On Blogging

In the last week I have received two e-mails from friends who I have not spoken to in years. They found my blog and it prompted them to write. It was fantastic to hear from them. When I was in Canada, I bumped into a friend in Chapters who I haven’t seen in almost a year and she mentioned she also read my blog.

Sometimes I have questioned why I write this blog (especially since it has got me into trouble a couple of times in recent months) and occassionally I do wonder whether I am being vain by talking about my thoughts and experiences. Then I read this post on Anne Zelenka’s blog ‘Anne 2.0‘ and it decsribed my motvations exactly. Anne writes:

“The power of blogging is not that it allows us to broadcast our voice and ideas to many people, but that it supports human scale interactions, dialogues between and among people that wouldn’t otherwise happen…..” 

I don’t really care if I don’t have a readership of hundreds, I don’t expect it since I write largely about myself, and I don’t think I am that interesting in the grand scheme of things. As most of my friends will contest, I love to talk and I love people and this is my way of connecting when I am not actually able to speak to them.

It’s good to be able to understand your reasons for doing things, so, thank you, to Anne for her post.


Does Not Fly Well with Others

I have landed back in Gabon and I am writing this from the twilight zone that I occupy after 36 hours of traveling, eating sugar and drinking cups of tea to stay awake.

The journey was fine, apart from yet another encounter (during the Toronto to Paris leg)with a person who just doesn’t know how to behave when cruising along with 300 other people in a confined space at 10,000 feet. It occurred to me that if only the government could introduce some passenger oriented pre-flight behavioural training, the world (or at least that flight) would be a much better place.

This particular gentleman must have been the founding member of the Exhuberant Old French Men’s Club, since he was, indeed, very exhuberent, old and French. He spent the entire eight hour flight yelling wise cracks in French at his traveling companions who were (wisely) sat 15 rows away. He punched the buttons of his TV screen (the one that was in the back of my seat) irratically every 15 minutes or so for fear of missing anything, and he wrestled with the lady sat next to him as she tried to pass to get to the aisle, causing her to howl with laughter and use my head as a steadying post. 

I don’t think he knew he was being obnoxious (although the Italian guy next to me threw him some very dirty looks after a couple of particularly loud whoops) he just hadn’t figured out how to behave appropriately. Now, had he done some pre-flight training, he would have known what to do. This training could include the best way to address air stewards, acceptable noise levels, the art of waiting your turn, how to load the overhjead compartment without causing a fellow traveler to receive a concussion and the best way to sit to prevent you from kneeing your neighbour in the back or draping yourself all over his seat. Each person could have their passport stamped to show they had acheived an acceptable level of good manners and every so often would have to go to a refresher course. 

Oh my God, the very thought of a world where people are polite and considerate when they travel, it gives me hope….

Googling Yourself

This post was written on my last day before I left Gabon, but I forgot to publish it, so it all out of chronological order with the others. But I figured what the hell…it has the word ‘porn’ in it, you can’t miss an opportunity to publish that on the internet.

Googling yourself. Ever done it? Well, as I wait for the plane to arrive to start me on my journey home I did this morning.

By the way, before I get started, Rob called me at 11pm last night and he is fine. I am very happy! Strangely enough though he had a similar experience whilst he was away. One of his friends wives is battling cancer and it also got him thinking.

Anyway back to the present and I am Googling myself and Rob. Googling before you ask is not some weird cricketing term (although I do believe there is something to do with googling in the game) but is in fact the vain and self obssessive act of searching for references to yourself on the internet. I come up number 1,2, 3 and 6 on a search and Rob comes up 1,2,4 and his Grandfather comes up number 5. But what is more interesting is that at number 10 is a PORN STAR called ‘Juliette Le Prouse’. Now how exotic is that?? I wonder how one goes about adding French prepositions to one’s name?

African Roadkill

Singe vers Toucan.JPGHa, ha only joking…but it was a close call. How many people can say, ‘well I was driving back from …….. and I almost ran over a monkey!’. That’s what happened to me yesterday afternoon. It leapt out from the bush and in front of the car. Fortunately I wasn’t going very fast and was able to slow do enough to avoid it. I wish I had my camera with me (how many times do I say that to myself when I am here, I should learn my lesson and have it with me at all times). I’ve included a photo here of a similar model.

