Working and surviving in a Chinese tier 3 city is a constant adventure. There are tiny bits of craziness that just continue to surprise me at an hourly rhythm.
Little observations like seeing my colleagues perform their daily cleaning ritual. Every morning, some of my colleagues go around the desks and pass by the windows with their blue cleaning cloth. Obviously (I learned that by now!) it isn’t their purpose to clean, but its probably something someone once told them. They dust the desks and the windowsill with their blue cloth and eventually the blue cloths vanish just in time for the morning meeting to start.
I wasn’t exactly keen on having my table dusted, since I realized that this ritual is, at best, evenly spreading the dust more than removing it. Being all German, I have a cleaning spray in my drawer and use disposable paper towels to actually ‘clean’ my desk once in a while.
Last week, we had a bit of a rainy day, when I felt almost as if lightning struck me. But it wasn’t the weather, it was rather Jim, my translator, using the blue cloth to clean his notoriously dirty shoes. I might have to add that he isn’t keen on changing clothes all too often and I cant remember seeing him with any other pair of shoes than his regular ones. And those haven’t been shining in a long time.
So after realizing that he is actually making the office more dirty, by using the same cloth for both my desk and his shoes, I have to insist on cleaning my working space by myself.
I learned by now that explaining things that are absolutely crazy to me don’t have a lot of effect on him, so I save myself the time and I avoid listening to his usual response, where he repeats the last two words I said while raising the pitch towards the end in a manner that we are used when asking questions. This actually seems to be his signature thing. And, after 6 weeks, it is difficult for me to remain calm and patient whenever I hear his signature ending that seems to tell me: “Dear Ralf, thank you for taking the time to explain, but there was a problem on the receiving end of the message, so unfortunately your attempt failed.”
It is a great experience – I learn so much here. Mostly, it is an advanced class of patience the one I am having here.