Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Job in China

Since getting back from Georgia, I've been looking for another job abroad. My first choice was Japan. I've been interested in Japan since befriending a very nice Japanese lady on Myspace many years ago. I thought getting a job over there will give me a great opportunity to experience the country, the culture and her people. Alas, their requirements for the jobs over there are very steep. I spent more than a month sending CV's to no avail.

Second choice was China. I spent only a few weeks applying to China and got an email from one of the sites I registered with. they had an opening that I qualified for! I was at work, when the said email came through. I quickly emailed them my stuff. Literally, before my email went through, I got a response! They asked if I was on Skype. They were interested. I am! They added me and my stomach turned of excitement. I was too nervous to accept. And I wasn't dressed cute. You know how it goes! These things always happen when you're not dressed so cute. Plus, I was eating! I ran to the mirror, spruced myself up and accepted the Skype request. This all happened within two minutes! She called me and the interview went something like: Hi. Please state your name?
Me: Babalwa Brook
China: Sorry, I can't hear you?
Me: Ba-ba-lwa B-roo-k
China: tell me a little bit about your work experience?
Me: I -
China: Sorry, I have to go. My phone is ringing, I'm very sorry about this!

In less than 5 minutes, I'd got a response, had an (almost) interview and was left completely confused. Turns out I'd applied for two different positions from the same agency. 2 hours later, she sent me an email, responding to the one I didn't get a response to. Not the one she asked to interview for and offered me the job. I got more confused! I had to ask which position I was being offered. Plus, one paid double the other. Alas, I got the less paying one!

They sent me a contract. Typed on Word. No letterhead! Weird. But oh well. I filled it in and submitted all the required documents. I was so confused. I didn't know whether to be so excited or not. The (almost) interview was on Friday, by Sunday, the contract had been signed, sealed and delivered. I was with my sister at my place when the final confirmation of the job offer came through. She had the same reaction I did - confusion. She suggested we google the agency and the agent. Google.com »» ChinaESL Rebecca Tang »» there's an entire forum threat about her on one of the websites. All good reviews. Perhaps one or two, skeptics. Some (if not all) of the posts were by her.

I had to buy my own ticket, get a Tourist Visa (not Work Visa!), and head to china asap! I was to take a cab to China ESL's offices where Rebecca would fill me in on what was going to happen next. Even though I got a job, they hadn't placed me yet. They'd place me once I got to China. They had all these terms and conditions as to how much money I'd have to pay them pay if I didn't do this, that or the other. I had to think long and hard about this 'opportunity'.

I contacted the Chinese Embassy, +- 12 times in different days before I finally got hold of someone from the Durban branch. No joy in the Sandton, Pretoria and Cape Town offices. I spoke to a Chinese man. He wanted to know how long I was going to China for? And told me: Chinese Tourist Visa Requirements :- I could only get a 1 month Tourist Visa seeing as it was going to be my first time. I had to send them 3 month's bank statement with a balance of no less that R1 000 ($125) for everyday I'd spend in China. They wanted proof of accommodation, like a hotel booking and an itinerary. Here's the thing: I'm not going on vacation!

I had to contact Rebecca and tell her about all this. By the way, Rebecca Tang is also a Visa Agent. You'd expect her to know better than to send me to China on an illegal visa and not to furnish me with the necessary information and documentation for the visa application. I asked her for more help. She replied: no problem, you can come on the 8th! I explained that I thought it would help if they got me a work visa because this tourist visa thing doesn't sit well with me AND the requirements are insane. I'm going to be working there, therefore I didn't need to have all this money in my account. She replied: no problem, you can come on the 10th. Whew! What the heck is going on?!?!?! I was so drained from this back and forth non-communication! I thought hardly about this and did more and more research on the whole thing. I was still miserable at my job and had constant headaches from being treated like an utter moron. China seemed more appealing from where I was standing. I collected all the required documents and got stuck when I got to the itinerary part.

I emailed China ESL again asking for help with the itinerary. They replied: You are great! We would like to offer you the job! THE HECK!?!?!? I had a weird feeling this Rebecca must either have a split personality, amnesia or I was communicating with a machine this whole time. The sent me a contract AGAIN! I thanked them and asked what the next step would be. I also asked about the Work Visa. They told me to get a tourist visa that they would convert it into a work visa once I get to Beijing. I'd had to fly out to Hong Kong (and pay for the flight myself) and they would pay for the visa. I mean really now! Couldn't we just do this before I leave South Africa? Anyway. I asked about the itinerary as I was not really going on vacation and had never been to China. I wouldn't know where to say I was going. They responded: no problem, come this weekend!

