A wise man once said....

"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new."
Dalai Lama

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Boxing Day

Yes I know Christmas has passed and is over for another year. All over that is till 25th Dec 2011. And that’s not a long way off. Only 364 shopping days left. Sounds a lot but really 2010 has flown by. Why do I sound so cynical ?
I spent my Christmas in Abu Dhabi, well Ruwais actually, on a construction site. It was a working day like any other day here. Started on site at 07.00 and finished at 18.00 hrs. Same as the day before. Need to keep some perspective and remain honest in my descriptions! Actually Friday was our weekly day off!!! And I can assure you that as well was not much fun. And I still got up at 5.30am. What to do? Why was I doing it? Well they were good questions I asked myself many times throughout the day. I have no idea why I got up so early or why I got up at all. Should have just relaxed in bed all day.
But last night before sleeping I did relax in bed and gave myself some time to reflect.
  • Me, spending Christmas day working in the desert living in a workers camp.
  • My wife in Thailand.
  • My daughters in Seychelles.
  • My parents and brother in UK.
  • And then the meaning of life. No I won't go there.
This reflection really did make me wonder why exactly I was so far away from them all. I could have gone and flown off in almost any direction and I would have been with some of them. I should have taken a couple of days off to join them. Life after all is not a dress rehearsal and I should make the most of it.
2011 is on the way. Lets enjoy it and look forward. Only looking backwards to learn from our experiences. Smile and make someones day.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Ruwais And Desert Camp Life

Where? Yes, but where exactly is it?....

Click this link Ruwais for more info on the place. its a technical link about Oil and Gas development in the area.etc. Below I've added a few sort of made an arrival events diary really for me to remember the sequences and let my colleagues know the deal. And Its easy to cut and paste into here!!
Email sent to colleagues....
Short review of steps to be taken on arrival in Abu Dhabi.
I arrived late Saturday evening. Its about an 11 hour flight from Seoul. On arrival follow the crowd!! Go to the visa on arrival desk. Its just to the right of the immigration desks. Go to the counter and hand over the photo copy of your visa/employemnt/sponsorship forms. (Its the Pink form with your photo on it.). They then hand over the original. You may need to sit and wait a bit. I did. 20 minutes. They hand you the original then you go for an eye scan. After which you do immigration and go to baggage collection. Hotel driver should be waiting outside. (I think you can buy duty free on the way in. Shops are open in baggage area? or was it before, not sure. Where ever if you want to buy some booze buy where you see it available! Not sure the limti but no one appears to check you coming in anyway)).
Hotel is on Hamdan street. About 30 minutes from airport. Its situated almost directly opposite the office. I was given a room on the 17th floor. 'Club' rooms. So good rooms, cable TV etc. Fridge full of booze which was very expensive. The hotel does breakfast etc and also has a pub in the ground floor/basement. Looks good. Only down side is they are renovating lobby area so entrance is a bit strange and difficult to navigate. Need to take a lift to the lobby then you need to change to get up stairs. Not really an issue.
Walk to the office is less than 5 minutes. 7th floor of Al Ghaith Tower on Hamdan Street. Office hours are 7'ish till ....??... don't know I never stayed long!!! Suggest you use the proper provided road crossing, at least initially
On arrival ask for Kristine, Sharon or Abigail. All very helpful. They will organise you a mobile phone and park you at a desk. It has internet access. Once there they will organise for you to have a Motts email etc. Any problems on this and the IT guy will help. The girls will also show you the coffee area etc.
I also made a curtsy call on Hisham Managing Director, and had a coffee with him in his office!)
Next up they will organise you for the medical. Medical requires you to take a form (from Kristine) to the medical centre. (Motts driver Ibraheem) wil take you and lead you through the process. Suggest you go early morning otherwise you sit in a big que. It is very simple.Examination by Doctor. He does not touch you just asked if you are OK? Then a blood smaple followed by an X ray. Once in the processit is all over in 5 minutes. Ibraheem will pay for all this so you do not need cash. He will need to go back the next afternoon to collect the paper work. You do not need to accompany him.
They will also have some one from HSBC visit the Motts office so you can open an acocunt. This account is only activated once you get your work permit. But itshould be in place within days meaning your salary gets credited into it!! HSBC offer you a choice of accounts and additional insurances should you be interested..
PPE. Again Ibraheem helps out. he will take you to the Motts prefered PPE shop. See Red Wings! They have all the PPE except ear mufflers and life jackets. Do this purchasing trip when you want.
Tuesday. After that it is a waiting process. Me, I've come in the office to check emails etc and catch up on some private correspondence!!! Not staying all day. Just been told my security pass available. So off to site this afternoon.
End of email....................

