Worst Week Was Bound To Happen, I Guess (Week 4)

From the highs of the Great Wall last week to the lows of food-borne illnesses, technological mishaps, and workplace communication errors this week. It was bound to happen, I suppose. You can’t win them all.

Warning, this post may just serve as  my own personal pity-party, and for that I apologize.

Let’s go in chronological order. after the Great Wall, I had a pretty average work week. I took some product photos for our WeChat page, worked in the brewery washing kegs, and even did some pricing analysis of competitors in the area to see where we land. Not bad right? Well, at the end of the week, I had a conversation with Kris, one of the founders of Jing-A. For context, his co-founder is Alex, the W&M alumnus who set up the relationship with the Freeman Fellowship. I mentioned to Kris that my friend from Singapore invited me to visit him, and I asked him if he thought if it was possible for me to take a Friday and Monday off to have a long weekend in Singapore.

“Of course!” he said. “I feel like internships like this are meant for experiencing culture as well as work, and you’ve never been to Asia before right? Go explore!” This had me excited- it would be amazing to visit Singapore!

“Honestly, man,” he continued, “I’d be cool with you taking 2, 3 weeks off. Go to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos- the works.” Of course, this sounded amazing! I did a quick calculation and realized that if I left for 2 weeks, I’d still fulfill the 6 week Freeman Fellowship requirement.

“Are you sure that would be okay?” I asked.

“Well, I’ll have to talk with Alex. He kind of set this whole thing up,” he replied.

Sure, I thought. This could be really cool! Later that day, I get a WeChat message from Alex. It read, “Hey, come down to the front bar. I want to talk about a few things with you.” So I go on down.

When I get down, Alex seems… off. He’s typically a pretty jovial individual, and now he looks like he’s uncomfortable. Not in a squirmy way, but almost as if he was doing something he knew he had to, but didn’t want to.

“You want a beer?” he asks me, without his typical smile.

Uh-oh.

“Umm… I’m okay…” I answered tentatively.

“So, Kris told me you want to leave. Listen, man, there were many candidates for your internship, and I can’t have you just travelling for weeks on end, pretending you’re getting internship experience. You can quit if you want to leave. We’re trying to give you a good experience here, but if you are unsatisfied, you can leave whenever you want to.”

Ahhh!! What?? No, I tried to explain to him, I just wanted to visit my friend in Singapore! Kris had the idea to do a giant travel trip, and that would be cool, but definitely not if it would effect the internship. He didn’t seem convinced, however. He said visiting my friend in Singapore was certainly possible. Then he proceeded to kind of grill me on what all I was doing in my internship, I’m assuming to make sure I was fulfilled in my work. I was a bit rattled, and tried to explain all the duties I had been performing, but I don’t think I sounded convincingly busy, as I didn’t remember everything that I’d done on the spot. He and I drew up a list of things that I could work on without help from others, which is helpful.

He then asked if I had worked in the brewery recently, and called in Giorgio (leader of the brewery staff) when he thought I hadn’t been working in there enough. Giorgio only speaks Chinese, so our main communication is through Google translate. The last communication I thought I had said was “Let me know when you need me.” Apparently, something got lost in translation, as he thought I had told him “I’ll tell you when you can use me.”

So, essentially, both of us were waiting for the other to set up dates. This made me look really lazy, like I was trying to avoid the hard brewery work. Which, to be honest, isn’t particularly pleasant, but it’s a part of it! I’m grateful for the opportunity. But Alex clearly seemed a little annoyed, with two of his employees seemingly in a “he said, she said” situation. I really tried to emphasize that it was just a miscommunication and I’m more than happy to work in the brewery, but I’m just not sure that he believed me completely.

After all of this, I felt really bewildered and frustrated. I was really enjoying my internship, and I’m so grateful for all of these opportunities. But being the anxious person that I am, I now worried that my boss considered me lazy, ungrateful, or unhappy with my internship. I sent him a WeChat message later that night that really emphasized that I’m very grateful for everything and I’m excited to continue my internship, and I never meant to give off any impression to the contrary. He sent me a kind message back, essentially saying no worries. All of this is probably out of his mind at this point, he’s got bigger things to worry about than an intern. There’s a new Jing-A Taproom opening in less than a month, after all. But again, sometimes I can’t escape my own anxious overthinking, and now I’m very guarded with how I communicate with people in the workplace.

SO! All of that aside, the weekend after was half fun, half hell. I served drinks at this fancy art gallery opening party, which was a great experience. But the next day, I had some of the worst stomach trouble I’ve ever had. I’ve always had a sensitive stomach, and I’ve heard that “la duzi” is inevitable in an extended visit to China. I’ll spare the gory details, but let’s just say my Sunday & Monday were not too fun.

Oh, and to top it all off, my phone randomly stopped having service. I had terrible issues with my cell phone for the first week until I bought a Chinese SIM card, but now even the Chinese SIM stopped working. So I have to figure out how to get that working as well.

OVERALL: One bad week. Like I said, you can’t win them all. I’m sure that I’m overthinking my whole workplace situation, and Alex doesn’t think of me poorly. I’ve learned that communication is very important, and precision is something to focus in on. I need to make absolute sure that what I say is what I mean. Hopefully my stomach situation is like the chicken pox- you get it once, and you’re good. As for the Chinese SIM, I’m about to head off to the cell store. Let’s hope it’s an easy fix. Here’s to a positive attitude and a better next week!

 

Comments

  1. Having visited China earlier this summer, I had a similar experiences to your miscommunications with your coworker. Being only semi-fluent in cantonese, oftentimes, I would sometimes end up understanding or dictating a message that wasn’t exact to my intention. I realized that being able to freely communicate with anyone in the states easily was something I took for granted. Good luck to the rest of your internship and do enjoy your time in China!

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