The Orange People
Hello hello. Despite my initial efforts to blog more frequently, the gap between this entry and the last one is still the usual one month. I have good excuses this time, though — I had a few final submissions/seminars before the term ended, my mum and bro came to visit me for 10 days all the way from Malaysia, and I now have a full-time summer job with the uni’s hospitality department, until September inshaAllah.
This entry would mostly be about work, because it’s something totally new and different for me. I work 5 days a week, usually on weekdays but occasionally weekends as well. It’s either 4 hours or 6 hours a day, from 9 am with a 15- or 30-minute tea break (no lunch break!). I’m in my third week now, and so far the first two weeks were mega tiring. Most of the initial bits were spring cleaning the student accommodation after people moved out. And spring cleaning means like… everything. Dust on the floor skirting, bed frame, every surface in the bathroom, every mirror, window, shelf, drawer, walls, etc. needs to be cleaned and wiped. Now it’s the conference season with visitors coming for study programmes and things like that, so the work is slightly lighter. Slightly.
My taking on this job was merely to have my summer holiday filled with something productive. If I didn’t have a job I would likely wake up every day at approximately noon, and proceed to wasting time staring at the laptop screen until I feel like taking a shower, then contemplating on what to cook and eat, and then on what to do for the rest of the day/night (or what little that would be left of it anyway). The pay is decent, but the experience that I’ve gained so far is what matters.
What I have learned:
- Working as a cleaner just changes your mindset about things like litter and dust and any kind of dirt. Even when I see rubbish at the streets I feel this urge/responsibility to pick it up. When I’m in the bus and notice the streaky glass or dust collecting in the corner, I wonder whose job it is to clean the buses. I feel like telling people that when they stick that piece of gum under the desk, leave their cigarette butt on the walkway, or kick the wall and leave a black mark — someone will have to clean it. Sooner or later. Things don’t magically disappear or fly away.
- This is about cleaning. Green scour pads (also known as that green scrubby thing) are your best friend. That plus some multi-purpose cleaning chemical works freaking wonders.
- The type of people around you changes everything. I am assigned to K college (name censored for … security reasons ) but sometimes we get sent to other places if there isn’t work here. The permanent staff at the other colleges are all different, and the way they work, and organise things, even the way they talk to you; all vary greatly. Some people are just arrogant, bossy, perhaps bordering on disrespectful. Some are super nice, friendly, pleasant, funny, and you notice that immediately.
- Don’t look down on people who are in this field. I doubt that it’s merely a Malaysian or Asian thing, but low-wage workers tend to be discriminated against and considered less-than-human and just not treated very well. The job we do is necessary, although to some it may be disheartening when you see the room you so perfectly polished the week before already wrecked after someone’s occupied it, but really, that is how things are meant to work. That gleaming white sink and perfectly crisp sheet on the bed, the spotless carpet and dustless cupboard — someone’s worked very hard to get it that way for you.
- Don’t be afraid of dirt. After I’ve spent several hours cleaning over 50 pieces of fridge/freezer compartments (those removable drawers and glass shelving), and I’m talking mouldy, spotty, smelly, stained, bits of unrecognisable food sticking about; I ain’t never gonna squirm when my mum asks me to wash the pile of oily dishes in the sink anymore. Nor am I going to blink when asked to clean a toilet, because I’ve seen and done many of them. These are things YOU use every day. Wear gloves if you must, or a face mask or protective goggles, but just do it. It will be clean because you are going to clean it. The feeling of accomplishment is like nothing else.
- I would probably work well as a factory worker, or a robot. One time we were asked to transfer some chemicals (okay, just dishwashing liquid ) from huge bottles into little jars, and we did like 125 of them. In a few hours. (It was meant to be 250 little jars, but we ran out of labels. ) And it kinda felt good, I’ve always loved these assembly line things. Boring, sure; but pretty satisfying. I’ve also been assigned to neaten up a section of the linen room by taking items out of boxes and arranging them on the shelves or in drawers, then flattening and getting rid of the unwanted cardboard, and that was uber fun. Organizing and figuring out where things can fit is enjoyable to me. The before-after difference is a nice bonus.
- You can tell a lot about someone just by being in their room. This week we’ve been doing housekeeping for the guests, when they are still occupying the room. It’s just linen and towel changing and general bathroom cleaning, but I have to say I totally felt like I was working in a hotel. Also I discovered that most people really do leave their rooms in a mess before going out for the day. Only one room (out of the ones I’ve seen) had the bed made, to the point where I wondered if the bed was even slept in, judging by the crispness of the duvet cover and how the edges were still tucked under the mattress. Some leave their laptop, iPod, handphone lying around, not to mention underwear and other personal items. Also quite a lot of people use their own towels rather than the ones we provide. Same with personal hygiene products, the little hotel-like ones we give are barely touched, except the soap for the sink probably.
There are specific perks (and not many downsides, really) to the job I’m doing. Here are some that I remember.
Good things about my job:
I get to work in different places sometimes and see how the rooms are, the sizes, facilities, routes inside the colleges, and compare everything. The bulk of the work is still cleaning rooms/kitchens/showers/toilets but the changing setting and people make it fresh.
