Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bringing your toddler to work: To do or not to do?

The Thai New Year, more commonly known as Songkran, resulted in Noah having to spend 2 weeks away from school due to a 'short' term break. For us parents though, 2 weeks seemed pretty long for Noah to spend at home without any scheduled activities nor external help. Having a totally dependent 7-month old at home didn't help the cause much either, so I figured, since my accountant frequently brought her toddler to work, why don't I try to do the same? Maybe there will be something for Noah to look forward to my wife could concentrate on other things when we are out.

The first day was pretty much a mess for me, as he didn't let me work properly on my working terminal, assuming ownership of it and throwing massive meltdowns when I got impatient, as my team depended on my work before they could continue with theirs. However, it was mostly confined to my room so the disruption to others was still controllable. After bringing him out for lunch, he seemed to completely understand the situation and even said, "Daddy, I will type after you finish your work, ok?"

Ok la, stop blowing liao la.....

The second day was more eventful. My accountant brought her son. I initially thought this would be better as they would have companions and disturb us less, but how wrong I was. In no time, my office became a playground. Crayons, pictures, books, boxes, toys were strewn all over the floor. There was hardly any place to walk. 2 kids, hand in hand, stomped all over the office in shrieks of laughter and sometimes petty arguments, constantly bugging my accountant and myself for help. I saw colleagues who planned to look for me head back to their seats when they saw the mess in my room. I couldn't work at all. Aside of some trivial matters, I struggled to write any sentence longer than 10 words properly. It completely sucked. It's enough that I couldn't work in peace, but if it was going to affect my colleagues as well, I would have to put things to a stop.

Oh my goooooooodnessssssssssssssssssss

However, there was something else happening. The kids were genuinely happy. They became really great friends. Even though Thai is not Noah's best language, he was communicating with his slightly-older local friend beautifully. They were just kids being kids, trying to work out how to live with others and play together. The shrieks of joy were real, their laughter full of pure innocence.

But why, oh why, did everything sound so terribly irritating and noisy to me? Even though something has to be worked out in the future to ensure their presence is less disruptive, surely I must change my mentality and see some positives when I see kids enjoying friendship with each other?

By the third day, Noah was really looking forward to coming to my office. Aside of some poo clearing disaster, he was generally well-behaved, until his friend arrived and everything in Day 2 repeated itself again. However, this time I had to leave early (with him) as it was my turn to man my company's booth at a Furniture Fair.

At the booth, he was his usual self. Running around, finding paper to scribble on, trying to make conversation with the people, until he did something that completely stunned everyone. A purchaser from China was asking me about the specifications of my product when Noah pounced out of nowhere. All of a sudden, we saw him, standing as tall as he could, right smack in front of our 'customer', and asked in a serious tone...

"Do you want to buy a mattress?"

One of the ways he keeps himself busy.

I wish I had taken a video of the entire episode. He's only 2 months past his 3rd birthday, and even though he has followed me to my office and exhibitions on a handful of occasions, I had never explicitly explained what I was doing. It seems like he has already figured it all out and is eager to lend a hand. I guess that's what you call "learning on the job".

So... bringing your kid to office, to do or not to do? I personally think that 3 years old (or less) is a bit young, and a few of them in the office will possibly disrupt the working environment and affect the efficiency of everyone, but with slightly older kids and some form of control, the situation will be different. Thinking from their perspective, they will be able to absorb things that they will not have the chance to if they are completely excluded from the adult working environment. They will also understand why Daddy has to leave the house early and come back late everyday.

He now knows how to enjoy himself at exhibition booths, offices and warehouses too

Ending off with a correspondence between me and my wife when I was at my wit's end during one of those days:

Me, "So far this is more of a nanny experience than working, with my kid around. I only have 1 hour in the office this morning and I spent 20 minutes clearing poo. Now arrive at the booth need to bring him to lunch and watch him play with his bowl."

