Sunday, October 08, 2006

Africa: Day91 (My Last Communication from Africa)

Ma-salama-alakiem. Ramadan Kareem, my friends. Shul akbar and Keef al hal?

(Peace be upon you all. Happy Ramadan my friends. What's up and how are you?)

Greetings to all of you. This will be my last communication from Libya for quite awhile. Most of you already know, but for those who do not, April and I will be flying home on Monday afternoon (monday morning your time) and will have brought an end to our first trip together to Africa. I will say that is has been an experience, but I will be so very happy to be back home and out of this God-forsaken third world. No, things haven't been all bad. In fact, this has been an amazing trip. As much as we get on each other's nerves sometimes, being stuck in a country for three months with friends and co-workers FORCES you to bond in ways you would never even consider in America. There are things we share over here with each other that NO one ever wants to think about again, but there are also a great many laughs. Just tonight, we were sitting on the patio at the apartment listening to the sounds of the city while smoking Shisha and waiting for the city to open up for the night so we could do some last minute shopping.

Having exhausted my personal desire to walk any more two thousand year old cobble-stone streets and haggle for better silver prices, I have elected to have a final rendevous with the Corinthia Cafe, where I can sit here and write to you all in hopes of publishing this in the morning when I get to work. My apologies for the scant communications from me lately, both in the blogverse and via email, but as we close down almost 18 months worth of work in preparation to return home, the tasks keep mounting and the people available and qualified to do them are dwindling in proportion.

Truthfully, it's mainly because I've been a complete asshole for the last three weeks I'd imagine.. lol. Things are starting to get "political" with regards to our project and politics in a third world country means they threaten, brow-beat, and put obstacles in your way so you can't complete your job without doing it "their way." I'm afraid they have learned to their detriment that I don't work that way. I'm here to do a job and if I don't do that job perfectly, then I look bad. Most of you know how vain I am on a personal level, so you can just imagine how much worse it can be when you try to make my WORK look bad. I don't do shoddy work and woe be to the individual(s) who thought they could lay blame on me or my team. So, with all that running through my mind, plus the fact that I've been working from 9 AM until 4 AM the following morning for about eight days straight, I just haven't been in the mood to blog about the wonders of Africa these past two weeks. I'm frustrated. My team is frustrated.

Generally speaking, I think I'm going to set a rule that from now on, my team doesn't travel for more than one month at a time. Once you cross that line into two and three months, the despair of dealing with daily life over here is just too overwhelming to make it worth while. Traveling is all well and good, but I'm not interested in MOVING to Africa.. believe me... it's NOT where you want to be.

(End of tirade.. back to the good stuff.)

Well, it's 10:28 PM here and I'm sitting at the cafe. I figured I'd blog until my battery died and then I'll listen to my audiobook while I enjoy the only decent cup of coffee this country has to offer. The Corinthia has a chicken-club sandwich that's to die for.

I have been told by Bridget that the "gang" is planning a get-together at my house on Thursday night for us. At least I think it's at my house. I'm not sure I'm ever going to want to leave my house again! lol. I think the plan is to smother us with home-cooked food, to which I gladly raise my glass and say "hooyah!"

Yes, we come bearing gifts, as all good travelers should do. We found a few places here where small things could be purchased that aren't readily available in the United States, or are so ungodly expensive over there that no one would ever buy them. It's nothing major, because we're fully expecting to be detained by Homeland Security the moment I step off a plane, but it's unique nonetheless.

Homeland Security? Yes.. relax. It's ok. For whatever reason, I get stopped by immigration everytime I touch down in the USA... as if they can't tell within 10 seconds of hearing me talk that I'm a native southerner?!?!?!? Anyway, somebody called someone ( I won't say who) and told them that we were buying stuff on the european black market, which would be REALLY funny if it didn't mean the optional rectal cavity search at JFK. Most of those questions have been successfully handled now and we "should" be ok entering, but I suspect they'll still stop me for some pretense or another, just to see if we're stupid enough to have tried to sneak american military crypto gear in with our luggage.

