It’s good to purge.

Ah, the power of positive whinging! (See previous post for evidence of entirely typical Drama Queenery.) I feel so much better for that, so thanks for listening – and if you find me lapsing into my “The Little Boy Who Everyone Forgot” persona, then please feel free to administer a judicious slap.

(It’s my least attractive persona, and one which has dogged me for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, my present circumstances do appear to be activating it in a major way.)

Someone asked what my apartment was like, and I’m pleased to report that it more than adequately fulfils the Troubled Diva standard for acceptable interior design. In fact, give or take the odd dodgy framed print, it actively borders on the stylish. All credit to JP for nabbing it for me before leaving Hangzhou last week; he knows me so well. Why, the place is a veritable symphony of clean lines, clear surfaces, sympathetic lighting and attractive modular seating solutions in exciting shades of beige. And it’s huge.

However, the apartment’s open-plan capaciousness also means that it never quite gets warm enough – and in the sub-zero night-time temperatures which are now upon us, that’s a major issue. There’s a massive aircon unit in the far corner of the sitting-room area, belching out hot air for all it’s worth, but unfortunately this generates as much draught as it does heat, meaning that I can only sit comfortably on the aforementioned modular seating solutions if I wrap myself tightly in my duvet. The parquet flooring is also ice cold, making a pair of slippers the number one item on my shopping list. Which reminds me: I must let my future flatmate know about this.

Yes, that’s right: from Saturday afternoon onwards, I shall be alone no more, either in the apartment or in the office (where, in terms of job function, I have been a solo act all week). Judging by his photo on the company Intranet, he looks like a friendly sort of chap; and as it will also be his first visit to China, I shall be able to graduate from Nervous Novice to Seasoned Old Hand in a matter of days.

This is a healthy development. As a Nervous Novice, I do have a habit of making a rod for my own back – but I think I shall make quite a good job of being a Seasoned Old Hand. Whereas I baulk at marching up to strangers in the office and trying to ingratiate myself into their social lives, I’m actually the sort of person who naturally gravitates towards people in my own position. In social situations, I’m often the person making sure that the quiet one in the corner who doesn’t know anyone is included in the conversation. Show me a lame duck, and I’ll extend a fatherly wing.

(Assuming that he’s going to want to play the role of lame duck, that is. He’ll probably be out playing pool with The Lads down the ex-pat watering-hole on the first night, leaving me huddled under my duvet like a spurned Craig-out-of-Big-Brother, free to explore the finer points of the latest Sufjan Stevens album, or to get to grips with that particularly chewy 6000-word think-piece in the New Yorker.)

*** SLAP ***

As for work – and you know I don’t blog about work, but f**k it – it’s proving to be well within my capabilities, whilst not exactly making huge demands on my time. So thank goodness for the Internet, even if all Blogspot sites are blocked from over here. (Unless they’ve got full RSS feeds, in which case I can pick them up through Bloglines. Still can’t leave comments on them, though.)

Basically, I’m here to conduct what we call “fit interviews” with Chinese candidates for our Hangzhou office. Not to assess whether or not the candidates are Well Fit (I would never allow such considerations to etc etc etc), but to assess whether or not they would be a good “fit” for the company. So I’m not testing their technical knowledge, but determining their English communications skills and trying to get an impression of their overall personalities. The trick is to force them to deviate from their carefully rehearsed – and grammatically faultless – scripts, and to see whether they can provide thoughtful answers to some more unexpected questions. Sometimes this will be over the phone; more usually, it will be face to face. I make copious notes throughout, but what people are really interested in are my decisions: Yes+, Yes, Yes-, Hold, No.

It’s a simple equation of input and output. Each day, the cream of young Chinese manhood passes before my eyes (there haven’t been any women as yet, but I’m sure there will be soon), full of shining-eyed aspiration, eager to please, eager to better themselves, eager for the benefits of working for a fast-growing international company in an equally fast-growing economy, eager “to work hard, and learn new skills, and be good team member, and do my best for your company”.

Each day, I hear minor variations on the same answers, to which I nod and I smile, teasing out fuller answers where required, diligently transcribing their thoughts, experiences and Personal Goals onto sheets of paper which few, if any, will ever read. Finally, as I pass the candidates on for technical tests, I review my notes and – like a lofty panellist on a reality TV talent show – cast my judgement. Their lives in my hands. Or so I like to think, in my more delusional moments.

One of these days, I might actually get round to telling you a little about Hangzhou itself; but I haven’t seen a great deal of it yet, so patience. Now it’s time I donned my fleece and my puffa jacket and my Gore-Tex lined baseball cap and my iPod, and braved the icy blasts of my thirty-minute walk home. I may be gone some time…

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