Saturday, November 22, 2008

Botanical Garden

Our company had a fun event yesterday afternoon at the Botanical Garden. It was a fun afternoon and our team won the top prize. It was a very tiring afternoon but it was good fun to run around the gardens and play games. A pleasant afternoon which ended with a buffet dinner at a nearby hotel. Afterward, we met up with an old friend at Starbucks and had a fun time talking and telling stories about the day's events. We finished at about 11pm. We hope to plan a regular get together like dinner on Fridays to keep in touch. Soon some of us will be leaving the company and moving to new assignments.

The Botanical Garden was created by the British in the mid 1800's. It was awarded as the best urban jungle in South East Asia by Time magazine in 2008. It emphasizes the good benefits of the British Empire. A first hand glimpse of this aspect after reading Niall Ferguson's 'Empire' and Somerset Maugham's 'Casuarina Tree'. I also just finished the anti-globalization book 'Game as Old as Empire.' A good counter argument against globalization which was started by the British Empire theorized in Ferguson's book. I just finished this book this morning while roller-blading in the park near my home. Actually, this is what motivates me to exercise in the morning; to listen to the audio books I borrow from the library.

Last night in the buffet I enjoyed the oysters with hot sauce and lime, Japanese udon noodles, oxtail and champagne. I got a lot of other things but did not enjoy them. I had a lot of food in the buffet table while talking to the project leader in Thailand on my cell phone. I did not get a chance to think about the food and kept filling my plate. In the end, I could not finish it and ask the waiter to take it away. I always take too much food which I force myself to eat. I sat beside the project office quality head and enjoyed our conversation. She told many amusing stories of her job in Australia and everyone in the table was laughing. We compared our stories about the local culture and realized that we all come from outside the country.

I think that is the common thread of our associations with our friends in the office. Generally, most of our close groups are with 'outsiders',i.e. not native born. I also noticed that the topic of the conversation is always the same -> about the local culture. It's fun to compare our different cultures and talk about the adjustments needed to adapt to the local milieu. It's the ties that bind the foreign talents that come and work here. It's always the talk of adjustment and adaptation. But last night after dinner, the discussion was more on retirement.

With the company changes, talk was about returning back to our home country and living the simple life. Most talk of starting a simple business and living a simple life of farming or starting a simple computer business. I can't help but think of my new assignment as well. The change will be different and the challenge will be of adapting to the new culture again. I did not explain to my friends that I felt the need for a change. It's like realizing after so many years that my personality does not fit the local milieu. Something like a divorce when you realize that after many years, you realize that you married a stranger.

This brings to mind the stories of Somerset Maugham. The stories of British expatriates or colonial administrators living in the Malay archipelago, about fragile marriages in the jungle, about adapting to the local culture and keeping the English tradition alive. I guess this is globalization at work, telling the story about the front lines where British people are governing the uncivilized masses. I guess the Malay Federation was a lesser version of British India. With lesser challenges and more friendlier people. I think it's this understanding that I will be bringing with me when I depart the place. Maybe a very similar feeling that Lord Chris Patten felt when he left Hong Kong as the last British Governor. He was interviewed at CNN the other night and a real life supplement to the books on the British.

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