Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wandering About Again

I came back to England on 1st September and am starting a job on 1st November. I've never been out of work so long before. I did wonder if I was looking for the right work (housekeeper/nanny/carer jobs), so I applied to become a bus driver. I know I would enjoy the public service, meeting people and being cheery to brighten their day. However, before they could reply, i got a job as a nanny/tutor in Hong Kong. 

I didn't apply for it and it seemed that I was the only candidate. My profile was on several nanny-type sites so they found me from that. They wanted a mature person, believing maturity goes hand in hand with reliability. 

I had actually applied for a nanny job in Hong Kong a few weeks ago with a British Expat family. It took me a while to decide to do it because living in China does not appeal to me, especially a part that's hot and humid. That advert appeared in a week with few to apply for so I took the plunge. But they obviously found someone else. 

I have had several interviews on the phone and in person and even a trial, but none of them worked out. The trial was in the town of Aylesbury where I spent most of my childhood. It ended after 4 days when the new widower was persuaded to  go stay with his sister-in-law, which meant there was no job available. 

When the person from Hong Kong sent me an email it went into my spam folder and I found it two days later because I check it regularly before I empty it. And no, it wasn't one of those "You're Hired" spam emails! :-) I replied and was asked how much I wanted to earn. I checked out how much people were being paid for the job in Hong Kong. It seemed that the family were Chinese and I noticed the going rate was very small. I quoted a figure that was 5 times that rate, but the minimum I could survive on and pay my debts. 

She wanted to speak to me on the phone, I thought they must be one of the rich Chinese. She came back with an offer of double the amount I had quoted, saying it was what they usually paid. I wondered why she asked me. 

I suggested we use Skype because I wanted to see her. It was then that she revealed she was acting on behalf of a friend. She only mentioned the father, who was on a business trip, and the boy who is 5 years old and at kindergarten and speaks English but they want him to improve, so I assumed she was the girlfriend. I asked if he saw his mother and she revealed that the mother does not speak English and I would be working with the boy and so I had not much need to communicate with her. I ascertained the mother lived with the family, so I must remember that it's a different culture. 

The lady Sal, has engaged all the 'Au Pairs' (as she called them) that they'd had.

The boy didn't have anyone to look after him a the moment and so she wanted me to come as soon as possible. So we spoke on the Wednesday, bought the plane ticket for Friday, and packed on Thursday. (I've now found out that wasn't true because the mother doesn't work.)

The cheapest flight was with Emirates. I found it was the cheapest on a site that found cheap flights. However there was so much to-ing and fro-ing with Sal, that the 6 available seats disappeared from the site. So, suspecting that Emirates would have more seats I went to their site and found the same seat over £300 cheaper! So the lesson is.... when you find a cheap flight, go to the flight company's site and you may find it even cheaper. 

I'm not a fan of Arabs, and Arabic things, (and I've come across a few, having worked in Kuwait for two years), but I've always been very impressed with Emirates airline company. They have lovely and useful touches like giving everyone a menu, so you know what the choice is (and what the other things are on your plate).  And the food is good too. The flight attendants are lovely form all over the world with an amazing array of languages between them, and the in-flight entertainment is very comprehensive. They even have sockets and USB ports in economy class in the newer planes. 

That was written whilst I was on the journey and now I'm rested and have internet I can post it here. Now I've arrived I'll add a bit more. 

My employer has put me up at a hotel for two nights. He doesn't have room in his flat for me unless I share with his maid (who's been with him for 10 years. Her husband is the family diver, but for some reason is still in China.)

He's found that an apartment for me would not work until he knows I'm going to stay because of the long lease expected. So he suggested he rents a room for me with a family. Because it's cheaper to do this and it's not as nice, he's going to give me an extra 2000 Hong Kong Dollars (£160) each month. He then joked that if the family weren't nice he would give me an extra 3000 HKD. But if I wasn't happy he would rather find a new family for me than have to find another nanny. 

He looks about mid 40s to 50, which seems old to have a 5 year old child and is quite formal. He has about 1000 employees and prides himself on being fair with them all. He gave me 5000 HKD to start me off and will pay me weekly until I get myself settled and can have the money monthly. When he gave me the cash, he shook my hand and said "Welcome to the family". 

He does seem fair but also wants to see results. His son is not speaking English like he thinks he should. The last nanny left because her daughter had a bone marrow transplant. I told him my children were both healthy. ;-) I asked him if the child goes to play with friends and he said he doesn't have friends - and not allowed them until he speaks English better! I'm going to see if I can find some English boys for him. So he can play and speak English at the same time. Playing with a 54 year old woman all the time is no substitute. I'm also going to suggest he teaches another child English. That will motivate him to speak English. 

The hotel room was very musty and the windows were locked. So I phoned down to ask for them to be unlocked and was told for security reasons they can't be unlocked. I'm on the 10th floor! I told her the room was musty and needed a change of air. She suggested a housekeeper come and spray but I declined. She asked a manager and someone came to open then but will shut them tomorrow. Now the windows are open it's very noisy because there is a restaurant downstairs with an outside bit. ;-)

Temperature outside is slightly cool in the evening if wearing shirt sleeves. Fine with a jumper on. 

The journey was smooth apart from at Heathrow where I was told that because I didn't have a visa or a return ticket I couldn't board the plane. I was told to go get a return or a follow on ticket. The sweet guy at the ticket desk gave me a return ticket for no cost. I'm sure a return is the same price as a one way so that's how he did it. He did it for a two weeks trip. Sal was buying me a one way ticket and when I took over (because she couldn't pay for my ticket from a Hong Kong credit card) I just carried on with that. 

Been out today in the shopping mall adjoining the hotel and in the garden at the back. First impression is I like the place and everyone I've met has been lovely. 

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Childhood Memories

Elderberry tree at the bottom of the garden,
Climbing and falling into the nettles,
Surreptitious foray into the orchard beyond,
Bitter, unripe apples,
A just punishment for stealing.

The den under the old plum tree,
Shared with slugs and spiders,
Made cosy with dolls blankets,
Dashing to the back porch in the thunderstorm,
Dashing back again for the sheer exhilaration of it. 

Sitting on the coal bunker in the sun,
Setting fire to a leaf with a magnifying glass,
Shelling broad beans covered in black fly,
Ping into the colander, 
Silky pod
A bed for fairies.

Sitting on the swing
In a triangle patch of lawn
Half hidden from the house,
The scent of orange blossom
In the dusk.
Blessed solitude

Circus on the lawn,
A tightrope plank on boxes, 
Clowning around
Falling in the clover patch,
White horses galloping. 
Such fun

Mowing the lawn,
Hot day,
Push, pull, push, pull,
Hard work,
Tall stems bounce back.

Walking through the red flower tunnel
of runner beans,
Picking the young ones,
The fresh ones
Before they get stringy.

Shops amongst the bushes,
Selling seeds,
Selling leaves of different shapes and sizes,
Selling daisies,
'Silver pennies' for money.
No customers

Mud Pies on the path,
Seaside buckets for water,
The eve of a seaside holiday,
Dirty clothes.
Angry Mum

The greenhouse,
Pungent smell of tomatoes, 
Warm on a cool day,
Playing in the warm, fine earth,
Sieving it finer.