LiBeL Column

Glory Days

Columns from The Nation newspaper

Inspired by The Boss

I’d like to start off with a couple of quotes which I heard recently. The first is from one of God’s representatives here on earth, a Buddhist monk, “You are at an airport, you have just arrived at your destination. You are carrying two bags, one is your past and one is your future. Now put them both down and walk away.” The second is from God himself, in the guise of Bono, “The only baggage you can bring, is all that you can’t leave behind.”

Contradictory? Maybe. But they sum up the attitude of many people who leave their mundane existence behind, pack up their troubles in their backpack and hit the road in search of a new beginning in an exotic destination. (To many, Bangkok may be just another big city but, believe me, for anyone brought up in Hicksville or Hull it’s the epithet of glamour.)

The great thing about leaving your home and relocating thousands of miles away in a different continent is, well, the fact that you can start a new life – and quite literally reinvent the previous 20 years. You can choose to have your emotional baggage from a previous existence accompany you to your destination intact, be abandoned in a left luggage locker and the key thrown away or even be embellished beyond all recognition. This may be one reason why the teachers’ rooms of schools and colleges throughout the Kingdom echo to the sound of folks blowing their own horn.

You find that you work with people for years without knowing their real story. Why did they come here? The majority will have been backpackers who stayed, but why did they stay? Most have a degree so why not get a well paid job back home? That would allow you to travel to exotic locations whenever the mood and, annual leave allowed. Forget about all the Khao San Road bollocks – “You haven’t experienced India unless you’ve done it on a dollar a day.” Given the choice I’m sure the majority of people would much rather fly into a country by business class, be whisked away to a luxury hotel and then be able to afford a meal that contains meat in a recognizable form.

The form that your past reincarnates itself in varies considerably. One must consider one’s new persona carefully. Are you now a dashing adventurer – the kind who previously always considered himself well traveled because he’d been to Leeds. May be you’re the academic searching for a niche – the niche being a job that considers someone with a HND in Woodwork to be an academic. Or possibly, that old favourite, the womanizer – who’s record with the ladies prior to arriving here could hardly be described as Valentino-esque. More bizarre still is the dedicated teacher – the kind who has always considered themselves a born educator, at least they always have since being laid off from the steel works a couple of months previously.

At the other end of the spectrum are those steadfastly remain brutally honest about their past and for this I must give them credit. These are the guys and gals who bring a chuckle to the usually terse mouths of the Academic Directors by including every detail of their life story on their resume.

There comes a time when brutal honesty must give way to selective memory, not lies, and that time is when you’re writing your resume. To illustrate the point here are a few quotes plucked at random from resumes that were lining the rubbish bin in my office.

“1993-1999 Self Employed Marketing high quality replacement windows. Laid off after both myself and my company were prominently featured on the popular consumer TV show ‘Watchdog’.”

“Spare the rod and spoil the child, that’s my motto. A sound whacking never did me any harm and believe me I was thrashed senseless by my form teacher on a regular basis. Indeed some of the chaps from the rugger team also joined in, but that’s something I’d rather discuss in person at the interview.”

“1982 – 1990 Detention Officer, The P.W. Botha Holiday Camp for Anti-Government Forces, Robben Island, Cape Town. Reason for leaving – dislike of the authoritarian approach. I am a man of principles. Setting convicted terrorists free is not one of my principles therefore I resigned.”

” Previous experience in an instructing role: June 14 – June 17 (Friday – Monday) 1957. Grimsby Sea Scouts Annual Jamboree. I successfully led my pack in a competition to build a giant likeness of Arthur Askey, using only discarded asbestos and penny chew wrappers. For the record, my pack completed the task first, but were expelled from the competition due to our statue bearing more resemblance to the buxom Jayne Mansfied than the aforementioned elderly British funny man. I feel that this experience shows that I have long possessed leadership skills and an ability to think outside the box, which although unrecognized and deemed an immature adolescent dorm room fantasy by scout leaders in 1957 will, I’m sure prove invaluable to your organization.”