Ben Q & A

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My dear friend back in my hometown asked me a few questions about Ben. Here goes, it’s “All About Ben” day.

Q: How did we get the gift of Ben? That is exactly what she asked. Nice wording because he is indeed a gift. Being ex-pats we are not allowed to drive in China so we get a driver. Driving here is not dangerous, it’s not like there are a lot of accidents but the traffic patterns are VERY different. It’s odd but somehow it all works. They all know what the rules are and traffic just flows, I don’t really understand it much. I’ve only seen the aftermath of one accident and it was just a fender bender. Because it’s so congested the only time you’re moving fast is on the freeway so around the city it’s slow. 

Typically either the employee interviews the driver or the admin does it, especially if the driver doesn’t speak English. People with children will want to ensure they have  a  safe driver and one who is willing to do a lot of driving in the afternoon and on weekends for after school activities. Another person  might only want someone who speaks English (according to Ben only about 10% of the drivers that he knows speak excellent English.) You have the driver for your whole time in China so it’s important to find someone that’s a good fit.

Anders met Ben very briefly after a company dinner when he was in GZ prior to moving here. After meeting him he had D set up interviews with Ben and 2 other drivers. Anders bumped into the family that Ben was driving for at the watch market of all places along with another family. Anders asked the employee, his wife, and daughter about Ben. They described him as caring, reliable, and a “guardian”. There were a few times when street vendors were tad aggressive toward the wife and daughter and he got out of the car to shoo them away. The other family was in need of a driver and heard the conversation but knew that Anders had an interview with him. He told Anders that if he had any doubts that he would take him. Anders said that he was taking him and called D to have her cancel the other interviews. That is how we got the gift of Ben.

Just today our last stop on our way home was a small convenience store that caters to ex-pats. The kind of place where you can buy Hershey’s chocolate licorice for example. Anders and I got out but I did not grab a bag out of the car because we only needed about 3 things. You don’t get bags at grocery stores here.  When we went to the register to pay one of my bags was sitting there. I stopped in my tracks and just smiled. When I went out to the car I told him he was the best and he just gave me one of his big grins. He knows!

Q: Is this Ben’s full-time job? It is. He works only as a driver. Essentially he is ours 24/7 but we’re nice people and don’t  abuse the system. If we had an emergency we could call him in the middle of the night and he’d be here as fast as possible, I have no doubt. All the drivers know that there is the expectation to drive on weekends. We were told early on that we should try to give him one day off on the weekend. That hasn’t happened very often. He wants to work and I believe his favorite phrase it, “No problem, no problem. ” Add a Chinese accent and you can imagine what we hear just about every day that we’re with him. There have been times when we’re out to dinner and we’ve accumulated extra people who need a ride back to their hotel or their apartment and he happily deposits them wherever. As he said after he became a dad, “I’m a father now, I have responsiblity. I need to work for my family.” How can you not admire that?

A  week after we moved here we spent Saturday with friends of ours and their driver picked us up and transported us for the day. The next day when Ben picked us up we mentioned to him where we had gone. He had a stricken look on his face and asked us if we took a taxi. We told him that we were with friends and their driver took us around.  We assured him that we would never take a taxi! He looked so relieved and I think it broke the ice a bit.

Q: Do certain employees have the admin/driver combo? Certainly there are people who have both but I believe  that we are the luckiest ones. Anders “inherited” D from his predecessor. The admins are aware of how difficult the language problems can be and how different everyday things are in China. They do not just help the P&G employee with the normal duties but also help the family with other issues that might arise. D accompanied both Anders and me to the bank the first time we had to do something other than make a transaction at the ATM. This is just one of many examples of all that she does for us. If you read any previous posts you know how much we appreciate, and adore them.  

Q: Have I seen pictures of Ben’s daughter? You bet. The day after she was born he had a few pictures on his phone. As I am constantly looking at the view out my front window I happened to catch him the first morning he picked up Anders after she was born and he was showing the other drivers her photo. He was the proud dad. People are the same no matter where you go in the world. She looked all squishy, cute, and like a newborn. Last week he brought in his camera to show me pictures. She is beyond adorable. She was three weeks old and her eyes were open and she didn’t have the newborn puffiness. She could not be more  beautiful. She has Ben’s eyes and ears, which he had told me the day after she was born and by darn she does. I had commented on all her thick, black hair. As the mother of blonde babies, they were both bald. That’s one thing that I tend to notice when I see other babies. Let’s just say she’s gorgeous.

Q: Did we give him a gift? Oh yeah. As we were only here a week when she was born we definitely needed guidance on that. D recommended giving him a case of Pampers. We did and he was very appreciative. Every new parent needs them. The first day I met Ben and he was driving me home from the airport, Anders and I were chatting with him and Anders mentioned that Ben was going to be a new dad in the coming weeks. Of course my first thought was, what does somebody give for a baby gift in China?!

Q: What happens to Ben when we leave? Normally he would be interviewed by any employee that is interested in hiring him. While that may be the norm that is not what is going to happen, not if I can help it.  Anders and I will be the ones conducting the interviews. We will take it upon ourselves to make sure that the new family is worthy of him, not the other way around!

8PM – 91°

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About vikarenously

I am an ex-pat living in Guangzhou, China. I am married to the man of my dreams who has indulged my love of travel by working hard enough to snag two international assignments. Oh yes, I also have two amazing children who accompanied us on our first one to Switzerland and are now mature and responsible adults which makes it so easy for us to experience this adventure as empty-nesters. Experience it vicariously with Karen.

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