The Royal She

This argument is very exciting to me as it combines two of my long time favored interests: Feminist Propaganda and Travel. I usually try to keep a lid on my excitement– but today, my two cents are ALL IN. 

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Before diving into the debate, lets share some of my favorite feminist propaganda, brought to you by friends and fellow writers. As we grow and move all over the world, learning and discovering, destroying and building on our separate paths- when I get online and see what everyone is up to- I feel we maintain a strong unspoken network. There is unyielding support and admiration in the community of women sharing their lives and experiences. Check out wiseoldbitch, and her feature on funnynotslutty, the Dreamer Diplomat, To Benin and BeyondSarah Wohlgamuth. post-grad pre-adult and fuddled feminist have been on hiatus, but worth having a look. 

I was inspired by a friend to chime in on the discussion Dating Girls Who Travel. The gallant tone of Miss King’s post reflects so perfectly her strong, secure and supportive family. I love the confidence in this post and wish I always felt the same way. The independence and freedom of travelling give you a mechanism to view the world in a different way. You learn that things like dating are trivial. You learn who is worthy of a “first hug” at the airport. (For me, its often my sister, standing in the corner wearing sunglasses with the limo drivers holding a sign with my name on it.) She can pack her bags, lace up her shoes and go anywhere in the world, whether or not you date her. She’s comfortable and secure.  However, sometimes she does care. But if she cares, it won’t matter for long- sometimes she travels to escape. Sometimes, she travels because despite what she feels, she KNOWS whatever she will encounter is more important than who she is or is not dating. She cares, and she takes to the internet in the form of:  Date a Girl Who Travels    and      Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels  . The royal She- we take to the internet in masses because we care.

 

 

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Hickory, Dickory, Dock. Laila and an Astronomical Clock. Prague, Czech Republic

 

 

My first thought while reading these very well written and inspiring pieces are that they are both written for women by women. The feminine nuance and perspective dominate the writing. Specifically, these are women who care, which is what unites these two posts. They are also united by the grand assumption to claim “I know what boys like“. Personally, I’m skeptical of men. I don’t know what they like, all I know is- its not me. These two pieces make a lot of assumptions. The values described in Date a Girl Who Travels appeal to me more. I hope those are things men value: patience, understanding, appreciation for beauty, valuing the simple things, optimism, sincerity, humility and interest in people. These are things I value and I hope that I gain while I am travelling. On the other hand, Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels has a slightly different idea of what men want. The tone pits us against men, suggesting they are materialistic, chauvinistic, and somewhat self centered. By being a girl who travels, you relieve yourself of the burden of dealing with mundane, uninteresting men, which is great. The tone shifts slightly towards the end when the post exclaims “So never date a girl who travels unless you can keep up with her.” I rather agree with this final point.

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Laila in the Bavarian Alps. South Germany

The relationship between dating and travelling is very interesting on its own. These two posts assume different definitions of “dating”. You can be casually dating, seriously dating, married dating? I find travelling becomes intertwined with getting to know someone because we all have different attitudes about travelling, and often our true selves are revealed when we do travel. I have never met someone who claimed to not like travelling. Perusing online dating profiles, most people emphasize their interest to travel- because travelling is exciting and new and people are drawn to people who are exciting and new. People like to post pictures of themselves around the world. It seems almost like a competition to showcase how interesting you are. Travelling is impressive to some people. It can be intimidating. When it comes to whether or not you can date a girl who travels, I’d ask- can you handle being intimidated? I consider myself, to a degree, to be a ‘traveler’. I’d want to tell someone this: You can look at a lot of pictures and listen to all my stories- but you really have no idea what I’m capable of until you get to know me. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

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Laila and the Three Wise Men, Cairo Egypt

Travelling is somehow fundamentally attractive. It’s like claiming you exercise and are really fit. Who doesn’t want to look attractive? Some douche bags are fit, and some douche bags travel…. but it’s all about appearances. Reality is: there’s a difference between desiring to travel and physically packing your bag and going. Much like the levels of dating- there are levels of travelling. Do you dream about travelling, but can never quite make a trip happen? Do you travel alone? How far do you travel? Do you make friends on the road? When you get the chance to travel, do you go for it, or stay home instead? Travelling takes up a lot of your time and can take up a lot of your money- much like dating. They’re both commitments.

