Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dear diary (part 1)

Last month I was banned from posting on Facebook for 30 days most likely due to pubic hair in this picture I posted a long time ago. It seems that Facebook's "community standards" on nudity are totally inconsistent because this other picture that was also reported actually passed the censorship test even though it featured BOTH pubic hair and the shadow of my penis. Whatever. It is not worth getting angry over this anymore—you just have to live with it and move on.

This ban means that I have lost Facebook as a diary-writing tool. However there is still my blog and I am going to make full use of that. You see, I have not written daily diary entries since I was in the army and I figured it is fun to relive that experience of documenting my life in this most traditional way, without pictures, videos, likes and links. Being here in Papua New Guinea is very much like living in an army camp anyway so it is the perfect setting for this exercise.

My second full rotation in PNG started on 26th November 2014 and within these four weeks I shall jot down the more eventful things that happen everyday and with that, you will get to see exactly what takes place in the course of my work for an entire rotation. To keep each post to a reasonable length, I shall send one per week ie. each post will contain seven entries. Who says diaries are meant to be kept private?

Felt rather miserable in the morning when I had to leave my boo. The journey to PNG was smooth and the weather was again kind enough for the transit point to not be at Port Moresby (normally it is at Moro, which is far safer than Port Moresby, contrary to what the locals think). Actually it would be an eye-opener to at least see a little bit of Port Moresby (ie. only the airport). Went straight to gym upon reaching camp before even unpacking, that is my dedication to maintaining good health and keeping in shape. Dinner was as I remembered it and the made-to-order grilled barramundi was excellent as usual. After dinner was unpacking and then it was the routine CNN and BBC news segments before bed. Didn't get to sleep that well even though I was already sleepy at an earlier-than-usual bedtime. This is normal for the first few nights for every rotation.

Went through my back-to-back's handover list which has become more detailed than his last one. I hope it was because he saw that mine to him was so detailed that he felt the need to up his game. Made a rough work plan for the rest of my rotation (still requires a few phone calls to get things fully-organised). Managed to send a procedure I drafted (sent for review in my last rotation) for approval, which is a good accomplishment. I had no interactions with the grumpy lazy old man sitting in the office next to mine, someone whom I am supposed to be working the most closely with. He didn't come talk to me as well so why do I have to make the first move? I think for now, my decision to interact with him only if work necessitates it is the right one (if you don't already know, he is ultra hard to work with and talk to). My boss on site was super busy as usual and I didn't have a chance to touch base with him properly and I will try again tomorrow. One treadmill was down at gym so I had to use the cross-trainer which I didn't like. All other treadmills were occupied as I went to the gym slightly later than usual (note to self: always be there at 5.30pm to avoid this). Made some new friends over dinner (everyone has different rotation cycles so you are bound to meet new people every time) and chatted till the mess closed. Then I bumped into two really friendly locals and chatted with them for close to an hour. Seems like I am not that anti-social after all. Because of the increased time spent on chatting, bedtime was a bit later than usual but fortunately I slept much better than last night.

Continued to get things organised for the rest of my rotation and refreshed my memory of the agenda of the upcoming meetings that I am facilitating. My main job here is to facilitate meetings and making sure people attend as well as close-out any action items post-meetings that they have been assigned. The bulk of the work comes from preparing for these meetings (background work, familiarising with the process, preparation of essential documentation, etc) and the bulk of the pain comes from begging unmotivated and lazy-arsed people to attend meetings and ensuring that they do their jobs even though I am not their manager. To make matters worse, everyone has multiple email addresses here (ie. super confusing) and as a result, the meetings I have tried so hard to organise in the last rotation might not be actually sent to the required attendees. I must rectify this problem as soon as possible. On the social front, things are looking better. I had a great chat with the manager of the kitchen and camp services over lunch (it's always important to be in the good books of someone taking care of you) and I also came out to a new-found friend over dinner when he asked about my wedding ring (he really shares a lot of his private life so I felt compelled to share as well eg. he told me after having talked to me only twice that his wife went through psychotherapy recently). It is so much more enjoyable and interesting to talk to people unrelated to your field of work (you don't have to be alert and keep up appearances as much for fear that you might seem to be a professional threat to them).

Went on site (my first time this rotation) and held a successful meeting and I feel so relieved that I am at least getting somewhere. Every meeting I chair is a challenge and I see every single completed one as a major victory even though this is supposed to be part of my day-to-day job. Had my first lunch on site for this rotation. The packed meals for the operators are always so bad that many people travel all the way back to camp to have lunch in the mess. I have too much to do on site today so I have decided to give the mess lunch a miss. Also received a "nasty" surprise from my site boss when he gave me a very ambitious target for a piece of major work. I used inverted commas for the word nasty because he has endorsed the dedication of my full attention on this work, which will mean that I will not have to deal with unmotivated expats so much. So this is actually a blessing in disguise because I would very much rather do this difficult task than to have to work with these people. Actually from today's meeting, I could see a slight improvement in working relationships so perhaps people just had to get more used to me and my working style and things would be fine. Anyway now with this new work focus, I hope the minutes and hours will just fly by and before you know it I am packing to leave this place.

