A blog series about my in-country assignment to Makassar for IBM Corporate Service Corp.
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Blog written/started on April 7th – Saturday
I am sitting here in seat 06B of Philippine Airlines aircraft bound from Singapore to Manila. It’s all over now. It is funny that I almost missed my flight – it just shows that I am not yet ready to go home.
It seems like only yesterday when I boarded the flight to Jakarta, and that was my first time to travel alone. Now, I am heading back home – with swollen eyes, dry lips and sad face. I cried alot, and it seems like I was the only one who cried. I admire how the rest of the team can control their feelings. “Don’t break the seal..” (don’t let the tears roll down) – is something that I learned from Jessica (USA) – but it seems that she was the first to break hers yesterday.
I would be the first to arrive back in my home country, but most of them will be on vacation – so the CSC memories might soon be overshadowed by new memories, new pictures, and new people. Before, I dreaded the day that I would be heading for assignment – because I didn’t know if I would like the people, if I would do good in my assignment, and if there were new things to discover because Indonesia is alot like Philippines. But after one month of being on assignment, I realized it was the people who made the difference.
To know more about the people who changed my life, click Read More..
I never knew these people from different parts of the world. I only got to talk to them during weekly calls before the assignment. I know their names, their countries, and how they looked – because I have checked their profiles and added them in Facebook. I never knew if we have anything in common – but we have bonded and connected – in a way that I have never felt with the people I know from my country. I am not even sure if I would ever see these people again. They made an impact in my life and they changed me and my views.
It is amazing how we bonded despite differences in culture, skills, age, sex and accents. Language didn’t even become an issue.
I will miss Tom (USA) – who is like a brother in the group. It’s just amazing how resourceful he is. I was surprised to see that he has a laundry string in his room. His slippers has a bottle opener and he just got everything we need – from scissors to markers and even flip charts. He drinks beer like it is water, but he’s not the drunkard uncle like the role we have given him.
He is an army man, and I can tell from the way he walks to the way he talks especially if he was asking the group to use only “one camera” for group pictures.
The whole month of CSC assignment, he would ask for a spare lighter – and we always wonder why. I then found out it is for the gift he made for us. It is so special because I know he spent sleepless nights working on it. It’s a survival bracelet that you can use in so many ways. I will bring this everyday and think of Tom, and his smart ideas.
Then, there is the celebrity of the team – Jessica (USA). She is one cool momma who knows how to party and party hard. But, I am amazed at how she manages her time – I know very well that during the assignment, she and Marcelo (Brazil) were timely updating their tasks and presentations. She has time to blog (timely), to go out for dinner with the team, to do her laundry (well, she only tried it once), and talk to her family through Skype. I sometimes wonder if she has 48 hours in a day. She is the type who wants to experience everything and plans everything.
She is the Queen of Karaoke – always looking for Bon Jovi hits in the play list. One thing I learned from her is to never dread holding a mic. I am not the type of person who loves karaoke – I would like to think I can sing (Hey, I was a member of the church choir when I was younger!). But it’s in the bottom of my list when it comes to group/night activities. I may be an exception to the typical Filipinos who love to sing and hold the mic. I know Charice Pempengco would be ashamed of me. But Jessica changed my views and realized that one need not be a singer to hold the mic and enjoy.
She is really a celebrity – and I am not surprised when people ask for a photo with her, wherever we go. And she lived up with the name by being on-stage, not just once but twice – and sang a .. (you got it,) a Bon Jovi song.
I will miss her – and her love for the marine life. She said she may have been once a sea creature in her past life. Well, I think she is Ariel – the Little Mermaid. She is the tough woman that I know, and she surprised me when she was the first to “break the seal” during our gift-giving. I would think of her whenever I would have wine – Cheers to her!