Sent from my iPhone

Script Guy

Sometime while I was still on vacation at my mom's, I received a call from a guy I don't know. He wouldn't tell me where he got my number from. He told me he had a script he was working on that he wanted me to read and would like to offer me a role on his play/film. I found it rather strange that he wouldn't tell me where he got my number from. He didn't even know my name! You could tell that he knew of me though from answering some questions I asked him. He said to call him once I get to Johannesburg, so we could meet up. He wanted to hand over the script to me in person. Fair enough.

Out of curiosity, I called him when I got to Johannesburg. We agreed to meet up in Melville on 7th Street. I assumed he'd know I meant at a bar/restaurant somewhere. He asked if I'd be at my sisters. That was interesting as I didn't recall ever telling him about my sister. Mh, maybe something slipped. Who knows! This guy only has a home phone, which meant we had to finalise meeting arrangements before he left his house.

After work, I headed for 7th Street, he was supposed to call me when he arrived seeing as he's the one who doesn't have a mobile. I got a lift on my way to my sister's from some dude with a really long beard. I thought I'd wait there as she lives closer to where I was going to meet Script Guy. I didn't call beforehand. When I arrived, they'd just left. Mr. Beard offered to drop me at the mall, where my sis and the kids were. Very nice of Beard, don't you think?

He asked for my number, sure, why not! He wanted to know where I lived, which whom blah blah blah ugh! He couldn't drop me by the entrance of the mall because he was meeting his wife, uhm, rather his ex-wife's sister. Whatever liar! By the way, when he stopped to give me the lift, he thought I was a lady he met at some mall a few hours prior. He seemed convinced I was that lady. Or perhaps that's his Modus Operandi. While I was in the mall with the family, Beard called. He called me by some random name. Mind you, I saved my number with my name myself on his phone! He asked if I was still in Braamfontein. I hadn't been to Braamfontein since last year. Still haven't! Looks like he was confusing me with yet another lady. Not the one from the mall, because that mall wasn't in Braamfontein either. He asked if I wanted him to pick me up. When he dropped me off, he did offer to pick me up. I told him I'd be okay, my sister has a car. I just hung up because he was too confused and I didn't need any of that drama.

No call from Script! My sis dropped me off at my place and that was it! No word from him for a few weeks. Out of nowhere, he started calling again, left, right and centre. He was calling at odd hours, 9/10pm. He'd talk non-stop for a good 30 minutes. I can't tell you what about! Not because it's a secret but because it was a lot of nothing really. I hardly ever said a word besides answering whatever questions posed at me. Other than that, it was him carrying on and on and on.

He described himself as very good looking, short, bald WITH LONG DREADLOCKS (don't ask!), coloured (biracial), dark, and really handsome. He couldn't say that part enough times. He wanted to know my star sign. I told him: Aries. He said, 'ugh, Aries! I think we're gonna have some problems! Give me a minute to think, I'll call you back'. He called back and told me, 'you know what? I'll work with you! My mom was an Arian, she drove me nuts but I loved her. She's the reason I am who I am today. I'll work with you!'

He wanted to meet the following Friday. Ugh, here we go again! This time, he wanted me to go to his house. Of course I refused! He also wanted me to hook him up with Nadine Richardson, the singer. I found it interesting that he knew I know Nadine. He told me to give her his number. He had a great offer for her. Friday came. I didn't even bother to go to 7th Street. No word from him...
Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

My new place!

Monday, 6 Feb 2012

I spent the rest of the weekend at my sister's. The room mate only got
back the next Tuesday evening. That helped a lot as I only got a
chance to move Tuesday night.

I was lucky to find that place. Their tenant moved to Cape Town and
let a friend use the apartment without consulting with the landlord.
The landlord and tenant's friend reached some agreement and the guy
moved out to make room for me. It's a furnished apartment so all I
needed was my suitcase and I was good to go. Oh and bedding which my
landlord was kind enough to supply. My niece helped out. Everything
went really smooth!

Old friends of mine from the Philippines lived there 2years or so ago
so I was familiar with the premises. I visited often, they loved to
sing, like me and owned Karaoke mics. Fun times all around!

I must say I was forced to be creative after realising I didn't have
the basis utensils like can opener. Having to open up a can with a
table knife ain't no fun!

New Job

6 Feb 2012

We worked from the boss' house. It's an amazing house! The old PA (not in age) lives with her husband in the cottage at the boss' house, boss' son lives there and they always have guests from overseas (the US). It's a really big house! We had lunch at work. They told me not to pack lunch for work. They made amazing food. The son and PA's husband are good cooks. Boss baked 2 - 3 different types of muffins every sing morning when she was in town.

