Friday, June 19, 2015

Raising enterprising children starts with Daddy: A Father's Day Tribute

Over my years in Thailand, I have answered countless questions and even completed some published interviews with a couple of international expat communities regarding life in Thailand as an expat. I made it a point each time to clarify that I am not an expat, before moving on to answer the questions nonetheless, in hope that my answers can make life easier for newcomers here.

I came to Thailand alone to open a branch for my company, and have spent the last 5 years building the company up from scratch. If you ask me, I operate more like an entrepreneur. I have never been the brightest, but I am a can-do sort of guy. I focus on the result, and am enterprising enough to complete tasks to an acceptable level eventually, most of the time anyway.

Having grown up in Singapore, where kids (from my generation) are trained to become excellent employees but not necessarily risk-takers, many wonder why I was so ready to take up this 'adventure', where there are too many unknowns and few perks to make it an attractive job offer. After seriously thinking through it, I feel that my upbringing made a huge contribution.

My paternal family consists mostly of self-employed men, that included my dad, 1 of my 2 uncles, and many of my aunts' husbands. Incidentally, most of my dad's friends are self-employed as well, be it business owners or just food-stall owners. Growing up, I mostly had conversations with adult men who ran their own businesses (largely aided by the countless kopitiam sessions I had with my dad in Kuching). Subconsciously, I had it ingrained in my mind that running my own business is normal, an eventual result of my career progression.

My dad, like many of the men from his generation, was hardly around when I was a little boy. My memories of him playing with me are few and far between. But even though I wish he had given me more of his weekends, taught me how to cycle and swim, I now realise that his influence in my life is still extremely great.

My Dad with his grandchildren

My dad is a businessman, entrepreneur, and a risk-taker. The company he runs now was set up as a one-man-show when he was 50. After graduating from junior college, I had a few months to spare before entering University, so I spent a good few months alone with him in Sarawak.

Being a man of few words, he did not exactly take me under his wing to coach me about running a business. Instead, he allowed me to follow him 24 hours a day, everyday. I watched how he communicated with potential business partners over some mid-afternoon coffee in coffeeshops. I watched him sign piles of paper at law firms and negotiate prices with suppliers and sub-contractors. I visited his job-sites unwillingly everyday, wondering why he made it a point to go so frequently, and even watched in anticipation as we bombed a small hill apart in order to flatten the land for a project.

Running my own company now, I fully understand the challenges a business owner faces day-in day-out, but at that time, following my dad around, everything just felt, natural. It was more like -- whatever has to be done has to be done, rather than--oh man, starting something from scratch is so tough! I guess my up-bringing is certainly one of the main reasons why I did not hesitate when this opportunity presented itself.

That's exactly how I am bringing my kids up. I involve them in everything I do. From my office to my exhibition booth, from my warehouse to my company trips. I want them to grow up observing how I make things happen, and hopefully mature into an enterprising, resourceful young people who are confident enough to take up challenges.

As Father's Day is just 2 days away, I will hereby also take the opportunity to wish my Dad a happy father's day! Thank you for all you have done for me. See you in August.

For all other fathers reading this, take this weekend to give yourself a pat on the back, but remember to give more time to your kids, because just by being there and letting them observe what you do, is a lesson more precious than what a thousand words can mean to them.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wallet lost and FOUND in Bangkok: The Story

Towards the end of May, my brother flew over to Bangkok to visit a major food fair at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, the largest exhibition centre in Thailand. I had to leave the car with my wife as she had to pick Noah from school and run errands in my absence, and no one warned me that, as well-equipped as IMPACT is, it is actually more of a trap for car-less visitors-- a place where you can visit, but will struggle to leave.

It was a Thursday evening, at around 6pm, slightly before the show closed and everyone started to leave. Hundreds needed to go, but there was no taxi in sight, not even 1. We took the only reasonable choice at that time, a 100-baht/head (way overpriced) minivan to Asoke, before continuing our journey back home.

After a frustrating 1-hour journey in which I could hardly even move inside the little packed van, we were relieved to finally reach our destination and got off in a hurry. Alas! Within seconds I realised something was wrong, my usually-bulging front pocket felt unusually light. My wallet!

I turned around (thank God for traffic jam), the van was still stuck at the same position behind me. If I had not put it back into my pocket after paying the fare, it would have dropped on the van and I just needed to get back up to retrieve it. But no, we turned the van upside down but could not spot it. Pickpocket? Extremely unlikely. I was squished in the corner of the back-most seat with my brother beside me, so unless my loving elder brother decided to play a nasty trick on me, there was no chance it was stolen by a pickpocket. There was a young lady left on the van though, after everyone alighted at Asoke, who looked concerned but did not aid much in the search. Could she have seen it? I guess we will never know. She sure saw my frantic-about-to-cry-burly-old-man face though.

The rest of the night involved holding back tears, trying to appear unshaken in front of my family, suspending all my credit/debit cards (unexpectedly quick and easy even for English speakers), visiting the police station and acting as if nothing happened. One doesn't dare to hold hope of getting back a wallet lost in the densely populated metropolis named Bangkok.

You are a pesky little survivor, aren't you

A week later, I received a call from Siam Paragon informing me my wallet has been found in their toilet, all documents intact, just without any cash (who cares!). It meant that my I/C and driving licence (yes I have one) will not have to be replaced!

For everyone who is not familiar with Bangkok, I shall now summarize what you have just read. I lost my wallet anywhere between IMPACT Muang Thong Thani (which is technically no longer in Bangkok) and Asoke (right smack in the middle of downtown), and it ended up in a toilet inside the huge Siam Paragon (5 train stations away from Asoke) a week later and the staff made sure I got it back. I only lost a few thousand baht in the process. How miraculous is that!

To the person who made sure I got my wallet back, thank you very much. Whether you are the one who took it in the first place is not important to me anymore.

Faith in humanity. Restored!

PS. Things to take note from this lesson.

1. Bring a car along with you when you visit IMPACT next time, it's a bloody trap over there.

2. If not, go early and leave early, preferably before 3pm, especially on a Friday. If not, just don't go on a Friday.

3. Life goes on, with or without your wallet!

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