Scene of the Ice Cream

On our way to Dukhan, Wesley made a pit stop at Baskin Robbins. He treated us all to a round of ice cream. I sat in the back of the pickup truck, bouncing along the road eating chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Wesley told me how he always takes his kids to Baskin Robbins.
“My son loves ice cream. He will eat his very fast so he can get a second one before we leave. He says ‘Daddy, I finished this one. I need another one.’ I always get him two.” It becomes very clear that the apple does not fall far from the tree.
 
After arriving to Dukhan, our trailer became stuck in the sand. Please see Sand Ho post to familiarize yourself with the story.
 
Please note the pile of stones on the right, which is a historical Qatari fort; and the sign on the left, a warning to trespassers. Also note, the angle of the trailer tires. This puppy is stuck and also sinking. After going home to sleep, we arrived back at the crime scene around 5:30 am. Now that it is daylight, the crane is more cooperative and unloads a container and lifts the trailer, allowing us to place more sand and hard planks of wood under the tires. Trailer is now free.
 
After the trailer moves, Gomer covers the pits made by the tires, and we go about our merry way. We never hear from the police, or the Qatari man.
 
“What would they do if they had actual artifacts? Or the Pyramids!? Or a real museum?!!?” – Egyptian operator, SirLonely
 
Once the trailer was removed, the job went very quickly. I am now back in Doha. Taking a break from work, I walked into the cafeteria area to sit and talk with my Irish roommate, Jerry McGuire. As soon as I entered, I saw Wesley sitting alone on a stool….eating ice cream.
 
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Sand Ho

Everyone loves to go off roading from time to time. Allow me to back track:

I woke up this morning ready to take full advantage of the local holiday. The phone rings. Lately whenever my phone rings, the tone sets off an immediate response and I become very aprehensive. There’s no way of knowing what the caller is going to ask. There’s no way of knowing how that simple request will spiral out of control once you proceed to execute. I learn that I am to go to Dukhan today and do a quick perforation job. I call my trusty crew: Wesley Snipes, UpChuck, and Gomer. We make plans to leave after lunch and arrange a trailer driver to move our equipment with us.

We arrive around 4 pm and proceed to collect equipment from respective rigs into a pickup truck while the trailer hauling larger equipment beats us to our assigned rig. I’m driving around with Wesley Snipes when his phone rings. He answers and I become antsy. We learn that the trailer is stuck in the sand. There are main roads here, and there are the duney paths leading up to the rigs. The paths are marked with small board signs and arrows. Wesley and I eventually meet up with the trailer and walk into the following situation:

Please note the stones next to the truck.

Please note the stones next to the truck.

The trailer became stuck on the path. He is travelling in convoy with a crane. The crane pulls him out of the ditch and off the road. The trailer is now trying to travel through the uncharted sandy path. It ends up being stuck again, this time much worse. The trailer is also strategically stuck directly between a historic archeological site and its adjacent sign detailing the penalties for entering it.

A Warning

The crew had clearly called for back up, and soon three others show up. Everyone offers their advise and attempts to dig out the truck. The trailer driver continues to try moving, to no avail. Helpers from all over begin digging around the truck and take stones from the site to provide a hard surface for traction. The crane now refuses to help move the trailer, as he will also become stuck. We ask the crane to remove the loads from the trailer and increase our chances of getting out of the sand. The crane is too unstable in the sand and alarms go off when he tries to lift anything.

I go to the rig to tell the company man “help, I’m trapped in the sand”. He is quite receptive to this, as it happens frequently. He agrees to send us a fork lift. While we wait for support from the rig, a Qatari man in a Land Cruiser rolls up to the scene. He and Wesley Snipes exchange some words and the man stays around. He appears to be very helpful and concerned about our predicament.

We’ve been troubleshooting this stuck trailer for almost two hours now. Gomer is crying about missing his afternoon tea. I am crying about not getting to go to the beach. Wesley has packed chewing tobacco into his upper lip. The crane operator lurks in the background avoiding contact. UpChuck remains calm. The trailer driver is laughing.

The forklift arrives on the site and tries pulling the trailer. This does not help, and again, the trailer just spins its wheels, digging a deeper hole which it can not climb out of. Now, a portion of the truck is buried in the soft sand. I suggest the fork lift removes the equipment from the trailer. The forklift is not strong enough to remove both pieces, but attempts the lighter one. The forklift is able to lift the piece vertically, but any other movements result in the fork lift wheels being lifted off the ground, as it can not grip the sand and the counter weights are being tested against our equipment.

We try positioning the forklift behind the trailer and pushing it. No success. By this time, both company men from the rig have abandoned their posts to come see our trailer retrieval operations. They decide it is dangerous to continue working at night. I agree and am relieved. We briefly discuss some of our options. The company men say they will call the company who paves the roads to come with their heavy duty machinery and lift the trailer.

Before we leave to go home, Wesley has another sidebar with the local man. I learn that the man, while being very helpful, has alerted police to our activities. Tomorrow after the truck is pulled, authorities will inspect the site to ensure no damage has been hewed upon the precious pile of stones. There is a 50,000 Riyal fine associated with any damages. He says something about “preserving Qatar’s history”. Still offering support, he advises us to just even out the sand once the trailer has been pulled.

This story inevitably has a part deux, to be continued tomorrow once authorities decide how much damage we’ve caused, if any. I think about that stroll I took across the little structure. My boot prints are unique in size and everyone will know it was me. My crew already stole pieces from the site to use as traction devices. Will we be fined??? Stay tuned!