“Aaaruuuunnn….” That is the team’s chant after the Yoga Session. Should have been Aaahhooohhhmmmm… but Arun’s name fits perfectly. Arun (India) is the last person I got to interact with in the team. Probably because I find it hard to find a common thing between the two of us. I couldn’t remember exactly how we became closer – I just realized that he suddenly loosened up and started doing dances and shaking his hips. I love the traditional Indian dance that he taught us – and I always danced it during team meetings, or just when I felt like dancing it. He said I learned it fast – probably because I learned it from a good teacher.
Arun handles a team of (I think) 900 employees – and his leadership skills just effortlessly showed during the assignment. He took the lead in coordinating with the CSC team and IBM Indonesia for deliverables (along with Tom). He is mainly quiet, but when he talks – he talks with sense. You see, he even have a book published – one thing that is on my bucket list.
And because he is mostly quiet – I thought it would be hard to get him to participate in non-work related topics but he blended with the team so well (well, mostly, with the youngsters of the team) – sharing jokes and laughing with us – and happily dancing whenever we sang “Shake it baby, Shake it baby, Shake it Arun!“.
I will miss him – and the stories about his pet, Nemo – (which he took from the Coral Reef trip) and his message to Roman (our Facilitator from Slovakia) which says – Wonderful, Wonderful! (that just cracks my pop Vivek).
Then, IN MEXICO – comes Javier. He was always the one to send Sametime messages to me whenever we were on weekly calls. I couldn’t tell yet back then that he is the sweetest guy. When I finally met him in Hotel Kempinski, he gave everyone a kiss – must be a usual greeting from Latinos. When I found out he is part of the team, I was worried if I could get along with him – or if he could get along with the team. I was worried about the age differences and the interests.
But he didn’t make it hard for us to connect with him. He is just the coolest guy and he acts like a father (or a grandpa) to all of us. Like me, he loves taking pictures. I would never forget how he does it – when we count, One, Two, Three.. He would change his pose on Three..
He gets along with everyone in the group – he danced with us (chicken dance), did Yoga, and laughed with us.
Whenever we would dine out, he was the first one to order – “Coca Cola” (and now I am drinking a can of Coke and I think of him) but the irony is, and the funniest thing – he always got served last – or had concerns with his orders (e.g. wrong order, wrong food, delayed service).
I love spending time with Bapak Javier (as we fondly call him) because I felt secured and safe with him. He is like a dad and grandpa to me.
He left a lot of nice lines for us like – I CAN’T believe it! Ohh.. My.. Gaawwd!! and his favorite, In Mexico.. because he always shares and relates things to his country – which is something I admire about him. More than anything, he is just curious – about people, about culture, about languages, and just about anything. I love his passion for learning and exploring.
I will truly miss Bapak Javier. He gives me a good reason to go to Mexico.
Me too! I also learned from Nitu (India). When we got the list of Team Indonesia 3 participants, I know she was one of the firsts to send a note to everybody. She is just that enthusiastic.
I learned alot from her (and Vivek and Arun) and they made me changed my views about India. Nitu always dresses in traditional Indian clothes. She said that in India, it is normal to see people dressed in traditional Indian dress. I am amazed, and I wish we were also like that in the Philippines. She is just playful and nurturing – and I learned alot from her.
She connects everyone in the group with her loud, enthusiastic voice and playful hands – she talks as if she was flying. Once, when Marcelo (Brazil) felt sick on our way back to hotel from Toraja, she asked for slices of lemon from the restaurant and gave them to him – as a natural remedy. I just find it really nice and nurturing.
I would really miss the afternoon Yoga sessions and breathing exercises which she led in the 3rd floor hallway.
I would miss the way she poses for pictures – something we share in common. I would miss how she says “No fish, no chicken, no meat, no nothing“. She is a vegetarian who loves milkshakes (but not alcohol). But she went with us to dance eventhough I know that that is not her thing – but she blended and had fun with us.
I would miss the last wave I saw from her when she sent me off to the train (to Terminal 2 in Singapore airport).
Marcelo!!! Marcelo!!! That is what my head is thinking.. Marcelo, the man! He is one Brazilian I know who is not a model. You know how big Brazilians are in the Philippines, and they are all gracing magazines and billboards – but Marcelo – our Marcelo is the one who will save all the ladies’ problems in the world (that is what he said). The CSC Indonesia 3 family tree got all messed up because of him, but officially – he is my son.
