Over the last 17 years, I’ve probably driven thousands of miles, from home to my office in Jalan Ampang. When I first began work there, the Twin Towers weren’t even up yet. I was a widow and single-mom to 2 small boys. I drove a Daihatsu. I was considered skinny. I wore really micro miniskirts. I had waist-length hair. I couldn’t understand a word of Spanish.
Fast forward to 2009, the Twin Towers are a landmark and a must-see for tourists. I am remarried now. I drive a Myvi. I am considered “pleasantly plump” (my choice of words!). My dress code is sober. My hair is now shoulder-length. I speak and think better in Spanish than Bahasa Malaysia.
In 17 years, the transformation of a shy, quiet, reserved and insignificant girl into a confident, positive and outspoken woman is complete.
Before joining the Embassy, I used to teach in a secretarial school. I hadn’t been a practising secretary for almost ten years and I was a little apprehensive about putting my theoretical skills to practise. I hadn’t even the slightest notion of what working in an Embassy would entail. However, I decided I had nothing to lose, did my best and, well, the rest is history.
It’s no small miracle that I have remained at the same job for so long and some have asked me if I am getting bored. My answer is a definitive “No”. The reason is that the diplomats are only around for about five years or less. I’m now working with my third ambassador and, in the meantime, there have been more than ten different diplomats. It is always very interesting. Each person has a story to tell and something to share. You learn something from each one and many become long-distance friends.
When you spend more than eight hours a day in an office, it’s your second home. You have to make it a place where you grow, not only intellectually but also emotionally. It’s a conscious decision to do that.
What do I see as my greatest achievement after 17 years?
I think that I’m a better person for having had the opportunity to do my best every day. Running a close second to that would be learning to speak Spanish.
How did I celebrate my day? My boss took all of us to lunch at The Orchid Room in The Lake Club. I chose a superbly prepared Beef Medallion, drank 2 glasses of red wine and had too much dessert.
Today, it’s only fitting that I especially remember my three bosses (Jorge Bayona, Javier Gonzales and Alejandro A Gordillo) and numerous colleagues who have contributed to making me who I am today.
To my dear collaborators, a thousand thanks for everything!
Para mis queridos collaboradores, mil gracias por todo!