Wife, "It is a Daddy experience. Not nanny."

Words of wisdom, eh?

A Daddy experience. I'll take it.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Survival Guide for Foreigners in Bangkok: The first 10 random tips

While walking along the road in my neighbourhood during the Songkran break in the morning, I could not help but notice the patches of white powder on the road. I soon realised that these white patches were indications of the various spots of water 'warfare' during more happening parts of the day. All of a sudden, I had successfully identified all the potentially dangerous locations in the vicinity, and could plan my route carefully if I had to venture out later.

Then I thought to myself, with my experience here, I can really share some random tips and tricks specific to Bangkok that might make newcomers' (tourists or new residents) lives easier. After brainstorming, here's my first instalment:

Refer to Tip #6

  1. Know where you live

    I came here more than 5 years ago needing to urgently find a permanent office and move in as soon as possible, so within a week of arriving, I had to start shopping at megastores to equip my new-found location. It took me by surprise that EVERY shop commanded me to draw a map of the delivery location before letting me leave. It's the standard operating procedure here in Thailand.

    Never mind the delivery staff will call you on the day itself regardless of the detail of your drawing, you better know where you live (and how to draw it) before you can navigate your way through your purchases.

  2. You can have anything anywhere, because 7-11 is everywhere

    Unless you are looking for canned San Marzano tomatoes or frozen Atlantic Cod, you are covered in Thailand, because 7-11 is everywhere (2nd highest number of branches in the world after Japan), and it has everything you need. In fact, most brands make items exclusive for 7-11, which you cannot find in the huge hypermarkets.

    With everything from incredible-tasting instant meals, gourmet coffee, to supersoakers during Songkran, and the ability to pay virtually all important bills at their counters (even air/bus tickets), life will never be the same without it again.

  3. Zebra crossings don't work as they should, but use them anyway

    Unfortunately, most cars will not deliberately stop for you just because you are standing at a zebra-crossing and obviously look like you want to cross the road, but use them anyway, especially at night.

    Because in the dimly-lit areas, the zebra crossing is often blessed with spotlights, so even if cars don't stop for you, it's the 1 place they are most likely to see you when you finally decide to risk your life sprinting to the other side.

  4. Chill when looking for taxis

    Taxis have always been a huge topic of debate in Thailand, mostly because of the way some drivers choose customers and others who refuse to turn on their meters.

    There are things that cannot be changed overnight no matter how much we whine, and the taxi situation is one of them, However, in terms of service quality and price, I still feel that Bangkok taxis might be one of the most value-for-money ones in the world.

    So, my advice will be to chill when you are rejected by a taxi, because unless it's a bad time (or really bad location), the next one will most definitely be round the corner and you will get your ride soon (I hope).

  5. (Men only) Chill when a lady of any age mops the floor really close to you while peeing in a public toilet

    Because I have been told by multiple sources that it will be weirder if it's a guy cleaning the toilet in Thailand!

  6. (Women only) If you suspect you are pregnant, look out for vending machines outside public toilets

    Because it's not rocket science and you deserve to know whether to shop for normal fashion or maternity fashion.

  7. You can always watch your favourite football match

    Because the most well-known way(s) might not be available where you live, and there are alternative(s).

  8. Don't feel awkward frequenting hospitals to cure your flu, and hotels for some nice food

    Because it's the norm for the sick to visit hospitals immediately (treat it like the clinic in your hometown) and for the best restaurants to be set up in good hotels.
  9. Learn to LINE

    Sure, you can continue to Whatsapp with your folks back home, but please please, learn to LINE in Thailand. Nothing else means anything here.

  10. And the life-saver, when asked, ALWAYS say Aroi (delicious)!

    When your friend buys you a meal, or a store-keeper asks you to taste their sample, they know that their food is very delicious. Even if it's not and they are waiting for the 'honest' answer, smile and say "Aroi". This is a life-saver.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of my random tips!

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