Last week, Owen was in the UK for the week. I took Thursday and Friday off so that I could focus on the kids (plus all the Christmas activities that were taking place or needed to be done). I am so fortunate that the Ex-pat community is so supportive of one another. My friends here all know that I work (sometimes long hours) and I had many emails offering to look after the kids, feed us or cover school bus drop off and pick up. It is such a relief to know that I am not alone when Owen has to travel back to the UK for his pain relief medication. In fact, I was over whelmed with the emails that came pouring in. I am not alone here. Neither is Owen. This is truly a community that cares about one another.
So, the Shanghai-high part of the week was the support that I received. The Shang-low part of the week was the juggling act…..
I feel guilty calling upon my friends to help. I know that they really want to help and that they do not think anything of it. But, I still cannot help feeling guilty. In my head, I am trying to work out when I can repay. And, I know that they don’t want repaying! It is part of the Ex-pat life to support one another and I am trying really hard to be a part of that. It is so difficult to release some of the independence and “I can do it” mentality. Work is especially difficult at the moment as we approach year end with lots of changes for 2013. I am feeling under pressure all round. It is a constant juggling act between home and work – the experts are right – you really cannot have it all 😦
Sunday night I travelled to Shenzhen in the south of China for a business meeting. Shenzhen is only a 30 minute drive from the border to Hong Kong. It is another huge city – 20+ million people, but a fairly new city. in 1979 it was still a small village! It has greatly benefited from massive foreign investment and is designated as a Special Economic Zone – one of the most successful in China and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.
The customer I was meeting is a large Chinese multi-national company. The morning went very well and then we broke for lunch. It was off to the canteen at lunch for a delicious buffet lunch. After which, our team returned back to the meeting room but I was amazed that all the lights were off. And, you could hear a pin drop! It is nap time at the office. I had never seen anything like this. The staff pull out thin mattress pads, pillows and blankets from under their desks or storage lockers. Some people even have a low cot/lounger bed. They then go to sleep, usually with their heads under their desks. I could even hear snoring!
People were OUT COLD. I so wanted to take a photo but refrained as I did not want to be disrespectful to our customer. I tiptoed past the cubicles trying to ensure that I did not disturb this patchwork quilt of sleeping. At 2:00pm, the lights again come up to full power and it is back to work!
At this same multi-national global company, I was amazed to find that the ladies toilets were all squat toilets. Oh my goodness, I would actually have to use one of these. I have successfully avoided them to date, often in discomfort, but still unwilling to try. Well, there is no choice this time – I have been drinking bottles of water like it is going out of fashion and I REALLY have to go. Mission accomplished, is all I am going to say on that subject!
We finally took off and arrived in Beijing at 3.00am. However, none of the passengers on our flight had their luggage, including me. I had travelled in jeans, t-shirt and flip flops – not the attire for business meetings! I thought that my bag would make it the next day, but no such luck. I was in Beijing for a large customer conference and many of our very Senior Executives had travelled to China to attend this. I had met some colleagues in the convention hotel bar and to my dismay, most of these Execs were in the same bar. I am now at the end of Day 2 wearing the same outfit (and flip flops) and not exactly dressed for Executive interaction. However, after explaining my predicament, no-one held it against me!
Still no sign of my bag and Cathay Pacific were so unhelpful with no opinion on where my bag was, never mind when it would be delivered. So, off to the mall for some shopping for me. Everything was so expensive and I needed so much for just a few days – make up, toiletries, underwear, shoes and a couple of outfits. The worst thing was not being able to find any shoes that fit me and I do not have big feet!! I ended up spending 3 times more than I have ever spent on a pair of shoes. Even worse…… they are so uncomfortable and I am not sure I will wear them very much!!!!
Finally, on Day 4 (at 2.00am, so just about Day 4) there is a knock on my hotel door to let me know that my bag has been delivered. Thank goodness, my feet would have some relief with my favourite comfy shoes.
Perhaps this is a lesson to not check a bag when travelling. 🙂
This has certainly been an interesting 24 hours. I flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong yesterday afternoon. The flight was delayed because of a Typhoon in the Hong Kong area. When we finally arrived, we were parked out on the tarmac and the flight crew had to give everyone plastic macs to de-plane, which we did into a T8 gale and fierce rain! It took over an hour for my luggage to come through on the carousel and then I got told that the wait for taxi’s would be over 2 hours. I decided to brave the train system and 1 hour after that, finally made it to the hotel – 1.30am!