Well I'm now in Ruwais. See the attached map and photos of my accommodation. I'm here for some time to come and that could be days, weeks, months or even up to a couple of years. Time will tell!
So far OK. I'm in a small camp with adequate accommodation and fed and watered 3 times a day. Since I've only been here a week it is difficult to comment on the food except to say it is OK. However I must reserve judgement as after a few more weeks of the same, same, same my opinion might change. Will let you know.
Now being here is not Thailand. Obvious statement but I am seeing lots of different things on a day to day basis which are new and worth recording. However day by day I am on a construction site where taking photos for some strange reason only known to the Owner is forbidden.
So what to do. How to record activities. Probably end up doing stuff on the Fridays which is our weekly day off. So I can cover some things. I needed some inspiration on this.
I was looking through some of my youtube links and watching someones Vlog. He was chatting away about things to do in 2011 and he made a couple of good suggestions. He was going to pick a theme for 2011 for his youtube videos and commentaries. He was thinking along the line of herbs. Yes medicinal herbs. This got me thinking. What a clever idea not the herbs so much as the idea of developing some themes and I now need to take this idea and develop something for myself. Obviously not the herbs, but give myself a set of objectives while here in Ruwais.

First throughs are that I should visit the area and just get to know it. See if there are any interesting things, boats, old houses, sand dunes etc as a start. Also already I've noticed a lot of bird life. Mainly due to the dredging activities which churned up a lot of stuff for them to eat. So that's a start. Give me a few days to think this one over. But herbs it won't be.








Sunday, 12 December 2010

Abu Dhabi Arrival

Got to Abu Dhabi late last night. It was difficult to know quite what time it was. Add in the extra time I had for completion of my immigration formalities, got dropped at hotel and finally reached my room I was even more uncertain! I had however remembered to ask hotel reception for a 7.30am wake up call. Not necessary as it happens.
We are 5 hours behind Seoul so I was still quite awake during the course of this morning. Beginning to flag now and I think early to bed this evening is looking very attractive.
Went to the office about 08.00am and started the process of meeting the new team etc then onto work permits, including more form filling. Seems never ending.
Opened my emails only to get a very sad message that a very close friend Clarence in Sacramento had died. So a sad start to the day. But not much unfortunately that I can do about to help apart from say a few prayers for him it.
Popped out for lunch at a small sandwich place recommended by one of the girls in the office. Initial impression of my first 5minutes in Abu Dhabi streets is that every one seems gentle and very polite. Also on the way back to the office I called into what appeared to be a local grocery/supermarket. Full, I mean busting at the seams type full of everything you could want. Fruits, meats, breads spices and nuts. Loads of nuts and dates. All combining to produce a beautiful smell.
Now this afternoon I am off to get a medical, necessary to be able to complete the Work Visa. Going to be tested for AIDS, HIV, TB etc. Could be some interesting results! Watch this space. They always say they are testing for TB. Well I had TB as a kid yet no one ever picks that up in a medical. I did crack some ribs a few weeks back coming off a motor bike. After the x-ray I might ask the Doctor about that. Then again why bother just get it all over and done with?
Tomorrow is no more exciting. HSBC are sending someone round to open a new bank account for me. The rule is if you work here you must be paid here. Simple enough so the banks are very keen to sign me up. I’m not so sure they will be keen when they realise just how small my monthly savings are going to be!!! This event will be followed by buying some site personnel safety kit. Plastic hat, safety goggles and steel toed hard boots. So shortly I’ll be all set to hit the work site running. Well I plan to do it as more of a quick walk!!!
Abu Dhabi. Well that’s going to have to wait till after all the above is done. Then I am free to roam until the work permits are all sorted. Already decided I will do some walking. Weather is good and I’ll get a chance to look round and see what’s what. I was last here in 1978’ish so it is all completely new. Photos and comments, observations and views to follow.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Dinner And The Trip Home

Wonderful staff Christmas Dinner last night. Good company, good food and plenty of good wine. Recipe for success. It was at a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Seoul. Don't ask where! All I can say is that it was good. Everyone enjoyed and a few are suffering this morning. Office is very quiet!

