Countdown to Transition

Countdown to Transition

Just like everyone else, I too, is hoping for a better year in 2016. Better opportunities, better relationships, better decisions to be made, and for my country the Philippines, better election process for 2016, and may the Filipinos vote for better leaders. The promise of a new year; fresh start, clean slate, new beginnings. Just like the excitement of a child when about to unwrap a gift, so as my excitement of what this New Year brings! I am sure a lot of us have already penned down new sets of New Year’s resolutions, faith goals, and some might have updated their bucket lists as well; anything that will pump up our enthusiasm to cheer for 2016! :).

I am so grateful for all the prayers that were answered this year and for those that are still unanswered, including those humbling experiences learned along the way. Unfortunately, this space won’t be enough to encapsulate all the highlights (and the fact that I may bore you 🙂 ). However, as I looked back from the beginning of 2015 till now, personally, I already made a choice on the things that I should hold on against the things that I should not; to keep the ‘healthy’ ones and let go of those that are ‘unhealthy’. The ‘healthy ones’ never fail to remind me that I can hope, I can dream, I can expect, I can desire, but I can’t control. I’m too limited so I should be aware of my place. Most of the challenges I encountered this year occurred when I do things beyond my capacity; when I criticized on things more than I encourage; when I complained more than I acknowledge; when I want to receive more than I want to give. Those were my ‘unhealthy ones’; I need to leave those behind.

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And so, as we all prepare to welcome another year with a fresh mindset and outlook, I encourage you to pause, weigh, and decide wisely on what to ‘carry along’ with you as we transition from the old year to the new.  Time to segregate the healthy ones from the unhealthy. As we strive for a better 2016, let us also strive for a better ‘us’. Let us once again make an attempt!

Let me leave you with this wonderful reflection from the book of Ecclesiastes.

A wise man once said, “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. He has made everything beautiful in its time…”

From my family to yours, happy New Year!

 

 

The Expat Syndrome – 5 Ways to Cope Up

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If you are an expat, you must have likely experienced the expat syndrome called, loneliness a.k.a. homesickness.  And yes, it doesn’t matter how long you have been an expat, one way or the other, you will go through this phase. Good news is you should not be hard on yourself when it happens because there is nothing strange nor insane about feeling nostalgic once in a while particularly to those based abroad, just like us. Do not feel guilty about it. Nearly all people miss something about home when they are away, making homesickness a universal experience. For someone like me who’s been an expat for more than 10 years, I have already identified some ‘healthy ways’ on dealing with it. Here are some of my ‘coping-up’ strategies.