When I checked his profile before assignment, I thought he was snob – but he is not. Even when dancing the Filipino dance I taught them! He is just so always quiet – saying “Huhummm..” when saying Yes, asking questions and pointing on something. He is just so effortlessly funny! But he talks with sense especially during team meetings and discussions. It doesn’t matter if he has difficulty in expressing himself in English, and even if he used to pronounce Mosque as “mos-ki” – he shares his views with that cute accent and hand gestures.
I would miss his hearty laughs and the way he dances. He is in Bali now, with my Papa Vivek (India) probably making all the local girls go Gaga over him. The same way the “guys” went crazy just to dance with him in the local hotel bar.
I will not forget that night when we talked for hours and “shared something in common” – I learned then that sometimes language skills can be intimidating, and limits the person in expressing herself/himself. He unknowingly taught me how to make people more comfortable. I am glad to have that conversation with him.
He may look like a typical tourist during trips with his camera dangling around his neck – but his lens has alot of stories to tell and he captures emotions the way he captures good scenes.
I would think of his deep low voice whenever I would do the breathing exercise. He always made the whole group crack up in the middle of meditation whenever he would join!
When he said that he wanted to bring his guitar in the trip, I thought this guy is hopeless romantic – well, I guess he is romantic. I just wish there were more times to spend with him and sing Beatles songs with him.
When he handed his gift to me, he whispered “Don’t cry..” and now I feel like crying again because I had so much fun with the company of the team, and I know there is just a little chance that all of us can get together and just be crazy once more.
I know he wanted to look taller, but he would always be a baby boy to me. Marcelo is a very, very, VERY funny and good man. Now I got more reasons to go to Brazil. I hope he prepares his place for our arrival, and tons of Havaianas slippers to start our business.
How lovely it is to think of the past.. Lovely, it is – Cheryl (USA) is the loveliest person I ever met. I am so glad to be partnered with her. I remember that during weekly calls, she would ask about air conditioner, hair dryers and laundry services. She actually asked the right questions. She always asks the right questions. I thought it would be difficult to deal with her – but I was wrong. We are all wrong. She is the coolest “grandma” I ever met. She is not yet a grandma, but in our CSC family, she plays the role of a cool grandma. She can do monster shots and distorts her pretty face.
You can ask her to do crazy things without hesitation and she does it like a naughty High School girl.
Like me, she loves accessories and shopping! She is one fashionista momma who loves music from Bon Jovi, Pink, Red Hot Chili Peppers and all other artists I never realized that she knew. She gets along with anyone and everyone and she is so full of good words for everybody. I told her that she is so expressive especially when she is appreciating things – even the smallest thing – and that is one thing I learned from her. She smiles a lot and laughs a lot. I am missing her.
She has become my friend, my sister, and my mom – and my shopping partner too. She always spotted the best buys for me – like that exotic belt from a souvenir shop and fine-printed scarf from the market. I, on the other hand, helped her with haggling.
She helped and taught me alot of things – professionally and personally. Going back to my normal life would be very hard. I would miss our commutes from hotel to hospital and back to hotel – when we talked about things and laugh hard – or just sleep.
I will miss posing for her – one for her camera, the other one for her iPhone. I will miss how she gets excited about kids and how she says helloooo…! I wish she could come in the Philippines and I would serve her Iced Tea with No Sugar. I am missing her..
It is just amazing how a younger guy can change you and inspire you in just a month of being together. That is the role of my Papa, Vivek (India). When he was placed on the team as a replacement for one of the IT Guys originally part of the Team Indonesia 3, I thought he is just another younger kid. I read him wrong. He is young, but he is just brilliant and amazing.
