Anybody who has taken a course in Microeconomics before would have been told of the bleak nature of humanity: maximisation and selfishness. Even charitable acts can be reframed and interpreted in terms of self-gratifying motives (of satisfying one's desire of contributing to make a difference, feeling good about leaving a positive mark on the society, not to mention the more common but less altruistic aim of having something presentable to enhance the CVs).
I have been invited to join a team of volunteeers to put together a website about their work over the Summer at a remote school in Madagascar. One of the lines in the initial conversation with the Director was about my motivation. I made no attempt to wrap it nice as an act out of absolute altruism or pretend to be angelic and otherworldly selfless. I made it absolutely clear: my research interests is in economic development and international relations, and what you have done is significant in terms of the actual help to the local community and community building in developing countries. I want to see in closer details what you guys have done and would be more than happy to help you with your web effort with my skills. So skills and intellectual interests matched with skill deficiencies. A deal is done and commitment made.
What is interesting in the process (and in many of my previous experiences) is that people seem to have accepted the fact that unacknowledged individual gains are indeed part of the process of a supposedly selfless devotion to a greater cause. And often people seem to be more at ease when you tell them of your own agenda. Would this in fact be an acknowledgement of the "selfishness" in ALL human behaviors that Microeconomics students are taught?
Readers: do you volunteer? What's at the back of your mind when you volunteer and is having a nice item on your CV a part of it? Private-message me if you want.
The first week *back* to school has officially passed and I survived. I remember going to University for the first time some 7 years ago being the same nervous, same curious, and same eager to meet people as my freshers fellow coursemates now are. Having worked in a totally unrelated discipline after graduating over 3 years ago, I've lost that innocence, if that's a proper term to use. I am feeling old. I'm not a zealous New Labour fan and the photos are not exactly descriptive of my age, don't call me a Liar but this is how I'm feeling (courtesy of the Daily Mail):
So what dismayed me somewhat, most likely due to my own experience over the years and partly from my skewed observations largely as portrayed by the media, I was in part at a loss last Tuesday at my 1st year-level International Studies lecture where the lecturer (or instructor) bashed the effect of globalisation. As an in-class activity, we were asked to watch a documentary on the impact of foreign influence on Indonesia. We were then asked to name 3 specific examples of globalisation's impact on Indonesia. None of which were by any sense positive. Growing wealth gap, horrendous working conditions and economic failure leading to unprecedented spending cuts making healthcare inexorably expensive for ordinary Indonesians, the documentary focused primarily on the lack of social responsibilities of the multinationals, the corrupt and authoritarian Indonesian government and the West's predominant priority to prop it up as a puppet against the Soviet Union.
This is all fair enough. What I ask is: if the multinationals didn't come and sweat shop factories weren't established, what would the Indonesians be doing otherwise? The dictatorship wouldn't go away, because the Soviet Union would be more than happy to cater to them if the West weren't. True, the multinationals were morally wrong in exploiting the people of Indonesia, the Government was corrupt and its officials were horribly hollowing the public purse out, rendering it unfit to even provide for basic health services to its citizens at the lowest point during the financial crisis in the late 90s. But using this to say that "the face of globalisation is not always as pretty as it seems on the outside" is apparently one-sided and makes it look uncomfortably motivated by an anti-globalisation agenda. The only plausible conclusion that can be drawn from the documentary, IMHO, is just that the Indonesian elite was corrupt and malign, and that Washington, Downing Street and others were too ready to pander to that because of an ideological warfare with the Soviet Union.
It has been three years since Timothy landed on Canadian soil, with the now-defunct HK-based Oasis Hong Kong Airlines.
The past three years have been a truly mixed experience although relatively uneventful. It has seen Timothy involved in the insurance industry, first working with a local insurance brokerage and subsequently with a local adjusting firm. He is currently working to launch a start up operation with a HR company in Asia, while pursuing further education at UBC and SFU. These years have also seen Timothy exploring a bit of North America largely on a shoestring.
Interacting with Canadians from coast to coast, reading works in the highest praise of all things Canadian to the harshest critique of the Canadian mindset such as Why Mexicans Don't Drink Molson?, visiting places from the laid back playground of British Columbia on the west coast where rich immigrants have been arriving in the past two decades to build their own refuges, to the truly multi-cultural, all-embracing Montreal in the French province of Quebec, Timothy has been able to see and appreciate the vastness of the land which has made the coexistence of different cultures possible, and the colourful country that subsequent waves of immigrants have built. Although there are still problems with foreign credentials, Canadians have been largely friendly and polite on a personal level almost unseen in other countries; which makes brilliant sense that the possession of Canadian experience is so religiously regarded almost in terms of employability.