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Laila and a Lion! Alexandria Egypt 

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Laila and a meteor crater! On the road from West Texas to outer space.

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Being a hooligan in Barcelona, Spain

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Backstreet Cultural Museum, New Orleans

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Celebrating with the locals on Qatari National Day, Doha

 

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Galley Wars: Unless the Chef’s Special is a Burrito….

As mentioned, I get special treatment on this rig. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and most notably, very unprofessional. The  real segregation between laypeople and VIP’s takes place in the galley. It is the after school play ground, where the rules don’t apply and you can be as mean and racist as you please. No teachers, no professional courtesy, no humanity. 

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This rig is small.The galley contains three long tables, and three small square tables. One of the long tables has a place mat and silverware laid out already at each chair. The commoners must get their own napkins and forks. I don’t sit at the VIP table, but opt to sit with my crew at the Filipino table. Each table is unofficially divided by race. The Filipinos have a table. The Indians have another table, and the Arabs have their own table.  The galley has a set menu for each meal. They lay out the food and everyone serves themselves. Except for one special dish, which they keep in the back and only offer to the VIP’s. I had no idea this is what was happening. I assumed that there was not enough space for all the food, and one dish is just kept in the back and was offered to everyone.

Usually, I come into the galley and go through the line. After I have served myself, one of the galley hands will lean over to me and say “We have Arabic chicken, ma’am”. I look down at my plate which is already full of food. “Uh, no thanks.” This keeps happening… “We have Arabic duck. ma’am”…. “We have grilled fish, ma’am.” Occasionally I take some if it sounds appetizing. I never turn down “Arabic spaghetti, ma’am”  Most of the VIP food is described by the little Indian cook as “Arabic”, though the foods are not specifically Arabic. For example, spaghetti is in no way an Arabic food. It’s just normal spaghetti! I realize one day, that not everyone gets to eat these special foods, and I am in the VIP category. I also realize, most of the VIPs are Arab, and of course the one token Scottish man.

While sitting with my crew, the head cook comes up to my table. “Hello. Where are you from?”

“USA”

“Oh, I thought you were Egyptian with Mexican Nationality. But you’re American nationality.” This explains why he tried to speak to me in Spanish earlier…. “Anyway, I’m the chef. If you want anything special, just let me know and I will make it for you. Do you like the food? I have special beef in the back.”

I say “no thanks” the the special beef and ask for chocolate milk. I hustle him for a 6 pack, which I later polish off in 20 minutes in my bed while watching Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated, because that’s what VIP’s do! 

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Back to the story…. What am I eating instead of the chef’s special beef?

Today the menu had “Chicken Mexican”. It hardly resembles fajita slices with some salsa, black beans and bell peppers, but I try to eat it anyway. In the corner of the galley behind the Indian’s table, there is a little rice cooker used to keep the naan warm. I feel like I’m crossing their turf as I squeeze by the man who chooses to sit directly in front of it. Rig naan is not like actual naan. It stays warm and soft for only a minute, and is rather flat. It actually resembles more closely a tortilla. I add some corn and onion from the salad bar, soft cheese from the fridge, and some spicy pickled Indian spread to the Chicken Mexican and create a burrito. My Filipino crew watches intently as the burrito is assembled. 

“Laila…… what are you doing?”

“I’m trying to make this ‘Chicken Mexican’ into a respectable Mexican meal!”

“Ohhh.” They turn to each other “It’s a modification!”  (In our line of work, different tools or equipment often call for technical ‘modifications’)

It’s no certified VIP meal, but a makeshift burrito beats the hell out of any chef’s special. …. unless the chef’s special is also a burrito.

