Transferable Skills

A few weeks after coming home, I realized that life here has also progressed. Some things are the same, many are different. The songs on the radio are different. There are now “express” highways in addition to the normal highways. For example, you can take the exact same road in two options: express which is has a toll, or normally. My friends are doing great and have exciting changes in their lives as well. My sister just finished writing a 179 page PhD thesis about her lung cancer research, which is probably more pages than I have managed to write in the last four years of blogging.

I’m older. My parents are older, and most notably, my grandfather is older as well. I realized I have to make spending time with him a priority. So, after my month long ‘victory lap’ around the Western US, I went down to East Texas for a few days, a routine I hope to maintain weekly through the time I am here. It was awkward when he was confused or didn’t understand what I was saying. It was painful to watch him shaking and cringing as he slept for 16 or more hours a day. But I stayed at home, sitting beside him as much as I could. I found that as a result, I also slept close to 16 hours a day. I became a little lazy, not leaving the house even to do run necessary errands. I just sat with my grandpa, watching NBA playoff games and trying to engage him in conversation as much as I could.

Ironically, the few days spent inside the house, not seeing the sunlight, reminded me of being offshore. I didn’t get the itch or urge to leave, just sat and let the time pass. In the oddest of ways, maybe the most valuable skill I picked up while working as an engineer offshore was how to JUST SIT. As I sat for days and weeks waiting to get to work offshore, a mental tactic to quell the anticipation was to often think to myself I was NEVER going to work, but just sitting for the sake of sitting. Now as my grandpa heaves in his sleep and the single most exciting part of the day is sharing an ice cream with him. I find I’m comfortable sitting just to sit. I’m sitting just to spend time with a great man.

What I’m Doing

These days blur together. I sleep on the couch (I have a bed, I prefer the couch) in front of my laptop perpetually playing Breaking Bad. Fading in and out of sleep, my neck develops what feels like marbles along the right side of my spine. The days pass. Every other night I don’t sleep at all, but rather spend the hours trying my eyelids with the subtle glow of a computer screen, flickering updates on log curves, foot by foot. The humming of the generator and engine outside remind me how precious true silence can be. Daylight happens. 20150128_075818[1]The job ends during the daylight; we pack up our equipment and at some point, my weary body makes its way back to the couch. Breaking Bad engages, and time goes on.

Every other couch-rig-couch combination is linked by one day, completing the cycle. This is a day begins when my phone buzzes, alarm or phone call. I stay on the couch, rolling into position to check or send emails. I do the paperless paper work for the next rig job from the comfort of my couch. I play some music. I watch TV shows while I hydrate. Sometimes I do laundry, mostly I lounge. I will take myself running in the sunny weather. I follow up with some jump roping and lunges in my apartment. I take a shower and eat. These days are the best. They pass quickly despite my minimalist activity.

The day screeches to a halt when its time to pack up the laptop and take it to the rig. It’s a blur when the day ends and the night begins. My neck is stiff and my thoughts are aloof.

Bread in Captivity

The sun comes up, I guess. Only the particular ache in my back which comes after laying in this bed for ten hours serves as an indication of any time passing. This is the destructive type of standby time. Standby for an indefinite time and no anticipation drains all the excitement and enthusiasm from my mind. I’ve lost all will to do anything but lay in bed, hoping to fall asleep for an hour or two at a time, watching TV series over and over. I dream about it being tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will dream about it being the next day.


Yet, I’m exhausted. It’s an emotional drain to simply refrain from walking into the company man’s office and throwing an absolute f#$@ing tantrum, because if I was an uninhibited animal with free will, that’s what I’d do. I’d pick up plates and bowls in the galley and smash them on the floor. I’d run a muck, pick fights with anyone who looks in my direction, sing loudly in the shower… I’d run onto the helideck as soon as the next chopper lands, snatch a seat and never give it up, demanding to be lifted off this rig.

Alas, a tamed beast sits idly in her room. I get out of bed only when my co worker knocks on my door to tell me to eat. I wonder about all the many things I could be doing with my life. One of those tomorrows, I’ll get off this rig and move my body around. It will feel like the first time, and I will roam the city with the fervor of a child whose grounding sentence just expired.

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: 


  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.


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.