The only thing I'm really NOT looking forward to is the wait in JFK. Basically, we're going to arrive too late Monday night to catch a plane to RDU so we have to wait until the morning. Well, April packed everything, including the kitchen sink, and I have my bags too so I'm not going to try to leave JFK with all 9 bags at midnight, find a hotel, cart all that crap upstairs, and then be back in the airport by 5:30 just so I can have the rinse-and-repeat cavity search performed again. So, we're going to land and then once we clear customs we're gonna head down to terminal 1 on the tram and sleep there on the floor for the night. It's one of the few terminals that's not closed down completely at night and they have free internet from what I'm told, so I'll be able to log on and say hi to everyone if I'm not too jet lagged. I'll be calling people too, just cause I can. (Oh yeah, if you want to reach April and can't, call her on my phone. Her phone has to be reactivated when we hit the states and it might not be active again by tomorrow night.) If you need the number, it's 252-258-0435.

Something about preparing to go "home" made me realize the funny fact that I have a true "home" here too now. I'll have to return to the USA and think about who's taking care of my house in Africa instead of vice versa.. lol. When I return to the states, there will be utensils in my kitchen here, clothes hanging in my closet here, toiletries in the pantry for when I return, Eurpoean powered clocks and cell phones to use, most of the stuff that we Americans clutter our homes in the US with will already be here. The only GOOD part of all that is it means I have to take less and less each time I travel. It's funny, the clothes I have in the US are Wrangler and Dockers. The clothes I have in Libya are Italian and French.. lol. there's no american shops here and I don't want to walk around wearing "diesel" brand t-shirts all the time. Once I convince my CEO to increase our per-diem to something above slave wages here, then we'll all be able to provide ourselves with the full compliment of things we need here to make travel much simpler. All we'll need to do is get on the plane with our laptops and we're set.

I'm still not sure how I'm going to get the things done that need to be handled in the US when I return. There's the matter of my Mom's late birthday cookout to organize, my daughter to spend time with, my Dad that I'd like to see, my sister I'd like to visit, my friend I want to go out partying with and just spend time with. I miss my Scoobs a lot. I know you guys might not feel it with me gone, but I certainly feel the difference here without you all. I miss those nights sitting at the bar just talking about the week and who's mad at who for whatever reason. I miss Marion sitting on my lap and weighing absoltely nothing and clapping her hands all over the place as she describes the latest drama she's heard about. I miss Gidget asking my opinion on something important and then telling me that I'm an idiot and then providing me with the RIGHT opinion that I should have had in the first place. (lol... she really does do that!.. lol.. but I can't wait to experience it again.) I miss Culligan's deep thoughts.. lol.. she can think deep enough sometimes that you need to bring scuba gear to be able to converse. Then she pops back into light-hearted banter again like the flip of a switch. I miss my daily phone rituals with Sassenach, that she has a LOT of catching up to do on by the way.. ( I have to give her a hard time here in public to shame her into remembering to call me.. watch.. it'll work I guarantee!)

I really can't wait to go shopping. Actually I hate the shopping part, but I felt like it would be too much to call someone and say PLEASE go buy me one gallon of milk, two boxes of Oreos, 1 carton of Marlboro lights, 1 bag of pizza rolls, two pepsis, 1 can of maxwell house coffee, 5 pounds of sugar, 1 dozen eggs, and 2 pounds of bacon... not that I've given thought to what I plan to eat when I get home or anything... heheh. I'm going to spend the first two days naked in my house, sleeping in, eating junk food, smoking like a chimney, playing computer games until 3 in the morning, ONLY getting dressed to go to the bar, and basically detoxing my personality so I can be a well-adjusted American again. I'm serious when I say that most of you wouldn't even recognize me now.. I've been so fed up with being here for so long that I'm an irate, grumpy, irritable, mal-adjusted, bad-muslim, screaming, cursing (not that they know what I'm saying thankfully), pain in the ass for most of the past month. lol.. ask April, Gregg, Chris, and Mike.. they'll tell you! I'm usually a "regular" guy who attempts cordiality at all times and tries to be the "nice" guy.. but it's going to take a few days for that to seep back into my pores.

What's the plus side of all this? Well, I can greet and give taxi directions in fluent Arabic.. that's about it.. lol I've learned to navigate with three words (Yahssar, Alatoog, Yimeen) which mean Left, Straight, Right.. no Right.. NO RIGHT you idiot! lol. I have a Muslim guy that works for me, Mohamed Torshi, who speaks fluent english and he's refused to teach me how to curse in arabic. Personally, that's not fair since I'm quite sure I've expanded HIS english vocabulary to surprising limits since I got here 10 months ago! That reminds me.. hehehe.. he asked me a few days ago who I wanted to curse at in Arabic. When I told him who it was (I can't say here) he told me "ok. mush-mushkal!" (No Problem). He said he'd teach me a few if I promised to use them only to that person and to do it when he could hear me... lol. I didnt take him up on the offer because I'm sure I'd be too tempted to try it and I'm not too sure they'd mean what he said they'd mean. I'd feel pretty stupid cursing this guy out only to find out later that I actually asked him if he'd like me to wear my underwear on my head to make him like me more.. lol.