This dinner was followed by a tube trip home. Simple enough. The system seems to run 24/7. In fact the system is very impressive. Clean, fast, digital signs and voice messages in the carrages and on the station platforms to tell you exactly where you are etc.It's hard if not impossible to get lost on the Seoul tube system. However and unfortunately for someone before us, he/she had been ill in the carrage, but no worries, as amazingly it was all cleaned up in an instant! It must have happened only a few stops before us. Not the best of subjects to write about but the effeciency of the clean up was very impressive. three people were there with buckets and mops etc, and the job was done between station stops. They were on, cleaned up the place and were gone within 5 minutes! Truely amazing.
We got off at our stop about 10 stops further on. From our stop it is only about 300 meters to our Condo. Normally a 5 minute walk right? Took us about 40 minutes as Wanna wanted photos in the snow!!! There was not so much snow left but enough for a few shots!!!! All goes to making happy memories of our time in Seoul.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Getting Close To Me Departing Seoul For Abu Dhabi.

Cabbages
Thoughts on Seoul. Seoul has been an interesting place. People, Shops, streets, Football Stadium etc etc. Amazingly ‘High Tech’ situation everywhere. The subway is possibly the best I’ve ever seen. Complete with full info on train arrival, departures, adverts and more adverts, news programmes and more. Also so noticeable it is spotlessly clean, that’s the city as well as the subways. Makes Singapore look scruffy!!!! And that is saying something.

But I’m in no rush to come back. Why not? The main reason is the cold, so a summer visit might change my opinion. In fact I ma sure it will. Beautiful places to see with lots of smiling faces etc. The current walking 35 -45 minutes to and from work every morning and evening in -3 deg C with a lazy wind going straight through me is not my idea of fun. So can only come back in summer!!!!

Only real negative is, for me abnyway, the food. Must be I get too much good food from Wanna at home.... I find the food is not particularly spicy in a 'Thai' way nor full of good indian curry flavours. Must be gettign set in my ways... I mean don't get me wrong, its more than editable but, not something I would write home about. Great if you like Kimchi and more Kimchi. (Pickled spicy cabbage). Apart from that everything seems to work well.

But there is always an exception. Yesterday I asked one of our Secretaries to organize posting a small parcel to Seychelles. Simple enough using EMS. Excellent they, EMS even come to the office, collect the package and you pay there and then. Easy right? Well not so. I prior to their arrival had packed the parcel which was OK. However they, EMS then needed to know contents. I told them Soap. How many packages inside? 7. OK so far so good. Then I was asked where’s it going to? Seychelles. Where?....


Seychelles was not on the postman’s list of countries. So they could not send!!! As I said as long as it’s part of the system all is OK if not…… Dream on. I’m off to the local post office this afternoon to see if I can do any better. Will complete this posting after the visit. Second thoughts best to post in Thailand.


It’s snowing!!!!! First time since we have been here. Great… Sure won’t be getting this next week in Abu Dhabi. I understand it’s in the 20’s there already. Will be going out tonight, company dinner at an upmarket Chinese place so photos to follow.

Monday, 6 December 2010

FC Seoul And Jeju







Saturday was spend again going round the centre of town. Spotted a guy on the wall absailing!! Well not a real guy. Also another floor plaque telling us the directions to various places. Wanna got in a bit of shopping and all in all we saw quite a few different bits and pieces. Including a Temple. Spotted a few monks walking around. Also caught up with some famous Korean Singers.




Saw people playing Checkers, some shopping attracted by some colourful displays of materials. Not sure what half of them were!!




Sunday. Another fun day in Seoul. We went to watch a football match. Never thought I would enjoy a football game. But…. It was the final between FC Seoul and JeJu football Club. What made it such a successful event was the fact that it was held in the Seoul World Cup Stadium and not only that, but it was filled almost to capacity so the atmosphere was amazing. Capacity is 77,000 and we had 57,000 so close to being full.



