Sunday, March 26, 2006

Ghani Desert

Aside from personally being the author, I would never believe the composer of this article was indeed the same man who wrote the previous one. I intended to sit down tonight and continue to regale you all with wonderful stories of the desert, however the true ability to fabricate that much wonder escapes me at the moment. To be sure this is indeed a beautiful land, but right now I would give my left arm, or at least Tim's left arm; for I may have need of both my own, for a chance to eat again at the corinthia, or to have a snack of any sort that was not buried in spice.

Right this moment, I am in Ghani, not quite in the heart of the desert, but in the northern-most reaches of the Libyan desert. At 0900 this morning, we boarded a private plane, a twin auto of you're curious, and flew 200 km south from Ras Lanuf. I have pictures taken from the air and from the ground that I will share with you when I find time to be connected to the internet once again, but for now I will resort to text in the effort to make sure I'll be able to post this once I again reach a place with communications. Were it not for Tim, I would have indeed gone crazy here. His flaming red head is a welcome sight that makes me smile each time I see him trudging along miserably behind me; his nose eternally stuck to the LCD screen of his GPS. To be sure, there is no other man with whom I would prefer to be lost in the desert with. For he alone holds the satellite coordinates that can find me safely home again in the event that we start a jihad; which I may be about to do.

Not that you can tell from your vantage, but I was pulled away again by Shams (Pronounced Shahms, with a soft "a") for some updating. One thing I think I miss most over here; personal time. When at my main project site, there is a full day of work every day, often working one to two hours longer than the other companies on-site. Once we arrive back at our rooms, yet another hour of my night and sometimes as much as three are consumed working the days progress over with the staff, planning the next day, or just performing the duties of counselor for guys who want someone to vent to. When you add to the mix the fact that dinner time over here is a three hour event, very little time is left to oneself for relaxation, meditation, or just even having time to write you all. Writing to those of you back in the states is one of the things that keeps me sane here. I miss walking my house in the mornings while April is yet asleep. Saturday mornings usually consist of me trying to rise an hour or two before her so I can make some coffee, check my email, and just generally get to by myself for awhile before anyone else is awake. This is the time that the cats know they can pester me without fear of being banished from my lap. Some days I stand on the eave of my porch and watch the neighbors take a jog down the street. I count the new shades of nature within my view from the porch, noting the change in the leaves that signify the turning of a season, or the upward turn of the leaves on the trees that tell me nature is expecting rain that day. All those little things are foreign in this land. I miss sitting on my porch, never really content until I have inspected all the plants for signs of brown leaves and have pruned them all back to green, constantly clucking at myself for being negligent in their care that previous week.

I miss the creak in my computer desk chair that I always found so annoying when I was there. I vowed time and time again to fix that creak so it will quit bothering me. However, now I think that when I next hear it I will smile in remembrance of the days when I longed to hear it. It would signify that I was indeed home, among family, among friends, among familiar surroundings in which I can easily navigate. 

I very much miss my Jeep. When I purchased this one, I bought the vehicle that was most like the one that made me happy; my first Jeep. I remember those days, driving around town, taking small things for granted. You have no idea how convenient it is to take a quick five minute ride to the store to buy whatever you may have forgotten the day before. Over here, when I have forgotten a supply, I have to make a phone call to have the part flown in from another part of the country. Today, we decided that it would be good to go ahead and send a plane back to Tripoli to pick up the cable for the GPS, in case something happened to it and all its data was destroyed. We have spent many hours working on this project and I would not like to go back and report that I lost the satellite coordinate information due to the fact that I forgot a five dollar cable. So, tomorrow, a plane will depart Tripoli and fly south into the desert with my cable. It seems far too complex for such a small item, however the nearest computer supply store is approximately 200 km north of my present location and the next closest location is about 1300 km south of my present location. In light of those facts, I find myself more than happy to allow them to fly me my cable.

I saw camel tracks today. (I fear that I have the need to ramble here a bit, so please bear with me. ) I attempt to keep my thoughts organized for all of you who take the time to read these words, but sometime I am struck with the need to write what enters my head. I remember looking at the track and thinking how strange to see a camel track. To someone from the corn-fed-tobacco-smoking-collard-eatin' section of North Carolina that I am from, a camel track is as strange as seeing the camel itself. I tracked the camel for a few minutes, tracing its path as it attempted to come in from the desert in search of food here at one of the camps. Here, this far into the Sahara, the fences that are located everywhere serve more to keep the camels out than to keep the people contained inside. 

