Divine Intervention

Way out here, people can be nosy. Complete strangers will get all up in your business. It’s awkward, it’s uncomfortable, but when it happens to your friends, its entirely hilarious.

I must now introduce a new character to the rigtales. She’s English. She’s red headed. Her name is Ginny Weasley. We watch TV shows and movie marathons together. We’re roommates. Sometimes we go to the beach while enjoying sweet, sweet standby in the desert. After a formal discussion and agreement, we decided to be best friends. So far, it’s going great. 

Image

As two females in the field, we garner a lot of unwanted attention. As the only two females, we support each other and are able to laugh at some frustrating encounters. The other day, Ginny was at the rig while I was at Subway. 

My experience at Subway went something like this:

I ask the Subway Sandwich Maker for a 6″ Oregano bread sandwich. SSM asks me what “jersey” I am wearing (see above ASU apparel). I answer, “It’s from where I went to University.” … “Where are you from?” After a full year here, I have finally learned that ‘where are you from’ is the first in a series of questions which eventually leads to, ‘May I have your phone number’ or ‘Can you send me Whatsapp.’ I’m still fine tuning my defense tactics, but I’m finding ways to eliminate this aggressive progression. I answer, “USA. I’d like turkey and white cheese.” SSM then proceeds to fold the turkey neatly on my sandwich. After I decline his offer for double-meat, he hands me an extra piece of deli meat over the counter to snack on while he makes the rest of my sandwich.”How old are you?”…”25″….. “Are you married?” ….”Yes.” SSM proceeds to make my sandwich in silence. 

While I sit out of SSM’s eyesight, I send Ginny a message telling her about my awkward Subway experience. Lo and behold, she has a one up: I just got given a ‘present’ by the policeman. A religious book.

 

Image

I find the unprompted distribution of religious propaganda at the very least inappropriate. To single out the one white girl amid a sea of Arabs and hand her a book on creation is inconsiderate. I won’t mention how unprofessional and unacceptable this should be in the workplace, but most people here simply brush it off as  “cultural differences.” As a little brown girl growing up in the Bible belt- I compare this to some of my experiences. No matter, Ginny and I laugh about it. We talk about missionary work and the philosophy behind singing in Church. Religious rhetoric is an appeal to your primal emotions.

Image

Without looking at the left side publishing information, the table of contents looks like any religious propaganda I’ve ever received. I ask Ginny if I may keep the book. Spoils of war. A reminder of how we try to prove our differences, but always through similar methods. Are we human or are we dancer?

Advertisements

I Don’t Actually Work Here

In the fall of 2007, my dad moved me to college. We spent a lot of time shopping for things to get me started my first semester. One day, I wore khaki shorts and a navy T shirt to Wal-Mart. For those of you unfamiliar, a gaggle of Wal-Mart workers looks something like this:

I don't work at Wal Mart

I don’t work at Wal Mart

As my father, sister and myself perused the aisles picking out essential items to get me through the next four years (like my Spider-Man plate set), a woman approached me asking for help finding a particular item. After a moment of disorder, I noticed I had come to Wal-Mart dressed like a common employee. “Oh! I don’t work here.” I explained while my dad and sister pointed and laughed at my clothing. The woman looked confused, gestured down the aisle to my suspected co-worker and said “She just told me to come ask you!”

If I knew then what I know now……

Frequently, my posse and I will indulge in swanky Friday brunches in the 5-star hotels in Doha. In a past life, these fancy all-you-can-eat affairs would not waste my time on a weekend. However, when in Doha on a Friday, put on a sundress, go to the buffet, and do as the expats do. The wait staff at these brunches dress in swanky color coordinated vests and bowties. They pour bottomless 7-up, champagne, orange juice or whatever else you fancy. In theory.

I don't work at this brunch

I don’t work at this brunch

In reality, when you ask one of these servers for a cup with ice cubes or an extra fork or a cup of tea, they straight up panic. Eyes widen, darting nervously from side to side. It’s as if they accidentally wore a vest and tie to brunch. Occasionally, the waiter will muster an apprehensive “okay” before scattering and sending another co-worker to do the duty. Most often, they shrug or stutter, and emphatically state with their body language, “I don’t actually work here.”

This has become the catchphrase of the year. Say it with me:
I don’t actually work here.