Jump Like it’s 1997

Every morning I wake and take myself up to the helipad with jump rope and iPod in hand. My legs shake as the extent of their flexibility is surpassed in this morning’s stretch. For three days now, I have been standing on the edge of this platform suspended above the sea. There I look out over the ocean at the birds attacking the jumping fish where the ocean meets the sky. I imagine myself on an island cliff. I am alone with my thoughts, queen of everything the light touches. The key to sustaining the fantasy is never turn around. If I turn around, I see the rig behind me. 

My workout contains 4 cycles. Each cycle lasts 10 to 15 minutes. This is a model of the helipad shape, for your reference: 

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  1. Jump rope until I’m tired and don’t want to anymore. 
  2. Walking stretches for half the helipad circle and jog the other half. This includes lunges, high knees, butt-kicks, high kicks, and swinging my knees in and out.
  3. 200 crunches of varying positions.
  4. Jog 5 laps around the helipad.
  5. 10 Burpees and 20 Mountain climbers
  6. 4 Yo-Yo runs up and down the helideck. Using the yellow edges of the circle and white H for pivot points.
  7. On the last cycle, I will pick the jump rope up once more to wrap up the session.

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The essence of the workout is the jump rope. It’s so simple, yet so challenging. Its use is also very versatile and subject to your skill. After each cycle, jumping rope become increasingly difficult. I wait for a new song to come on my playlist.  I find myself jumping slowly, speeding up for the chorus and reserving rope tricks as a “finale” to the song or at other intense moments. It’s my own mini concert, choreographed with the most loyal of dance partners. 

As a kid, I was involved in the jump rope team at Highland Village Elementary. It was the first of many extra-curricular events I got passionate about. My first year to participate was the third grade. You may remember what an important year third grade was for me, as is detailed in this post. Jump rope was amazing. I remember my first year we did two routines. An army of children wearing sunglasses jumped rope to the theme song Men In Black by Will Smith. And the third graders jumped to Wannabe by the Spice Girls. I also looked forward every year to Jump Rope for Heart. We raised money, jumped rope a whole hour in PE, and decorated hearts, which I always dedicated to my late grandfather who suffered from heart disease and died in 1972 from a heart attack. As a young child with very little understanding of the world, I knew that Jump Rope for Heart wasn’t just fun (and it was,VERY fun), but it was one of the first things I did that I felt was close or important to me. I’d jump rope with every thing my little body could muster. I practiced at home in the driveway. I took my jump rope on vacation and practiced when I was bored. My mom would watch me and challenge me to do the double-unders which seemed impossible to me.

On the helideck, I jump looking out over the water. I skip from side to side as the choreography for my show dictates. I do several counts in “Around the Globe” trick, which is basically holding the rope vertically and jumping through sideways. I jump like it’s 1997. I jump quickly and do criss-crosses and build up momentum to the finale, I do a few double-unders for mom. 

Sophia and the Girls

I spent twelve days on this rig contemplating what have I done in my lifetime to end up here, at this moment, and all the surrounding moments making up my twelve day existence on Al Doha rig. Then, I went to work for 6 glorious hours. After completing my labors, I headed inside to my room. A guy stopped me on the stairs.

guy: Hello. Are you Egyptian? 

Laila: Well.. yes. I’m American, but my family is Egyptian.

We then exchanged names. His was “ass-hat”

Ass-hat: I’ve wanted to talk to you, but you look like you’re ready to back-hand everyone who talks to you.

Laila: Yeah, I’m at my job. I don’t mean to be cold, but I’m here to work and feel really uncomfortable when people try to give me special treatment.

A-H: Oh. Give me that bag. Don’t carry that up the stairs.

Laila: This is exactly the shit I’m talking about. This makes me uncomfortable. Please do not carry any of my things.

A-H: Okay. Can I ask you one question?

Laila: ….ok. *turns and starts walking up the stairs*

A-H: *follows Laila up the stairs* Are you married?

Laila: No

A-H: Can I ask you two questions?

Laila: …ok

A-H: Are you engaged?

Laila: No

A-H: Can I ask you three questions? Is it appropriate, or inappropriate? 

Laila:… sure *I’m thinking…;. If you have to ask…this is inappropriate. It’s also why I look like I want to backhand every one of you.*

A-H: Can I have your phone number?

