Back in summer 2016, I made one of the best decisions in my life. I left my stable but unsatisfying job in Pakistan for an exciting and adventurous job training in Gansu, China. It was definitely a leap of faith as I have never had a professional job experience in a foreign country before that. As a student, I had completed my masters in Energy and Environmental Engineering in Shenyang Aerospace University, China.
I chose Power China, a Chinese company specifically (over any other foreign company), not only because I’d already been there in the past, but because I was always captivated and fascinated with the roaring Chinese economy – the opulence and glamour-meet-rebel feel of it all. I had always been searching for a place to live where people are friendly – the perfect mix in my opinion – and I found that in China. The country has definitely lived up to its name.
To this day, the architecture of the small Chongxin County where I was living, was very well preserved, and now as I’m in Pakistan, I daydream about staying there for an extended period of time… living in luxurious, dormitory provided by Power China to its employees which offers its patrons the authentic experience of ‘Chinese lifestyle’. It was hard for me to leave this place and specially my room – so perhaps if I’m writing a book someday and need the concentration, you will know where to find me. If I can afford it, I’m all for it!
My top choice was a power producing company as I wanted to serve my country after studying abroad. I was attracted by an advertisement of Power China Gansu Energy Investment Company, one of the leading power-producing companies in China and probably who had investment in a Power Plant in Port Qasim. What set it aside from other companies was that it not only had a great reputation, with positive employees’ testimonials but it also has partnered with universities – this is the right choice, was the feeling and signed up right away. After a rigorous selection process, I got selected as a Trainee Engineer and came back to the dreamland for a 6-month job training at Chongxin Power Plant.
The company took care of everything – from job placement to visa processing, arranging accommodations, help in taking Mandarin lessons and technical training and participating in other activities – to helping me get through a conversation with the local employees working there. I felt like I was some special guest.
I worked as a trainee for six months before being selected for Operations Department. Here, I went through a holistic training process where my work not only limited to academics but also included horning management skills. On any typical day, I was brainstorming ideas, working hard on my shifts such as waking up early morning and making sure my other shift members are ready and prepared for their work which was assigned to us by our supervisor, helping out administration in handling other Pakistani employees by listening to their issues and solving them as Power China wants to keep their employees physically and mentally healthy. I had the opportunity to sit in meetings, contribute to the company and learn about the company’s policies as a whole. It was fascinating to me seeing firsthand how hard people worked towards the same goal – to produce a top-notch working environment, filled with culture, class and relatedness.
The rapid pace and speed of how much work gets done in a short time frame in China is amazing. People seem to be able to take ownership of the task assigned to them and not have a supervisor breathe down their neck every half hour wondering what they’ve been working on – at least that’s the sense I got during my training here. I did face some difficulty in communicating with my Chinese colleagues but as time passed by we learned basic Chinese words which made our life easier. Learning Chinese language and its culture gave me the opportunity to adapt to a new culture, figure out how best to approach a person or situation and build great working relationships.
We had a Halal canteen at the site serving delicious meals to Pakistani trainees. After hectic day-long activities at the plant we used to spent evenings going out for shopping, watching dramas and movies to attempt to learn Mandarin and the culture. There was always something fun to do especially when the company took us on cultural trips. Throughout the time away from home, I was truly living my own version of the rock star life.
A Chinese friend had introduced me to one of the best of Pingliang, Beef Noodles, which truly reflects the Chinese taste; aromatic and flavor-full.
There were a lot of good moments, but I think my favorite has to be the moment when me along with my friends gathered together with other Chinese friends and saw the fireworks for the Chinese New Year festival. The fireworks lit up the sky and from there I did a live video call to my family in Pakistan and shared the joy with them. It was simply breathtaking.
Apart from the Chinese New Year, Chinese people also celebrate Western events such as New Year which comes in the Gregorian calendar.
An event, which I will never forget was when we all 100 Pakistani worked extra hours in selecting best performances to represent our country and culture. I was selected to be one of the hosts. Pakistani performances included; a comedy silent play, Qawali, Sindhi cultural dance, friendship song with our hosts. Our performances won hearts of the audience and media persons attending the event appreciated our gesture.
On the morning of 11th February, our Chinese partner came to us and gave us plastic bags, inside it were blocks which we didn’t know what they were for, he told us tonight they have a surprise for us at the gymnasium. There is going to be a game show as today is our Chinese Lantern Festival (Spring Lantern Festival), he shared.
It’s a 2000-years-old tradition, which Chinese people celebrate by making lanterns and blowing them to the sky at night and eating Yuanxiao, a sweet dish. It’s like our gulab jamun; round and sweet but white in color and made up of rice flour.
It was like carnival at the gymnasium. Families of our co-workers were playing games and the best part of it was… it was all free, no ticket or anything required to play and if you win or participate you are going to get prize, how humble can a nation be.
Our training was about to come to an end when we had a surprise visit by our manager Mr. Xu. He called all of us downstairs and presented us with a cricket kit. We were humbled by this friendly gesture. We then explained the rules of the game to our Chinese colleagues. They quickly learned the game and were amazed by the passion of cricket we Pakistanis have for this sport. These were the beautiful moments that made my stay truly memorable.
A couple of things – I wish I had put more effort into learning and speaking Mandarin! Also, I wish that I had gone beyond my comfort zone more – go out to meet more new people and be more open to new experiences. I find that in life, you regret the things that you didn’t do more than the ones you actually did. I held myself back on some things. You only live once – so as long as it’s safe and you’re not hurting anybody, go for it!