I would not be much of a project manager if I could not arrange an interview with two days notice, especially if that interview that was in my best interest. I went on to say that it has been my experience that most of of project management is done on short notice.
"You definitely, definitely have the job." they said - the thing is there is no job. There isn't a position available just yet. I did not apply for an advertised position, however they are expanding their department all the time and they mentioned a starting date in June, maybe.

The next day I went to work at the Chinese Catholic Girl's school in Wong Tai Sin and the lovely kind principal nun, Sister Maria, asked me if it was good news for me and bad news for them. Apparently they like me. I told her that I have no starting date and no contract. Later, Sister Maria sent me some lunch. They are putting on a little concert featuring all the English songs that I have taught them. Thank you Peter Combe.

We had some of Alex's friends ( and our friends ) over from Australia for a few days. I asked them if they would like to come to the Chinese Catholic Girl's school for one of the English classes. The girls, both Australian and Chinese, had a great time. The grade six kids were a bit shy to start with but they practiced their English with some strange questions.
The grade-one kids loved to see them.

Today, Carolyn, Alex and I went on a long walk over three mountains. Carolyn was a bit tired and Alex was still full of youthful energy. Here is a another picture taken by another traveller who offered to take a picture for us. It was a kind Philipino woman who was walking with her middle-aged white fat bald husband. To take this photo for us, she took a welcome break from washing his back with a moist towelette.

Here is a link to the photos -
Peter Combe