Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Office Space

With our orientation phase of life here in South Africa officially over, I'm now keeping office hours here at the Hands offices. While that may sound like an upgrade, let me assure you that it is only in the mornings that I am remotely productive. This morning, day 2, I arrive with my coworker, Jen, and we share an office with Carolyn (who I might add is second in command, some may argue...but this is only to brag about the lovely company I get to keep while working.) Mornings, that is. After lunch, it all goes downhill.
At lunchtime, you'll have to understand, is when Jen leaves work to go home and care for her boys. She has three great little guys... Marley, Sonny and Micah. So fun having them around. It's a boys' world around here: frogs and lizards, monkeys and a dog, riding in the back of whatever bakkie is travelling down the hill and up again. Bicycling full speed down the hill to wait for a bakkie to take them up again.
After lunch, I share the office with Jen's husband, Dan. Now, I have been working with over thirty women for the past three years, but that is not the reason why I find working with Dan so difficult. Let me describe to you the "work" that goes on in this office. Begin with Dan's eldest boy coming down to do "community service". He's just small. This is a little work project that Dan has dreamed up to counter some naughtiness that Marley inflicted on a babysitter the night before. Now, as Marley came down and was given tools by Dan to go dig weeds in the garden, the black clouds began to accumulate overhead. Dan sends Marley out in the beginnings of a "shower" and gets him started. No sooner does Dan resume his seat in the office and it's suddenly raining so hard that we can hardly hear a thing. I am trying not to lift my eyes in judgement at him for subjecting his wee son to this type of punishment but when I can hardly think straight for the sound of rain on the roof, Dan looks at me and says, "To be fair, it sounds a lot worse in here than it really is." We look out the window that I've closed partially to keep out the driving rain, and he says, "See? Hardly a drizzle." Then he proceeds to go out and "check" on Marley who is now sitting in the midst of a mud puddle stealthily weeding like the good boy that he is. Might I take the time to mention that this little guy has a cast on one hand? Oh, yes. It gets better. Then another coworker comes in demanding to know why Dan is subjecting his child to the rain - only she is referring to Sonny, who has come down the hill full speed on his bicycle to watch his brother take his punishment like a man. I mean, to encourage and support Marley in his time of need.
Finally, Dan summons me outside to peek at Marley who is diligently weeding the garden as the sun finally comes out. Dan parades around like a proud father and pulls Marc and Lynn away from their work saving the world to also observe the beauty of parenthood that he exemplifies for all of us.
Keep in mind that we do actually have work to do. So, I, with all the self discipline I can muster, get back to work, which I'm now suspecting might actually be the work that Dan is supposed to be doing. He finally releases Marley to go home and wash up and comes back to his desk and then proceeds to begin an argument with my fellow Canadian, Alicia, and I about the correct spelling of the word "organization". He pulls out the whole Queen's English tripe and blah blah blah and then amuses himself by finding other words to throw our way. Finally, after an amusing story about burning lunch in the community and how if he wore a suit and tie, he'd throw his tie over his shoulder to show how hard he was working, he calls it a day. At least, he leaves the office. I think you're getting the image of what I'm dealing with here? Who said Africa would be easy? His redeeming quality, apart from his charming wife and sweet little boys who are really great to be around...he has wonderful taste in music. I hear that "Moves like Jagger" is his favorite all time song right after the theme song from Titanic.

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