I know I’m supposed to bring you Asian Beauty Secrets Part 2, but the events of the day give great cause for celebration. And celebrate I must, since it’s not everyday I manage to help someone find a job they can excel at. Before I go on any further, do know that I intend to continue sharing Asian Beauty Secrets in my next post. So be patient, and let me revel in this bit of good news.
Months ago, when His Royal Highness was looking for next year’s job, a friend offered to ask her contacts at the Mater for me. I was immensely moved by her willingness to help, even if I already knew that she wouldn’t be able to since the position sought by His Royal Highness is a very specialised one, there being only 20 of those in the country, for many people are in the position to help others, but not everyone is willing to.
Remembering this, and because I regularly translate for X anyway, I agreed to help her approach a company specialising in embroidery near our school. Only I thought the company she wanted specialised in floral arrangement. Such is the limitations of my Mandarin that I thought X wanted a job as a florist (ca hua) when she wanted one as a machinist (shiew hua). So there I was, standing beside her, wondering inwardly why there are no flowers to be seen, whilst asking the Indian guy manning the counter if they need florists when the shop signage clearly says they do embroidery!
Understandably, the Indian guy looked at me as though I was quite mad.
“Ask him anyway, if they want to hire someone,” said X to me, her eyes pleading.
“But are you looking to hire someone?” I relayed X’s message to the Indian guy.
“Yes, but does she speak English?”
The obvious answer was No, if not what was I doing there?
“Look, we all come from third world countries where many can’t speak English,” I said to him. “My friend here is a very hard worker. She can do anything and needs a job.”
“Is she Chinese?” He looked uncertainly at me.
“Yes, she is. But she will work hard.”
“We have Chinese working for us. Can she speak Cantonese or Mandarin? Let me go call my boss to speak to you.”
His boss, an old Aussie dude came out. At this point I still thought X wanted to do floral arrangement, so I became worried when the old Aussie dude asked, “Does she operate machines?”
I was thinking, “What does flowers have to do with machines?”
I relayed the old Aussie dude’s message to X and she said, “I can do anything. Tell him I can do anything.”
“Why don’t you show her the machines?” I said to him. “She says she can do anything.”
He led us to the back of the shop and what do you know? X’s protege from her days of working in China was there!
To my relief, she rushed over to us and said to the old Aussie dude, “That’s my teacher. She’s number one. She can operate any machine.”
The two of them began to prattle away in Mandarin, excited by their sudden reunion.
X brought out several exercise books from a bag she had with her. “Tell him these are my records,” she said to me. “I can even demonstrate to him now.”
I relayed this message to the old Aussie dude.
“It’s not necessary,” he said. “If Y (X’s protege), says she’s good, then she’s good. Y is our best worker.”
“Yes, Chinese are all super industrious and ultra reliable,” I said to him. Not to mention HIGHLY SKILLED for the amount of wages they command. “All the same, she’s happy to demonstrate her ability to you.”
“If Y says she can, then she can,” he said with toothy smile.
Y looked over at us and said, “She’s my teacher. Number one.”
Excellent. Everything was going swimmingly well, including the bit lost in translation at the beginning. I definitely know the Mandarin word for embroidery now. The old Aussie dude and I went back out to the office to thrash out some of the details to X’s employment.
“We had another Chinese here before.”
“Was she no good?” I asked, slightly worried for X, even though I had seen other Chinese inside the factory.
“Oh, she was great machinist, but relied on Y to translate everything for her. Y was occasionally not confident of her translating abilities. That other lady left with her husband. So why do you speak English so well?”
I was ashamed to admit my English and Malay are superior to my Mandarin or Cantonese. After all, when all is said and done, I am a Chinese person.
“I’ve been here for over 14 years,” I said.
“So have many,” he said, “You even have all the colloquial expressions.”
That, I am especially proud of. I have all the colloquialisms down pat for every region of every country I’ve ever lived in. As a matter of fact, my vowels are broadening to resemble most Aussies by the day. Some say I sound more American. “America colonised my country via the television,” I tell them.
“You’re a lot more assimilated than they are. Why is that so?” he asked.
“I make the effort. I went to uni here. I’ve a Commerce degree so at the very least, I should sound educated. Otherwise I’d be an embarrassment to Adelaide University.”
How anyone can get an Australian degree without a decent command of English astounds me; yet many do. Case in point: the plagiarising Journalism-school graduate who kept haranguing me with her supposed intellectual ability and great career achievements on www.byestella.com in BROKEN English.
“The Chinese here are very hard workers,” said the old Aussie dude. “When they had their moon festival, I expected the lot of them to get sloshed. I know locals would, if it was a big celebration.”
“Past a certain age, Chinese don’t get themselves drunk. We celebrate our festivities by spending time with family.” Making a round with my thumbs and third fingers to indicate a moon cake, I said, “And the amount of cake we eat is at the most one eighth of that.”
I’m considered greedy because I have two eights out of every round of Moon cake.
“So what do you do?”
“Like loads of people, I have a blog.” I felt it immodest to tell him that I actually can write. “It’s about helping Westerners understand Easterners, vice versa.”
“Oh that’s good. It’s very kind of you to help your friend.”
X who rejoined us said, ” Tell him I’m happy to work 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, after Christmas.”
I relayed her message to him. “So are you going to hire her?” I asked him.
“Of course! Most definitely. I feel like it’s my lucky day to have you walk in here. We are short of two people to operate the machines and few know how to man the more complex ones.”
So it was settled: the old Aussie dude was overjoyed to have found someone to work his 6 headed beast at the back (nothing to X, since she can work machines with 15 heads), X was overjoyed to have found work, thereby securing a livelihood for her family in the event her husband loses his job, and I was overjoyed to have been the instrument, albeit a flawed one, that allowed all this to happen. And I learnt 3 new Mandarin phrases to boot! What a thoroughly delightful start to the day!