Organised a recurring weekly meeting that will take place at a location that needs a plane or helicopter to get to for my next rotation (takes more than 6 hours to travel by car). I need to discuss with my boss if I can just stay there for the required 3 weeks so that I minimise the number of times I get on these chartered flights thereby reducing the chances of getting killed in a metallic casing due to no fault of mine. Although the odds are low but because the consequences of the accident is so severe, I need to take the necessary measures to mitigate the risk. Anyway I am about to embark on a huge task within this project and I need to send out a meeting invite to draft a plan to achieve the Christmas target of this task. I have so much to cover in this meeting that I am going to send out yet another very long email (containing the very wordy meeting agenda). I think people here must be sick of (or at least not used to) my long emails. However these people are also not familiar with the importance of proper documentation and traceability so they don't really have a case if they are irritated by my lengthy emails. Sigh, the agony of being detailed. By the way, people here always lament that the reason why things fall apart on site is because of a lack of attention to details. Oh the irony. Had three pieces of made-to-order grilled tuna steaks for dinnernow I know there is such a thing as fish-overload. Called home for the first time this rotation and it was so nice to speak to booI didn't even care that the grumpy old man next door was able to overhear the mushy conversation (the office walls are paper thin)!

Had my first weights session in the gym. Because I go to the gym at an off-peak time during office hours (and have a shorter lunch break), I cannot have long sessions ie. I have to spread my two-day workout over four days per week. Looks like this new routine is effective as I seemed to have lost a little weight AND bulked up slightly (a potent combination) based on what I observed in my last rotation. I am careful though not to be seen in gym gear in the camp during office hours (I only change in the gym) although theoretically there is really nothing wrong with what I am doing as I get my work done. The gym is empty during office hours and so I can work out topless which is against the rules but I look too good in the mirror without clothes to not do this (hehe)! Flights have been confirmed for my next rotation. I end my current rotation on Christmas Eve and I end my next rotation on Chinese New Year Eve. How nice. I am going back to Singapore for Chinese New Year next year for two weeks and then bringing my mum back to Melbourne for another two weeks and I am so looking forward to that. It is World AIDS Day today and many people were decked out in a red T-shirt with Pidgin (local language) on it that says something about HIV testing (I think). It's funny that only the locals were wearing it (not the expats). Felt really tired tonight and I think that's because of my workload building up (due to that new task with the impossible Christmas deadline). I finally spoke with my boss today and he is still very adamant that that show must go on. I also managed to convince him that my back-to-back should focus on identifying the changes required (which necessitates those meetings that I hate to organise) and I should concentrate on executing those changes and he bought in to that! I hope that will mean that I don't need to do those dreadful meetings anymore (the boss is so hands-off that he gives me a lot of leeway to plan and direct the project)! He also added that I do a lot of things way better than my back-to-back (and vice versa due to both of us having different skill sets). Interestingly, he said that the lazy expats "must go" and "things must change around here". Hope they all get fired or replaced–one can always hope.

The procedure I drafted in my last rotation has been sent to be issued for use! This is a major milestone for me. I am also starting to get friendly with the head IT technician here, which is actually one of the most useful things to do. I also discovered a way to fix the faulty treadmill but I will not reveal this to people so that I can conveniently use it when the other two are occupied. In this way, as long as the cat is still in the bag, I will always have a treadmill reserved just for me. Hopefully the maintenance department doesn't put a lock tag around it to say that it is faulty and should not be used. On the work front, I conducted an impressive meeting with attendees from site and the Brisbane HQ. My site boss was really happy with the meeting outcome which means that he was very happy with my performance. I also managed to get my boss' endorsement to cancel all other stupid meetings and focus on this huge task at hand which just got the go-ahead after this successful meeting. Looks like I will be swamped from now all the way to the end of my rotation. Over dinner, I don't know what came over me but I actually went over-chatty with a new female process engineer on site and might also have come across as too negative. I have heard that she's coming on site since a long time ago and finally she is here, I guess I just got too excited. I am still baffled over why I behaved this way as there is really no reason to be so friendly to a stranger. If I see her not initiating future conversations with me when we cross paths, I will know that's because I scared her away. Oh well.

Stay tuned for my next post for more insight into yet another of my "fun-filled" week in PNG!


Chris said...

Sounds like you're accomplishing things, so yay for that.

Those pictures are totally innocuous. Time to find someplace else to post them, with links on Facebook if you actually want them.

I wonder if they'd have passed that picture if you'd had a Brazilian.

Kim said...

Chris, life in PNG can be slow and painful but at least I get a paid 4-week vacation for every 4 weeks of work with a 50% pay-rise while my Melbourne colleagues get retrenched so I have actually not much to complain over here.

It was strange why that picture didn't pass the censors while others did. Maybe it was a different person wielding the axe that day and he had issues.

I do think if I had a Brazilian, it'd have passed but I will never do that as I think neat pubic hair is sexy especially on a body like mine!

Chris said...

The censors on FB are Filipino/a in a cube farm in Manila. They have guidelines but I don't know how well they follow them.

We'll have to disagree about the Brazilian...I think that shaved men are hot. Unshaved men are hot too, of course. So keep on posting! And thanks for your great pictures and your tales of work in PNG.

Kim said...

I don't like unruly pubes too and they must be neatly-trimmed and short in order to score a plus in my books. However if the guy has an awesome body then I can overlook the rest. Haha.

More tales from PNG coming up so stay tuned!