He is only 25 (we celebrated his birthday last Tuesday), but he has accomplished alot – and wants to accomplish more. I wonder what I was doing when I was 25.. I was managing a coffee shop, stressed over irate customers with no time for my family and vacation. But Vivek – he is busy but still manages to laugh and enjoy life. He knows music – and not just about Indian music. He knows movies – and great movies. He knows sports and a lot of other things.
He can relate to all of us (and even to my poop jokes!) and he always has brilliant things to share during team meetings and brain storming activities.
Sometimes, I felt that I have nothing else to share with him because it seems that he knows a lot – but we get along well because we can talk about so many things without boundaries and I miss his hearty laughs.
I told him I have one best guy friend in the Philippines, and he is my second best guy friend! I wish I could spend more time with him and bring him to the Philippines and we could share more laughs, and dances and stories.
I just wish the wise man would not forget me once he is on the executive level already.. That would be a “wonderful, wonderful!” moment!
And when I think of wonderful moments, I think of Sabine (that girl from Austria – not Australia). I thought she is the typical shy girl basing her personality on the picture uploaded on her profile. But I know this girl knows how to have fun. She is caring and nurturing in the most unexpected way. When I came to the meeting totally under dressed for the occasion, she assured me that I looked fine and perfect. I cannot forget her sweet words and her cute German accent.
She lives by the moment – seize the moment – Zacki Bracki is one thing she taught me – and I will forever live with that.
She has a contagious laugh and I miss that. She is effortlessly beautiful (inside and out) and I am not surprised why people come to her to have a picture – and she welcomes them with sincere smile and laugh. I used to be very irritated when people notice me (back in the Philippines) but I learned to be more patient and appreciative because of her.
When she asked me what type of music I listened to, I said I don’t really listen to music. And I thought we wouldn’t have anything to share in common. But we bonded like sisters. Now, I found myself listening to music while writing this blog post (I listened to the party music we danced to while in Makassar and now listening to Raining in Baltimore – she suggested this song). She is the type who always connects lyrics and music to every situation – and I miss hearing her sing. I wonder if she has any music to connect to what I am feeling now..
I love snow and she loves sunsets. On my way back to Manila, before the airplane landed, I saw the sunset from above, and I thought of her and the team. We love the beach too and the life under water (although I didn’t really swim). I laughed hard everytime she would share how I look all girly with my life vest on and with the Coral Reef Boys in tow. She also loves to impersonate people – something we both have in common.
I miss her and I miss the whole team. Terribly. I wish I could bring them all in the Philippines – so we could spend more time together, and grow together. This experience changed me. I may not find time to blog about the weekend trips and everything else that happened during the one month stay in Indonesia, but one thing is for sure – the whole experience changed me.
I learned that one need not be critical about English skills because it is just one language and does not mainly measure one’s capability. I learned to be more appreciative of people who can speak many languages and I want to encourage them to explore more and improve more – to be an inspiration to others. I met a lot of interesting people who have so much to share and they express themselves well by phrases, by touch, and by smiling. I learned that language should not be a barrier in knowing one’s culture. I learned to smile more because it bridges the gap of language, differences in religion and differences in culture.
I learned that no matter how similar the two countries are geographically, it is the people who made all the difference. It is amazing how we bonded despite the differences in age, skills, culture, sex and interests. Then, we realized, that we have one thing in common – we are IBMers. We share the same values and passion.
Thank you to the IBM CSC Team Indonesia 3, Australian Business Volunteers, our clients and friends (interpreters, hospital employees and Coral Reef Boys), IBM Corporate Service Corp and IBM for giving me and all of us to meet and grow together. This is once in a lifetime experience that I wouldn’t trade with anything.
Also, thank you to Roman (our facilitator from Slovakia – and was once assigned in the Philippines). Thank you for preparing us for this journey, for answering all our questions and for following our Facebook Group – and liking our posts and pictures. I wish you could have joined us in the assignment. I will choose not to upload your picture here as you might get more marriage proposals. 😉
Til then, IBM Team Indonesia 3.. I’ll see you, (I hope) soon, somewhere around the globe – and let’s do the chicken dance!
Blogging from home in Manila, Philippines,