Day Two of my mini-diary – look out for the three entries posted this week and next.
0617 – My alarm goes off. I snooze it. More than once.
0635 – I get up, wondering why I feel so tired. And I realize that along with all the jet lag (I was in the UK 5 days ago), I’m now an hour ahead of where I was yesterday, and so it’s actually 0535. Sigh. I get up, complete my morning rituals, check out and head to the building where I’m to spend the day, working as an associate for a company who are new to me. I’m keen to make a good impression – and I’m dressed as ‘business Ellen’, with a dress, heels, and a little make up – a very different look from yesterday’s yoga headscarf and stretchy pants.
0830 – I get there early in my taxi, and though not quite as early as planned (an optimistic receptionist had told me the 25 minute journey would be a max 10 mins), and I go to the café for a coffee and a healthy muffin. If such a thing is not an oxymoron. It’s tasty.
0850 – I head up to the 11th floor where my employer for the day is based. I have to swap my passport for a security pass. This makes me feel a little anxious.
0900 – I meet up with my very genial hosts for the day, and one of them takes me back down to the same coffee shop I left. The barista clearly recognizes me but doesn’t say anything. My host and I chat and I learn more about him and the company he runs here. I am buzzed as this is my third non-decaf of the day.
0945 – We go back upstairs. The office is all white, and a bit confusing to find your way to the loos. Well, back from the loos anyway. I do two loops of the floor, and on the second go-round the security guard kindly steers me in the right direction.
1017 – One of the office members goes out for ‘fruit’. It’s amazing, though a challenge to eat with a toothpick. I’m prepping for the two client activities we are doing today.
1100 – My first client call with this new company. We speak to a Chinese client named Twinkle. Yes, Twinkle. And she will have chosen this as her Western name. I like it.
1200 – The call goes well, and I am (as I think my own client is) relieved. One tick in the box!
1245 – We go out for a sandwich. I see a bit more of Sinagapore. It certainly seems very diverse and multicultural in this business area, there are people from all over the world. We have soup and a sandwich (really good apple and pumpkin soup and an amazing beetroot and avocado sandwich – probably better than it sounds).
1410 – My client and I head out of the office after some more prep to see another client. We arrive and meet them, and swap business cards (I have a business card for this company where I am a ‘Senior Associate’, excellent), always giving them to each other with both hands. It is a ritual in itself. It reminds me of working in France, where every time someone came into the office you had to either shake hands or kiss them on their two cheeks depending on how well you knew them. So you felt a bit like a jack-in-the-box sometimes, especially first thing in the morning!
1600 – Back to Singapore – the meeting goes well, though I have to do some fast thinking back on my reading to indicate I am familiar with the products and services of the company I am working with. My prep came in handy, and my demeanour and responses I think indicate I have been working with them for years. No problem.
1813 – I leave the office and my hosts, and head back to the airport on the train. I feel more familiar with it now. I reach the airport and check in – I’m unusually late for check in (for me), and I head straight for security. I grab something to eat on the way. the airport, though huge, is easy and fast to navigate through.
1945 – I feel shame. The plane is packed and the man to my left I thought looked a bit shifty, so I avoided eye contact for the majority of the journey. Near the end he helps me by stopping the large, uncouth man in front of me throwing his chair backwards and snapping my Mac Air in half (I put it in the pocket on the back of the seat – won’t do that again!). I thank him, and he starts to talk. He is Norwegian, and his mother, who lived on Samui, has just died. He has come to Samui for the funeral. He is grieving. When he says this, I see his red eyes and uncomfortable manner in a different light. I am ashamed of judging him. He talks, I listen.
2015 – We get off the plane, and uncharacteristically, I give him a hug and say good luck, I will be thinking of you. Afterwards I am frustrated that I wasn’t better, didn’t say more. I wish I had offered something else. I should have asked, would you like to talk about it? Given him more opportunity and space. He is a lesson I will reflect on for some time.
2157 – I reach the hotel just before the reception closes at 10. They have upgraded me to a larger room, which is nice, but it means it takes longer to cool down with the AC. More bites. Bed. Reflecting on today in bed, so many sights, sounds and impressions. Lots of positives and great experiences, and and a lesson learned. It takes me a while to get to sleep.