Laila: hahahahahahahahahaha…. No

Ass-hat: I’m sorry. *walks away*

 I felt badly that he apologized, as if I had embarrassed him. I quickly realized that he’s apologizing because he knew he was out of line and I explicitly told him how uncomfortable I am on rigs when people don’t treat me like I’m at my job. I don’t feel badly any more. 

So concluded episode one, and the Whataberger crew was released from the rig! I did everything my heart desired in the 48 hour period before returning here, again. 

What did my heart desire?:

  • A Red Lobster feast, where I sat alone in a booth stuffing my face with shrimp scampi, lobster tail, crab legs, lobster bisque, cheese biscuits, and lobster and shrimp macaroni and cheese, followed by some mellow tea drinking and journal writing.
  • Bath time. Lately, I take baths. This time, I added tea candles into my bath, which is already fragrant and full of glitter, from my LUSH bath bomb.
  • Mild indoor exercise. After nearly two weeks of extremely minimal movements, I started a little workout routine inside my room.
  • Office. Two weeks in the field means I’ve missed a lot of office duties. Time to catch up. My manager says to me, “If anyone asks, you were on ‘days off’ today.”… Great. 
  • Laundry. I can wash whatever I please without the anxiety of having my underwears stolen. I ended up just washing everything in my offshore bag. No time to get to my other laundry.
  • Shooting range with my buddy! One very sore and bruised shoulder, and 75 shot gun shells later, I’m ready to take on the world again.
  • Food with my buddy! Four appetizers, a Space Jam rant and NFL team personal ranking debate later, and its time for Laila to go to bed.

Now I’m back offshore, but this time prepared for the boredom. I decided “to hell with the creepy people on the rig. If I want to jump rope and run around on the helipad, then that’s what I’ll do.” I packed my kindle, jump rope, and art supplies. 

Most importantly, I’m excited to spend some more quality time watching the Golden Girls on YouTube. Please check out this blog. I had intended for this post to be my reflection on a clever, healthy, positive, and all around hilarious television series. Alas, Sophia and the Girls will be another post for another day. Rest assured, dear readers, my current status is: still offshore, but enjoying the company of four really awesome ladies.

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Fearless Years and Untainted Spirit

Just as people enter your life briefly and are gone again, people enter this world, only to depart a short while after. This post is dedicated to someone who lived his life to the fullest, and through his enthusiasm and charisma, encouraged all those he encountered to do the same.

I recently learned of Drew’s tragic death through an announcement his father made on his Facebook Page. I was shocked to hear someone with such a gift for making people smile could be suffering inside. I wonder for how long Drew was suffering. For how long did we not know?

Drew and I first met during the 2008 Super Bowl in Phoenix Arizona where the New York Giants played the New England Patriots. We were part of the Arab Student Association group who volunteered to be in the crowd who rushes the field during Tom Petty’s half time show. We attended a couple rehearsals, and then the actual Super Bowl. While on television, it looks like a crowd spontaneously ambushes the stage. Factually, this madness is highly choreographed. We are assigned “pods” and given a territory we were allowed to rush. We belonged to pod P. We started a rivalry with the other pods, making up chants and freestyle raps.

ImageAbove, the hard core members of Pod P sit and wait for our queue to rush the stage. You can see Drew dressed up as a “Patriot”. He rented that costume just for the Super Bowl. Once day while driving to the stadium for practice, we encountered some construction and what seemed like never ending traffic. Drew flipped the car around through the construction zone to get to another route. As we all made dramatic faces and braced ourselves on the car seats, he pledged with certainty, “You only live once! This is the Super Bowl!” We giggled like school girls.

His spirit was infectious. The life of any gathering. Drew told funny stories, he laughed when your stories weren’t funny. He made friends quickly. He was brave. He taught me so many beautiful things just through his example. One day, Drew told me he was moving to Germany.

“Why are you moving to Germany?” I asked very curiously.

“I am tired of my job. I want to move out of the US.” He said as though he had thought long and hard about this.

“Do you have a job lined up in Germany? Why there?”