  1. Do not be in denial – You cannot forecast the day you will be homesick. It is an emotion inevitable to those of us living thousands of miles away from our country, therefore we are entitled to sometimes long for the ‘warmth hug of home’. Cry if you need to, to give way to your humanity but don’t pity yourself. It’s not your fault to be the one nominated to work abroad, unless you personally volunteered. Remember, homesickness is a temporary phase and should eventually disappear. You can be slightly dramatic about it (if you were me), but try your very best not to prolong the process. It may lead to depression and we do not want that to happen, ever! 🙂 If your budget permits, treat yourself for a movie or go out on a dinner with a good friend. I’m sure that would atleast help uplift your spirit.
  2. It should not be self-inflicted – As what I have said, we cannot forecast the day we feel homesick, but if it doesn’t come, do not inflict it. You are normal if you do not experience homesickness at all! Maybe, you are just a happy, positive person. The world will benefit more from people like you. Self-inflicting it like, if your day didn’t start out well at work, or you didn’t like the extra job your boss has given you,  you will then start the ‘homesickness saga’ of being depressed and lonely, then blame it on being an overseas worker and how you wished you were back home, in the comfort of your family and your country. Don’t do it to yourself, it will only be a waste of your energy – trust me. Let’s save it for something more important and rewarding, shall we? 😊
  3. Surround yourself with good people – I was fortunate enough to meet real good people during my first time to work abroad in Bahrain, where the heaviest attack of homesickness was expected during those initial period. I was so thankful that I’ve met real sincere friends who were transparent, easy to talk to, and really understood my predicament. Be wise in associating yourself with friends especially during your most vulnerable state, wherein you could be desperate for a company to cheer you up. Sometimes, intense homesickness can be painful and debilitating that even a thousand milligrams of analgesic won’t help. And so in your search for a friend to lean on, you might end up being trapped with a wrong company who’ll just take advantage of you. Help yourself when you reach this point. Be with real good, genuine friends. 🙂
  4. Motivate yourself – The last time I felt the syndrome, I was caught off-guard. It invaded my peace. The one thing that I misses the most from home were those days well-spent with my mum. Her cooking, her laughter, and those many special reasons to missed her presence. She went home with the Lord in January 2012. Though I was so thankful that God allowed me to personally be there when she was hospitalized till the time we said our goodbyes, but I suddenly felt like I was cheated by time. I resigned from work and went back home six months before she passed away, without knowing we only had those six months. I was away for so long and six months for me was not enough to pay back our lost time. It just saddened me. Got me back on my feet by the thought that God at least gave me those last six-wonderful-months with her especially the time when she needed me the most; those thoughts comforted me. I terribly missed her but she was not ours to keep. Motivate yourself. There will always be something to thank God for.
  5.  Pray – I’ll bet my life on this! Prayers work wonders! More than ever, this is the best time to be positive and remind yourself that the God of the universe loves you. Be of good courage. That regardless of the depth of the homesickness we experience, life must go on. The actuality of the matter still remains, that we made a decision to be where we chose to be, and we should be at peace with that choice. In case you are unhappy and sometimes feeling guilty for leaving your loved ones back home, be courageous and look at the bright side. That’s the reason why you are called the modern day hero because of your sacrifices. But yes, I admit that it occasionally crossed my mind that it doesn’t seem fair and just at times. So, pray for God’s direction and plans for you and your family. He knows better.

Ending with a quote from a book by Joyce Meyer entitled, Battlefield of the Mind. She wrote – “You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.. right thinking is vital to victorious living”.

 

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Simplified Living

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I am not really a bookworm or someone who couldn’t sleep without first reading a book. I would say that I am more of a ‘seasonal reader’, although I wouldn’t mind spending extra hour a day in reading, in case I come across of something worth the time. Recently, a good friend AA had recommended a book entitled Simplify by Bill Hybels. The tagline itself which reads,”10 Practices to Unclutter your Soul” was already a statement to reckon with. Is there any single soul that you know of who doesn’t need uncluttering? Knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, we feed our souls with unworthy and nonsensical ideas that left them unhealthy, chaotic, and congested.  Whether we admit it or not, our soul needs ‘healing’. One may ask, how would this book be different from the others who have already written on the same subject? Honestly, my first impression was to laugh and it made me!.. It is not because the contents were funny or unpredictable, but as if the author was directly speaking to me! And I laughed, without being disrespectful, because the realization was so true and reflective to what and where I am right now. It’s a ‘wow, how did he know that?’ kinda laugh 🙂 . You know, when someone faced you with the truth, you couldn’t help but sometimes just laughed at the reality then later, nod in agreement. Believe me when I tell you that this book is very personal and truthful and will definitely make you pause and contemplate. Some of his suggestions are doable through simplified living, however some do require perseverance and conviction. It’s still a long read for me before I reach till the end, but so far, it started hitting me to the core 🙂 .

Quoting some lines from one of the chapters, Bill Hybels wrote, “Simplified living requires more than just organizing your closets or cleaning out your desk drawer. It requires uncluttering your soul.  By examining core issues that lure you into frenetic living, and by eradicating the barriers that leave you exhausted and overwhelmed, you can stop doing the stuff that doesn’t matter and build your life on the stuff that does”.

Note to self: Change is possible.

Other books by the author:

Bill Hybels is also the bestselling author of more than twenty books, including Axiom, Holy Discontent, Just Walk Across the Room, The Volunteer Revolution, Courageous Leadership, and classics such as Too Busy Not to Pray and Who You Are When No One’s Looking. Most of his books are available in Amazon.com

Eight Things to Consider Before Marrying a Foreigner

As an expat, we are exposed to the possibility of being romantically involved and eventually, maybe end up in marrying a foreigner. I have number of close friends, including myself, who have been married to a different nationality. For me, every day is brand new as my husband and I continue to embrace our differences and honor our uniqueness.