Yes, I'm rambling. But that's what a blog is for isn't it? Oh that reminds me. I thought of the idea of starting a journal while I was here. A journal seems such a classical relaxation tool and yet it preserves the moment forever in writing, so the idea is great. However, as much as I like the idea of relaxing with a pen in hand and jotting down my life's adventures and questions, I'm pretty sure I'd lose the motivation after a short while. In fact, the idea occurred to me over a week ago and I meant to go buy a journal that next day... it's now a week later and I still haven't started one, so obviously the idea would be a bad one.

Technically, this blog really is the best kind of journal I could ask for. I've been writing here since February of 2005 and I have the added advantage of having the thoughts of other people on here too, which is something that you can't get in a journal. I'd like to be that guy who writes his memoirs by age 40 and publishes them, but I'm fairly certain no one would buy the book and then I'd have to give it as a Christmas gift to people, who would put it in a bottom drawer and forego throwing it away only because they'll pull it out when I come over so as not to make me feel bad for the gift. lol. Yes I'm a goof.. who cares?

What was there before "lol"? Though I don't do it in normal correspondence, it seems a visual method of informing the reader that you just laughed, or at least "harrumphed," at your own wit. Isn't that a little conceited? I mean who cares if you're laughing at your OWN comment. That only puts unnecessary burden on the reader to laugh back, which they really probably don't want to do, but it would seem rude not to laugh when the person telling it laughs, so we laugh anyway.. you know.. that little fake laugh we all have that we reserve for John the vice president at company christmas parties who we all know is a conceited prick who has his job because he's the CEO's nephew? The one you do while in your mind saying to youself "this really isn't funny?"

So why do we do it? Not the laughing at people's jokes when you don't want to.. we all know why we do that. I mean why do we do it in the blogverse and in the chat world? It's like a polite "uh-huh" nod that we do in conversation when we want to be seen paying attention only because we're really not. So, if that's the case, then you can replace "lol" with "reader nods approvingly" or something more savvy like "RNA"...

I have gotten to the point in my writing where I go back and strip the "lol" out of the conversation.. but then it seems like I'm not comfortable with my own witticism, so I press the "CTRL+Z" button fifteen times until they're all back in they're appropriate places.

See, NOW finally I have reached a point where this post has a point. It's a competitive challenge to you, the reader, (RNA) to come up with something more challenging. My friend Desmond used to write "laugh" or "nods" when we were chatting, which seemed a more honest response to the conversation. Take, for example, my conversation with Culligan last week. She was telling me about something that was important to her and she wanted to get it off her chest. At some point, I responded with "lol" because what I really thought was "hmm.. ok.. I'm here.. keep going." Instead, she cut off what she was saying and asked why I laughed at her comment. "I didn't laugh" I responded. Well, now this little colloquialism has caused me trouble. Now the simple polite courtesy that used to be LOL turned into insult, which of course it wasn't intended to be, which required explanation, which ruined the flow of the conversation. Now, look what "lol" did to me! It's a ruinous little word... and yes I'm overly caffienated! It's now 11:24 PM and April is on her way here to meet with me to have Green Tea before we head home and call it a night. What ya wanna bet she bought more than she intended to? Not that I can complain. She' spent hardly anything here on herself. I purchased myself a newer cell phone, but that's about all I've purchased here too. Well, that's not true. I bought a very nice Swatch watch... no you goof, not the cheap american thing kids wear.. the nice Swiss executive watch.. it's gorgeous! The only other thing I bought was a Versace men's ring. I've wanted a good ring that looked right on me ever since I lost the one Allison gave me at the Fairfield Inn at an Electrolux convention in September of 2003. I'm still pissed about that! That was the first gold ring I'd ever been given.. actually I think it was the first piece of jewelry that anyone ever purchased for me.. and I think it got left in the hotel bathroom on the counter. Personally, that's what they get for giving a guy like me a suite that was competely mirrored on three walls... I couldn't help but have other things on my mind at the time, but that's another story that will NOT make it on to the blog.

