AN UNEXPECTED OFFER
I sat in the departure lounge of Hong Kong’s Kai Tak airport, waiting to board my first ever flight on CAAC, China’s national airline, for my first trip to China and Tibet. I had a seven-hour delay allowing me to contemplate my decision to take a job in Tibet, a place I had never been to, and the prospect of a two-year contract in one of the remotest parts of the world.
Just one month earlier, I had travelled from Europe to Hong Kong with my short resume typed out as lengthily as possible, and with my best English suit packed. I was looking for a job in one of the luxury hotels of the Orient – reputedly where the finest hotels in the world are to be found. If I had done my homework properly, I would have known that you do not visit Hong Kong in a thick, heavy woollen suit in the height of summer, but it was my first time in the tropics and I had much to learn. Dripping with perspiration from the humid heat of Hong Kong, with my suit clinging to my body, I entered the Holiday Inn offices for the last interview of my trip.
The interview was a disaster from the beginning. I was only there because the helpful gentleman I had met at The Peninsula recommended that I see his friend at Holiday Inn, but my heart was not set on it. I had come to Asia in search of employment in a luxury hotel. For this reason, I wasn’t interested in working for Holiday Inn.
The high powered air conditioning in the office swept through my dripping suit and I found myself shivering uncontrollably. The lady conducting the interview was kind enough not to make any comment on this, for which I was very thankful, but from both sides the interview was going nowhere. We chatted for a while. All I wanted to do was to leave this refrigerator room as soon as possible.
I made to leave. “Thank you for coming. Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” said the lady smiling with sincerity. As I was leaving the room I casually mentioned that I would love to go to Lhasa, as I had seen a brochure for the Lhasa Hotel outside her office. From that moment my fate was sealed.
“You mean you want to work in Lhasa?!” she responded in disbelief. The door was closed behind me and before I had turned around, my interviewer was on the phone to the company’s Vice President.
I had to meet with him the same day, as the next morning I would be returning to my job in Paris. Still wondering what I had let myself in for, I entered his elegant office.
“So, young man, I am appointing you to the position of Sales and Marketing Manager. You are going to spend six months a year in Tibet and six months a year relaxing in Hong Kong. How does that sound to you?”
I could hardly believe what I had just heard, and nodded in agreement.
I returned to Paris to hand in my notice.
“Where are you going, Alec? The George V? The Ritz? Back to London?” one of my colleagues asked.
“No, I am joining Holiday Inn.”
“Holiday Inn?!” he exclaimed. “Why? Which one?”
“Lhasa?” he repeated with his eyebrows raised.
“Yes. Lhasa. Tibet.” I answered.
When the drizzle and fog at Kai Tak airport had cleared and my plane finally took off, I closed my eyes to let my mind wonder what the future had in store for me.
Na podstawie: Alec Le Sueur, The Hotel on the Roof of the World