Archive for October, 2010

I never imagined that one day I would work in a government office, be it a parastatal, ministry or any place that smelled of government. Really, not many good thoughts came to mind when I envisioned a government office. Just thinking about it brought the following images:-

• Mounds of dust
• Doors that squeaked when you opened and shut them
• Piles upon piles of neglected reports, old newspapers and magazines that if you were to look for in the market you wouldn’t find.
• A burly pot-bellied grumpy officer behind a chipped wooden desk with one groaning computer and papers strewn all over.
• Rodents and all manner of scurrying and (shivers) slithering organisms occasionally creeping up from crevices in the office
• Heated office with a broken down aircon and windows that are permanently locked and wouldn’t budge if there was an earthquake
• Low ceilings with the plywood threatening to give way at any surprise moment.

Yap! I hated government offices, my sentiments coming from bad experiences of having to queue for hours and the immense amount of paperwork needed to get identification documents et cetera.
So when I was offered the chance to take up an Editorial Intern position at a government parastatal I screamed “No thank you!” certain that even if I were to be offered a million bob I’d decline….or not! So I did what I always do when , sleep on it. I was desperate for a job and I remember asking God to send one my way but I never imagined He’d send me to a place that smelled of government! I pleaded with Him: “Lord if it’s within your power…um of course it is within your power….please take this cup away from me!” The ‘cup’ would lead me to my early death; I didn’t want to spend my vibrant years in a rigid, almost suffocating environment where everybody aside from the secretaries were 50 plus years! God did not budge so I resolved in my mind to take up the job anyway thinking I’d come back and tell Him:”Aha! You promised this would be a great experience, but guess what, it sucked! I quit!”

Day One. Monday September 4, 2010. Time: 8AM.Location: Government parastatal. Defense weapon: A permanent frown, a handkerchief for when dust mounds erupt and a notebook.
No sooner had I walked in through the gate than my attitude threatened to change. Of course I remained adamant thinking the well kept flowerbeds, friendly security and the neatly painted walls were there to fool me and that the real action was inside! My first assignment was to interview one of the parastatal officers for the organization’s publication I’d be working on. As expected I got lost several times trying to trace his office but eventually I did. As far as vanity went this guy was the chairman of the..ahem…the Association of Vain People Kenya Chapter! Why do you need to put your name in capital letters on the door, I rolled my eyes as I went in.

The subject of secretaries is one I’ll do a separate post on because I kid you not, these people can send you to a mental hospital! I approached the middle-aged woman with as much defense as one who was going to war. You can’t blame me, my preconceived notions that secretaries will always try and stop you from seeing Mkubwa (the boss). So when she ushered me in warmly I was taken aback. What? You were going to let me in to speak to Mkubwa? Are you sure Mkubwa has no fictitious meeting or other flimsy excuse you normally use to keep people off? Wow, this must be my lucky day! As I knocked Mkubwa’s office, I still stubbornly hoped I’d find mounds of dust and a burly grumpy officer just so I could prove God wrong (haha!)

I walk in and the nicest man ever is sitting behind his desk, note: a new looking desk. There’s a laptop on his desk and beside it a PC with an LCD screen…not a stray paper in sight…neatly arranged shelves…clean floor…intact ceiling…and open windows! Am I in the wrong place? I don’t think so!

“Yes Georgia, what can I do for you?” Mr. Smartly-Dressed asks me rather warmly. Ok God, you win! We proceed with the interview and by the time I step out of the guy’s office, I feel that I may have stereotyped the government. Isn’t that some kind of offense: Stereotyping the government may lead to several months’ imprisonment! Ok, maybe not! I realized, though, that often times we are quick to judge people, places, electronic gadgets…anything without really experiencing them first. So as I stepped into the lift I silently thanked God for always being faithful and I promised Him I wouldn’t complain for the duration of my internship.

Day Three. I’m having the time of my life and I mean that. My favorite thing about government offices is that the supply of freshly brewed tea with lots of milk is insatiable. Being a writer and a recovering coffee addict, I understand the need to have a stimulant next to you for when writer’s block rears its ugly head. I find my colleagues in the Corporate Communications office very welcoming. Of course in every office there’s the odd party pooper office gossip who thinks their purpose in life is to ruin people’s moods but am steering clear of that one! I have access to a computer, fast and reliable internet all day and that is why today you are reading this piece. So there you have it; I officially think government offices are awesome!

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