“Well… I closed my eyes, spun a globe, and my finger landed on Germany. I’ll get things figured out when I get there.”

This spontaneity frightened me. I’ve always considered myself to be carefree and not bound by any rules, but this was just madness. Move to a new country with no job? No friends? No plan? Drew talked about it like this was just what you’re supposed to do with your life. Change your scenery, be bold, follow your wild hair impulses, fear not.

“I need to say goodbye. Is there something you want to do in Arizona but haven’t gotten to do yet?” Drew asked me to pick anything at all. It was the day before starting classes of my junior year at Arizona State.

“Well….. not really. I haven’t been to the Grand Canyon. That’s something I want to do.”

Drew jumped at the idea. “Great! Let’s see… I have work this afternoon. Do you have class tomorrow?”

“My first class is at 2pm.”

“We can leave tonight. Drive all night and get to the Grand Canyon just before sunrise. We can make it back before you class.”

This seemed like a total wild hair idea, but no more crazy than quitting your job and moving across the world. “Alright. Let me know when you’re off work. I’m ready when you are!”

That’s how I got to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. We stopped in Flagstaff at a Denny’s on the way and shared pancakes and lots of stories. Drew told me about his stint in University as a radio DJ, DJ NoSkills, the DJ with no skills. The sky was lit up with stars as we headed further north, away from any city lights. I hung my head out the window and stared into the night. It was much colder than I expected at dawn when we reached the Grand Canyon. In the dark, we found a spot to sit and talk while waiting for the sun to come up. The pitch black started to fade, gradually. I could make out lines in the distance.

“I’ll just leave you alone to take it all in.” Drew said and backed away, leaving me with the  hazy scenery. The layers of the canyon revealed themselves in stages- as the sun game up to show nothing but morning dew lurking in the rift like a cloud below the ground. The mist faded, the sun grew higher.

ImageWe did make it back in time for my first class of the semester. I don’t remember what class it was. I don’t really remember any of my classes that semester. I do remember discovering that feeling- that nothing on this earth can hold me back. If I want to drive all night to see something amazing, I should do it. No regrets.

Drew moved to Germany, just like he said. After a while there, he moved to Cairo. He had studied abroad there and loved Egypt; he decided Egypt is where he wanted to be. We kept in touch sparingly, just facebook greetings every now and then. He had several jobs there, and seemed quite happy. He got to know my family in Egypt. During the January 2011 revolution, Drew was there and sent me emails about how he was doing and assured me my family was safe. It was clear, Drew was living in turmoil, but his passion and connection to the people kept him in Egypt.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon his facebook page. I learned he had a suspected mental health problem. In October, he fled to UAE, and hanged himself. This news knocked the wind out of me. The thought of such a precious and lively soul feeling tormented to this degree is unfathomable.The mind is a very powerful thing. It is one of the world’s great mysteries to me.  My heart bleeds for Drew’s family and his friends.

The death of a younger person is always tough to swallow. “They had their whole lives ahead of them.” is how the saying goes. I feel saddened most by the paradox. I tried to Google search about Drew to learn more about his recent activities, maybe see his online footprint, or a news article about his death. I only found stories pertaining to a different Drew, one who left behind a wife and kids in Michigan. When young people pass, their families, communities, and friends mourn, but they leave nothing behind. No trace on the internet, no wife, children or legacy.

Their legacy is anecdotes of youth- their fearless years and untainted spirit.

Just to Pass the Time

This rig is limited with activity. Since my initial positive encounters with the company man, I’ve since elected to avoid him. I rewrote his son’s resume, and helped him apply to jobs. Every time he sees me, he asks me whether or not I’ve eaten. He never believes me, and asks two or three times if I’ve eaten. Are you sure, he asks further. Then he’ll ask what I ate. I‘m a grown person. I’m at my job. I didn’t get here by not knowing how to feed myself. Of course, I have to stop by his office once a day just to find out what the status is on the rig and if there’s any idea when we’ll get to work. Standby time can be fun, if the rig is well equipped with activities. This rig is not. There is a “gym”. This space is a clear container placed beneath the heli-deck with a set of weights. I hardly will subject myself to working out in a see through room. People can barely walk up stairs or open doors when they see me on the rig, see this post.  The company man will ask me where I’ve been or what I’m doing. Its a rig… where would I go? What could I possibly be doing? Absolutely nothing.