Looking ahead, the next three years will very likely be just as unpredictable as the past three. What can be said in more certain terms, however, is that Timothy will likely pursue a more dynamic lifestyle. The future course of this leapt of faith will depend on much planning and remains to be explored, but the outcome, as always, will be already safe and secure in God's hands.
I shouldn't be writing here but cramming my texts as there are two exams coming up this week, so I'm sneaking out for a few minutes to do it.
My last post here was back in August last year. I blame the proliferation of Facebook and Twitter for laying waste to my Xanga site because quite simply, after all, no one wants to read the same thing twice. And, confessedly, it would be to the writers' displeasure to have to post the same thing twice for the sake of it reaching the max audience. Another reason is my increased use of Microsoft Live Spaces.
Again, I cannot believe I am doing all of this that I am doing right now. I am getting designations that I don't know if they will be useful. I definitely have got to write - simple emails asking for instructions from our London colleagues, as part of my daily routine. So I am constantly yearning for something fun and extraordinary to do, preferably without having to spent a single penny.
That's why last week I went to an interview with a company for the sake of satisfying my curiosity what a paperless office should look like. It felt like I was there to waste their time - I mean, I had quite successfully tipped all their questions with the help of a person who were quite keen on getting in there and thus asked me to go for it albeit my lack of interest in the job itself. That way she would get from me first hand information on what the application form is like, the questions that will be asked during the interview and the office setting/dress code etc. Honestly, given the fact that people keep coming and going, the salary level and the stress level working there I have heard from other sources, even an unconditional offer for the position without an interview would be awarded a diplomatic rejection. What an embarrassment if eventually they wanted to make me an offer. Fortunately with a potential indication of wavering commitment during the interview - namely my answer to the question Given that you did Computer Science at university, why are you getting into this industry? - I managed to give this opportunity away to the "most suitable candidate" who eventually got the job. So how did I answer the question? I remember telling them, that it is a natural transition "as more than half of my classmates went into financial services" and will never forget the look of disappointment on his face, making no attempt to hide it and saying "oh right.. okay".
Unfortunately here is all that is interesting to report. I haven't been doing much, frankly. After the two exams next week I will be visitng an alumni friend in Ottawa in late May and we will be touring to Montreal. I still look forward to visiting the Atlantic provinces and cycling in Prince Edward Island or along the Cabot Trail. I am pleased to announce the opening of a (few) position(s) of travel companion, and application is welcomed from suitable candidates, namely those who are interested in taking a holiday in the provinces. I will no doubt be an equal opportunity employer for this volunteering opportunity.
Hate to say that, but I suppose one is entitled to feel the same when a person visits at the wrong moment and without giving prior notice, especially when you are sick and look terrible on your face with dried up lips and nose.
That's what happened to me today. Some dude from an adjusting company called and left a message saying he will be "in your neighbourhood this afternoon". That threw me into a really bad dilemma: I was sick, feeling and looking terrible, not the best dressed given it's Friday and so wasn't the best prepared to meet new people. Yet earlier we had another emergency scene in which we messed up in the assignment of adjuster caused by the confusion when information was basically conflicting at the early stage shortly after the news broke. I thought it might be a good opportunity to clarify matter with him. So I sent my uncle an email hoping he would attend to the matter and deal with the dude himself and told him I was sick. I didn't call him back thinking it might just tell him there was a chance I was out of office today and after all, you don't visit when you can't really get hold of the person beforehand right?
BUT then, as the email was sent and my Outbox on Outlook emptied, 3 people opened the door and stepped in, can't be better dressed and holding the company's brochure, looking for me! I could see that dude's face and disbelief when he saw me (coz I looked REALLY terrible and I wasn't expecting a guest at all). What followed was some embarrassing scene of me having to explain to him that the claim was wrongly assigned and what happened. His answer was diplomatic. He introduced his other colleagues to me and we exchanged cards. And along I just couldn't help but tried to find a way for the conversation to end asap. I'm glad it just didn't take long. I felt completely relieved that he & co were gone. It felt more like a spot check on me given the spontaneity and the lack of prior notice, than a formal visit by a company to introduce themselves.
Then and only then, did my uncle call, and told me to ignore him, and that it's his style to "spot-check" on people. It's too late, I told him, since he'd come.
Friends, how would you have handled it better?