This Moment Is Mine

The clock reads 4:22 AM and I feel dizzy as I get out of bed to silence the alarm. I gather my clothes from the dryer where they have been sitting all night and pick out a couple items to stuff into my packed bag. It’s now 5:00 AM and time to get on the road. The grass excretes water onto the edge of my jeans with each step I take. It’s wet, it’s early, and I’m cold. Mom waves goodbye and I take off into the darkness. I fill up my gas tank for $20 in the next town.

It feels like the first time I’m driving in the dark. It feels like the first time I’m driving in the rain. My car and I stay in the right lane driving under the speed limit. I fumble adjusting the windshield wiper, as if it’s my first time. The rain comes down harder towards me. In the dark, it looks like white streaks, splashing on the windshield. A giddy cry escapes my mouth. I’m all alone, in the dark, on the highway, marveling at the rain- like an alien seeing earth’s weather for the first time. It’s magical and the moment is all mine.

The clouds take a rest from rain. The landscape is dimly lit and filtered by gray clouds. I’m slowing down to drive through small towns between the miles of flat green pastures. I see a donut shop off the side of the road and pull myself over for a treat. “That’s 75 cents” says the man handing me a bag with one glazed donut. I give him a dollar and get back on the road. The donut is fluffy.

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My dad made me 6 MP3 discs to listen to on my drive. I’m singing along to the second variety mix as I cruise alongside train tracks. Hundreds of cattle graze to my right and left. Some force in my stomach pushes up onto my chest and my eyes water in response. I’m a tourist at home, ogling at cattle like its my first time. I even pull over to take their picture.

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This moment is mine. I sing along to Alabama’s¬†Song of the South and stretch out my right arm to pretend I’m flying. Its silly and its personal, but I cried at the sight of cattle. How do you know you’ve been gone too long? That’s how….

The scenery gets more beautiful as I head north west through Amarillo. I make a road trip stop at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum. For $6, I learn about the breeding history, lung capacity, color possibilities and ranching of American Quarter Horses.

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I drive for another hour and stop for lunch in a little town in New Mexico- Clayton. A sign reading “Food and Drinks” lures me to park on the main street and pop inside. It is a historic quaint hotel dining room. I eat one chile relleno before getting back on the road.

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The clouds begin to part, revealing cracks of blue skies. It’s the most beautiful color I’ve ever seen. I pass by a series of towns with large feed mills.

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I pull over to snap some pictures and keep driving through New Mexico. I gasp at the sight of mountains and the picturesque sky. I gasp.

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I continue into Colorado and only stop once for gas and once at a scenic lookout spot marked off the highway in the mountains. The air is thin and crisp. I step out of my car and snap a couple more pictures.

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After more than 12 hours of emotional scenery and driving, I arrived in Denver, where Lynn is now living and working. You may remember Lynn from my early posts in Houma in 2012. I’m with my mentor and dear friend. We will ride bikes and explore Denver. Currently, we’re sitting in a coffee shop that’s playing Third Eye Blind over the speakers. I savor my breakfast burrito. This moment is mine.

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Book Three

RoadTrip

Gas prices are down, so I’m going to drive. I’m going to drive myself to all the places I love and some that I’ve never been. I’ll pack my RAV4 and get on the road. I’m coming home because two days ago, my world finally caught up to my level and turned itself upside down.

It’s no surprise. It’s no heartbreak. It’s only good. For the last year or more, I’ve been fantasizing and deliberating. I’ve been stewing in thought between bouts of vacations and adventures. I’ve thought things like, How many years of my life is this stress taking off? and I straight up don’t want to do this anymore. I’ve used my company computer to look up vacations and travels and graduate schools and even other jobs. I’ve used the ladies bathroom at work to take extended mid-day naps to compensate for staying out all night with my friends.

For those who don’t know me well, I’m indecisive. If you haven’t had the privilege of engaging me in a discussion regarding what we can do today, allow me to summarize: We can go to the zoo, or we can take a nap, or we can do anything else. Those are the ONLY options.

