Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thank You India?

Alanis may have had a great time on her air conditioned helicopters for her private viewings of temples, but India ain't no picnic.

I am just venting because I am hot and just getting over being sick. If you ever have had Deli Belly, you know how I am feeling. In top of that, I just completed a 2 day sail on 6 man row boats up the Ganges... camping along the way.

Okay, positive, the Chinese-Canadian with my group of 6 who read my palm told me I had to be positive. Here is positive, you can buy almost any drug here without a prescription, so I am feeling much better.

Here is a quick taste of what I have seen so far...

After finally getting my visa to India from the Indian Embassy in Johannesburg, I left on the 19th after seeing Nelson Mandela's houses, museums, Soweto, and a lot more.

Got into Mumbai at 2 AM and got a cab to my friend's flat... or close to it, because after circiling around with a cabbie who spoke no english and had no idea where he was, I got out and flagged down a car in hopes that they could help. This dude spoke English and we found the place. Spent the following day in Mumbai... in a word it is frenetic (sp?). I got a great vibe from the traffic, people, cows, and craziness. Had a job interview there and then went out with my friend.

Left for Delhi the 21st. Deli is again crazy, but the vibe sucks because EVERYONE is trying to sell a westerner something. They are great salesmen though. Even the tuktuk drivers (small 3 wheeled cabs with lawnmower engines are in the mix with the vendors)... they get a cut for taking you to a vendor. You can ask to see the Indian Gate, and end up at a Bazzar.

I manages to find an okay driver, and saw some great stuff. I got some gifts and saw some sights before meeting my Intrepid tour group (with few freaks) the following day. The tour leader is brilliant though... he is younger than me, from the mountains of the north and has no formal education, but knows infinately more about India than I believed anyone could. Religious also, and is a resopnsible tour leader. Unlike a lot of westerners here, he keeps us from doing anything offensive, or taking pictures of things we shouldn't. Now that I know what is acceptable, I see now why westerners are thought of as ignorant, and see the hundreds around me being very very irresponsible just to get a video or a photograph to show that they have been "enlightened".

Saw a little more of Old Delhi and the spice market, and a great Mosque where we watche prayers and toured their hospice, and made some food for those living there.

Took a train from Delhi to Agra, where the Taj is. It is truely amazing, but also amazingly commercialized. We saw a rug factory making rugs, and I bought another to match the two I bought in Delhi. Also saw the Red Fort... huge, and had palaces inside. Amazing.

Another very simple train to Gwalior. Crowded and hot. I could have skipped Gwalior, we saw a great fort and an okay museum palace, but nothing amazing. I also started to get sick here

Yet another train to Jansi (sp?) and a 18K tuktuk ride hanging off the front seat to Orchha. Orchha is awesome. Wait until you see the pictures. I was sick most of the time here, but our accomodations were for 2 days, so it was a good place for it. I did manage to go on a cycling tour and swim in the river, visit a village that had never seen western visitors, and visit a paper mill run by women who have no homes. A must see... filled with palaces, cenotaphs, and temples.

We then took an overnight train to Allahabad. This place is very very strange. Surreal actually. It is a very holy place where the Ganges meets in a confluence with 2 other rivers, one actual and one mythical. We went to the banks where people perform prayers and ceremonies... and of course try to sell you crap. My driver was playing hindi Bollywood techno as we went, passing funeral processions, painted elephants in the streets, and the general traffic.

The same day we drove 2 hours (and had to stop 45 minutes for our drivers to pray) through the country to a small town on the Ganges whew we boarded out boats. Very small row/sail boats upstream. The wind was never right so our guides had to row with bamboo oars and planks nailed to them for a long time. I rowed a while to give the a break with our group leader. The guys quickly took over again before we got too far behind.

We camped on a sandbar wich was great. The following day, we continued on boat to Varanasi. This was the first spot that I saw a dead body floating by.

Varanasi is a very holy place where it is thought that if you die here, are cremated on the ghat, and ashes put in the river, you bypass reincarnation and go straight to heaven. That being said, there are a lot of dead, or dying here. It takes 350 Kg of wood to burn a body, so if you can't afford it, or if a pregnant lady dies, they are sometimes just dumped in the river.