I am tan now. This was one of the few things I was glad to see today. Being naturally dark-complected has made my life here much easier. While the light or olive-skinned European contractors walk around bundled from head to foot in jackets and pants to protect themselves from the harsh rays of the sun, I am almost able to completely forego the necessary coverings. Today was a little worrisome, so I came back at lunch time and picked up my aussie-shirt (yeah, the one you all hate) and wore it for the rest of the afternoon. The desert was hot today. From noon until almost five in the afternoon, the sun seemed to hang suspended like a great furnace in the sky. As the hours wore on, it seemed as if God himself kept turning up the temperature, just to see when the sand would bake. The water in my water bottle was so hot it was almost undrinkable. It did nothing for thirst, but I drank it anyway. Dehydration in the desert is not a fun experience. The natives here also complain about the heat, but warn that this is nothing compared to the scalding temperatures they will endure in the summer. During the summer here, temperatures often reach 50 degrees (Celsius) or about 135 degrees fairenheit. There is no breeze to cool you and the occasional breeze you do experience is most likely going to carry dry heat in interspersed with an uncomfortable amount of the powdery fine sand that coats this region.

Tim has a cold. Yes, indeed. I pack him up and carry him six-thousand miles across the world, into the middle of the desert, and he develops a cold. How in the world that man survives the calamities of nature, I will never know. The poor guy is constantly sniffling, sneezing, and feeling generally miserable. Personally I attribute half his condition to dehydration and an advance of his allergies as a reaction to it, but only time will tell. He hasn't drank a bottle of water in two days so I know his system is depleted. However, he perseveres through copious amounts of Tylenol sinus and coca-cola, or at least the Libyan equivalent thereto.

I miss you April. As I am sure you will read these words, when and if I ever get to civilization to publish them. I'm sure you would find this location beautiful, but I am glad you are not here at this part to experience it with me. While it would indeed make my personal experience much the better, the physical conditions in these camps are not such that I would want you here. There are no women. All the camp personnel are men; from the general staff to the cleaning crews. I have yet to see women's quarters at any of these locations, nor have I glanced one single shoufa amidst all the head dresses in the region.

Sassenach, I miss you as well. Being this far removed from your friendship is no worse than being removed from it when I am home, but at least I can talk to you when I am there. The lack of communication that I have become used to from you has made this a difficult journey to make. I'm sure you have possibly emailed me, but I am as yet unable to get to my email and do not yet know when I will once again connect to the digital world.

Hannah, I wish so much that you could experience this with me. Since I know you have school and sports to attend to, I expect you have a busy life going on at home. You are too young to understand it yet, but knowing that I can see you when I need to or when you want to makes being separate from you much easier to deal with when I am home. You are never more than two hours away from me and I can always reach you on the phone. Here, however, the distance might as well be a million miles away. You might as well be on a different planet. I am trying though, to take enough interesting pictures that maybe when I get back the two of us can sit down together and make a photo album of this trip. I have been trying to keep the photos in order and to take photos of things that might interest you so that you will find my story one of interest and one you can be proud of. In the meantime, I hope that you are minding your mother and your father there at home. You do not know how lucky you are to have Michelle for a mother and to be one of the few children lucky enough to have two dads that both love her. You are in the most capable hands and I know that Shawn and Michelle have provided you with all the things necessary for you to grow up and make us all proud of  you. I would, however, like to take this time to point out, while to far away for your mother to scold me, that you got your brains from my side of the family tree! (relax... only poor humor, mother dearest.) 

Mom and Ray, I know not how to tell you both what I am experiencing here. Ha. I'm technically a man of the world now, at least insomuch as having been on both sides of it can make one such a man. I will never again utter the words "BFE" with quite the same context as before, for now I have seen it and it is indeed a LONG way from anything familiar or comforting to me. I am blending well though I think. Mother, you have done a great job of raising me to be a man who respects the rights of others, customs of others, and who tries to be tolerant of things that I do not understand. In as much as I am known to have a quick temper when things go wrong, I do manage to keep a cool head and refrain from going beyond the point of reason while I am here and at the mercy of people and customs that are foreign to me. 

I can not wait for you to go to Brazil. I hope that you travels will bring you the experiences that I have always wanted to allow you to have. Ever since I have been old enough to know how much you worked and how much you sacrificed for the two of us, I have always wanted to pay some of that back. And more importantly, I want to do it in a time that will allow you the youth in which to enjoy it. I have told April to give you a check for your Brazil fund, as I am calling it. Please make sure she remembers. I wanted this to be money for your trip that you could spend on things that please you. Spend it not on food or travel expenses, only where it will be remembered. Buy something for yourself that you can look back on and smile. I am quite sure that you can find room on that mantelpiece at home. I remember all the years ago when that pig fell off and smashed to pieces on the floor. Get yourself something in Brazil that can go in that spot so that you will remember it. Of course, small amounts of money can never repay the debt I owe you for teaching me the things you have, but it is a small start. I hope that maybe now I am finally at a place in my life when I can help to begin to offer back some of the gifts you have given me throughout the years.

