Travel shorts: Edifice Luxe
The latest in an occasional series of short stories written by business travellers, fictionalising their globe-trotting experiences
Edifice Luxe by Genny Briar
From: Scott Lansdowne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To: Charly Briar (email@example.com)
Subject: Hotel Job
Attachment Hotel PR – Job Description
I thought you might be interested in this… I know how much you “love” working as a copywriter. Here’s your chance to work in PR!
Travel is basically 100% of the time. You’d be based out of Bangkok travelling to all Edifice Luxe properties throughout Southeast Asia as the Public Relations Manager.
You’d be organizing hotel openings, hosting media, working with the locals to promote sustainable tourism, etc. etc.
See attached for more details and compensation. It’s your chance to finally be a real “expat”.
It starts next month, let me know!
Marketing Manager, Sales & Marketing,
Edifice Luxe Hotels & Resorts
¤ * § * ¤
Based out of Boston – where I was born and raised, and where all my friends and family lived – I worked in the marketing department for the world’s biggest hotel brand. The perfect job straight out of college with a decent salary and I was their copywriter. From day to day I instructed would-be vacationers to:
“Dive into extravagant minimalism, embrace modernity in an ancient landscape, abandon yourself in a journey of self-discovery at Edifice Luxe”.
Ok… so it was slightly on the fluffy and vapid side of things, but it was a start. A start I might add, at Edifice Luxe: The most chic hotel brand on the planet. Plus, the job had a commuting time of about seven minutes from my bed to my cubicle – I don’t do networking parties and I don’t do commuting – so I learned to deal with it. And of course, there was the promise that one day I too might embark on an incredible journey of self-discovery as an expatriate!
I accepted the offer immediately and moved to Bangkok two weeks later.
¤ * § * ¤
Hours after landing I was already at work. Unlike the rugged Bangkok landscape outside, Edifice Luxe Hotels & Resorts’ compound was pristinely manicured, expertly manned and smelled like freshly baked bread and Gerber daisies.
“You’ll be our brand ambassador when it comes to media,” said my new boss with a voice that inspired confidence; “Study the region’s top travel media, you’ll need to know who’s who. And of course, you’re expected to attend all the events – whether it’s a hotel opening or a door opening. Speaking of, here’s an invite for one tonight. It’s called The Hotelier’s Ball. See you there.”
Networking… Oh boy.
* § * ¤
My boyfriend Kai and I walked the short distance down the driveway of Bangkok’s landmark expat hub, The British Club. (I’d dragged him along with me on my fabulous journey of self-discovery; I obviously wasn’t embarking into the unknown alone!) I had made it through 24 years of life successfully avoiding these types of functions but my luck had run out: This was a party for the travel industry – and the media – and I was going to have to mingle, schmooze and (worse than bobbing for apples in a live lobster tank) network. I drew in a nervous breath as Kai and I rounded the corner: Nobody was as dressed up as we were.
“Don’t worry, you look great,” Kai told me. I shifted uneasily in my cocktail dress, cursed the uneven driveway, reignited my gate and strode forward with faux confidence toward the sounds of easy laughter and clinking glasses. Soft music emanated from tiny outdoor speakers while perfectly strewn rows of white lights undulated softly in the breeze. Everything about The British Club had a soft feeling to it: The music, the flowing dresses of the female attendees, even the conversation seemed to linger in the air before floating softly up toward the night sky. It was the closest thing to an old-fashioned country club I had ever seen.
Most everyone seemed older than us and they congregated in casual but distinctly exclusive groups. Older men with soft white hair and gentle faces assembled by the hors d’oeuvres and spoke in deep, smoky voices. They wore tailored shirts and tan linen trousers stretched to the limit over husky waistlines. Every belly laugh or hearty chuckle resulted in a good deal of alcohol falling out of thick scotch tumblers down on to the perfectly manicured lawn. No one seemed to notice, or care.
The older women grouped together as well. They were like sorority sisters, giggling and whispering with each other. Their hair, which betrayed their age with gentle wisps of grey, was assembled into loose chignons that moved softly when they laughed. Their makeup was modest and they wore elegant frocks and shawls. Both the older male and female expatriates seemed genuinely happy.
The younger women either donned chic pant suits or plain skirts and sweater sets. The pant suits congregated in a similar fashion to the older women, while the sweater sets sat by themselves at tables covered in white linen and gold confetti. I guessed that they must be expat mums.
So these are expatriates, I thought; the people who leave their country, family and the familiar behind. And not just for two weeks’ vacation, but to immerse themselves totally and completely in the unknown. I suddenly felt capsized as I realized I may have embarked upon on a grander endeavour than I’d originally anticipated. I didn’t want to abandon my customs and I certainly didn’t want to fall out of touch with my friends and family.
Thankfully Kai stepped in just before I went into a complete over-analytical tailspin: “I’ll get us drinks,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away.
Don’t leave me!
“Great,” I said half to myself, “thanks.”
I was left alone and abandoned to ponder what it meant to be an expat and shift uneasily in my too-tight dress.
This is why I hate networking parties.
With no social props such as a drink or cell phone, I resorted to lighting one of Kai’s cigarettes. I hardly ever smoke and when I do, it’s always out of desperation.
“Tsk, tsk. You shouldn’t smoke my dear.”
I spun around quickly to see a soft, motherly looking woman, possibly in her early forties, smiling softly. I started to apologize as my cheeks flushed scarlet – I must have committed an expat sin by smoking at The British Club – when she stopped me, “Oh my heavens no, I was just teasing, actually, do you have an extra?”
I breathed a sigh of smoky relief and offered one of Kai’s cigarettes to the woman as she introduced herself: She was a writer for Asia’s biggest spa magazine and she’d been abroad for fifteen years.
A real expat!
I knew she’d be an endless well of knowledge about life abroad and I wasted no time, “Tell me everything! How did you come to be here, what’s the best part about being an expat, what’s the worst? Don’t leave anything out!”
“Oh my gosh, you’re really happy to be here, aren’t you?” she smiled genuinely. “That’s great but I don’t know where to begin. You really have to figure this out on our own; I bet that’s why you embarked on this journey in the first place, right?”
Wow, she was good.
“The one thing I can tell you for sure,” she continued, “is don’t get sidetracked from why you initially went away. It’s very easy to do, especially as a woman. New arrivals risk becoming spiritually malleable, even when they’re just trying to be accommodating. Don’t become a victim of someone else’s life plan.”
Spiritually malleable? A victim of someone else’s life plan? This isn’t a yoga retreat, lady.
I only wished she was as helpful as she was sweet. None of that was useful and I smiled nicely while willing Kai to come back with our drinks. I wanted the juicy stuff: Where to go shopping, the best expat hangout, what’s the latest gossip?
She wished me well and left to talk to some friends as I became painfully aware of my place on the periphery of this weird and wild world. I wanted in so badly, but to what I wasn’t sure. It never occurred to me to think about that sort of thing back home with my safety net of friends and family, but here, I was no one, and I had to change that. I wouldn’t give up that easily.
Kai finally emerged with two glasses of the wrong kind of Pinot, “Had enough?”
“Not yet,” I raised an eyebrow and smiled, “not just yet.”
* § * ¤
Genny Briar’s first novel, “Fully Booked”, comes out early 2012. Follow her @gennybriar
(Caption of image on blog landing page: A tourist holds a “mojito” in this May 29, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan)