If you ever go to a foreign country, the very first thing you'd better do is make friends. If I hadn't been recognized from my blog by a nice lady in Africa, almost a year ago while eating dinner at the Venezia, then my life would be much different at right this moment.
I'm currently sitting in Tara's house in Saraj, on the western of outskirts of Tripoli, in Libya. (shown above)To be specific, I have spent the last two days wearing her shorts and her husband's T-shirts while I wait for my entire life (luggage) to be delivered, assuming of course it's not lost forever into the hands of some islamic militant ipod-toting, gps using, bandit. In addition to ALL my clothing and tools, the most disasterous aspect to all this is that my cell phone charger and iPod chargers are in my luggage. So, if something isn't done very soon, I'll be sans iPod and with no communications... which is WAY not cool.
Let me see if I can tell this story from the beginning...
Saturday October 28th
We left the USA on Saturday, the 28th of October via RDU and IAD on to LRH and then to TIP, arriving finally at 3PM on the 29th. After enduring 25 hours of flying and no sleep, we spent three hours sitting in immigration with no visas. Why in the world would we travel with no visas? Well, we were told they would be waiting there for us. I should say at this point that each and every airline employee who asked to see my Visa shook their head in the same manner when I blithely informed them of the fact that my Visa was waiting for me in Africa. They simply muttered something and stamped my ticket, before giving me a "good luck you poor bastard" gaze as I walked on to my next destination.
Well, since we spent three hours in customs, our ride had left us, naturally assuming we had missed the flight. From here we managed to wrangle a cab to the hotel we always stay at, and then were fairly surprised to find there were no rooms. Neither me nor my guys knew anything about it, but there is a major international air-show going on in Tripoli as well as an expo, so the entire town is booked solid. And I DO mean the ENTIRE town. After being told we couldn't get rooms at the Wenzrik, we started trying other hotels. We went through six hotels before finally trying the Corinthia, assuming that at one-thousand dollars per night, they were sure to have a vacancy. Ummm.. no. Even they were booked solid.
After 4 hours of trying, we were finally able to reach Mani on the phone so we had our taxi driver drop us off at the Corinthia where we would rhendevouz with Mani and plan a course of action ultimately destined to put our sorry asses in a bed sometime before dawn.
By paying a cab driver 50 bucks I was able to get him to drive all over town while we ate dinner and have him try to locate us a room, which he eventually did. When our friend Haitam called about the room the cab driver told him it was 85.00 each, for one night, which isn't too bad really.... except this hotel is only 50.00 per person per night. He was trying to make an additional 35.00 off our desperation.... stupid capitalist. Haitam renogotiated us a room rate and took us to the hotel so at 11:30 PM we finally got in a room and I was able to call Tara and explain why we couldnt meet her at the airport 12 hours earlier.
So, twice already in our first twelve hours, we were saved only by the gracious nature of friends we'd met earlier in our travels. Tara called me later Monday night and we were able to explain what happened and why we couldn't meet with her. Gracious as always, she offered to put us up the following days until we were able to either get a hotel or move on to the desert.
Tuesday, October 30th
Tuesday began with a little less drama, however I still had no change of clothes to wear and have been in the same garments now since I left the states. Probably smelly, but no worse for wear we meet Tara for lunch and then she took us for some shopping before heading back to her place. I've been to her house before but didn't get to really appreciate it the first time. Tim and I were accomodated on the 2nd and a half story (that's kinda the best way to explain it). We each have great sized rooms, and obviously an Internet connection, and the hospitality of a really great lady who makes a pretty mean taco when she wants to.
I spent the remainder of the day trying to get British Airways to track my lost baggage down. Unfortunately I can't call an 800 number from Libya, so I had to get April to handle the US offices while I contacted London and Libya offices. After a few hours of trying to reach everyone in the world (literally the whole world) all April and I could determine was that British Airways is completely useless. The tripoli office told me to cal the airport.. wow.. YOU are the airline who lost my luggage and you want me to call the airport that it never came to? That's freakin brilliant! British Airways in London has no information at all. British Airways online responded with a message saying "we'll respond." Well, hot-diggity! When? BA in America could only tell April that the knew it was lost.. not when, not where, not anything else, just that its lost. I guess when I find it, they'll want me to call them and tell them where it was, for their records...
Having nothing else to do of significance, and now garbed in Tara's clothes, the three of us pretty much relegated ourselves to Gaming on the computers until bed time.
Wednesday, October 31st
Well, it's Halloween I guess huh? Happy Freakin Trick.
Today began by sleeping-in in my king-size guest bed. I got up, called all the airlines and lost & found departments again, and still nothing. Tara was kind enough to put a few of her company guys on it. They deal with this sort of thing from time to time as well and are experienced in how to get your gear back, most of the time.
Later in the afternoon, my boss got to Tripoli and asked us to meet with the client so we can go to the desert tomorrow... did I mention I have no clothes, no tools, no gear, no toiletries, and basically nothing I need to do my job? As such, Tim is going by himself to Ras Lanuf while I stay here for a few more days and try to get this mess straightened out on my side.
So far, I've heard from my guy in the field, Mohamed Torshi, and he asked me "why are we here? I'm here with four egyptians and we have no idea what we're supposed to be doing, have no car, and basically can't do anything..." The one guy I have who DOES have a car is in Sirte doing something else, when he's supposed to be in Ras Lanuf doing his job, which is par for the course with him. He's politically connected, so I pretty much can't touch him, yet I'm forced to employ him for the benefit of Wasta.
So when I DO get to the desert, I have to get my team straightened out, get desert passes for everyone, try to round-up a car (or three) to drive, and then start the project... all of this is of course pending I actually get my clothing and tools straightened out in the next few days. If not, I'm sending my CEO a huge bill to replace all my gear, then I'm hopping my happy little butt on a plane and heading for the promised land!
On top of all this, I found out today that I have to be back in the states in about three weeks. I have a court appointment in Washington DC (nothing I've done, no worries) that I can't miss. Joy...
So, that's been my week so far. This has by far been the most messed-up deployment we've ever had. There is literally no way I'm going to be able to get anything handled at this rate. I haven't even been able to tell my CEO that I've got to leave in three weeks yet, but I guess I'll let him know tomorrow when I see him. I talked to him today and he didn't seem too concerned with my well-being, so long as one of us got to Ras Lanuf to get the project going.
Truth be told, it's annoying, but it's not terrible. It could all be much worse. I have luckily made wonderful friends who have gone out of their way to help us out when we have nothing in return except our gratitude to offer them. If not for them, I would seriously have gone crazy.
I'm going cut this off here and get on to working on my other to-do's. I'll write more when I can.