Raymond. I am proud of you. In case you haven't known it in the past, it is true. I sit here six-thousand miles away and think "what would Ray do if he were here?" Then I look around for the nearest armed guard and wince at the idea. No doubt, you would have us both in the cook pot with some antic within the first few days. You have always been the more brash of the two of us. You are headstrong and stubborn and you have made a lot of mistakes in your life, but I don't think anyone may have told you how far you have come from those mistakes that haunted your past. You have turned into a man, a responsible one, a caring one, and a good one. I just thought you should know I recognized that in you. Growing up, you always lived in the shadow of the "first-born." You would have thought that our father was an English lord and I was the heir to the throne. However, I don't know that you ever knew that you would then be the prince-regent of said kingdom. Now our father is away, probably for the rest of his life, and with rare visits being the exception, he will never know except through story and rare incidental meeting that you have turned out to be the man that you are. Looking back, I often wonder what life would have been like if things had stayed the way they were when we lived on the beach. By now, I would have come into my hereditary kingdom; a house next to Aunt Linda. And I would have been granted my royal vehicle; a busted dodge ram truck with a sign on the doors. Hmm... yes, I am quite glad that life has turned out the way it has for the both of us. Congratulations on your new job. I have been in your position before and it is a tough job to perform, but you have the dedication and more importantly, the hardheadedness, to see it through. Just don't throw anyone on to a stove top or in the dumpster, ok?

And take care of Mom for me. I know she is a strong lady and that she will ever be the queen to both us her sons, but I fear for her when I am this far away with no way to return home quickly in the event of an emergency. If things go right, this will be the way my life goes for awhile; at least for the next couple of years while I establish myself firmly in the business realms here and in other countries. I work with the foresight of what my future could be like if I can work hard enough, and put to use all the talents taught to the both of us by our father, grandfather, and by Mom. I work to establish a place in this world that I can call my own. I am not delusional enough to believe that I will leave a lasting empire after my years are gone, but I do hope to be to leave something for my children to be proud of. And as time goes on here, I hope that if you are interested, I can find a place here for you doing something you enjoy and getting to travel the world with me. But to do that, we need to be able to give something back to Mom first. I want mom to be able to relax once in awhile, not work so hard and I know that you wish for the same. We have often spoken of it together, but maybe we are both on a path now that can facilitate that shared vision we have always had.

What else is there to say? It has been a long day and tomorrow promises to be even longer. When I rise in the morning, I have three more locations here to survey. Then, sometime around lunch time or early afternoon, I hope to make it into the nearest town and to find an internet connection that I can use to get online. Monday morning, I will fly to Tripisti ( I think that's how its spelled) and will spend a day there. The next day will see me in Amal, deeper into the sahara and at the location of the last and largest of my surveys. Then I will be home, such as it is, in Tripoli. Having experienced another side of Africa and what it has to offer, I can truly say that I will very much look forward to room-service once again and to the instant coffee I hated so much when I was there. 

April, my dearest, please communicate with our boss and make plans to travel as soon as possible. I miss you dearly and the image of you getting off the plane in Tripoli is the only thing I have had to look forward to now for weeks. I want to show you the sights, take you to the exotic local destinations and secret local hideaways, but more than anything else I want to hold you again in my arms. I swear woman that I am going to teach you to hug me and kiss me at least a hundred times a day. Never will I allow either of us to forget how nice it feels to simply touch your face with my fingertips. Hurry to me and do not delay.

To you all, I say goodnight. It is almost eleven PM here in Ghani, so it's about four in the afternoon where you all are. Yes, Shak, I know it is indeed different for you. I have not forgotten you my dearest friend, nor you Ding ( in case you're reading this too and getting indignant about not being mentioned.) Both of you should write me. Shak, I hope you're keeping Viper and the Major in good shape for me when I return.  Take care of the SG in my absence and let them know that I have not fallen off the face of the earth, only traveled to the other side of it.

I love you all, miss you all, and sincerely cannot wait to see you all again.

End of entry for now. 03-25-06 2246 hours GMT+2.


  1. Tommy~ You have just truly made me appreciate my friends, family, and the good old US of A. Hang in there. And April, I tried emailing you but it bounced back. Hope you're doing well. Talk to you when you get back. Heather @ CCT.

  2. Indignant? Yes, what a wonderful word that is so descriptive of me! Ok Tommy! A Long email will come your way. Even though you arent here, my drama is still ongoing! Hang in there man, I also papreacite your wonderful entries. I can see things though your eyes. Your prose brings the sights, smells and expereinces to the forefont of my mind as I read your words. Now, how about a side trip to Grece?

  3. TOmmy: I'm still here, just moving, unpacking, installing fence, installing mailbox, etc. etc.

    I'm not ignoring you. I'll get back online next week.

    What an experience of a lifetime!!



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