Review of 2010

The year 2010 is for me definitely a watershed year, where I tested the ropes on great many things and I am glad with the way they all turned out.

Early this year I finally made what I have been threatening to do for a long time, namely quit my office part-time job and concentrate on my home-based translation business. The decision was brought on after long consideration, and quite by chance on the day I handed in my resignation I found out that I qualified for an interview for a translation job with a high-profile international organization.  Of course, this did not mean I got the job but at least I travelled to the interview unencumbered by excuses to an employer, and I faced my interviewing panel as an independent language practitioner.

In April I found out that I passed the interview too and I braced myself for a long wait, loitering in a roster, without any idea when or where I will be called, but this did not concern me much at the time, there were other things to look forward to.

In June the World Cup came to South Africa, and my desire to live the experience to the full was also one of the reasons behind quitting my job. Robert had a prolonged holiday from school and we had our fill of the festivities, street parties and the fan walk. I was also fortunate enough to see two matches live, including the one Semi Final held in Cape Town between the Netherlands and Uruguay.

I am a World Cup baby, and I celebrated my 40th this year in style. And  a ticket to Algeria Vs England was a present to myself (the match itself a dud though). My birthday month also saw me sign a contract for buying a tiny new flat in a brand new block just around the corner from where I am renting. It was a huge leap of faith as I was not sure whether I can afford it, but my parents stepped in and rescued me with a generous loan that saved me from resorting to the banks (and risking getting turned down by them). My flat was scheduled for completion in February 2011.

Later in the year I had some stress with deadline and projects but in general I gently plodded on doing my work, looking after Robert and not forgetting to have a good time.

Late in October the saga with my lengthy job application progressed one step further and I was nominated for a job in New York. The rest of the year I spent doing some paperwork and speculating about how long the process will take.

I finally told Robert’s father of these plans in November and he did not take it easily. I had a few days of emotionally exhausting talks with him, where I stood firm on the fact that my life is going on – without him. He understood that the move will only benefit Robert in the long run.  I met him halfway, by offering him to rent my new apartment at a rate considerably less than market value.  Of course he was very pleased with that. He saw the flat with me a few days after Christmas and was involved in suggesting some minor changes.

Befitting my new amicable relationship with my ex we had a picnic on Christmas day at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and he was with us to celebrate New Year’s Eve.


We had a simple celebration at home with music and dancing (provided by Robert). We had champagne then walked downtown to watch the Christmas Lights on Adderley Street. Later we came home and had a quick late supper then walked up to Ocean View Drive to watch the fireworks at midnight. It was a quiet end to a wonderful year and I hope 2011 will be just as great.

Getting out of Geneva

Morning Frost in March

I woke up very refreshed this morning and was greeted by the sight of frost from my window. I showered, emailed, and uploaded some pictures and went on slowly to the venue of my interview. It took some time to check in and get my temporary badge, but I arrived with time to spare. The interview was conducted in an annex and I did not know what to expect, which was just as well, because otherwise I would have been more worried than I should.

I had my laptop with me, along with my diplomas and documents but it turned out that I did not need any of that. First I was shown into someone’s office and then I was given a brief outline of what will happen, the interview will be led by a lady from Geneva (whose name I failed to record) and she will start the process and hand me over to the panel, but first I had to do a short translation within twenty minutes on the fly.

I tried to keep my wits about me as I did the translation which dealt in broad terms with the Middle East conflict. Later the Geneva lady led me to a room where four tables were arranged in a box shape. I took one side of the box while members of the panel took each of the other three sides. I was introduced to the head of the Arabic department in New York, the head of the Arabic department in Geneva, and the head of training in New York. The latter shared his table to with the Geneva lady who took the role of moderator; they were on my left and I faced the big boss from New York. In all there were two women and two men that I was trying to impress.

First the question and answer session dealt with my translation, my choice of terminology, the difficulties I had, the errors if any.  Next there was the competency based part of the interview, where I thought I did really well.  Fortunately I had just finished a collaborative project with colleagues in Australia and I could draw from my very recent experience on all concerns regarding technology, teamwork, etiquette and others.

Two hours later I was dismissed. The Geneva moderator told me that I will be informed within the next month of the outcome of this interview, and so I made my way out of the interview room. It was still too early to go to the hotel so I looked around the big buildings and joined an English tour group on the premises, but unfortunately I only caught the tail end of the interview and the group were soon disbanded and I figured it will be too late to wait for the next one. I made a quick stop at the shop and bought a little teddy bear for Robert (this one will become later known as Geneva), and I bought a cap for myself and for Robert’s father.

Hotel room

I had time for another leisurely lunch and some more emails before I changed, packed and made my way out of the hotel. There was a short walk from there to the bus and 15 minutes later I was at the airport.