I am sharing this not as a hard rule, but just a friendly reminder. Bear in mind that your promise of ‘for better or worse, till death do us part’, is not only witnessed by people, but also by God.

  1. Audible confirmation. Very important. If you have been praying specifically for a foreign husband or wife, make sure that it is the audible voice of God that you hear for confirmation and not just the voice within you. Sometimes, we only listen to what we wanted to hear and neglect the rest of God’s specific instructions. At the end, we interpret and manipulate the ‘voice’ we heard. Be careful, you might just be listening to your own. God’s ways are unique and His voice is gentle. Be sensitive.
  2. Food galore, get ready to explore! Prior to my marriage, I couldn’t eat spicy food at all. I wouldn’t dare to touch nor try anything with fresh or cooked chili on it regardless of its size or color. Contrary to ‘my man’, he wouldn’t enjoy a bland dish or a meal without the piquancy. My ‘no-no’ to spicy food somehow needed revision and so was his, if we both wanted to enjoy our dining together. We then decided to meet halfway; I have moved forward from non-spicy-to-mild spicy, while he moved backward till where I can endure pungency. Start telling to yourself – ‘no harm in trying’!
  3. Chum Ree-uhp Soo-uh (a Khmer Salutation). Study says that children can easily learn three to four languages simultaneously. I wish I could say the same thing for adults unless mastering a new language is your passion. Not that ‘effortlessly’ for me. I have twisted every muscles in my tongue to learn my husband’s Cambodian dialect but still lots to learn. He is doing a much better job though in mastering my mother tongue. Well, I am not giving up and hoping that one day, I will finally conquer. You may start early with a tongue-twister. 🙂
  4. The possibility of leaving your home, for good. The first time I have told my mother that I am marrying a foreigner, she didn’t agree although she eventually approved of our wedding. It wasn’t because she disapproved of my choice but mainly because, it was not exactly a mother’s wish for her daughter to live so far away from home and the possible chance of maybe, to leave permanently. Of course arrangements can be made for visitations but no guarantee of the frequency. Your foreign spouse may understand and respect your parent’s concern, but your heart must be ready for this inevitability.
  5. He might not be as romantic as your Dad nor will she be as a good cook as your Mum. My mom-in-law is one of the best cooks I’ve ever met. I am nowhere to stand next to her in the kitchen as far as cooking is concerned. I can prepare a dish alright, but nowhere closed in comparison to hers and I do not intend to compete. 🙂  My husband knew my limitations in the kitchen prior to our marriage; but had he not accepted that fact, it would have been an everyday struggle for him to enjoy his meal. I might have had slightly improved on my cooking, but I was grateful that no ‘comparison’ had taken place. On the other hand, I could have expected for him to be as funny and romantic as my dad, but I preferred not to. He is a unique individual who has a great capacity to love. No comparing please; otherwise, you’d be spending the rest of your married life being unhappy and dissatisfied.
  6. New status, new friends – be flexible. Once you marry, the number of your single friends will reduce and will be replaced by married couples. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. And since you might marry a different nationality, your type of friends will also change. Be open-minded and try to fit in as long as your ‘free will’ is not being compromised. You will also be invited to various gatherings that you are probably not accustomed to. You will need to learn your ‘new crowd’. There may be things acceptable to you but not to them; you know, differences in culture, habits, food choices (as I pointed out in No.2), etc. Always remember, your spouse may also take interest in knowing your ‘own kind’ as much as you will adjust in knowing his’/hers. The more, the merrier!
  7. Know the law. Regardless of what nationality you are getting married to, you must recognize the law. The local embassies and government courts will help you and guide you with all the necessary requirements needed to legalize and register your marriage. Do not commit into anything you will regret before checking first your options. Do not assume or it may be too late.
  8. Be one in faith. Both my husband and I came from different religious backgrounds, however we already shared the same faith when we met each other. It was our destiny to get married. Not only we pray and believe to the same God, but we’re both committed to serve Him. There is no such thing as perfect marriage; one way or the other, your relationship will be tested. But it brings us joy and so much peace when our unity in faith aids us during those challenging times. My prayer for you – may you not only find who your heart desires, but the one who God desires for you…

Well, that’s it from me! I am sure the list can go on more than eight! Do feel free to share your own thoughts by leaving a comment below:)

As I end, allow me to share to you a brief encouragement from one of my dear friends, who has been blessed with courage and love.  Meet the Elavia Family!

