Saturday, July 31, 2010

not to be repeated

July has been a trying month and let's say it is not to be repeated. I'm tired and sort of sickly, but I'm working on the latter. However, the former is an ongoing thing as work has been, well, complicated to say the least. My boss is coming back at the end of next week. Meh. For those interested in my ambivalence, I'll provide a more detailed explanation in a private e-mail. However, we've been mostly, let's say, victorious in our endeavors, but running close to the razor's edge more than we have any right doing. I'll be back in the blogging saddle next week to satisfy ADL's thirst for new material.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

an untold "joke"

Last week, we were having some trouble clearing cement from customs. I ended up talking to managers and supply chain people here in an attempt to get it cleared as soon as possible. I followed it up with an e-mail on what was expected based on the conversations I had. It was a somewhat aggressive e-mail, but this was important for us. Here’s the part of the e-mail at the end that I took out:

”I know this has been a pretty serious e-mail so I’ll end with a joke. Question: What happened to the cement company that ran out of cement? Answer: They went out of business and people lost their jobs. Oh wait, that’s not funny at all. Get my damn cement out of customs.”.

I assume it’s self-explanatory why that part of the message never made its way into the final e-mail. Customs clearance is the bane of my existence here. No, wait. It’s one of many banes of my existence.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

day trip (and a cessna)

Today, I went on a day trip to one of the onshore fields we’re working in. Transport from Port Gentil to the site was via a single-engine Cessna 208B that held two pilots and up to 12 passengers. It is not the smallest plane I have ever flown in. It’s still bigger than the helicopter I took in Congo, but that’s to be expected. Imagine flying over forest, some more forest, and then some lakes. Then there’s a landing strip and an “airport” which is really a single-room building where they weigh bags and people for the flights back in.

This is remote. Equipment predominantly comes in on barges since there are so many water-ways crisscrossing the country. This time of year, the barges cannot be fully loaded since the rivers are so low because it is the dry season. The barges make their way from Port Gentil to a lake near the air strip and from there get off-loaded onto trucks. Roads and well pads are cut into the landscape right up against the forest that is left standing. It’s somewhat surreal to stand on the edge of a location and look one direction to a rig and the other direction into untouched forest. It’s even more surreal to contemplate where this oil ends up going and the time, money, effort and energy expended to get it in the first place. I need to save that for another entry as it’s been all over my mind.

It was a good day trip. It’s always important to see our operations, see our guys in the field, what we’re working with, and get a in-person feeling for the operations. As always, lots was learned, but even more left unlearned. Every day, a little bit more.

The only bad thing about the trip was that a client representative took my pen. He borrowed it to write his e-mail address and then never gave the pen back to me. The thief! Keep in mind this is a Marriott pen that I first took in Houston. It’s been all over the world and now it’s forever lost into the depths of the Gabonese jungle.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

client meeting

We had a recent service quality review meeting for Q2 with one of our clients. The purpose of these meetings is to, well, review the quality of the services we have been providing. For various reasons, I presented for my segment even though I only recently arrived. I just came to say that I was the "calm center of an ever-revolving universe" during the presentation. Despite numerous interruptions, finger waggings, and um, strongly worded opinions, I quite possibly showed more maturity than I ever have before at work. I was calm, patient, waited for others to finish speaking(!), poised, and humble. I'm actually really happy with the way the meeting went. Certainly not perfect, but let's call it as well as could have been expeceted. I've learned to better take my lumps, and there's always much to learn, but this is progress for me. There's a lot to do now to minimize the, um, strongly worded opinions at the next meeting, but we can get better.

Monday, July 12, 2010

beach and world cup finals

Yesterday was a continuation of Saturday's sublime dinner by the water. I put in a piddly couple hours of work in the morning and then went with colleagues to the beach. The sand there was so soft. It even squeaked a little in some places. The water was actually not that warm, but still good to splash about for a bit. We ate, always with some more fish before returning back to town. Then, World Cup finals time. Our country manager has been hosting viewing parties for several of the games. He has a nice outdoor setup, gets some catered food and it's generally a great time.

The entire World Cup has been an interesting spectacle to watch from, not just outside the US, but also within Africa. There was a definite sense of African solidarity with people from all over the continent rooting for Ghana when they were the only African squad to make it to the elimination rounds. On average, people are simply more passionate about the sport here than in the States. For the record, vuvuzelas are even more annoying in person.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

fish by the water

Last night, I went with some co-workers I first met in Congo to a local eatery down by the water. It's hard to describe, but it was just a very relaxed and chill night to eat grilled fish, listen to the waves lap against the shore, watch the Germany/Uraguay game on the little television they had set up outside, and generally relax.

Monday, July 05, 2010

missed reunion - those years went by fast

One my friends commented about how being at the reunion made it seem like he hadn't really done anything in the past 10 years. Au contraire. I beg to differ quite strongly. First, I'm pretty sure he wasn't too serious, but if he was, have a hug, you've done a lot in 10 years. Just because some of our former classmates married their high school sweethearts and have a kid or two doesn't mean that's the standard to hold oneself up against. How many good times have you known in ten years? How many excellent people have you met in your studies, travel, work and how many of them to you still know.

We're all doing our own thing. Yeah, perhaps fame and incredible fortune, aren't in all our grasps. Maybe you didn't invent 'It' or 'Ginger' (which turned out to be the Segway, but come on, how upset was everyone when the world's so-called greatest invention turned out to be a scooter?) but you're here, right now, living your life. I'll tell you this right now. We all have met people who at first blush, we think they're doing great and we envy them. Maybe they are doing well and that's good for them and I don't want to take anything away from them or what they have done. But they look at you and they also think the same thing. They are wondering about the things you have done and wishing they could have those experiences. We all go through that. It's the same tic inside all of us that makes people envy what the other person has. But guess what, you cannot have everything. We get our lives, one shot at it and that's it. We make our choices and reap the consequences, sometimes good, sometimes not. Playing the 'what if' game will never bring fulfillment. Living life can.

3 months - driving, haircut

I have not driven a car (or similar vehicle) in 3+ months. I last drove when I was in the US and have not drivne since. I will soon be driving once again as my IDP finally showed up, but it has been a while. In theory, I should have been driving many weeks ago. I was set to go in Congo because my local license was finally ready about 1.5 months ago, but then I came to Gabon the first time. While here, I could not drive without an international driver's permit/license (which is really a ridiculous scam since it's just a translation of your existing license). Once here, I could do nothing because I had to get an IDP (as we cannot get a local license without a residence card which is not easily obtained) and needed my checkbook which was back in Congo so I had to wait to get back there and send in the paperwork. And then wait. Apparently, spending nearly $30 in postage enables an envelope (not even a package) to arrive from the US in two full weeks. Nice.

Up until last weekend, I had also not gotten a haircut since I left the States. It was starting to get a bit shaggy and unacceptable (or had been for quite some time). Now, I have faster, more efficient hair. Glorious.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

bbq today

Hey, I'm having BBQ today. The drilling guys really came through and are throwing a little party. Just coincidence that it's on the 4th (since none of them are Americans), but a party is a party.