Last night I was in bed by 8.30 and slept like the dead, but not before I had a huge panic attack about Rob. He is in Bon Echo at the moment for the long weekend. It is one of his favourite climbing spots. The Canadian Alpine Club are having an anniversary celebration up there (50 years, I think, if not more) and many of the people he has been climbing with for years will be there. His new climbing partner Tim is also going.

Part of what makes Bon Echo so beautiful is the fact that it is entirely surrounded by water. All the rock comes directly out of the water and you get from place to place on a boat. It is very remote and there is no way of comuunicating with anyone once they are there.

Climbing is not an unsafe sport if it is done properly and Rob is very experienced. However I do worry sometimes as there are many tales of dramatic fatalities that happen as a result of climbing and not all of them involve beginners, if you get my drift.

Last night for some reason (maybe tiredness) I was suddenly gripped by a terrible fear that something had happened to Rob. Try as I might to rationalise it, I couldn’t. It doesn’t really happen very often but in such a situation I would usually pick up the ‘phone, hear his voice and know that everything is OK. I can’t do that this weekend. You can’t call someone when they are in the middle of nowhere and nobody who he is with would know how to contact me here in Gabon. He isn’t going to be back until late tomorrow night.

As the panic attack progressed I started to think about what we had said the last time we spoke, what had we done the very last time we were together? We hadn’t argued but we were both tired and a bit distracted. Right in the middle of that maelstrom of emotions I think I learnt at least some of the value in what Buddhists call ‘being in the moment’, in other words, appreciate, enjoy and be aware of every moment of your life because you won’t get it back.

In the cold light of day things don’t feel as desperate, but I am still counting the hours down to tomorrow night….

Moonlight Safari

This morning I am a bit groggy as I drink my morning coffee. Last night I went out with our Smithsonian researcher, Barabara, on one of her nightly treks into the Gabonese jungle. She is studying the change in behaviour of nocturnal animals as a result of external influences (hunting, the activity in the oilfield, location etc) and almost every night for the past three months she has spent up to six hours in the bush ‘mammal spotting’.

So she, myself and her assistant went out last night and did a route near to our Southern checkpoint. We left around 8pm and got back about 1.15am. It was a great experience. Although Barbara was a bit disappointed at our sightings (sometimes they come across wild pigs, leopards and other rare creatures) I was quite happy, although I was so tired by the end of it, I could barely express any kind of emotion at all!

We saw a few little Galigos (very small animals with long tails and huge eyes that live in trees) very cute. We also saw something called a blue Leporg (I don’t think that’s the correct spelling) and when Barabara first whispered the name I thought she said ‘there’s a blue leopard’ - I was a bit apprehensive about that one! Some of the trees in the forest are so old and huge – over 10 feet wide. We also came across wild pig and elephant tracks.

It was great for a night but I definitely don’t have the patience to do that as a job. In order to be able to spot anything that might be there, you have to move really, really slowly. So for half of the night we were walking 10 paces, then looking around for about 10 seconds. It equals very slow progress, which to me, got infuriating after the first hour or so. None the less I am glad to have had the experience and I really don’t feel that bad this morning.

It was an eventful night for all. We had a truck rollover incident on the concession (although it was a Total, not a Shell contractor involved) and two people had to medivaced out at midnight last night. So everyone is a bit tired this morning and the office, I suspect, will be quite quiet!

Today marks the 14th day of not boozing and everything is going well. It is interesting the difference in tiredness from staying up late for reasons other than drinking (as I am this morning) and tiredness from boozing. I prefer the former.

The threat of a general strike seems less serious now and so I am quite optimistic that I will make it home on time next week. So down to handover notes this morning… 


Oil and Divorce

Maybe because I am the ‘LWF’ (lone white female) in Gabon, but for some reason people tell me things that, if it weren’t for the fact I am used to it by now, I’d find odd. I won’t go into details, but I will often be having a normal chat with someone and suddenly either a piece of really personal information will come out or some very sincerely intended advice. 

Most of the time I don’t mind, as long as I haven’t heard the story too many times before, or I’m not in the middle of something at work. I just wonder whether it is because I am female, or easy to talk to, or perhaps I am not unique and the other guys get this too. It’s just often surprisng coming from men, who, let’s face it are pretty well known for not talking about their feelings very often.

Even so, this morning I did find it odd that, at 6.30am as I was making a cup of coffee, a guy who has only been in Rabi a few days, and who I have maybe spoken to briefly on a couple of occasions, suddenly started telling me, quite seriously, that I shouldn’t make a career choice out of oilfield work because 80% of the marriages of oil field workers fail..I was a bit taken aback. I actually knew this already but the fact that a complete stranger had felt the need to point it out to me seems strange. I don’t know, maybe my perspective is a bit skewed with being so close to going home.

On that subject, there is still no definitive news on the threatened National Strike. Rumour has it that it will take place on Monday 4th September for one day and then things will resume on Tuesday. I have no idea what this means for me or my back 2 back, so I am resigned not to think about it until next week.


Sort of like Coronation Street

So this morning I have a slight adjustment of perspective and I have stopped whining about the possibility of a Gabonese General strike. I started the day early reading a couple of my favourite blogs.

One I haven’t mentioned before is www.dooce.com. It’s written by a woman called Heather who has been blogging since 2001, taking you through being fired because of what she said on her blog about people she worked with (yikes), getting married, having her first child, being treated for depression and moving back to her home state Utah where she was brought up a Mormon (she definitely isn’t one now).

It’s funny, poignant and she gets amazing hate mail. One of my particular favourites is from 2002 called ‘How to Really Hate Your Job’. Written just before she got fired, she describes rocking up to work 2 hours late in the clothes she wore the night before and shouting ‘smack my bitch up you motherf**ker’ at her boss before spending the entire day seeing how many times she can load some game onto her computer before it conks out.

I think I read dooce.com for the same reasons some people watch Corrie (Coronation Street). However pissed off, screwed up, or generally ill at ease I am, Heather is worse, but hell of a lot funnier.

Reluctant Witness

It’s Saturday again in Rabi, yeah! BBQ night and it marks the beginning of my last metric week. Except, well, it might not…There is threat of a General Strike in Gabon. Apparently the country is fed up with the government’s idea of what the minimum wage should be. I would be too if I was trying to survive on $60 CAD per month whilst the President is so rich that he could buy England and still have enough left over for a couple of islands in the Caribbean..

Citizens in many, now-great-once-developing nations have striked for the same reasons and I know I would be witnessing an important part of Gabonese history if I am here when it all kicks off. However..I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the opportunity, but the strike is rumoured to be a-go-go on September 4th and I am supposed to be flying out on September 5th. If the whole country (or at least the less well paid citizens) go on strike then very little will get done, and I doubt my chances of getting out of here as planned. Bugger. That is not to mention the fact that we won’t get fresh food delivered to Rabi, plus there is a possibility that our catering staff will go out in support.

Looking on the bright side, I have always wondered what it would be like to be a professional chef AND how well I would survive if I got stranded in the jungle. Perhaps this will will give me the opportunity to do both at the same time…

On a brighter note it is my seventh day of not drinking and, without a doubt, it has all been plain sailing so far. Yesterday I read something interesting about booze inhibiting the body’s ability to regulate estrogen levels. Given that I have had problems related to this in the past, maybe there will be other benefits (in addition to not waking up with a pounding headache) to be gained from this experience.. 


Which came first?

chick_egg_opt.jpgI’ve been doing some reading on the concept of non-dualism. In the process of trawling the internet I came across this cartoon on advaitatoons. I thought it was really cute.



Setting the Record Straight

Right. One or two people in Rabi (I had no idea anyone here was actually reading my blog) have commented about the post I did in June called ‘Weblog’. It is about the fact that I am trying to avoid getting angry about things in life and how I was worried about my own job effectiveness when I first arrived here because I didn’t get mad very often. I made a comment that the lady whom I job share with has a self-styled nickname, ‘BFH’.

All this is true. However, what is not true, is that I think the way she does things is not as good as the way I do them because our approaches are different. She is very good at her job, and uses her rare talent for scaring the crap out of people to great effect. But she also has a heart of gold and is well respected for both. It just isn’t my way of doing things. I am different – get it?

The post wasn’t intended to cause offence to someone I consider a friend. And before you say anything ‘Mr Blobby’, I am not writing this to avoid having my head kicked in either…so there.