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 Joan is a Filipina, happily married to Zubin, an Indian Parsi. They are now based in Canada with their son, Nathan. This is what she says:

“To be on an inter-racial marriage is challenging especially in the beginning stage as we have to learn and adjust with our way of living, beliefs, religion, culture, and even on our food preferences.  These factors can sometimes lead to disagreements and misunderstanding, but we never allowed them to affect our love and respect for each other. Just like a typical couple, we remind ourselves every day to honor the vows we made to each other 20 years ago. We also wanted to make sure that our son will be raised knowing and loving both our cultures. I guess the most important ingredient to maintain peace in our marriage is RESPECT”. 

Are you ready to be an OFW in the UAE?

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That was the first question that caught my attention when I started going through the pages of the Essential OFW Guide to UAE by Atty. Barney Almazar. I have posted an earlier blog about this book and how to avail a FREE copy of The Essential OFW Guide to UAE 

I hope you were able to reserved and already collected your copy, but in case you haven’t and you still want to have one, you may request via email to gulflaw@gulflaw.info and they will get in touch with you on how and where to collect it. Alternatively, a mobile app is planned to be launched by August.  You may check their website for update.

In this book, Atty. Almazar underlined five main perennial issues from which most OFWs landed in problems; indebtedness, intoxication, immorality, illegal recruitment and improper or fake documents. I have not finished reading the whole content as yet, but I’m sure the information given will be beneficial and helpful especially to the new Filipino contract workers here in UAE. It is always good to know the workers’ rights and limitations when employed in a foreign land. Atty. Almazar did mention during one of his interviews, that there were some 6,000 OFWs whom they have already given free legal assistance since January this year, and most of their reasons for being involved in a conflict were “it wasn’t their intention to break the law, or they simply didn’t know”.

As always, understanding our environment plays a major role to stay out of trouble, so if something like this is made available to us for free, why not seize the opportunity.  The author himself is the head of the legal aid clinic at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Consulate in Dubai hence, I am certain that he did study on his forte. Anyhow, I am not saying that this book is our only source of information but can definitely be considered as an additional tool to broaden our awareness while living in UAE.

Quoting from one of the books I’ve read, “Assumption is the lowest form of knowledge”.  In a layman’s language, ‘it is better to be safe than sorry’.

Stay safe! 🙂

Coffee Treat for Taxpayers!

One of the items in our to-do-list each time we visit the Philippines is to pay our property tax. Our option to pay it in advance or on time is based on the date of our visits, however, we tried not to pay late.  We have had an unpleasant experience in the past wherein we paid a big amount of penalty for delayed payment and so, we do not intend for that to happen ever again. This time we know better and we try to make it a habit to settle our dues in advance if not on time. Aside from availing the 20% discount for advance payment, it is also convenient to avoid the rush and the long queues during the payment season.

Do you know that part of the taxes we pay in the Philippines go to Special Education Fund, where it supports Public Schools and the schools for impaired children or with the disabilities? Call me naïve, but I have just known this few years ago, when I got personally involved in paying our taxes. This awareness gave us a bigger picture of where our contribution goes and, all the more reason to pray for wisdom and honesty for the people behind the distribution of these funds. Aside from the feeling-good factor for the ‘contribution however tiny’ that we give as taxpayers, you get to be a part of our country’s educational program for the under-privileged. If only the amount collected could genuinely reach the purpose it is intended to, then I am sure, we would all be motivated to pay our taxes. If only…. Nonetheless, let us not use this theory as an excuse not to comply 🙂 . Free coffee

Recently, I have been to Quezon City Hall to pay and it was one of those few hassle-free experiences I had in a government office. I considered it as my reward after walking in the heat before reaching their entrance from where the bus made the drop-off. Anyhow, the service and hospitality of the employees were commendable plus, I got to drink free coffee (from a vending machine, of course) while transacting. What an exclusive service for ‘taxpayers’! It would have been more appropriate though if this gesture is extended to other visitors, too.  Besides, aren’t we all taxpayers, whether in a manner of ‘voluntarily’ or ‘involuntarily’ contributing? (wink)!