I had plenty of time. I first called my parents with my leftover Swiss coins, then sat on an outside terrace in the sun. I ate my bananas and read my book until it was time for my flight. I also sent text messages to a friend in Frankfurt who was keen on meeting me at FRA Airport since I had a few hours wait before my flight leaves late at night for Cape Town.

It was funny boarding all these flights and imagining my erstwhile colleagues doing the load papers for them all the way in Cape Town. It felt good being a paying passenger rather than the poor standby. In any case, I arrived in Frankfurt with some delay but Andrea was waiting for me in the lounge. We had drinks and talked about how lucky we were to have left our former employer. We gossiped and laughed a lot until the Cape Town flight was called.

More Treats for Robbie

Andrea sent with me another present for Robert who will be spoiled in the next week, with chocolate,  chocolate Muessli.  I lay back in my seat and braced myself for a long night of movie watching, but it doesn’t matter I am on my way home to my Robbie. Mission accomplished.

A Flop

I was scheduled to have an interview at my workplace today for the job of a “Communication Specialist”. A colleague and I decided to apply for the job when it was advertised almost a month ago and we wondered since whatever happened to our applications since we did not receive anything, not even an acknowledgement.

The complication was getting someone to babysit Robbie for the morning while I was at work. Lucy works in the morning for Jackie’s mom and of course my only choice was to ask Mrs. L. if she can look after Robert (with Lucy of course) for the morning. I am not on very familiar terms with Mrs. L. but she does like Robert, and she often sends him baby food and toys with Lucy. Although I was prepared to get out on time, I had to rush back into the house when I realized the Robert needed a nappy change. In consequence I had to run all the way to Mrs L’s place pushing the pram (I have thanked heavens many times for the new lighter version). When I finally arrived at Mrs L’s block I noted with dismay that the lifts on her side of the building were not working, and I had to make a long turn to another foyer where I caught the lift to her floor and then run back to the side of the building where her apartment was located. I had no idea how to get there in the maze of hallways so it was really lucky that she came to get me from the lift. She knew I was there because I had to notify security at the entrance.  The adventure with the lifts cost me a few precious minutes, and despite all my efforts I arrived a few minutes late.

The person in charge of recruiting for the position was a former duty manager I worked with on the floor. As a DM he struck me as subservient to high management and not overly enthused or supportive to co-workers. But he wasn’t the worst we dealt with, I mean he was just traditional top down manager and not a worker’s manager, no big deal.  I was told that the interview consisted of a written assignment followed by a face to face question and answer session. The written assignment required about an hour and a half of work, after which D. will come and do the face to face session.  After my ordeal of the day I was in an extremely cynical mood and I found myself completely incapable of writing corporate spin and memoranda. One assignment asked me to write a notification to staff about the death of a colleague, another wanted me to write a speech for a station manager promoting our services, but when I arrived at writing a piece to inform workers that there will not be a pay increase this year due to the situation in the air travel industry I was completely demotiviated. I thought to myself, heck, they should have called this position “corporate spin doctor” I am not sure I am cut for this type of thing.  I like to think that I am honest by nature, and I only write things I belive in.  As a translator I come accross Arabic rubbish which I am required to translate from time to time. Writing it in English doesn’t cause me any discomfort or guilt because I am insulated by my role as a messenger, and my honesty is channelled into faithful transmission of the text, regardless of my mental attitude towards it, but I cannot bring myself to write from scratch about things I do not believe in.  This Friday morning I couldn’t anyway, so instead of sticking with the script I used poetic license and invented reasons and justifications that weren’t even part of the briefing in the assignment. I was still pondering the wisdom of what I wrote when D. arrived signaling the end of my allotted time, and once the face to face meeting got underway I came to the conclusion that what I wrote in the sheet didn’t matter anyway. My superior was obviously in a hurry to leave and I was given the impression that the interview was just a farce. I think by then they had made up their mind that they needed someone from outside.  I hurried home thinking what a terrible waste of time.

Mrs. L. said that she enjoyed Robert’s company and took him out for a walk on the promenade. She even showed him off to some of her friends who thought that he was a grandson. I was relieved that he did not give problems although Lucy told me that his diaper rash is still bad. Later this evening he cried bitterly when warm water touched his bottom and it was a very stressful time getting him to quieten down then to sleep. I experienced an episode of intense misery, cried, screamed and blamed the universe and my ex husband for everything that was going wrong in my life.  My situation hasn’t improved in over three months since I moved out and my life is in chaos, I just wanted order back in my life any way possible.

Once Robert got to sleep I had time to reflect a little bit normally on what is happening. For Robert’s problem in the nappy area I blamed the chocolates I copiously consumed in the past few days, so I promised him that I will stay away from chocolate. As for my problems though, they are more complicated and they need a lot of patience to fix.

Post Scriptum : The job of communication specialist was later assigned to a lady with a higher degree in journalism, who used to work as a crime reporter for one of the national newspapers.  Makes you think about people’s choices and career moves.