Nothing is more relieving for someone like me than for the decision to me made for you. Two days ago, I went to the office. I spent all day studying for my next promotion. At about 4 pm I was summoned upstairs by the Operations Manager. I was guided into a room with the Qatar Geomarket HR manager, the Operations Manager and an HR representative. The following conversation took place, more or less:

OM: Do you know why you’re here?
Me: I have a few ideas.
OM: There’s no easy way to say this, effective today….. your employment with Schlumberger is terminated. It’s nothing personal. I’m sure you know the company is downsizing and the oil and gas market is down, its happening world wide and its happening here. This letter details your benefits…..
Me: May I read it. *I take the letter*
HR Mngr: When the market picks back up, we do call people again, and Schlumberger thanks you for your work the last few years……

I don’t remember exactly what else was said. I left the room holding my letter. I was in shock. I was relieved. I was emotional, but I had no feelings. I called my parents. I sent some emails. I told some friends.

The response from friends and family was overwhelmingly positive. Those who know how I’ve been feeling- are elated. Those who are unsure, gauge the waters and ask if I’m okay and how I’m holding up.

Here’s why I’m sad—- At one point, this job meant the world to me. I’ve been disenchanted and lost a lot of passion. I really believe this is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. By that, I mean I did not enjoy living and working in the Middle East. No surprise ūüėČ

Here’s why I’m happy—- For the first time, I really and truly, can do whatever I want. I have savings. I have compensation coming. I have support from my family. I have everything. I can go home and keep my vow to NEVER return to Doha again. It’s been 15 months since I last was in the USA. I am going to eat all the Chick Fil A and all the Barbecue. I am going to speak English without censoring good grammar and abandoning sentence structure. I am going to read books and eat vegetables. I’m going to spend some quality time with my family.

I appreciate suggestions for things to see on my upcoming adventures. Gas prices are down, and I just lost my oil and gas job. It’s perfect timing- I don’t have to wonder anymore what life is like on the other side.

What will happen to rigtales? I hope you all like to travel. If not, you can look forward to stories about living with my parents. In my opinion, the rigtales are about to get a hell of a lot more interesting.

2014: You Can’t Handle Me

It’s been a rigtale tradition to compile a year end summary highlighting significant events in my life. I started 2014 with no real goals, and a lot of angst. I finished the year with clear goals and peace of mind. So here’s the highly anticipated year end report! Enjoy.¬†

1. In a fit of rage, I kicked and shattered a mirror in the staff house elevator in Doha. I had a meeting with HR about it. It was embarrassing. Soon after, they installed cameras in the elevators of my building.  

2.I got kicked off a rig, and subsequently banned from Qatar Petroleum offshore jobs. [A tremendous blessing.]

3. I boarded over 25 plane flights.

4. I had my passport stamped in 8 different countries.

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5. I visited Robben Island.

6. I got my PADI open water, advanced open water and enriched air diver certifications. 

7. I’ve been SCUBA diving in 3 different countries.¬†

The Fish

8. I spent more than a full calendar year without returning home. 

9. I got a speeding ticket in France, which my father intercepted in the mail. My father intercepts all my post.

10. I had a psychologist. She helped me.

11. I started playing soccer again.

12. I tore a muscle. For the first time. I felt so old. 

13. I went over a full year without hugging or even seeing my parents. It changed me. 

14. I really struggled at work. I also really thrived at work. Sometimes, I didn’t know the difference.¬†

15. I made new friends. 

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16. I approved and signed someone’s promotion.

17. I spotted three grey hairs on my head. I felt so old. 

18. I moved rooms to have roommates. We do roommate things. 

19. I swam on both sides of the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Great Australian Bight

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20. I saw the southern hemisphere for the first and second times.

21. I went to sleep many nights thinking to myself, “My mom is the only person who really understands me.”

22. I held a Koala. It held me back.

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23. I got athletes foot on a rig. I cried from disgust at myself.

24. I won a highly competitive industry challenge with my co workers and teammates. (see maerskoilandqpchallenge.com)

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25. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. I didn’t loose sleep.

26. I let go of not letting go.

27. I ended the year by seeing my parents. I now really know the meaning when “nothing changes”

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Hotshot Mission

I woke up this morning with the sun coming through my window: another typical day in Doha.

On my way to work, I realize I may have forgotten to apply deodorant. I check to verify: yep, forgot to apply deodorant. Also on the way to work, we all notice an overwhelming presence of low flying planes. These are US military planes, getting ready for whatever is going to take place in Syria: not a typical day in Doha.

I went to the base this morning and began working on my assigned project: another typical day in Doha.

Whilst sitting and working diligently, Mighty Mouse came up to my desk;

“What are you working on today?”, MMouse asks very specifically. He already knows what I am working on, so I am curious what he wants from me. “Just the Rowan California load out?” He answers his own question.

“Yes, the load out.” I confirm. “Why?”

“Because I may need you to go to Dubai.”

Trying to conceal my excitement, “When?”

“Now.”…… Not a typical day in Doha

I do no hesitate to change out of my coveralls and into my street clothes, await my booking and get a quick briefing on my mission. In Louisiana, when we needed equipment sent from another district or rushed to the dock to send offshore, we called this a “hotshot”. A hotshot usually consisted of you going to the base, finding something, calling a trucking company, and putting that equipment on a truck. Or, coming to the base, and receiving something off a truck. In Doha, a hotshot is not so simple.

The only land border is with Saudi Arabia. Any equipment needed has to go through customs and a more intensive shipping process. One crew was in desperate need of a piece of equipment to repair something on their job. The nearest available one is in….DUBAI. The easiest way to get it here is…. by plane carried by a passenger…..enter: the passenger. The power of the US passport strikes again. It is likely I was chosen as I seemed to the be the least busy person (this is by design). It is more likely I was chosen because I have a passport likely to cause the least amount of issues.

I go home to get my prized US passport, apply deodorant, and head to the airport. I had about 6 hours in Dubai between flights. This was enough time for me to go to the mall, walk around, buy things, get tired, have lunch with an old friend from college, and get back to the airport in time to meet some guy who handed me a heavy cardboard box with two parts in it.  The Dubai mall is the largest mall I can imagine. While megatropolis cities often have a collection of “everything” in the giant malls, Dubai mall seemed to be in another league. There was every store I had ever seen in any country, all piled into this place. There was even a Rainforest Caf√©. There is a full blown aquarium in this mall. There is a section of the mall called “Shoe Level”, selling only shoes. There was this amazing structure, which is calligraphy and the artists interpretation of the phases of the moon:

All in all, another atypical day in the oilfield.

 

 

To Be A Human Adult

Things that get better with age and my recent encounters with them:

1- Vacations: Children don’t deserve them. I remember going on really great vacations and spending quality time with my family. I remember how much fun it was and have kept pretty much all my souvenirs from those trips. Being a working adult in comparison, vacation is so much sweeter when you’re a human adult.

2- Family: During the vacation previously alluded to, I went to Bahrain to visit my aunt, cousins, and their families. My cousins children are quite young and they were all excited to see me and sit and talk with me like little adults (except for the youngest one, who told me the colorful tale of how I threw her in a trash can, then she climbed out and went to the hospital, then came home and took a shower, then was stranded in the desert then burried alive….). They talked to me about their school and asked me all about my life. They even brought me coffee and tea. I realized: These people think I’m a real human adult. A scary thought, but I’m settling into it.

3- Travelling: I recently passed through the Dubai airport on my vacation. I saw the unaccompanied minors lounge and was reminded of how crappy it is to be trapped in that room while there’s a great big airport just beyond the airline guards. In the summer of 2003, my sister and I went to Egypt together flying KLM airlines. I was 14, and she was 15. Per KLM policy an unaccompanied minor is 14 or younger. An adult is 16 or older. As such, My sister and I were BOTH held captive for a cumulative 18 hours in the Amsterdam airports “Junior Jet Lounge”. Our supervisors at least felt badly for us and allowed us to explore the airport for an hour alone. We ate McDonalds. One of the other JJ Loungers protested: “Hey!! How come they get to leave?!!?” The Dutch lady replied: “BECAUSE!! They are OLDER than you, and they are not ANNOYING like you.” All the politics and drama of JJLounging totally disappear when you’re a real human adult.