Something to ponder upon: “Give to God what is due to God, and give to Caesar what is due to Caesar”!

Home Sweet Home

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Arrived in the Philippines few days ago for my less-than-a-month of vacation to visit my family and our home. Grateful to God for the opportunity and to my supportive hubby who allowed me to go for a quick visit. Started with a busy schedule of tidying up our house which I’m sure is quite common when it is not being regularly inhabited. Begun working on some errands as well while in the city, since the hot weather was starting to get into my pace. Month of May is not a very favorable time to travel to the Philippines due to extensive heat and humidity, which happens normally before the rainy season starts. However, I’ve decided to seized the moment and motivate my mind and body on the resisting-the-heat mode, spend as much quality time with my family as possible, and to finish what I came here for. Just need to think of ways to keep our bodies hydrated 🙂 !

Not much have changed from the last time I was here almost six months ago. Aside from some beloved relatives who started to walk slower than usual which is inevitable; God bless them. I also came to know of some friends who have already left the country to work abroad, and was speechless after seeing some nieces and nephews who have grown taller than I am (and wiser, too). I wonder what kids ‘eat’ these days! They shoot up so quickly like bamboos! I still remember how I used to bent down for an eye-level contact when talking to them. Wow, I couldn’t believed how much I have missed being away for only six months. Or maybe, I just hardly noticed the changes over the period of years that I have come and go…. Time really flies! This is a usual sentiment of contract workers who are missing out lots of details from home and couldn’t do so much about it, but to catch up.

Few days ago, I was happily reminiscing with my sister on how we used to spent our summer vacation in our grandma’s house in Bulacan. The house was pretty old and trite, but there’s no place we would rather be spending our summer holidays with our cousins. We built memories in there. Closeness we made that lasted till today. How we wished for our children to create similar memories with their cousins and enjoy each other’s company while they are still young. Before the ‘pressures of adulthood’ finally come into being, may they find time to fully enjoy their youth the way we used to!

I hate to admit but sadly, gone are the days when young people have shallow but meaningful definition of fun. How simple pleasures like fishballs and ‘gulaman’ made our snack-time complete; how the games of ‘piko’ and ‘sipa’ with friends were our after-school delights; and many other of our so-called perks and rewards that are now considered perhaps, ‘boring’ and ‘less interesting’! I know, I know… I need to move on and fast-forward to the 21st century, where gadgets and social media replaced the ‘fun’ I used to know!

Well, one thing that could never change, there’s really no place like home… Though nothing in this world is permanent, there are things worth preserving and keeping even only in my memories.

Let us not stop making memories; they last a lifetime 🙂

‘3 Idiots’ – All Is Well!

Mr. Webster defined the word’ idiot’ as a noun, an utterly foolish or senseless person or a person lacking the capacity to develop beyond the mental age of three or four years.

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3 Idiots is a Hindi movie released in 2009 and has become one of my all-time favorites. Only recently, got the chance to watched it again and my appreciation for the story increases each time. Well, just for you to know, I have been a fan of Indian films (minus those hyper-action-heavy stunt ones) from my early time in Bahrain, when The Filipino Channel was yet existed in that part of the Gulf, and the cost of installing a cable was way too expensive.  My flatmates and I were initially left with no option due to scarcity of programs to watch on TV, but surprisingly, watching Hindi films became a part of our weekend past-time favourites.  Thank God for the English sub-titles! As an expat, sometimes, you need to give up your right to be ‘so picky’ and try to adapt to your foreign environment; you’ll be surprised how comfortable you could become if only you’ll give ‘change a chance’!