This morning I got a message from the customer that I was suppposed to be meeting, that we were now cancelled because of the Typhoon (everything shuts down in Hong Kong when it gets to a T8+ status, and it reached a T10 last night). I am only in Hong Kong for that meeting!!!! The rain was so heavy last night that it sounded like hail against my 28th floor hotel room windows. The wind was howling and shaking the building…….
I decide to work from the hotel room this morning and then I get a text from the airline informing me that my flight to Beijing this afternoon has been cancelled. I immediately call our Travel Help desk and they re-book me on a later flight but I decide that I will probably have more luck at the airport (with prior USA experience of being a seasoned air traveller). Little did I know that the experience of being a frequent flier in the USA does NOT compare to Asia. At least in America, they are quick to give updates and do that frequently to calm the angry, travel weary person.
As soon as I arrived at the airport I was booked onto a 3.15pm flight (along with a travelling colleague). However, as soon as we had moved through security and customs clearance we saw that our flight was cancelled. (We both have checked bags on that flight). I have been sitting in Hong Kong airport all afternoon and been transferred to 2 different flights (I have no idea where my bag is at this point). The desk is so unhelpful because the Airport Authority here do not update their systems!!!!! So, none of the helpful American style updates here! Michele and I have been to the desk twice each so far and get different stories each time! I have witnessed the worst in human behavior with extreme yelling, screaming, crying and threatening physical abuse. I have to admire the staff across the board for keeping their cool in the midst of all that anger and emotion – these are the times when it must really suck to be in customer service.
We decided to camp out in DragonAir’s club lounge thinking we would not see so much of the yelling and screaming, but it doesn’t matter where you go, there will always be obnoxious people.
I don’t think I will make it out of here tonight. I am contemplating booking myself into a hotel and trying again tomorrow. What a wasted trip all round……
The positive first: work has been awesome this week. Best week since I arrived in China. I brought some enablement to my team here and the eagerness and passion for something new completely over-whelmed me. We had 4 workshops so I started my week in Hong Kong, back to Shanghai and then up to Beijing. Over 150 people enthusiastically throwing themselves in, having fun and learning lots of new techniques. I am actually feeling very optimistic about being here (and that is the first time in 3 months that I can say that!!)
The downside: Owen, Isabelle and Oliver have flown to UK for 5 weeks and I am left with Tetley here. I have never been apart from my children for so long and I am wondering how I am going to manage. Thank goodness for Apple Facetime – it makes such a difference to see them when we are chatting! The ex-pat community here all go home over the long summer break. At least the spouses and children do. There are homes all over our neighbourhood with just the working one left. I was at the pool last weekend and over heard a conversation between a group of men who had been shopping together, eating together and were now hanging out at the pool together……. a regular new boys club!
I will be heading over to the UK in August so it is not so long to be apart. And, it will be especially good if I can have a repeat work experience over the next couple of weeks too! For the first time, I think I am making some progress and having an impact. My sense of worth is returning and I am feeling positive and upbeat.
I am not very good at Juggling. This week, Owen is back in the UK and I am trying to juggle being a mum full time and work full time. It just doesn’t work and I am failing at both.
In the continuing on-going saga of the medical coverage here, Owen has had to return to the UK at very short notice to meet with his UK Doctors. We have International Medical insurance for our time in China and are also registered with an International Medical facility here. At first glance, this is state of the art, with modern equipment, English speaking Doctors and staff, clean facilities and very professional looking surroundings. However, it is almost impossible to get a straight answer and the answer can change from week to week. Consequently, information we were given on our look/see visit in December has proven to be false and has left Owen unable to get some of the medication that he takes to alleviate the back pain he continually suffers with. So, it is back to the UK for Owen this week. I hope he comes back……..
Meanwhile, I am juggling school bus stop drop off, pick up, dinner, laundry, homework, remembering and planning for all the different school activities, commuting, meetings, deadlines, projects and conference calls. For only 4 days.
Luckily, the Ex-pat community really do support one another. My meeting ran late yesterday and I was cutting it fine to get back in time for the school bus drop off. 1 quick text and my mind was put at rest with an immediate offer to collect them and keep them until I got there (I was 5 minutes late!)
This week I feel like a total failure at everything. I really don’t know how single mothers cope – to my mind it is impossible to do it all. I am so grateful for such a supportive husband who takes care of so much that I often take for granted. Never again!!!!!!!