Wednesday, July 29, 2009

End of the month

Here we are trying to close the books on July. Our administrative assistant left last weekend to go visit her mum in England so I volunteered to handle our reports for the Region while she was gone. My brain must have been somewhere else. I now have the responsibility of writing my reports and consolidating reports for all the other SRMs.

1. Weekly Report
2. Monthly Report
3. Top 10/20 Report
4. Contract Register
5. Units/Invoice Forecast Report

I'm not really minding. It's giving me a lot of exposure to everything that's going on in our Western Region.

Tomorrow I spend the day meeting with my new mentor assignment. He's been with our client for some time and was one of the chosen to go to Houston last year for 90 days of training. He'll probably know more than I do, especially about dealing with the complexities of the system here in Libya. I'm looking forward to meeting him.

Sorry that I don't have any funny tales to tell. With all the stories that the guys tell about getting their hair cut, I may wait until next weekend to fly somewhere and find a western barber or maybe I can become one of those distinguished gentlemen with longer hair. You never know.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Unknowing Tourist

Did you ever have a day that went totally different than you expected? Today was one of those. My driver to go to Al Zentan arrive a few minutes early so I grabbed all my stuff; backpack full of safety gear )hard hat , vest, goggles, etc,), files, papers, computer, and headed downstairs. I expected the usual Toyota land rover or sedan but instead they had sent one of our Mercedes (read Chrysler) mini-vans. I thought, ok, all the others were in use, so I got in and went to the next guesthouse to pick up Juan Galvan, my San Antonio based surveyor. On the way to pick up Juan, the driver asked me if I know how to get to Al Zentan. That should have been my first clue that things were going to be a bit different.

I told the driver that if he could find the west highway and head toward the mountains, I could direct him to the meeting in Al Zentan. After picking up Juan, he headed out west along the coast, a way I had only been once. I knew that if we stayed on that road we'd never make it. We asked him to turn south, which he eventually did and we recognized the right highway. After we passed through Ber Alghnam (locally known as the goat butcher shop of Libya - that's another story), our driver asked if we wanted to go through Guerian. We told him,no, just stay on the highway until we turn up into the mountains for Al Zentan. We finally arrived at 10:20 for our 10:00 meeting. Last week, it took me a little over 2 hours, today, 2:45. "Welcome To Libya" - one of my mottos.

After our meeting, site visit and lunch with our Korean contractor and friend we headed back to Tripoli. As we neared town, the driver asked if we would like to go back through Guerian. We told him, "Maybe some other time, we need to get back to the office." He proceeded to ignore us when we told him to turn left into town and back toward the highway and proceeded straight to Guerian. Since all roads eventually lead to Tripoli, we decided he was driving and we were the passengers so we wouldn't make a big deal out of it. Along the way, he started talking about a bridge and we couldn't figure out what else. A couple of miles further along, he stopped under a highway bridge, got out, walked across the highway and came back with two ripe figs. Juan and I, being the courteous gentlemen that we are, each took one and ate it. They were quite good. Our driver explained that figs were good medicine for digestion, Arabic medicine. I don't know if he thought that we needed some medicine after watching us eat lunch with the Koreans or what. He then insisted that we cross the highway with him and examine the fruit for sale. I picked out four nice peaches and a couple of figs. The vendors were looking at me like I was crazy. Between them and the driver, I finally understood that I couldn't buy 4 peaches but had to buy the whole box of peaches (about a kilo -30 small peaches). So for 5 dinar, I brought home a bag of peaches that I need to peel, cut and freeze.

Looking at our watches, we were wondering whether we should go to the office or home. As we turned into Guerian, a place that neither Juan nor I had ever been, our driver asked if we wanted to see the town. Again we explained, "not today, maybe some other time". A couple of
minutes later, not to be swayed by a couple of good old boys from Texas, he turned off the main road, and then proceed to go down a small alley. Now this sounds ominous for some of you folks back in the states but it's not so uncommon here. You just trust your driver to know where he's going. Sure enough, he knew where he was going. We arrived at a dead end and he parked at the Troglodyte House. It's really neat; a house dug into the cliff with an open atrium and rooms off the main area. There was even a niche carved into the wall for chickens to lay heir eggs. It had been turned into a museum with exhibits for weaving from sheep's wool, baskets and other crafts. We finally convinced him to head back to Tripoli. Once we were back on the highway, he pulled over and showed us the Troglodyte House back on the top of the cliff. I'm beginning to think that he has an interest in the house or at the minimum, his family is from Guerian. I might have mentioned before that tribal interests come before anything here.

We finally returned to Tripoli by the most back road, forsaken route possible, poking along behind double tandem trucks with cars zooming around us (that's no big deal in Libya). Oh, one thing I forgot to mention, some of the people in Libya (the older ones I think) believe that air conditioning is bad for you; it makes you sick. Again, for most of our journey, we rode along with the driver's window open and no air conditioning.

So, from my air conditioned room and the creature comforts of home, I wish you a good day, or night, depending where you are.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Cat call to Prayer

Anne, commented that she thought that the pigeon video was funny. Well, I didn't have to edit this one with any sound effects. The cat was down below us calling out to some of his friends/enemies.

Things have been quiet in Tripoli. The weather is cool in the evenings since our apartment is so close to the beach. After dinner, it's nice to sit out on the patio and chat about kids, places to go, places we've been, etc. I'm looking for suggestions for places to spend the week of Ramadan.

I'm headed back out to Al Zentan tomorrow morning to make sure that the cowboy and indian show has settled down and we can get back to business. It should be a pleasant drive. If I have the same driver as last week, I'm going to confiscate his copy of Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Blues. I heard it from beginning to end at least 3 times on the way home. Not that I don't like Johnny CAsh but that was excessive. I told him that he needed some Willie Nelson. Maybe I can get some variety with Willie, Waylon and the Boys.

