Sunday, December 25, 2011

Another Christmas

I spent Christmas this year in two countries. I woke up Christmas day morning in Juba, South Sudan and going to sleep Christmas night in Khartoum, Sudan. Huge celebration and festivity in Juba but it is just another ordinary day here in Khartoum. Well Sudan is a muslim country, Christmas just ain't their thing.

With Christmas almost done, the year is drawing to a close. Did my year go out with a bang? It was certainly an eventful year. Sealing the deal on my own pad towards the end of 2010, I finally moved into my place in May. Just moving in, literally. Since I'm working and living in Khartoum, I hardly did any living in part my new apartment. I just done it up a little, very little in fact and brought in my clothes and books and kitchen stuff. That was it. Practically the place is vacant, so much so that the pigeons were moving in (into my balcony), leaving a couple of hatchings and a balcony of pigeon shit. Maybe I should consider renting it out? At least that would pay for the mortgage itself. It makes sense and cents. I'm Chinese, why didn't think of that is frankly quite beyond me.

There were a lot of traveling this year. Finally I've been to my motherland, China. Working with a lot of mainland Chinese, they always ask me if been back to China or pester me when am I making a trip back home. In Jun, I did finally, I went to Beijing on a business trip. Beijing was anything and everything beyond my expectations. I was expecting the streams of bicycles but I saw rivers flows of cars on the road. No one spit. Subway was convenient and cheap. The city was exuberant with energy and excitement. The minute I returned to Sudan, I was already scheming my way for another business trip back there. (Evil laugh!) Because of my work schedule, I was also able to see more of the mysterious continent I'm living now. I went to Kenya and Rwanda in August and October respectively. The nature attractions and adventures were certainly top notch, but the humanity and cultural of the trips were eye opener for me. TO me, poverty is the root of horrible messiness in Africa and education is the best tool to fight it. I want to do something about. I'm plotting something for that.

And then dad passed away. I just reached my apartment in Khartoum from my Rwanda trip when I got the call from my sister. The connection was crappy so she was shouting into the phone. "Dad's gone!" Deafening! I was little unsettled for a moment, crashing down from the post Rwandan adventure high to the losing dad low. My relationship with dad was a very typical Chinese father-son dynamic. He was always a stern disciplinarian and I was afraid of him. We hardly talk or do things together. I remember him bringing me to a barber when I was young and I brought him to one when he was frail. In the end it was more of a relief, more than sadness, that dad was moving on. He had finally came to the end of this road and now onto the next one. In reality, isn't death part of life?

With dad gone, mom is now all on her own back home. Mom is a strong and feisty lady. But unfortunately, not as strong and as feisty as she used to be or I remember her to be. I recently found out that she's still not quite used to sleeping alone at night. Dad had gone for more than 2 months already. We kids are all back at work in faraway cities. What can we do? How do we do it?

On the work front, it was a tough struggle most of the days. Perhaps I'm still not adjusting to the local work culture. It's too laid back for me and there's no sense of urgency at all at anything. Many a time it was more stressful delegating a task to someone else than piling that task onto my already full plate. Consequently I bitch a lot and stress out even more. I find myself running on a very short fuse. I don't like myself running on a very short fuse. There are also many politics (not politicking) and scheming, that the solution is made not with the collective best interest of the company in mind. That's I guess is one of the perils of working in a joint venture company.

I discovered that my ability to adapt is surprisingly astounding. As the South Sudanese celebrated their independence in July this year, the possibility of relocating from Khartoum to Juba, the capital of South Sudan was looming large. During this interim period I was traveling to Juba quite a bit, dealing with the new host authority, establishing network and seeking for approvals for our various project implementation. My job is pretty much a liaison and I was able to fit into that so quickly. I was like a salesman, going door to door pitching my sale and trying to seal the deal. I was ever so charming and accommodating and entertaining at whatever demand or request and managing their expectations professionally. Me being running on such short fuse, it was astonishing that I found the strength in me to suppress my dismay behind my ear-to-ear grin. Yes, it was part of the job description but seriously that is so not me. Yet I did it. How did I do it? I'm baffled myself too. Well maybe it is me! Now that's a scary thought.

As much as I'm smiling jovially trying my best to hide my disdain, my facial expression or my tone of voice or my body language or all of them would sell me out. Well, this art of masking feeling on the face, I'm still perfecting it. At the end of the day, I'm a pretty transparent no-nonsense guy. Looking ahead, it will continue to be even more challenging and exciting at work next year, as we'll be relocating to Juba for good. We are setting up shop temporarily in a hotel. Construction of the office space is on super rush super energized mode. The first batch of staff moving down would be in mid January next year, a month delay from the original plan. We are forging forward, forcefully.

Isn't that a good way to move into 2012, charging ahead at full throttle?

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