The absolutely nothing consists of the following. Let’s walk through a day in the standby life, as told by Laila. 

The day begins during the night, when I wake up invariably to aching back pains. My pillow smells faintly of smoke. I switch positions, but the stiffness in my back has just become a part of my body now. I bend at the hips, tuck my knees to my chest and attempt to stretch out the plank of wood which has replaced my dorsal muscles. This attempt is useless. I roll over on my back and flip through the four English channels on the TV. I’m not much for cooking shows or soap operas, so I keep the TV on Boomerang and watch Scooby Doo as I fall back asleep. It is of course a very light sleep, for after 12 hours of laying in bed, my body really can not sleep any more. I become very thirsty. I know there are water bottles in the company mans office two doors down the hall. It is 3 AM. Maybe he is asleep. Maybe I can sneak the 5 yards down the hall without getting dressed or being seen. I put on my shoes, open the door, poke my head out into the hallway. The coast is clear. Slowly, I move down the hall, careful not to let my sneakers squeak. I reach his doorway, lean my head forward to see his office chair is empty. I jump quickly to the box of water and collect two more bottles, enough to hold me over until I see the galley again.

Now it is an acceptable time to wake up, say 6 o’clock in the morning. If I wake now, I can have breakfast, get dressed, and go to the company man’s morning meeting. As I’m probably burning minimal calories in this vegetative state, I elect to stay in bed and forgo both breakfast and the meeting. I am in no mood to be quizzed on my activities anyhow. The TV is experiencing intermittent signal, so Scooby and the Gang are put on mute. I switch media intake to my laptop, where I watch old sitcoms for the next few hours and punish my body to stay in bed longer and maybe snooze through a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

It is now 9 am, or as I like to keep time, it is now T-2 hours until lunch time. This is an acceptable time to wake up. It is time to take a shower. I rummage through my offshore bag to find that if I go on rations, I can make it 4 more days without having to do laundry. Rations are pretty desperate and risk my personal hygiene. While the rig is dirty, and I’m sure taking a shower is actually less sanitary than just re-wearing my underwear for 2 more days, I decide that the shower will fill my time and maybe is not such a bad idea. I fill my laundry basket with a weeks worth of dirty underwear, my smokey pajamas, and toss the bag into the hallway. Climbing into the rusty smelly shower, I think I hope the laundry guys don’t take my underwear. I finish the shower quickly, but stay under the water for an extra five minutes, just to pass the time. When on stand by, I find myself doing everything very slowly…. just to pass the time. After the shower, I move myself outside, to my little offshore office, the logging unit. Here, I have internet. The YouTube takes 10 minutes to buffer and queue each song. I choose my playlist carefully, selecting the specific songs I would like to hear over my two hour internet session before I will break for lunch. Songs include Rita Ora’s cover of Somebody That I Used to Know, some 90’s country, Feds Watching and Where Have All the Cowboys Gone.  I peruse the internet and read both cool and dumb articles alike. In this state of boredom, one can’t be picky. Whatever loads quickest is what I will read. I think about my next vacation and research some ideas. I stumble upon this website and decide I should probably join this group in Thailand. I send them some emails inquiring about taking a PADI dive course during my trip. Seems feasible. I count my vacation balance until I can leave again.

I download a movie player on my Google phone (phones are totally illegal offshore here. It has been snuck offshore tucked into my pants). I download the Despicable Me movies and save them to my phone. It is now lunchtime. I go to my room first to change my safety boots to sneakers. I check the TV guide to see what is coming up in the next couple hours. Sometimes the TV will be playing a sitcom, like According to Jim, New Girl, or Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. I will carve out some time in my busy day to sit in my bed and watch these shows. Sometimes there will be a move playing like X-Men: First Class, X-Men: The Last Stand, or Taken.  I eat lunch, slowly, to pass the time, and go sit in my bed for a couple hours to watch the afternoon programming. Maybe I will force myself to sleep. After a nap, its time to face the company man and find out how many more days of captivity to expect. He asks of course where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. He asks when I will come apply for more jobs on behalf of his 27 year old son. He thanks me for doing the first applications. He tells me that if his son gets a job, he will marry his son to me. I try to evade these awkward statements and just focus on the task at hand. “Thats not necessary…. so what’s the status on the rig?” At least three more days of this standby is the verdict.