I talked to Lynn this morning her time. It's going to take a week to get over the jet lag and back on Houston time. Ya'll be nice to her.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Strange Names in Strange Places

I got a comment to my blog from my nephew, Evan, who saw a comment I made on the ESPN Big 12 Blog. He was surprised to see a Longhorn in Tripoli and even more so to find out it was his uncle. Anyway, us Horn's fans have to stick together, especially when I have a bunch of Aggie engineers surrounding me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, you only need one Ranger for one riot, I guess you only need one Longhorn for a whole gaggle of Aggies.

I have survived for 24 hours without my beautiful bride and haven't had a wreck, wandered the streets on gone off the deep end. I will miss her but am glad that she can be home and give real hugs to grandson, kids and family. Well, I did lie a little bit; after supper, I wandered down to the bank and came back to the video store to pick up a couple of flicks I've never seen before. Ryan Booth and John Yarbrough said that Watchmen was worth watching at least once.

I'm waiting for Anne to pick Lynn up at the airport so I can call her after she clears customs. If she can keep her eyes open, she ought to sleep well tonight.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Out on my own

Lynn left this morning for the first leg of her trip to Houston. I talked to her in Frankfurt, Germany where she was enjoying the beauty of green trees and grass along with grey skies. Here, we see an occasional cloud but the sky remains blue.

I'm staying busy. There was an IAAF track meet in London this afternoon that was televised live on some foreign channel. Running in circles and the time on a stopwatch or distance jumped or thrown translates in any language. It was fun seeing some of the University of Texas guys I've watched grow the last few years compete.

Tonight, after catching up with John, Dad and Randy, I settled down to updating reports and spreadsheets. I'm listening to Bing Crosby singing songs from White Christmas. That's pretty random for summer but it came on iTunes after the easy listening album I had on. I'm a believer that Christmas should be celebrated every day!

For all in Houston, please welcome my bride home with many hugs and kisses from me.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Out to the Hill Country

Now most of you know how much Lynn and I love the hill country in Texas. About two hours drive west of Tripoli you'll find a good dose of West Texas with hills and plateaus. I have three projects out there, two on the flats down near the highway and one up in the hills, overlooking the vistas to the north. I went to check on two of them today. The first is right outs
ide a small town called Al Zntaan (or AL Zantan, or Al Zaantaan - there about twenty english spellings for arabic names so just pick one). I have a Korean contractor who is very good but he's waiting for a notice to proceed from the owner who hired a separate design/engineering firm. We've been promised that they will be complete, approved and released in two weeks for many months. The end of July would be nice.

You might ask ab
out the third picture in the blog. Yes that's a police car on the site. In fact we had about 5 police cars on the site (and Monday, a "tank"). It seems that the small village next door has some people who aren't friends with some of the folks in Al Zntan and a fight broke out at the entrance to
development. In summary, 20 hospitalized; 5 with gunshot injuries,

others hurt by stones, sticks, fists, etc. Sounds like west Texas. The police are checking everything out, calling a meeting of the town council and letting everything cool of. In the mean time th
ey are camping out on our site in a show of unity to keep us safe and protect stored materials.

Now if we can just keep the camels from wandering in and interfering.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finally a new post

OK, it's been awhile since I posted a blog. I've been helping Lynn on her videos. If you haven't read her blog, I encourage you to do so at She does a great job of chronicling our activities here in Tripoli and the surrounding area. We booked her a flight back to Houston August 17- Sep 3. I know she's excited to come home and check up on everyone.

We plan on getting away somewhere toward the end of September during the end of Ramadaan. I understand that it can get a little crazy then. Anne and Ryan (our daughter and son-in-law) are planning to meet us in Italy in October so that's something to look forward to.

Work is taking a turn next week. I am part of a "knowledge transfer program" and will be assigned a Libyan employee from the Housing Infrastructure Board to mentor over the next 90 days. The objective is to train them in the methods and procedures of development and program management. They have been to Texas for 90 days and spent time with AECOM personnel, Rice, UT and A&M professors in many development, engineering and project management disciplines. My only concern is that they have a basic understanding of the english language. My Arabic isn't going to get us very far. I figure if I can teach Brannon Boozer how to be a developer, I can mentor anyone. (ha!)

Thanks to all of you who have emailed and kept up with us. It's great to stay in touch with friends and family back home.

The video is just for fun.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Work, Work, Work

It's been awhile since I put up a post. Lynn finds time in the day to make observations while I'm at work. Today we arrived to find my office in the pool house without power. Something about a faulty breaker that had to be replaced. Being the resourceful fellow that I am, I found the one conference room that had power (and coincendently an air conditioner) and told my boss that my computer batterty was almost out of juice and I needed to recharge it. The rest of my group soon joined me and we had the only air conditioned staff meeting in the housing group.

We have met a lot of wonderful people here. When far away from home, we have found t
hat most people are eager to be your friend, even if it's for just a season. The attached pictures are from the Marcus Arelius Restaurant and arch where we celebrated Meera's birthday last week. She's been a wonderful neighbor but we will be leaving her and all of our friends at the Arkno and moving into our own one bedroom apartment at Guest House One.

This week is going to be busy as we started with Staff Meeting today and I have a new initiative to shepherd over the rest of the month while my boss returns to the states. Tomorrow I tra
vel to Tamurah, about a 2 1/2 hour drive one way, to visit with a Syrian Contractor and see if he's making any headway. I don't expect to see m
uch progress. Tuesday I have document control training, Wednesday we have all day training to be mentors for some of our Libyan friends who have been to Texas for project management training this past year. Thursday, we are catching a flight to Malta for a little R&R of our own.