I am neither a movie critic nor writing this as a movie review; but the story was very compelling not to share. Let me warn you though; to those of you who have already seen this film or you’re just about to, you may find this write up too brief and trivial. The film was enormous on its entirety to wrapped-up in such a limited space (and of course, I will run out of words to depict it :)!  But surely it’s emotional, entertaining, enlightening, and for some maybe just a feel-good factor.  Note that this film has already been released in Philippine TV with Tagalog sub-title. Hah!

Well, the story was about three college engineering students who, were meant to cross each other’s path inside a campus dormitory with one goal in life; to attain degree in Engineering. Their passion to achieve their dream maybe unconventional to others, but for at least the ‘2 Idiots’, it’s a matter of love and commitment to families. Just like the most of us who would sacrifice our want for the sake of our family’s need.  However, the ‘3rd idiot’ probably has the most valid of reasons to graduate.  Though his existence was a façade and bounded by agreement, he was committed to pursue what he started with no regards to recognition nor credit.  His character was perhaps unorthodox with a belief that one should pursue excellence, not always success, and everything else will just follow.  I particularly enjoyed his ‘all is well’ version of story and how he came up with its conclusion. Their journey together was tested by faith, love, courage, and sacrifice. Like most films, ‘3 Idiots’ had a customary happy-ending. They all did well in life despite the ‘hullabaloos’ and eventually, they enjoyed the fruits of their labour.  I am sure one way or the other, each one can relate to this film.

You might wonder, but why were they tagged as the ‘3 Idiots”? Do their persona matches with what Mr. Webster defines?  I absolutely didn’t think so.  Perhaps it is only due to the simplicity of their philosophy in life that made them misunderstood, misjudged, and misinterpreted by the people around them, in short, they were different! Nothing personal, only an intellectual point of view…

This film can be seen by a teenager, however, I suggest a need for a parental guidance while watching, as some scenes could be better understood and explained with the presence of an adult. Call me ‘conservative’ but you’ll thank me later 🙂

Note to self: do not judge, as to each his own…

It is not (always) about the money!

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Jessie J’s song, Price Tag, highlights a clear message…it is not about the money!

Well, at least not the only reason for some employees to stick to a company, but in some cases, the rapport with their bosses does matter too. Contrary to general belief, it isn’t just money, status or power that keeps an employee committed and satisfied.  I’m not expecting a huge number of ‘amen’ on this, but it does make a sensible argument :).

An interesting read that caught my eye on and made me contemplate…. “What managers do, how they behave, what they say and more importantly how they say it affects employees’ attitudes about their jobs and the organization as a whole. Employees who are unhappy and dissatisfied with their immediate supervisors are less likely to identify with the organization’s vision and more likely to be absent or to resign” – CMD, Dale Carnegie Training School

Yes we all need jobs to support our family and we all need money to spend, hence leaving a job requires deep thought than action….and yes we all need to understand that our bosses have their own level of pressures too, yet it wouldn’t hurt anyone but rather uplifts if a fairly hard-working employee get some occasional ‘pat in the back’, yes? It won’t harm too if the ‘job well-done’ compliment comes with a ‘dough’ (wink)!

I think it is more than just a cliché that people leave bosses and not companies.  One CEO from a super-power organization once said, “The people (employees) is our company’s greatest asset”. If this is so, then due attention should be demonstrated.  I am not an expert nor specializes in human thinking, but in general, ‘a good speech maybe promising but it would really be nice to be backed up by a substance as well”, don’t you think? ’.

I once worked for a European company in UAE managed by a European couple, whom I directly reported to. My bosses were gems.  They trained me well and their trust boosted my self-confidence.  Being an Asian, yet they made me feel I was a significant member of the team and valued my input. In return, my labour reflected my gratitude. They were not perfect nor was I; they were just simply good bosses who, gave me a fair opportunity to improve and to grow as an employee. If they weren’t retiring, I would have not left. How was the pay, one may ask? It was fair and square, but the joy of going to work every day was priceless! What was my point? That despite my bosses ‘own pressure’ from their own superiors, they still chose to treat their subordinates justly.

I may become a boss one day (wow! – don’t judge me, it’s free to dream 🙂 ), I pray that I may be able to lead wisely. Hence in conclusion, being ‘a virtuous boss’ is a choice, not just a strand in one’s imagination!

Acknowledgement: pixshark for the photo