I saw a ritual to Ganges last night and a row boat ride to see all of the morning prayers at sunrise today. I also had some shirts tailored last night that should be ready today. Tonight is anoter boat ride to watch the annual ceremonies.

Tomorrow is a drive to Nepal to get our visas and to visit the birthplace of Buddah.

That is it for now, I might get another internet session in Kathmandu in a week or so. Again, no time for spell check.

Oh yeah, after writing this one I guess I should change my tune... Thank you India.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Back in Black

Well, I am back after months of bloglessness.

I have easily been the busiest i have ever been in my life these past months.

Took a promotion at work that has me running off my ass, but it is good as the time passes quickly. I just did a 6 week hitch in angola after only being off for 3. Rough. The worst is that we need engineers badly, so I was covering a lot of work. If you need a job, let me know.

I am in Johannesburg for the next couple of days, obtaining an entry visa for India. The Indian Embassy is closed today, so I will have some time to see the sights. I am in Nelson Mandella Square right now. I thought it would be historic or have some significance. It doesn't... it is in the middle of an industrial park, and is a shopping mall.

Being in Sout Africa, makes me rethink my title of this post... I am no racist... I won't change it though.

Off to Mumbai (Bombay) India on Friday providing I get the visa on time, then to Delhi on the 21st, then east and south for 2 weeks on an adventure tour ending in Kathmandu, Nepal. Back to Mumbai, and then down to Goa.... I will keep you posted as to what is next.

That is it for now, but I will update regularly. I got a new camera that is easy to use with kiosk computers, so pics will follow.

No time to spell check... this is expensive.

Mike

Friday, June 03, 2005

My First "Bad" Angolan Experience

It has now been one year and three months since I first stepped foot in Africa.

Angola has more than it's fair share of problems. And if you visit (which you can't), you can expect to have to deal with some of these problems.

I have gotten sick almost every time I have come over here just because the allergens are different and the place is not sanitary enough for my western immune system. I have had to deal with the food, the malarial risk and an entirely new culture, language and reality.

Everything has been worth it, ten fold. I have a different view of things than i had previously. I (marginally) know another language. I have a job that I love here. No problems, until last Friday night.

I had been in the capital city of Luanda for two weeks. A dirty, poor and corrupt place.

Against the advice of Halliburton, me and a coworker of mine went out for a burger at a local place maybe a half mile away. If we want a hot meal these days, we have to go out because our kitchen at the staff house was the source of a bad outbreak of salmonella poisoning, and the entire place had to be torn out.

So we walked. I had been there many times without incident.

After the meal and a few beers, we started to walk back. Stupidity took over and we got too comfortable with our surroundings. We took another road back. This road was dark, desolate and isolated. There was an abandoned train on the hillside that we wanted to check out. Bad idea.

At first I was a little wary of the road because it was dark, and there was a possibility of getting mugged. This is common, and one of the reasons that you only carry a minimum amount of cash, and no passport on you. We venture on, not seeing anyone.

Well, this is when the Angolan Police came buy. Eight armed cops got out and surrounded us. They asked for our papers (in Portuguese). Of course we had none. Even if we had, they would have taken them and wanted cash for us to get them back.

We were then corralled into the back of the police vehicle. The cops piled in with us. I had a good feeling that they only wanted money, but you never know. here the police do whatever they want. Drink, drugs, women, whatever they want. They are the law and are very corrupt. If they had wanted to take us to jail, they could have. Worse even, if they had wanted to take us outside of town and kick the crap out of us, there would be no recourse.

They had done this before. They separated the two of us and kept our attention with two different conversations (a barrage of questions). This was to keep us from communicating.

As they started driving, I kept a close eye on where we were going. Who knows where we would be let go (when we were let go). I know parts of the city, but it is a large and dangerous place.

I had a Halliburton work shirt on and the area was known to house a lot of the expat community. I had a pretty good idea that they knew where we lived.

