1st day at work. Or, “All dressed up and nowhere to go”
I was really looking forward to my 'first day at work', I was quite excited and couldn't help myself, even though I had been warned by others not to expect too much!
In a way I hould have guessed what was about to happen, after all it was familiar territory in Malawi...You arrange to meet someone, you together set a date, you together agree the time. So you sort yourself out to be there on that date and that time, ready for the perfectly pre-arranged get-together. Only problem is, they don't actually show up. And so you're left standing, wondering...shall I wait?
Twice this happened to me today. This morning I was up and all organised, making a bit of a fuss about 'my first day at work', trying to simultaneously sort my hair into the neatest 'up-do' I could muster (to hide the incessant sweat and dodgy wonky curls that I have developed sans-straighteners), flatten the creases out of the 'nice' clothes I brought for the office, and decide which shoes will be most appropriate in this sandy and rough-road environment, whilst eating my hot coco out of a slippery calabash bowl and learning some last-minute Kusaal phrases so as to impress the boss (which was a total waste of time in the end as I later discovered he is not from Zebilla and thus Kusaal is not his language, and after all he is the chief of a large NGO, so of course he speaks perfect English, duh!).
So there I was, dressed all smartly in my pretty little blouse, trousers and cute work shoes, having walked the twenty minute journey in the 38 degree heat managing only to have a few small sweat patches, and sill looking fairly presentable, to be greeted by an empty office and no one around. After an hour the security guy turned up, looked at me in a confused fashion, made a couple of 'shouty shouty' phonecalls in a language I could not grasp (except for I knew he was talking about me because he kept saying 'Amma', officially my new name here after I got bored of trying to explain that it's an EEEE), and then told me 'manager is away, come back at 3 o'clock'. Hmmmm. OK, this is Africa.
So I shook of my confusion and frustration and thoughts of 'this was supposed to be my 'first day at work' don't you know', and I took the opportunity for an impromptu trip to the market, and lunch of tomato sandwiches (the things that start to taste good when you're on limited options!) at John and Bev's.
Later I returned home to re-hydrate, de-sweat and re-freshen up and start the whole long-winded process all over again (something that takes some serious time and effort in this heat!) before making the long walk back to work, now in 40+ degree heat and with quite a few extra sweat patches, crinkles, and dust-covered trousers and shoes. This time the security man looked very sorry for me, and pulled a 'I don't think you're going to like this but I am really sorry there is nothing I can do' kind of face. 'Manager is not here, he has not yet arrived, please come back tomorrow'. Grrrrrr.
Ok, yes so this is definitely Africa!
So I'm definitely going to need to shift my expectations and way of looking at things! A bit of creative problem solving is inevitably going to come in very handy. The key thing that I have learnt though is that an 'orientation' or 'induction' here is not at all like what you would expect at home, and to be honest, going back to meeting people in the town, and getting to know the culture, language and life of the people in my neighbourhood is probably going to be just as valuable in my work life as any formal induction activities that might be organised at work.
So back to Zebilla life then! :)