Archive for March, 2009

White collar / King Pops

In case you’ve been wondering at my extended absence from this blog, I must inform you that I am now a member of the PNG Wage Slave Society. Obviously certain facts of my employment still differentiate me from the typical Moresby white collared classes, not least the fact that I’m a volunteer sponsored by an overseas agency working for an NGO rather a profit-based enterprise. One fact remains universal – work is life and life is work, give or take a couple of days a week. Factor in the commuting and the concomitant waiting for rides, the hours at home seem horribly squeezed. The sad corollary of the ‘work = life’ equation is a diminished inclination to tap away at a keyboard at awkward hours close to bedtime. Hence no blogs for the last six weeks.

So far as I have been able to figure out, working at a busy but under-resourced NGO involves a lot of moments that can be reduced to certain acronyms popularised over the internet – WTF, OMGWTF and FUBAR being three common acronyms that rattle their way around my skull in moments of duress. Without going into details of my job, I can reveal I am engaged as a volunteer ‘communications advisor’, which I find both disturbing and funny seeing as I’ve never had a ‘real’ comms job before (although I have done comms-related work to be fair on myself and those who recruited me), and also because the term ‘advisor’ tends to get lumped onto folks directly sponsored by AusAID who drive around in shiny CR-V’s and who are compelled to carry walkie-talkies everywhere to avoid severing the invisible umbilical that exists between expats and security companies (I can imagine the conversations… “Coming In Bravo 123, Bravo 123… have just progressed from the dairy aisle to the local fruits section… please advise on the safety of the Sogeri tomatoes, they seem a bit green…” or maybe “Coming in Bravo 123, have just been carjacked, bashed, robbed, stripped, beaten around the bare arse with what appeared to be a fat red saveloy sausage, and am now wandering naked up Waigani Drive at midnight, but thank duck I still have this goddamned walkie-talkie”).

But I digress. My advice has been limited and tends to include advice on spelling and what I believe is correct grammar, as well as timeless design advice like “try and make sure all your headings are the same size… and font… and colour…”. Silently I also wish to advise my colleague to “Kill that word art crap!” and “We do NOT spell ‘organisation’ with a bloody Z in former Australian colonies!” As I’ve expressed in a couple of emails and letters I often muse over my initial gut-instinct advice: “RUN AWAY!” I still marvel at the simplicity and enduring relevance. It’s right up there with “don’t shit where you eat”.

Some things are just too typical. There is a water cooler, a shared tea room with a microwave, complaints about air conditioning, and people sample your lunch if you leave it in the fridge. Other things are somewhat unusual. For example there’s the old guy (everyone calls him Pops) who sits and stares out the window and speaks quiet but gravelly Tok Pisin. He has a thin weathered face, big kind eyes and an unapologetically unhurried style. Pops is the guy who carries the used cups and spoons to some secret location known only to those inducted into the arcane rites of the Venerable Order of the Mop and Bucket, and carries them back a few minutes later when his ritual is complete, miraculously clean. I say “miraculously” because from all observations Pops himself cleans nothing. He does a lot of staring out the window and admiring the bulky container ships as they are shunted around the harbour by the bright red tugboats. He hassles the people in charge for money to go and buy more instant coffee, sugar and milk – items that Pops can incidentally be seen consuming at frequent intervals. He can be seen pacing the board room with a broom – not sweeping, just cradling the thing like a sceptre in the crook of his arm, warning the squirming hordes of cockroaches that there is only one King and that King is Pops.

Once I asked Pops about the microwave. He patiently explained that people spilled food inside, and as the successive two-minute bursts of high microwave energy fried the spilled milk and noodles, causing the smell to get worse and worse. Armed with this new wisdom I returned to my desk, still no wiser as to who cleans the putrid thing. Mysteriously it was cleaned within a day after my enquiry – but nobody saw anyone clean it. If I have spare lunch I share it with Pops. If he has wild sorceries at his command I want him on my side. Or at least I want him to clean the microwave.