Thankfully, we did not go far from my geographical comfort zone. When we stopped, they made the universal hand sign for cash. My friend paid them off with what we had left from dinner, 1200 Kz (or about 15 US dollars). And we were told to get out.

I had $40 US in my back pocket but played dumb. If I needed to give it up, I would have. It is only 40 bucks.

It was actually over so quickly and we assumed it would be a shakedown, that we didn't have any time to get worried. I do realize that it could have gone much, much more badly.

A lesson learned? Maybe, but I have walked over to that restaurant since... just not back down the same road.

A good story anyway. No?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pilfered Quotes

I don't normally post crap that I don't write, nor do I forward jokes on e-mail. I will however post these that I have stolen from someone else's blog:

1. "Computers, in the future, may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
-- Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949.

2. "I think there is a world market for, maybe, five computers."
-- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

3. "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country, and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
-- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall,
1957.

4. "But what is it good for?"
-- Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

5. "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
-- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp.,1977.

6. "This 'telephone' has too! many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is, inherently, of no value."
-- Western Union internal memo, 1876.

7. "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
-- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s

8. "The concept is interesting and well-formed. But, in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."
-- A Yale Univ. management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service.( Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

9. "Who wants to hear actors talk?"
-- H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

10. "I'm just glad it will be Clark Gable who is falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."
-- Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind! ".

11. "A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market resea rch reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."
-- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

12. "We don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out."
-- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962

13. "You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training."
-- Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus.

14. "Stocks have reached what looks like a, permanently, high plateau."
-- Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

15." Airplanes are interesting toys, but of no military value."
-- Marecha Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

16. "Louis Pasteur'! s theory of germs is ridiculous fiction."
-- Pierre Pachet, Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

17. "The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon."
-- Sir John Eric Ericksen, British surgeon, Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria, 1873.

and finally.......

18. "64K ought to be enough memory for anybody."
-- Bill Gates, 1981

Thursday, May 19, 2005

13 Days at Sea

I was just reading Jason's blogs about boxers, and the order that he and Mark feel they should be ranked. I enjoy seeing people punch each other, but fuck, those blog posts almost did me in. Mark and Jason, this is a pissing contest between the two of you. Stop wasting blogger.com's space and go have a coffee together.

Right now, I am writing because I am bored. I have been offshore on the MV War Admiral for 13 days waiting and working for Chevron Angola. One of the wells that we are here to work on has been giving them trouble and has forced me to float around on this roach infested tub for 13 days. Oh well, it pays the bills.

We didn't get the job done in the end. More well problems. There has been a lot of money spent on this well, and it is all for not. It did require me to stay up for 48 hours (which sucks. if you have ever had to work that long, you know). I got to bed this morning at 06:30 and slept until 4 pm. I don't figure i will sleep well tonight, another reason I have the time to write something.

What else? ... oh.... I visited one of the links on Andrew's blog that showed videos of a KFC chicken supplier. The workers were unbelievable in their treatment of the live chickens. Now any time I eat chicken, I feel bad about it. I blame Andrew for this.

The latest post on his blog was worth it though. The open letters site was hilarious. I wish I was that funny.

The really annoying blog I linked to in my last post has cleaned itself up. I don't know if I had anything to do with that, but I like to think so.

Well, that is all. I have 16 days left in Angola and will likely write some more crap on this blog before then.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

This one takes the cake

I have found it. The most annoying blog in the world.

Click on the title of this post. You will be dazzled.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Travel Pics continued

Okay. I have to go back to Angola in a few days (where I can't update my blog with pics). So here goes... many, many more pics:

London, England 2005

Miscellaneous Colorado 2001

Angola 2004

Grand Canyon 2004

Lake Havasu, AZ 2004

I have a lot more to post for Australia, California and more. Will do when I get time.

He Who Laughs Last...


Funny

I was checking out halliburtonhell.blogspot.com.

Yes I do read this "information" blog as well as some others... no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Anyway, they have chosen to make a little money for themselves by allowing google to place adds smack dab in the middle of their first line. Here is the funny part. Check out the link... VAULT... a review of Halliburton for potential job seekers.

Yup, funny how capitalism wins every time. So dumb.