Saturday, June 30, 2007

By Way of Apology

Before I was inspired
Now I'm sad and tired
After all I've tried for three years
Seems like thirty
Why then am I scared?
What I started -- what you started. . .
I didn't start it

God Thy will is hard
But You hold every card
I will drink your cup of poison
Nail me to your cross and break me
Bleed me
Beat me
Kill me
Take me now before I change my mind . . .

I'm starting this post with a take from one of the key sequences from the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar" which I took some time to view during my vacation in Manila.

Well, I have a lot to say about the vacation I'm having right now --- yes, it has been pretty good so far, as these things go, but I feel sad about how I've been at the job before I left for Manila. I've been sort of a train wreck and I'm certain the level of trust the team has in me will be something I have to work on in the coming months.

I don't think it had anything to do with despair - just the natural wearing-out of some good habits and bad habits catching up. But still. I'm not going to go through the exercise of self-flagellation, and since the worst critic I would have would be me, let's just grant that the allegation is warranted and I have to do better. Does it solve what I put others through? No, definitely not. Of course, if things cannot be fixed there's always room to start over. I do hope so.

I didn't start this whole episode as a professional in the Middle East --- the path the Lord laid out took me there --- so I should take no pride in what I have accomplished, for in truth, I have accomplished little on my own. That's not to say I was just waffling about, but that I owe a lot to what others have made possible. And going forward means taking the necessary steps, accepting more responsibility and having a stronger sense of self-regulation. It is, literally, the cup I must drink from, and if I must bleed and suffer from it (naturally I hope not), then it must be done.

I pray nothing would make me waver from this resolution.

Posts on vacation happenings later --- we haven't got a reliable connection yet and I'm just getting used to the new PC.

Monday, June 11, 2007

In the West

Jeddah presents a quandary now as I sit in the dark typing this post.

Finally, there is a decent wi-fi connection in the hotel! I'm just unloading some of my personal e-mails, reading up on the NBA Finals (a semi-foregone conclusion for the Spurs) and while on the subject of sports, hatching some conspiracy theories whether Roger Federer can actually defeat Rafael Nadal in big-time clay matches.

The briefings yesterday were well-attended. Frankly, I believe I've mastered the shtick necessary to make the briefings work, even though there are the proverbial complainers who still complain about the lack of management objectivity when it comes to salary increments.

Salary increases are a very sensitive issue in a multi-cultural organization especially if there are cleavages among the salary scales. Much as intellectually I could accept the premise that this has to be done for the kind of business that we have, this doesn't remove the difficulty of making the ordinary employee on the front-line or in the factory understand, much less accept, this. There is also the added the burden that aside from the own unique management styles of the leadership in each department, there is also the perceived regional, cultural, ethnic, or national bias.

This is, after all, Saudi Arabia. However, it begs the issue: this involves, after all, people! Petty prejudices often overrule what constitutes common sense or decency. This becomes more marked when these prejudices find some form of intellectual justification.

Trouble is brewing in Jeddah. Our people here are getting more restive, while their management (whom I find well-meaning but a little too hard-pressed it seems) is faced with hard decisions. I truly empathize with either side, but at this point some confidence-building is due. As to how our team can help with this, I cannot say. Talks are ongoing.

I'm headed to Dammam today and while I welcome coming over here (for the first time as with Riyadh), it seems a relief to get back to the normal grind.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

In Riyadh

I'm writing this post from Riyadh still frustrated over not having a quality wi-fi connection in the hotel. Well, there's only so much you can get with a budget hotel. In a few minutes I'll be leaving for the airport for a flight to Jeddah in the western portion of the country.

Riyadh is a sprawling city, and I don't have the figures for its population, but I would guess it would hover around the one million range (I'll find out later). This was an army of tents during the early days but it has always been the center of the caravan trade in the Arabian desert.

Looking at the buildings already here and the slew of construction of commercial and residential buildings I can surmise there are a lot more headaches in development to go --- Riyadh residents do complain of traffic, though this has nothing on say, Manila, going by my experience.

My colleagues and I are on company briefings for our operatives in these cities (they are going to still another city --- the western industrial complex of Yanbu - but I can't join them as I still have to finish up some work prior to my vacation).

