What strange feelings these are. We are in Singapore because Charles’ job brought us here. While Agilent is being very flexible to let me bring my job here as well, I definitely do not have the welcoming committee planned that Charles did. He has contacts and someone to meet him in the lobby and show him where to go (and babysit him). I on the other hand have no coworkers here, no contact, no one I actually know except the helpful woman in HR who’s been working on my Visa stuff.
I have a host manager in Singapore who’ve I’ve never met, never even talked to. We’ve exchanged a few emails to work out some logistical details about getting a cubicle assigned to me and a phone set up, but nothing like the welcome wagon Charles has seen thus far in this move process.
So I wake up early on Monday, not only because jet lag is still kicking my butt, but because I’m nervous.
It’s like a first day of school all over again, where you don’t know any of the kids or the teacher and you have no idea if the playground toys are going to be cool or not. Except this time I’m now an adult and in a foreign country with foreign modes of transportation, but it’s still the same nervous feeling. This time I’m armed with a laptop instead of an extra treat in my lunchbox.
I boot up my laptop at home before breakfast in hopes of coordinating someone to pick me up in the lobby when I get there. How strange is this, I have just been through (or am in the midst of) one of the biggest changes in my life, I don’t know a soul, am surrounded by newness and the one thing constant right now is my job, but even that has changed and I don’t even know if I’m on any one’s radar enough to remember that today is my first day and I dont know my way around. I fell like a lost puppy and I just want a friend with a smile to meet me at the front desk and show me the way. So I fire off an email to HR and my host manager in hopes that one of them will be my guiding light.
I successfully manage to navigate public transportation and get to Yishun, the area where Agilent is located. I hail a taxi and ask if he knows Agilent. Nope. I show him my ID badge in hopes he recognizes the logo. Nope. This is not looking good. I hail another taxi….”Agilent???? (please God let him know Agilent!)” Success…YES!!!!
I get to the front desk and Ching Sum, my host manager, is waiting for me with a huge smile. Success….Yes!!!!
I learn where I sit, where she sits, where the canteen (cafeteria) is, coffee station is, bathroom, etc. I meet what feels like a hundred people and I try to pronounce all the names correctly and I am sure am butchering them, and remember faces, but I as my head is already on full overload with the newness of being in Singapore and remembering streets and buildings and such, that the newness of Agilent Singapore is really not being retained very well.
I get a choice between two cubicles, and I choose the one on the end of the aisle that has one tall one (all other walls in the entire area are short). I figure that as I talk in American volume (aka loud in comparison), I’ll be better situated on the end so I don’t disturb too many coworkers when I’m on the phone. I’m sitting with the Asia Customer Call Center (CCC)…the people on the other end of the phone when you call 1-800-Agilent-you-pissed-me-off. I feel like I’m in a movie surrounded by these lovely soothing voices repeating “Hello. Agilent technologies, this is XX, how may I assist you today?” “Hello. Agilent technologies….” I’m excited (in my nerdy way) about being able to learn first hand from them, the issues they face, the processes they use. This is not only because of my curious nature and that I just want to know, but because some of this directly relates to my assignments / projects and I’m glad to be sitting ‘on the front line’.
My new cube is filled with junk from the prior occupant (2 years ago) and I spend most of the day sorting through stuff, wiping the counters, cleaning the phone, emptying out drawers and getting myself roughly set up. My box that Agilent shipped over was here waiting for me and I got all set up except my docking station doesn’t seem to work. Called IT and placed a work order….which of course I have no phone number for them to call me at, which confuses them greatly. I’m sure it will all work out.
I must say that the people are extremely friendly and patient with me as I butcher their name or the local words for things over and over again until I get it right. They are open to my crazy questions like “If Singapore weather is so hot all the time, why do locals eat such hot foods and drink like soups and tea? wouldn’t cold food and drinks be more logical in this climate” (because for me all I’m craving is ice cold anything!)They of course think it’s hilarious that I’ve noticed such a thing and am asking about it, but they ponder the answer and educate me the best they can.
As always, they are shocked with my skill at Chopsticks and ask where I learned. “Practice” is what I tell them. They ask if all Americans can use chopsticks are proficiently as I can to which I reply “nope. I think I’m in about less than 5% of the population. Most Americans eat Chinese food with a fork” to which they are shocked and giggle. At least I’m making friends by knowing how to eat properly!
I learn that there is an Agilent Shuttle bus that runs during commute hours to take employees to / from the facility to the MRT station. I chat up one of my coworkers to find out if anyone takes the bus and if they could show me how and where? I get paired up with Anya and we set a time to walk to the bus together.
I make it home and am now waiting for Charles to get home to hear about his day…