Oh yeah, speaking of Allison, I heard back from her the other day. I emailed her in a fit of desperation the other week. I've wanted her Granny Faye's recipe for Pineapple casserole for years and she finally emailed it back to me and asked me to say Hi to Hannah and Mom... so.. umm.."Hi Hannah!" and "Hi Mom" (from Alli-Cat). She's doing well as far she she told me and she says she knows she should call.... so that's the news from that front.

What other news do I have? Not much. Oh yeah. Shak and Ding (no this isn't news.. stop anticipating something important. Can't you tell from the tone of this blog that there is NO important information here.. why are you still reading this anyway? Don't you have ANYTHING better to be doing?) Anyway, Shak and Ding! I hope you two are ready for some SERIOUS CoH time when I get back. I have some major catching up to do I'm sure. I've been gone for 91 days so I'm sure you guys are WAY past me and April in the game, however I hold you responsible to play with us losers when we get back! If that means you have to Exemplar down, then we'll just level faster with your vast amounts of experience! lol! We've really missed you guys a ton. I actually logged on once a few weeks back to play for an hour but I was experiencing major Ding-Lag and couldn't stay on. I was flying around Perigrine Island and then Boom.. I have 40K debt and I'm dead on the ground. That happened twice before I gave up on the experience and decided to make up my lost time when I return home. Shak, good work on the SG base by the way.. it looks freakin' awesome. There's transporters everywhere.. work tables everywhere.. nice work. I'll come contribute accordingly upon my return. Hell, at this point, I'm going to have to ask YOU how to use the crap in my own base.. lol. You do know that the four of us are the only ones who have any idea what I'm talking about, right? I bet at this point, at least one viewer has gone back up a paragraph and started over to see where they missed something. (Shak and Ding are two of our Gaming buddies and we team with them on a computer game we all play online in the states... yes it's a geeky thing to do.. shuuuutt uuuuppp! I'm entitled to a LITTLE geeking out now and again to offset my rugged good looks and wily charms!)

Well, I'm down to 11% battery life on the laptop.. I wonder how long that last 11% will last? I need to remember to charge this thing fully so I'll have something to keep me occupied in JFK for half the night when we land. Let me see think about it in terms of Eastern Standard Time. We'll be getting up on Monday at 3AM EST, arriving at the airport at 5AM EST, boarding the plane to London at 9AM, landing in London at hold on.. we lose an hour in london.. so I'll only be 5 hours ahead of you at that point.. so I'll be flying for two hours, but it'll only be 1 hour on the clock.. so I'll be in london at 10AM. Then, we will depart for JFK at 3PM, landing in JFK at 10:30 PM. Ok.. that means we'll be up for 19.5 hours when we land in JFK. We PROBABLY won't be able to sleep, so let's assume that we conk out around 1 or 2 AM, wake up in the floor of the airport by 5 AM, get on the plane and come home. Basically we will have been up for 30 hours when we see Gidget at the airport. We'll look like hell, smell funny, and our digestive systems will be in complete shock from the combination of crappy arabic breakfast, crappy airplane food, and whatever we'll be able to scarf from the snack machines at the airport in JFK... not to mention that horrible snack they'll serve on the commuter flight from JFK to RDU. God... I'm gonna be in a world of hurt by the time I get back.. RNA!

Well, the batter warning just kicked in.. see you all soon! Love you and miss you all!


  1. I'll be keeping in you my thoughts and prayers as you begin your travel.

    Tommy and April, as you know, it is always a pleasure to game with you and to hear your voices as we play...really miss that something awful! Ding and I are awaiting your return. Credit for the SG base is not mine to receive, but a group effort on the part of Cript and our new friends from Pinnacle (altho, to me, they are old friends now!).

    So...enough geekiness for the moment. Suffice it so say, your return to the USA will be a welcomed one. Peace!

  2. hey man hope ya'll have a safe flight i will be up qll night both nights at gpd so if u want to call unfortunatley i will be up....see ya on the ground in the next couple of days


  3. I have to pick up funny smellin' people??? Ewwwwww! Just kiddin'. I'm glad to... can't wait to see y'all. Oh, and the cookout is at Marion's. You're not allowed in her kitchen! You're only allowed to show up and eat!

  4. Ok Sassenach.. point proven. Am I off the "Do Not Call" list yet?


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