Day One

A full tour of my new living quarters may be coming in a post soon.

As mentioned before, the flight from Dallas to Dubai included no children. The many times I have flown over seas,¬†gaggles¬†of¬†children made the journey with me. They were being carried by their parents¬†to far away lands to visit their ancestors. They went begrudgingly and cried for many hours, transforming the entire plane into an army of fellow begrudgers. DFW>DXB is another animal. This flight is not for the squeamish and you must be¬†60″ to get on the plane. I slept; I watched whole seasons of shows; I walked around; I listened to playlist on playlist; I ate three meals; I counted minutes. Somehow, 14 hours went by. As the youngest person on that plane, I wanted to scream and cry.

The second flight was under one hour. Arriving in Doha at 2:15pm on Friday, I had officially  jumped forward a day in time. This post is brought to you from the future.

I walked through border patrol. I handed the man my passport and work visa. He spoke to me in Arabic, though my passport is American. I feel cool. I also don’t stutter to answer. He lets me into the country. I collect my trusty luggage and wheel my cart through customs without being stopped. An Indian man holding a sign simply¬†reading “Whataberger” sees¬†I am also wearing a Whataberger¬†T shirt. We nod at each other and he¬†jerks his head as if to say “meet me outside”. It’s hot as balls. It’s only April. The driver tells me¬†in the summer, the weather will reach 50-54 degrees C. I am not sure what this number means…. but¬†it is only 32C right now. We leave the airport. I see this:

Leaving the Airport

This city looks amazing. There are sidewalks, which is an instant upgrade from Houma. There are people, including women, running and exercising on the sidewalks. I am excited. The driver explains to me that a bus takes me from my apartment to the base and home everyday. Since there is a bus, everyone leaves by 5. Work is over by 5. This concept echos in my head in a sweet, sweet tune. Of course, there will be occasional late nights and the inevitable going offshore…. but still!

My building is Ezdan¬†tower 3. It is behind all of the towers in the picture. I am on the 23rd floor. I can see all the towers and the water from my room.¬† I ask the man at the front desk when the Whataberger bus will be there in the morning. He says “It’s a weekend…. so 8 or 8:30, I think.”¬† This morning I woke up, showered and was so excited, I walked downstairs at 7:45. The bus was loaded and left by 8.

The Whataberger¬†base in Doha is what we call an “OFS” base, meaning it houses all segments: wireline, well services, drilling and measurements… It is rather large. In fact, just the wireline area is larger than my previous home in Houma. It is a weekend, but I decided to come in any way and familiarize myself with where to go so that tomorrow I don’t look completely lost.

I met an engineer named Russel. He is Egyptian American, very friendly and down to earth. He gave me a quick tour of the base. I learned that there are beaches where people spend the day, there is a shooting range, and plenty of other activities in the city to occupy myself while not working.

Russell

Long Day

Twas a stormy night as Laila tossed and turned. One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, and four. The hours slowly pass until it’s time to wake up.

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My Luggage Fleet

I wake before my alarms. I shower. Mom drives us to the airport. It’s cold and raining. She comes inside with me and makes sure I get checked in. We eat breakfast at the airport. We say goodbye before I cross security.

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There’s something fundamentally raw about leaving or saying goodbye to your mother.You felt it on that first day of kindergarten, when you left for college, and now as you drag your violin and laptops through the airport. You smile as if to say “Look at me, mom! I’m doing it!” You wait until she’s out of sight and let tears pool up to the threshold of your vision. You sit by the gate, crying silently to yourself like a total weirdo. Everyone here looks old and seasoned; they’ve made this flight dozens of times. You, on the contrary, are full of energy and
excitement. The TSA agent who checked your boarding pass looked at you and chuckled, saying “You have a long day ahead of you!”

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