Wanna along with Peter and Jamie had a couple of beers and really got into the mood. Jamie was so excited to be able to have a beer at a match and I'm sure he could have enjoyed a few more. Told us several times he would sending a photo to his mates in Scotland!!!! Me I had a big plastic horn which seemed to annoy most people within a 10 meter radius. The whole thing had a very American air to it all. Cheer leaders and lots of flares and loud music. Big family event. When a goal was scored the sound system kicked in with full Wattage. It was a great day.

Got a load of photos to follow of various building and sights. Thats for next time.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Seoul At Christmas Time

Bit of self promotion here. We had yet another walk round Seoul areas. Found a ‘Christmas Setting’ which was obviously for all passersby. Lovely photo opportunity. I suppose with the weather getting colder and snow expected in a few days time the place is taking on a Christmas feel.

With all the Christmas feeling it seemed strange to still be selling all this wonderful sea food. Just look at the octopus and squid. A real treat.

I started by saying self promotion. I did not really expect to see a shop called LLOYDs. And selling quality stuff to boot!!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Seoul Weekend


View Seoul in a larger map

One thing for sure Seoul is a cold place. I see UK is cold but I had forgotten what it was like. Here is a very clear reminder!! Saturday and Sunday we went out having decided we would have a good look round. Well we did. We walked about 10 -15 kilometres over the weekend. Top loop on the map was BunChon Village which is a collection of old style houses. Some are old but a lot seem to have been restored and are now a major tourist attraction. Great fun just walking round it all. This was followed by again looking at street vendors and sampling numerous kebabs and sea foods all cooked on gas or charcoal. Spotted a Harley which Wanna took a shine to. Must say makes the thought of working for a few months in Abu Dhabi easier knowing I might buy one afterwards!!!! There is a big Harley shop in Seoul which I am going to track down next weekend. One thing we did see was vagrants who seem allowed to sleep in the subways. It seems as long as they do not annoy anyone they are left alone. Very civilized solution. I was taken aback however when I gave one old chap a few coins and he answered me in English saying thank you. The coins are quite attractive. No idea who the guy on the face is!!!! Bit old for sure.



Another thing that surprises me in the flower arrangements scattered about the town. Beautiful colours. Look closely and you will see they are cabbages. Yes cabbage seems to be the staple diet here. All a bit strange. Add in hearing Carol singing in Korea this early before Christmas all seemed surreal… videoWe also had a look in a music store. It has guitars, pianos, wind instruments and every type of amp and speakers you could imaging. Amazing place.

video


We spend Sunday going round Namsam Mountain, well a hill really, which has the N Seoul tower on the top. Good walk followed by a very good lunch. The walk had a lot to do with making the meal seem so good. Peter from work has acted as guide and a good guide he was too. We had a chance to see some beautiful views and learn All followed by a subway trip home and an early night. I’ve added in a load of photos and short video which give a lot better idea than me writing much more…

Friday, 26 November 2010

Another Day In Seoul

Did not get out yesterday but Wanna arrived here from Thailand yesterday morning. She managed to take a few photos on her way in on the bus from the airport. That’s after being held up at the airport for an hour by immigration. Seems Thai Citizens have the right to enter Korea as an ASEAN member but… they asked why she was coming and kept asking her for one hour. She went to 5 different interview rooms and still they could not understand she was coming in as a tourist to be with me… Unbelievable in this modern age.Anyway she did, after escaping the immigration, manage to shoot off a few shots and these are included below. The palace looks impressive and also the carrying style of local motor bikes is a biat different to Thailand. Noticeably there are few bikes around. I reckon the cold has a lot to do with that. But I did see a Harley this morning whilst walking to work and a Royal Enfield a few days back. Need to get out the camera… but the cold….


Last night Wanna and I had a walk down the same area I had seen a few nights back. It was just as cold as the last time. We had a good walk round, bought some woolly boots and ended up in a little noodle shop for evening meal. Than back home for a hot bath. Lovely.


We've got big plans of tonight and the weekend. Try and get to see as much as possible in a few day light hours. I am sure if we stayed here we would get used to the weather but we will only be here for a few weeks. So enjoy while we can.