I received his first call at 9am last Friday. He couldn't find his way to my new apartment. Speaking in heavily accented Mandarin, he sounded breathless and almost frantic. I couldn't help him very much as he couldn't tell me exactly where he was. He called again later to say he'll find his way somehow.
His colleague was already at the apartment. So, I left for work. In the late morning, I received another call. Good news was he was already hard at work. He called to ask how I wanted the floor strips to be laid. He was babbling so quickly, I couldn't understand. So I told him to wait for my return.
That's when I first saw Mr Wang, a slim built man with curly dark hair. He hails from Ningbo, a port city in China, to seek a better life for his family back home. Toiling from morn to night, he makes a meagre living as a woodworker in Singapore but I can tell from the way he works that he's a skillful craftsman and a very meticulous worker.
I saw him again that evening when I was locking up the house. I was heading to town and offered him a lift. He felt uneasy and insisted on walking to the train station. I told him it was no trouble at all for me to send him and finally he relented.
In the car, I asked about his family. Despite their protest, he gave up a carpentry business back home for a chance to work in Singapore. It's been 8 years and he's still here. Maybe he can return home for good in about 2 years time, he mused. Life was good in Ningbo, where he has a house with many bedrooms. Now he shares a tiny flat above a shop with several other workers. His face lit up when he spoke about his daughter who's studying in the university back home.
Early this year, he managed to convince a company in Singapore - a dealer of motorcycle parts - to employ his son. For the past 6 months, his son has been working and studying here. He likes it here and is quickly adjusting to his new life at the company's quarters.
In his animated way, Mr Wang told me about his province back home. He wanted to show me some catalogues of the industries there. Sure enough, on Monday morning, he brought a little bag of printed literature. I flipped through the catalogues of Chinese calligraphy, modern staircases and toys produced in Ningbo while he busied himself with the floor laying.
I returned in the evening to lock up. He had completed the job but was struggling with the main door he had dismounted earlier. He couldn't get the hydraulic to work properly. I don't blame him as this is really not his area. He must have meddled with the wrong screws and now the door couldn't close. I had to leave but he worked on it until 9.30pm before giving up.
He called to apologise and offered to bring a friend who's a door specialist to look at it the next day after work. They turned up yesterday evening and within minutes, the door was fixed. Thinking that he would have to skip dinner again like the day before, I brought them dinner and iced tea. They wouldn't accept but I insisted.
He called me when he got home to thank me for being an understanding homeowner. "No, I should thank you instead, for a job well done", I said.
He was visibly touched. In all his years here, nobody had shown any interest in a labourer like him. If I ever visit Ningbo or anywhere in China, he'll ensure that his wife and family extend their warmest welcome to make my stay there a most hospitable one.
I don't think I have done anything extraordinary for Mr Wang except to treat him as a fellow human being. I always believe that I should treat people they way I expect to be treated. It's that simple.
All the best Mr Wang!