I started the very next Monday after the Friday of the interview. During the interview, they couldn't emphasise enough that the boss will fire me at the drop of a hat at any mistake I might make. If I'm lucky, she might let it pass the first time around, but I was not allowed to make the same mistake twice. I was also told not to apologise should I make a mistake, I was to fix it and move on. 'Boss doesn't like it when people act weak, you make a mistake, FIX IT!'. I had one week probation, then I'd either be fired or would stay on. All I heard was Fired! fIred! fiRed! firEd! fireD! FIRED!
I was dying of the stress that put me under! I'd just moved all the way across the country for this job and all I'm hearing is how disloyal these people are. One week! Was that going to be enough for me to grasp everything? They also told me the Boss was forgetful and I needed to know everything she knew so I could help out whenever she forgot something. External hard drive anybody? On hearing all this, I couldn't help but wonder if I wasn't better of with the lower level job I'd applied for initially. By the looks of things, I got a better position as a PA (personal assistant) to this businesswoman/celebrity/everything that I stood a very high chance of losing. Sigh!

I had a headache every single day at work for the first month. There was so much to learn about the business, partners, and and and. I needed to learn the partner's names from the different businesses and their cell numbers, email addresses, fax numbers, office numbers, how they became partners, who their connections were, how long they've been involved for, who their personal assistants were etc etc! Whew! I wasn't allowed to forget anything, or mess up. I tried! It was not without pain though. Not without headaches.

We worked from the Boss' home. I needed to learn her friend's names, where they're from, their spouses' names, kids, the boss' siblings, and and and all this in 5days! I was taking notes, taking them home, studying, studying, studying! My head was bursting! I was dying! I have a great deal of respects for PA's. Being an executive is not a joke! When the partners or potential partners come over for meetings, you have to offer them muffins and something to drink (joys of a home office), take ALL their cellphones and be their PA's as well. Some will go as far as giving you their email login and password for you to check their emails. Here you are with 2 office phones, your own and the other PA's cell (I was still in training so really I was PA to the PA), boss' cellphone, 5 random men's cellphones (most of which had 2 cellphones each) and their emails. All this and you're trying not to get fired because you just signed a 12-month lease for your new place which you adore. Cringe!

The first week went by, I didn't die and I did not get fired! Hallelujah! On to the next week! Boss went out of town for the entire week. Not before they pressured me into really grasping everything as I was going with her and I wasn't allowed to mess up at all because this was a new venture that she needed to make a huge impression in. I tell you, I got a wig (refer previous blog post for my hairstyle), I only wore it when the boss was around or when we were expecting people. Other than that I rocked my dreads the entire time in the office.

I crammed most of what I needed to know the first week. The next week was 'revision' and taking calls, senting out emails and stuff. Practical, so to speak. I created a work email address and linked it to my blackberry as I didn't have my own PC yet. I did most of my 'PC' work on the blackberry.

I lived 5 houses from work, which helped. I didn't need to drive and it was a really short walk. After work, I'd walk up, 3minutes later, I was at my place. All I did was throw my handbag wherever it landed, watched a tv series off the laptop and sleep. That's it. Too tired to do anything else. For the first few weeks, I had no social life at all. Even weekends were work work, either studying or research for the boss.

Pictures of all the lunches I had at work and the view from our office.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

My first night out back in Johannesburg (with Pics)

Friday, 3 February 2012

My sis and  I reached a compromise, I'd go out with her as long as I didn't have to dress up. I still tired from the 24 hour bus ride and all the walking I was doing from Westdene to Melville and stuff. She changed and wore her 'comfortable' dress, I remained in my leggings and flip flops and couldn't be bothered. My sis was like, 'are you sure you don't want to change the shoes at least?' Nope! I'm good!

At Six Bar/Lounge Melville

We went down 7th Street in Melville looking for the guys. My sis went "There they are!" My gosh! There were so many of them! 6guys! So tall too! Some were old, some young, I had been told that most of them are married except for Tom, my sis' CSer. (couchsurfer). I could't keep my eye off this one dude. Heaven help me! His name's Olivier, hot right?

Tom on the left and Olivier

That's him right there! Pity the picture's not so clear. We started off at Xai-Xai, also on 7th Street. We hung out there, I got to know the guys. They are a bunch of Germans and the Kenyan guy who works with them, all Engineers. We exchanged traveling stories. It was very relaxed. Just what I needed. Tom said he wanted to drop it like it's hot. We went down the road over to Sophiatown. There were a few people and it seemed dead. One of the older guys and I went right in the centre of the bar and danced away. all of a sudden the attention was on us, they snapped away. I wasn't sure what was going on... Until the manager came over and asked us to get out because that was a private party. Oops!

Us outside Sophiatown 

The party people were kind enough to let us sit outside and have our drinks which we had already ordered while the old man and I were dancing up a storm.

From Sophiatown, we went to Six. We found a nice spot on the carpeted side. I took off my flip flops and danced the night away. I managed to get some of the guys to dance with me. Some blatantly refused. Their loss.

The dance I enjoyed the most was with..... you guessed it! Olivier! Hotness all the way! we danced from the beginning to the end of the song! That was my last dance of the night too. Awesomeness!

It was very late by then and they had work the next day. We walked them to their car, posed for some group pics and called it a day. Not too shabby for my first night out in Johannesburg

The old man on the left is very funny and sweet, he gave me a hug and a kiss and told me, "you're an amazing human being!" I was so humbled to hear that from someone I only spent a few hours with.

I got the Job!

2 February 2012

I had a nice and peaceful night at my brother's in Westdene. I made interview arrangements, we agreed on the next day, Friday at 11. That gave me an entire day of nothingness. My nephew and I walked to Melville, long s walk if you ask me! 45 minutes! We hung out at my sister's with my niece. I did some research on the Lady I was going to work for and GOT NOTHING! One small Facebook Group and that's it! Nothing else! I was stunned. She is the kind of person you would expect to be all over the internet.

Fortunately my sister offered to take the nephew and I home.

Friday, 3 February 2012
Interview day! I had to dig through my suitcase for a decent outfit that won't need ironing. I took a shower and got on my way. I had to walk 45minutes to my sister's in Melville, change to my interview clothes and walk to the interview location. I got on my way around 9, the streets weren't that busy. there was I alone in the street and this dude shows up wearing short shorts, flip flops and a soccer jersey (I still don't know why a soccer t-shirt is called a jersey.) As he approached me, he looked like he was scratching his groin area, until I saw his willy that he was dangling at me! I GOT FLASHED! What in heaven's name! Good thing I had sunglasses on! Who would want to make eye-contact with THAT!

The interview turned out to be about 15minutes away from my sister's. I under-estimated the distance. I had only allowed myself about 5minutes. There I was running like an utter moron in heels and a skirt. It had been more than 6months since I last wore heels. And I was running in them? Not a great idea at all. But it had to be done.

I arrived 4minutes late. Not too psyched with myself, but I did the best I could. Give me a break I was flashed that morning! The interview lasted only a few minutes. It was nice to see the boss. Let's call her Doc. She is a well known celebrity and a businesswoman. Her Personal Assistant conducted the interview though. Thank Goodness! That could've been really nerve-wrecking.

I GOT THE JOB on the spot. Next on the list, Accommodation! I had to start work the next Monday. I had 2days to find a place to stay. Lordy!

I could stay with my sister's friend but she was too far! I'd have to commute to Noord or Bree then Melville. The offices are in Melville. I had to cancel that. I hope she wasn't mad at me but I was being realistic. My sister is sharing her apartment, I couldn't even ask her. That wouldn't be fare on the tenant. I needed furnished accommodation because I sold all my stuff before I went to Georgia, thinking I was going to be away for a year. The plan was to keep traveling thereafter. Unfortunately, I ended back here in 6 months.  I posted an ad online and a couch request on couchsurfing. I also called an old friend that used to rent a furnished apartment in Melville. She now lives in Cape Town. She gave me her old landlord's contacts. I called them and BAM! One of their tenants was moving out! But not until month end! I couldn't wait that long! apparently the tenant himself had moved to Cape Town but had let a friend stay there without the consent of the landlord. For that reason, the landlord was able to let me move in The next Tuesday or Wednesday. I just needed somewhere to crash from Friday until then. Westdene was too far. I couldn't walk in heels for 45minutes twice everyday. A very nice lady I went to boarding school with responded to my couchsurfing request almost immediately. She offered me a room at her place. Apparently it's on the bus route too. Huge sigh of relief. I couldn't thank her enough. I told her I'd see her that evening.

I spent the day at my sister's with my niece while my nephew spend his at his place going through my stuff!  My sister called me around 4pm. She said, "Do you have a nice dress? Let's go out tonight!" I was like, sure, let's! I have my interview outfit, that should do! She came home early! I told her I would need transport to the friend's place that evening. She said not to worry the lady she stays with went away for the weekend, I could stay over until Sunday night. Perfect! I had to cancel yet another good Samaritan. I tried chickening out of my sister's plan too. She wouldn't let me. She was meeting a couchsurfer from Germany and his friends. The dude had been in the country for about a month already, they had been on a few outings together. He has even met my other sister in Cape Town, Pru. Her hubby is German, my sis thought it a good idea to hook the CSer (couchsurfer) with another German.