Holly, the adorable cat.
- K college is actually a fairly pleasant place. They have a duck pond with very hungry ducks that waddle up to you during break time and there’s a cat around, called Holly (she has an owner), who is just so friendly and squishable. We’ve met her for three days now, today she found us even though we weren’t at the place near her house.
Part of the toilet paper collection
We get to take free stuff. When cleaning the kitchens especially, since a lot of the students leave their food supplies and things. I haven’t taken any food bits just because I never had a big enough bag nor bothered to pack and carry them (since I’m going to move house myself), so it’s saddening to throw away a huge sack of rice or pasta, or an unopened pack-of-6 canned food (I forgot what it was)… you get the idea. I think most of the food really is thrown away, there’s nothing much we could do about it either. Another phase of our work involved clearing houses that are going to be demolished soon. That was rather interesting, but again it involved a lot of disposing of perfectly good furniture and other home items. I did manage to save an iron (even though I already have one ) and a person’s wastebasket and about 20+ rolls of toilet paper. Hey, toilet paper costs money.
A steam iron and wastebasket I saved
I get to wear my lounge-y sweatpants to work, and the bright orange t-shirt they gave us, and my orange scarf to match. It’s not worth showering in the morning before you go to work, nor is it worth wearing nice trousers or anything that you’d rather keep clean and dry. I’m not even bothered by sitting on the grass or ground during break time. ‘Tis great that my work clothes are even more casual than my normal clothes.
Holly's creepy electric blue eye
- It is very physical work, which is totally what my lazy, passive self needs. Having virtually no classes since spring break has made me such a sloth. I posted the status below on Facebook some time ago, the fifth point means, “How am I supposed to be active if I’m not into sports and don’t know where else to walk to?” I’ve totally got the answer — work as a cleaner. The first week I think I collected four bruises on my legs and knees (my fault, must’ve accidentally banged them on beds or something), and I got so tired and ache-y after the first few days. I’m hoping I’ll get used to it soon, and I also need to remember to eat and drink well since my body needs more energy than it did before.
An old Facebook status
- I get to go back at 1pm if I request to. 1pm is usually the point where I can feel the tiredness in my body, and since it’s summer it’s quite early in the day, so there’s plenty of time after I get back to go and do errands or other projects. We can get days off if we want as well, but so far there has been little need for it other than wanting to rest or having visitors or moving house (soon).
Ducks quacking about
That said, the main dislike for me right now is the summer weather. I can’t say it’s like being back in Malaysia (our country is mega humid and even hotter than I can remember), but after our long, particularly cold winter, it’s just so aggravating to face the painful sunlight from high angles, and the UV rays just burning your skin and the lack of wind in the air. I don’t get how humans are expected to endure and survive such a huge range of temperatures. I mean, sure, since I’m from a tropical country, I ought to be able to withstand the English summer, right?
Wrong. I much prefer the crisp cool winter air. Although it made my hand severely swollen. And prevented me from breathing through my nose. And made it so hard for the nurses to draw blood from my arm for the blood tests. And it was rather annoying how you have to keep taking off and pulling on your jacket when moving from indoors-outdoors… But anyway, I digress.
Why I hate hot weather:
- I get pimples on my face. I seriously blame the heat.
- It makes walking to/from home very unpleasant. The route I take is not at all shaded and it makes the journey seem a bajillion times longer and more torturous. I do have a bus pass but our current home isn’t very convenient, bus-stop-wise.
- It makes working outdoors and in stuffy rooms very unpleasant.
- Flies and mosquitoes ( :shakefist: !!!!!!!!) and other flying little things come into existence.
- Homes/Buses here are not air-conditioned and we don’t have fans. No. Fans. Imagine Malaysian temperatures (okay, just high 20s till mid 30s in Celcius) and having to sleep in such warmth and no wind. Granted, I’ve just been too stubborn to buy a fan because I’m convinced things will cool down next week, or the week after, or after…
- I can only wear one layer of clothing considering the heat, and do you know how rare it is to find sleeves (let alone long sleeves) on women’s clothing at this time around here? Very rare. Even wearing a cardigan can cause me to sweat. Sweating is icky.
- My skin gets darker and shiny and disgusting. Wearing sunblock makes my face shiny too. Disgusting.
- You have to change clothes more often and do laundry more often.
That’s all I can think of so far. I might add things when I remember them. As usual, crafty stuff over in Flickr and photography/random link thingies on Facebook. Talk to you all soon, happy summer/winter!
P.S. I now remember something else I wanted to write about: how you never appreciate something till it’s gone. So cliché but so applicable. For instance, I noticed how quiet my room was when my mum and brother already left for Malaysia. Before that, my laptop died and it was torture trying to reply e-mails from my phone (and/or accessing the web on my mum’s tiny netbook). [I have since bought a new laptop. ] I lost my wallet in London and going through my days with no debit cards (nor wallet, until I made a new one) for weeks was unimaginable. Our broadband internet got cut off for two days because of some billing problems and the agony was just… . (And I am not even exaggerating! ) The point is, always be prepared and try not to get too attached to material things because they will be gone one day. When was the last time you spent a whole weekend, internetless? What will you do to fill your time?