Saturday, November 19, 2011

I thought about quitting

No reason for this picture except that I like it.  The view from a boat out in Sai Kung last week.  Give me some of that inner peace which this picture conveys!
This week I thought about quitting.

After hours of trying to straighten out scholarship documents, hours of trying to scan, copy and file documents, hours of figuring out unfamiliar office equipment

[like hole punchers.  hole punchers are different here.  notebooks are different here.  filing system are really different here. or maybe they don't exist.  i'm not sure.]

hours of trying to decipher the notes and notebooks left by my predecessor [don't get me wrong, he knew what he was doing.  he did a great job.  but there was a several month gap between his moving on and my taking over.  Also, this is such a unique job I'm not sure anybody ANYBODY could possibly  explain it to somebody else. Or maybe they could.  Maybe it IS just me.

For example, most people would probably not need three hours to merge two lists of students only to discover that the carefully merged master list now alphabetizes people by first names.

So this week I thought about quitting.

I've been dealing with nine student visa applications: 2 from Myanmar, 2 from Cambodia, 2 from Laos, 1 from Indonesia, and 2 from Vietnam.  Other years, apparently things ran ever so smoothly, but THIS year, now that it's me doing this job, the HK government does not seem to be keen on allowing these students into HK for studies.

I now have a file about 8 inches thick (no exaggeration, I swear) of documents faxed back and forth exploring such fascinating issues as:

  • letters of proof regarding financial support
  • discrepancy in the spelling of the name Soumphayana Okomenokhe on one document and Soumpayana Okomenokhe on the other document.
  • reference numbers in all documentation, such as: PT056000789721-11osd, formerly PT16270977312-270nso
  • discrepancy in birth dates:  10-03-1978 and 03-10-1978.
  • photographs which measure no larger than 55mm x 45mm  and no smaller than 50mmx40mm [yes, on that last one I was squinting thru my I-need-a-new-prescription-bifocals to measure the picture with my little plastic ruler, then running down to the lower floor to locate the paper cutter, which is also unlike any paper cutter I've used in my ahem 50+ years on this earth]

I really thought about quitting.  And it's not like dealing with these student visas is the only part of my job.  Oh no, no indeed.  There are also... lets just say LOADS of other things I should, could, need to do.

This week I got an actual phone call from an actual real live immigration officer.  It was a nice change of pace after all the faxes. He wanted to know why the student couple from Vietnam, who have a 2 year old, needed to bring their kid WITH them for the three years they will be studying in Hong Kong.  Can't they just leave him with a relative?

As a Mom myself, an American mom, that one kind of threw me.  Why not just leave the two year old behind for three years??????

But I contained myself.  I assembled letters of documentation from the scholarship donor and the young couple themselves,  carefully explaining that they had no close relatives who could care for their child, and yes, the scholarship money provides for housing and food for the whole family for their three years of study. And by the way, (I found this out myself through their letter) yes they had an older child, and that child died.  So this is their only child and they are both pushing 40. Is that a good enough a reason to explain why they want to bring their two year old with them for their study program?

Stories and real people are behind all this paperwork.

I dutifully faxed it all in.

We're still waiting on those last two applications, but seven out of the nine students have now been approved to enter Hong Kong, and they are beginning to arrive.

2 from Myanmar, 2 from Cambodia, 2 from Laos, 1 from Indonesia, and hopefully soon, 2 from Vietnam.

Can't quit now.  It's not a sprint, it's a marathon.

Two of the newest arrivals (on the right) from Myanmar, with their student guides. SO happy student visas have finally been granted!!!
A glimpse of the global church: here conferring with a visitor from Germany, LTS students from Myanmar, China, Indonesia, Cameroon, Norway

1 Corinthians 9:23-25

23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

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