It is now time to move into the evening entertainment. I may or may not indulge in dinner on the rig. I go back outside to the internet. By this time, my friends in North America are awake. I chat with my mom. I read more articles. Eventually, it is late enough for me to go back to bed. I pack my things and go back to my room. If nothing is on TV, I’ll switch media and watch Despicable Me on my phone. Eventually, I drift off to sleep watching an Australian cooking show. The next day begins throughout the night.

Stranded in the Living Room

My stay on thus far Al-Doha has been uneventful, as standby time can often be. I am blessed with a television in my accommodations, as well as a private bathroom. I try to use it sparingly, as the aroma suggests the walls may be plague-ridden.

I mentioned the company man in the previous post, Acid in the Body. After our initial introductory meeting, I got settled on the rig and returned to see him in the evening to ask more questions about the upcoming job. He sat in his evening galabaya, which I basically will describe as a nightgown, drinking tea with cloves.
King in Nightgown

He began to speak of some of my co workers with very high praise. I’ve always thought you can tell a lot from a person by the way they speak about other people. He asked the office boy to bring another glass with tea and cloves. I sat with the company man drinking tea and chatting.
“Did Jacob tell you about me? That you’d come to the rig and find the company man drinking tea in a galabaya?”
“No. He didn’t say anything.”
“Write down his phone number. We’re going to call him. But you don’t say anything at first.”
The company man proceeded to prank call my co worker on speaker phone.
Following the phone call, he asked me about my family. Where in Egypt they were from, and how long they’ve been in the United States.
“And your father, what does he do for a living?”
“He coaches soccer.”
“He must be a Zamalek fan, then.”
Zamalek
This comment took my by surprise, because my father IS a Zamalek fan, but I always got the impression he was the only one. “He is, actually. How did you know!!?”
“Anyone who knows anything about soccer is a Zamalek supporter. Write down his phone number.”
“He’s in the USA. Can this phone dial out?”
The company man grinned mischievously, “I will bill you when you leave.” I wrote down my dad’s number on the paper, and just as the first phone call, the company man dialed, looked at me and said, “You stay quiet at first.”

I was no longer in the company man’s office, but maybe the living room of a family friend. The company man called my dad, told him I was on the rig and would be there for about a week. They talked about soccer together and players they admired. Then the company man handed the phone to me. After the phone call, I thanked the company man. “For what?” he replied, “We’re going to call him again! This is a son of the land.” (This expression is similar to ‘salt of the earth’ in English. I really am not sure how to directly translate its meaning, but land would be referring to Egypt, or the common land they are from.) The company man proceeded to walk me around the rig and introduce me to the OIM, Driller, Radio Operator, etc. He would say “This is Laila. She is my/our daughter. She is from Egypt.”

After the tour, I sat in his office while he called all the other Arab service hands into his office. A little congregation, we sat talking casually about the oilfield and our experiences or ideas about oil rigs in other places in the world. I told them about the drillships in the Gulf of Mexico. They were curious to know how large the rig was, how much it costs, and how deep the well is. Truthfully, these drillships float in water deeper than most wells.
“In America, do they like the Chinese?” The company man asked this heavy hitting question with the utmost casualty, as if he had asked how often does it rain. I laughed at the absurdity of the question, but recognized its political and cultural significance and tried to answer as honestly and correctly as possible.
“In America, its not allowed to not like a particular nationality or group of people. But the Chinese have been in America for a while, so we’re used to them. It’s the recent immigrant groups that may have a harder time. But we like the Chinese.”
“Yeah, they have China-town in every city!” The Algerian hand from Weatherford added in his perspective.