The Monarch

I left work today at 5 on the bus. I got home at 6, went for a run on the Cornish. After I came home an hour later, I saw this e mail from a personnel manager:
Dear All,
has confirmed that tomorrow th has been declared as a non-working public
holiday.
Qatar EmiriDiwan
Tuesday,
June
25
2013

Employees who are essential to certain operations will
follow their normal working schedule unless notified otherwise by their
managers.
The normal work schedule will be resumed on
Wednesday, June 26
th
2013.

I had a couple thoughts. The first being: YESSSS

The second being: That’s cool that the monarch can just wave his hand and declare it a national holiday. It’s also cool that he can do this when the day is almost over and no one can make plans anyway. Many of us poor workers won’t even get the message and we’ll show up for work anyways.

The third being: This seems very strange, as I recall when I first arrived in Doha having this conversation:

Laila: Do we have holidays here?

Timon: What do you mean by holidays?

Laila: You know, like national holidays where you don’t have to come in. In the US we have Christmas, New Year, our Independence day… stuff like that?

Timon:… umm no

Laila: And if you work, you get double bonus. Not even Eid?

Timon: No, no holidays

Laila: That’s a sin.

Finally, where is this holiday coming from. I investigated more about this random holiday and found out that its basically inauguration day. The Emir will hand over the thrown to his son. I should organize a party. During my research, I found this article… It captures many of my observations as well as brings up some more points regarding the state in Qatar.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-21029018

If I Were A Boy

I’m offshore for the second time in the Persian Gulf. The humidity blurs the horizon line, creating a different look entirely from the Gulf of Mexico. The water looks like a foreign country. The rigs are different too, mainly, the rig CREWS are different. The working class is predominantly Indian and Filipino, while the supervisors are a mix of Europeans, Americans, Arabs and few Indians. (More on the cultural break down later..) The rig crews are terrified of me, to say the least.

A girl on the rig

I’ve been in a supervisors meeting in the company man’s office. The office is large, with a couch along one wall and a row of desks and chairs along the other. I enter the office a few minutes prior to the meeting and sit on one end of the couch. Gradually, service hands file into the room and systematically bypass the couch to stand along the adjacent wall. I sat lonely on the couch. The company man, a Scottish fellow, turned to the crowd and said “She doesn’t bite, I’ve been told.”

On a smaller scale, rig hands seem to freeze in their tracks when they see me on the rig. Every corner I turn, I catch deer in the headlights. While walking down the narrow stairwell, if someone sees me, they will just top moving. This is meant out of politeness, however, they just end up standing in my way. When I walk into the galley, people will freeze, often blocking the doorway, or more importantly, the soda fridge.

When arriving to a rig, everyone recieves an orientation. During these meetings, I often get some one on one time with the rig safety officer. He will come up to me specifically and explain all the safety rules, as if I have never been offshore before. It’s sweet, but also a little patronizing.

Today, I was walking up the stairs to my room and saw a man in the doorway on the second floor. He saw me through the window and abruptly aborted his plan to also enter the stairwell. As I walked passed, I saw he was shirtless. Needless to say, I was appreciative of his shame. Simultaneously, I feel like I’m invading someone’s home. Where that man used to walk shirtless, he can no longer. To me, a rig is a place of work. To me, it is the last place I would walk shirtless, pantless, shoeless, or even sockless. To these men, it’s a home.

If I were a boy, no one would give a damn about me being on this rig. No one would pay careful attention to what I’m eating, where I’m walking, or whether I understood the safety rules. I often brainstorm things I could do to shake their alien behavior towards me. It would have to be something drastic…..

What if I just used the bathroom like the rest of the crews…
There is a community bathrooom/locker room on this rig. The crews go in there to shower after shifts, or use the restroom while on shift without having to change to go into the living quarters. It is not allowed to wear your dirty coveralls in the living quarters. It is allowed for me. I can go anywhere. I also have to go to my room to use the restroom while on shift. I dream about marching into this locker room, and just using a stall. The door to the locker room has a glass window- it’s not a private space.

The First Time

Today was a long day. I stayed late at work for the second day in a row. Back in Houma, staying late was never a worth mentioning and certainly very routine. Here in Qatar, staying late requires a lot of planning and logistics. I have to have the shop foreman arrange a driver to take me home. He also has to arrange for operators to stay later with me. These events do not always happen, as seen tonight.

Eleanor Roosevelt and myself are embarking on an open hole project. She is a trainee from Columbia. She will be going through her break out job, while I will also be doing a “break out” of sorts on the new services I have to run. We had much preparing to do. At the end of the night, we looked up to see that we did not have an assigned ride home.

An operator kindly volunteered to drive us back to our apartments. He stopped by a gas station for us to grab some food before going home for the night. Eleanor walked to the sandwich counter in the back, while I lingered beside the glowing Dunkin Donuts cabinet. We each picked a small sandwhich and a donut. Standing in the middle of the gas station, Eleanor and I unabashedly ate our donuts without even paying first.

A local Qatari man stood behind us watching the gluttonous acts. He commented, “I don’t know how you can eat a donut.” He made a face. “Too sweet. I can’t even watch you.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but I’m enjoying this.” Eleanor replied quickly.  We  then waited for the gas station attendant to ring up our dinners. The Qatari man handed the attendant his credit card and insisted he ring up our purchase.

Thinking that was very nice of him… we walked out and to the car. “Sit, sit, sit, sit!!” our operator ordered as he drove the car away. We asked him what just happened.

“Qatari people just do that sometimes. If this guy was decent, he wouldn’t be at the gas station.”  Moral of the story: Decent people don’t go to gas stations. Also, Qatari people like to pay for things.