These five words are the essence to understanding service culture here in Qatar. When most people are asked something directly pertaining to their job, they either are feigning ignorance, do not have the communication skills to carry out the duties of their job, or really are just ignorant to what they’re doing. A few examples:

The lobby of my building recently installed a display fridge with pastries and ready-made sandwhiches. One day, a red substance in a container caught my eye. I stopped to ask the man at the counter, “Excuse me, what is that?” His hands shook as he inspected the package. After a few moments of silence, I asked “Do you know what it is?”…..”No.” Great. How are you selling something which you probably packaged yourself if you don’t know what it is? <<I don’t actually work here

All too often, the computer system is down in my building and my key card does not work to open my bedroom. This results in a frustrated Laila descending 23 floors back to the lobby to have someone escort me with a master key to let me in. On one such occasion, I asked they key keeper, “When the computer system is working again, do I need to come to the desk to reprogram my key?”…..”I will ask, ma’am.”…..”How will you let me know?”…..”umm…. I don’t know, ma’am.” <<>> I don’t actually work here.

When I go to rigs, the company man is my point of contact for most questions. I ask him things about details in the job scope or program, the current well activity, the well schematic, or even just the well name. The common company man’s response is something of a series of irrelevant remarks which segway into a monologue about my heritage, his glory days, American-Chinese relations, Egyptian politics, or how he doesn’t like the driller’s accent. On one such occasion, the company man responded with “I don’t do logistics” when asking for a request to send more equipment to the rig. (Nothing is sent to or from the rig without his approval.) Translation >>> I don’t actually work here.

While this cultural quirk can be quite frustrating, the aforementioned posse and I have turned it into a sense of humor. We often answer questions to each other by acting surprised, gesturing to our clothes as if we mistakenly dressed as oilfield workers and say…
I don’t actually work here.

I don't actually work here

The Rude and the Restless

In the morning, I called the company representative to see the timing of my job. He was not interested in speaking to me about the work. The conversation went something like this:After a week offshore driving tractors, we come back out to the desert. My&nbsp;Thursday was another atypical day in the oilfield. I am assigned a job which is contingency, and may be cancelled depending on the rig.

Laila: Hello, This is Laila with Whataberger Wireline. I know we have a job possibly later today. I wanted to know what the status is on the rig and an idea of timing for the day.

Mr. Rude: Hello. Please be here at 10 o clock. (It’s currently 8am.)

Laila: Okay, we do have to send explosives, and that will take some time to mobilize. I will call you though when we are on the way. What is the current status on the rig.

Mr. Rude: Laila, Where are you from?

Laila: *here we go again*&nbsp; I am from the USA.

Mr. Rude: Where are you originally from?

No one accepts that I am from the USA. Never.

Laila: I was born and raised in the USA.

Mr. Rude: Where are your parents from? Laila is an Arabic name.

Laila: Egypt

Mr. Rude: Ah- see!! Laila, do you speak Arabic.

Laila: I prefer to speak English.

Mr. Rude: But do you know any Arabic.

Laila: I’m at work, I prefer to speak English. I’ll call you when we’re on the way to the rig to get another update. Thanks.

I can tell I do not like this man. Anyone who is more concerned with what language you speak than the work you’re hired to do is not someone I enjoy working with. They are rude, condescending, and often times very elitist. Sadly, I hate speaking Arabic at work for this reason- they think I am one of them and it prompts them to become even more unprofessional.

 

 

 

 

After this conversation, I go to work, prepare my things and my crew, and leave to the rig about 1 pm. The company man calls me, saying he’s disappointed we were not on the rig at 10am, though they were still not ready. He told me not to worry, and the rig would stall if we were late. We get to the rig around 3 pm. I go to speak to the company man again about our possible job. He seems very rushed to get our equipment set up, though the rig is no where near ready. He snaps his fingers while gesturing for me to do things. I stare blankly and ask, “I’m sorry, did you just snap your fingers at me?” I’m not a fan of this man.

 

 After getting some details, I write my phone number on his white board. He starts speaking to the other three men in the room in Arabic.

Mr. Rude: Poor Laila. She is Egyptian, but she does not know any Arabic. Her mom and dad did not teach her one word of Arabic.

Laila: *in Arabic* “Not a single word.”

He insists we need to stay on the rig. I insist that its harmless if we return to our accommodations to fetch a couple pieces of equipment and have a meal before returning. He reluctantly agrees. Two hours later, we arrive on the rig to see they have made no progress. We stay for about 5 hours preparing equipment and waiting. We tell them we will leave again to sleep in our accommodations. I’m exhausted at this point- having been working, driving and&nbsp;standing around&nbsp;in the desert for twelve hours.

Sixteen hours have gone by and the rig is still not ready.