One Monday morning, exactly a week after I started work.
"Knock knock" (Soft knocks)
Me: “Come in. ”
Mr. O: “Doctor, I think we should go out la. Upstairs there is a fire. The alarm did not go off but I think we should just go.”
Me: “Really? OK, I am coming. ”
So I quickly prepared to evacuate from the building. Taking along my handbag and a computer bag which had my MacBookPro in.
Dr. X: “Aiyaa…do you think we should bring our stuff. So many things! Besides it could be just a small fire. Possible a false alarm too. So leceh la.”
Me: “I think we’d better. Quick, we should just evacuate as soon as possible and grab everything we can”
Dr. X was still unsure what to take along with her when I gushed out the room.
I could not smell any smoke nor could I see any fire as I went out of the building. When I arrived at the assembly field (We were told to evacuate there), there were not many people yet. People seemed to take their own sweet time, and something else is obvious, none of them took along any bag! There I was with two big bags and looking very silly. I swear I could hear people gigling behind me. “It had better not be an April fool”, I thought.
After about 10~20 minutes, we heard the fire alarm went off. Yeah right, it’s about time. I could appreciate some smoke coming out from the 2nd floor. Yeah, there was a fire alright. I felt a little relieved. Mainly because I knew I didn’t over react and my action was correct (Though the standard protocol is to leave everything behind and evacuate as fast as possible!). But as time passed, my relieve turned to anxiety as it was clear that the firefighter failed to put out the fire. We could see more dark smoke coming from the second floor. There were even small explosions heard. We became more anxious when we saw more and more fire brigades arrived. A total of seven to be precise!
Suddenly, we smelled strange chemical odor reaching our compound where we all were. The smell became stronger and we were quickly advised to move from there. Since we were directed to a place far away from the fire, we didn’t know what else happened after that. But one thing for sure, the firefighter was still working hard when we went back.
News about the fire was on TV that night and all the major newspapers the next day. The whole building was closed until further notice. It was good that nobody was hurt from the big fire, but we were saddened by the news that the second floor was badly damaged. My office was on the first floor and it was directly under the affected area. We were told to stay away from the building for at least a year. Until the building is restored and refurbished.
So, here I am. Back to the country I love so much but unable to practice what I know to my full capacity, and produce some quality work until we all settle in. We’re still adjusting to the new environment. It is quite stressful when you have to share the space with so many people. It will take some time until we see that familiar smile on the faces of these people. Meanwhile, let’s just hope that the government would do things at a faster pace. As much as I can tell, not much has been done to help relocating us or repair the building.