In the earlier days, I used to view HR with a lot of suspicion when it came to these briefings. I do understand their predicament coming from my experiences as a volunteer facilitator and trainer, but it wasn't very hard to distrust the speakers. I suppose it came with the territory --- until these days, dynamic corporate HR is a thrall to shrinking budgets and business focus on operational requirements. Listening to the HR line is a long exercise in apologia.

Naturally, there is that sense of irony that creeps upon me as I do these briefings, speaking as an agent of the Company and trying my best to convey the best of our intentions to our employees. On the one hand, there is that part of me which remains angry and cynical as regards the gap between Company intent and actual practice. This has always been ensconced in my compassion that better things should happen for the people who work the hardest for the Company.

On the other hand, there is this struggle to communicate to our own people that the Company really does have their best interests at heart, but there are so many constraints - by force of habit and attitude as well as the very obvious financial ones. However, it seems churlish for me to take this paternalistic attitude --- it's as if I'm patronizing my own people. I'd rather be a realist and tell them how it is --- all the while upholding the interest of the Company since it's part of my job. It's not that simple as it sounds, though one wonders why it seems so difficult.

Mostly, it's a struggle with my ideal that people are the best arbiters of their destiny and given ample opportunities, would be able to sort things out by themselves. But that is of course wishful thinking --- so many times, one can trust people but not the circumstances and conditions under which they interact with the Company. It also comes with how people do business in this part of the world.

It would hardly denigrate the success of our session yesterday --- to use that worn-out cliche, sometimes, people just need to talk to someone, and all that someone must do is convey as much trustworthiness as possible.

I hope I've succeeded.

(Note: I'm date-lining this the 10th even though I just got to post this as I am waiting for my airport pick-up here in my hotel in Jeddah.)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Venturing on Tougher Seas

I paused a while to reflect on the meaning of my stay here. To be frank, I'm having a mini-crisis of confidence in the job right about now. There are many reasons for this, but mainly I believe it's being weighed down with too much too soon. I haven't been the most proactive of people in the past few weeks, and I deserve every kind of flak for my performance.

I'm pasting a translation of a prayer my spiritual mentors introduced to me so many years back. I think it's from Methodist minister Ted Loder, but I haven't time to verify this.

I'll be sailing into rougher seas, but with His help, perhaps I'll get by.


Gambalain mo kami, Panginoon,
kapag labis kaming natutuwa sa aming sarili;
kapag natupad ang aming inaasam
sapagka't ang aming inadhika'y kulang;
kapag kami'y ligtas na nakarating
sapagka't naglakbay kami nang kay lapit sa dalampasigan.

Gambalain mo kami, Panginoon,
kapag sa kasaganaan ng aming ari-arian
hindi na namin taglay ang pagkauhaw para sa tubig ng buhay;
kapag sa pagkahumaling namin sa Panahon
tinalikdan namin ang paghahangad para sa Walang Hanggan;
at kapag sa aming pagpunyagi sa pagpapaunlad ng mundo
pinabayaan naming manimdim ang aming pangitain para sa Bagong Kalangitan.

Hikayatin mo kami, Panginoon, na humakbang nang buong tapang,
na maglakbay sa laot, kung saan ipinapakita ng bagyo ang Iyong kapangyarihan,
kung saan kapag nawala sa aming paningin ang lupa matatagpuan namin ang mga bituin.

Sa Ngalan Niyang nagpalawak sa hangganan ng aming pangarap
at nag-anyaya sa may lakas ng loob na sumunod sa Kanya.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Lifting Off from the Tarmac of Dubai

I spent the last workweek in Dubai on training for the Company. Some thoughts...

You know you look your age when the girl you think you're hitting on replies to each of your sallies with "po" or "opo." Downright deflating...

You know you're old and that your window of opportunity is quickly closing when even girls who would seem desperate for your company assume that you're married.

You know you're getting long in the tooth when the random stranger asks "how are your kids?"

You know you're getting old when your mind does a double-take when you're ogling sexually precocious sixteen-year old hotties. (It's jail for you, grandpa!)

As you can probably divine, the week didn't go off all that well. Catching up with friends and family in Dubai is great but aside from that, getting one's ego squished feels just as bad as it sounds. I wasn't really that kind of fellow girls would cheat on their signifcant others for, but even so, a little thrill would have helped.

I'm glad I'm bound for Manila and getting to try all over again. But nah, all you have to do is wave some cash around and some poor git will probably bite.

That, I think, is probably even more depressing.

I saved a girl from being attacked last night --- I controlled myself.
Rodney Dangerfield