Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Let them eat toast

As much as I would love to go deeper into the intrigues of Temple St (the last few days have been eye opening) it really is time I said something about work.

I have very much enjoyed the last week and a half but it has also been something of a culture shock experience. The organisation I have joined is very Honky and I have been thrown into an unfamiliar world of form filling, heirarchy, permission seeking and kowtowing to superiors.

The funniest part has been my battle to get a toaster after being charged with providing daily breakfast for asylum seekers. Despite a complete lack of cooking facilities, I had to write out forms on why I needed a toaster and then get them signed by my boss before sending them to head office. Someone in head office then had to do a quote which had to be approved before I could get the toaster. When permission came through I was told my budget was $HK100 ($AUS $16).

Electricals in Hong Kong are cheap but not that cheap. After trawling Kowloon on an unfruitful search I finally sobbed out my story to a old Indian man in an electrical shop in Chungking Mansions. After a lot of drama from me he finally told me that he would give me a toaster for exactly $100 since it was for charity. I'm sure the kind old man saw it as a donation to the poor because it was $60 cheaper than anything else I had seen.

Luckily, the project I am working in is new and we are a good distance away from the head office where the bulk of the 200 staff are situated. Our team of three is a bizarre collection of people and skills. Gwailo B is English but has been in Hong Kong since the sixties. He speaks fluent Cantonese and has starred (usually as the bad guy) in countless Hong Kong films. He's a fun guy to work with and has a great way with people. Sister S is a Russian trained Nepalese GP. She is fluent in English, Hindi, Nepali and Russian and is currently learning Cantonese. The three of us are having a lot of fun.

More about what I do soon... I need to get home to prepare my English lesson for my class of (mostly) Ethiopian asylum seekers tomorrow morning. And I'm going to make my first use of my beautiful new rice cooker (that also bakes cakes!).