Monthly Archives: April 2008

My Week of Hell – Luanda!!

I haven’t updated this in a while and I suppose it comes down to the last week I was there. My week of Hell. The last week of my last tour of duty was hell! Absolute Hell! And I’ll explain why.

We had 3 project guys arrive on the Sunday before I left, along with our new engineer, PG. Another Zimbo. He seemed really cool, and pretty chilled too.

Water Truck

A water truck, delivery water to “The Hole!!” Basically the reservoir. This is across the road from us.

Things started going wrong from the minute they arrived. I hadn’t prepared their rooms as well as I should have I will admit, not that there was much to prepare. Their Aircons weren’t working, purely because things in Angola take sooo long to organise, they had been on order for about 3 weeks, and I hadn’t put the Moz Nets up. That was purely because BP didn’t have, so I hadn’t gotten around to getting them. So, I landed up giving the one guy mine, cause I wasn’t using mine anymore. I just sleep with the fan on now, and don’t worry about the mozzies, as they don’t seem to bother me much. I also went out purchased 3 fans for the rooms they were in. Do you know how hard it was to get fans? We landed up going to one of the local markets with the driver and Warren and his Girlfriend, Raquel, who is Angolan,so she knows the lingo and the deal. Thank goodness.

The one project engineer had an absolute sense of humour failure as it was, and was not at all pleased with the situation. I don’t blame him now that I think about it. He just hadn’t been prepped enough about the set-up.That and the fact that the aircon and nets weren’t up. The others climbed onto the bandwagon from there.

Well, things went from bad to worse that week. I had bought a gas stove/electric oven unit for the guys, as we were cooking off 2 useless hotplates and they were crap. So it was a long time coming. That set us back a fair sum, but was worth it. It was delivered on the Monday, but I then found out it didn’t come with a plug, and we didn’t have sufficient cables to connect it up. The aircon guys arrived on Monday night and hooked up the aircons. Thank God!

Monday afternoon we found out the water had run out. The driver called the water guy and he tried to organise delivery. At 17h30 I found out that ther was no water still, and the guy couldn’t deliver. He didn’t have, so I called another guy and he said he would deliver later that night. Well, at 22h he still hadn’t delivered, and we realised that we weren’t getting any water that evening.

Tuesday: The next morning I headed off to Sonnills base early, with only having had a bottled water quick shower. Mental. Tuesday morning the water was at least delivered, in the late afternoon. Tuesday night the power in the house blew. The generator was on, but the main circuit kept tripping. We obviously didn’t have candles – who needs candles when you have the biggest generator in the world? Well, we did apparently. The wiring was getting hot, and then the whole main circuit breaker would trip, wiping out the entire house, both upstairs and downstairs. This must be due to excess load on the circuits! Crazy.

Wednesday, was more house power issues, then the guys laid into me about the house and how bad everything was, and I suppose they needed an outlet, so it was me, as I represented the company. What pissed me off though was teh lack of support I was getting from the Project Manager. He was supposed to be handling his guys, and he was on their side. Just a bit unfair. I took it personally,as I hate to disappoint in everything I do, and I then landed up just hating it, and wanting to get the f#ck out! REALLY BADLY!

Thursday: The water went down again, but this time there tank was full, so what was the issue? I landed up stripping the water pump. YES, ME, STRIPPING A WATER PUMP! It had been making a weird noise on Tuesday when the water ran out. The guys had left the pump running, there was obviously no auto cut-out for it, so it just ran and ran the whole time. I think it had stuffed something inside. So, I stripped it and found the issue. The impeller had broken off inside, so the pump was spinning and running, but the impeller wasn’t sucking water up! Thank goodness I did, as the guys could only make it that afternoon. At least now they could come with a spare, as opposed to only checking the problem then. They only actually arrived that evening with the new one! More bottled water showers. Happyness all round!! NOT! Then, still that morning, Jeje, the idiot driver, went and locked the keys in the car, whilst it was on in the driveway. Don’t ask, I just don’t know!! So we had to wait 3 hours for a spare key to arrive. I was so tempted to just break the window and tell him to pay for it!

Talk about the House from Hell!!! Everything that could go wrong pretty much was!!

I left the next day, on my way back to Cape Town, very much contemplating telling DD it wasn’t going to work. I actually didn’t have time to run the house to that level whilst still trying to keep a customer that was being very finicky and full of sh!t about small things happy! They would have to understand, it was the customer, or the house. I was the moer in. I was tired, exhausted, and pissed off. I had been crapped on, had worked my arse off to keep the guys in the house happy, had done my best, even stripped a pump to keep things going, and all I got was a “We’re definitely going to be taking this up with management in Cape Town” line! Well, they could go to hell for all I was concerned. It had been along tour, and I needed a break more than anyone else!

I arrived at the airport, having not organised protocol, as old Camilo was useless, and didn’t do much for us. But, guess who I bumped into at the airport??? Camilo. He was a little surprised that I wasn’t using them, maybe feeling a bit guilty about forgetting about me when I arrived a month earlier, and suddenly helped me through for free. Wow, well that was great.

The flight home was a little long, but it was a pleasure to land at Cape Town international, and not worry. I hit oblivion immediately, and met Dave there.

Great to be home! For 2 weeks!!!! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Field Support Vessel – Luanda!

Today we, Warren and I, got a chance to check out the super new FSV for the FPSO. It is a huge FSV and has recently been refitted in Norway, and is a stunning vessel. BP only have one room, the size of a pantry, with 4 desks, but that is all that matters I guess to get us onboard.

FSV - 01

FSV – Boubon Oceanteam 101

The FSV contains the ROV (Remotely-Operated-Vehicle) equipment that will monitor all the pipes and well heads, and providing assistance to the operation. We had our 15 minute Safety briefing, or however long it was once boarding the vessel, and then got the tour. We had been issued PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) from the base. We were given Steel Toe Boots, Helmets, and Clear Safety Glasses.

FSV - 02 FSV - 03

1) PPE – Sweet! 🙂 2) Nice Shoe Covers Buddy!

The cabins were amazing,and I reckon I could easily do 28 days at sea in those conditions. Not these small pokey little things, but actual decent room sized cabins. Nice beds, each room en-suite with shower, a separate desk, TV and Hi-Fi system. Pretty sweet.

We got to see the Bridge with a view that commanded respect. We were higher than all other vessels in the area, except for the container vessels. We saw the Helipad, a massive area on the front, and the rear deck, where the ROVs and all the rest of the kit belonged.

The crew seemed to be a mix of Norwegian, British, French and a Saffa (South African) that we met in the Galley.

The Galley was sweet, and the food really good. Man I could easily eat like that 28 days a month! 🙂 I had a burger with fries and salads, and then even had jelly and custard for dessert. Sweet!

It was a really cool trip and well worth it, and definitely what was needed after the weeks shite I had had to put up with.

This was organised through Sonills Port, the Harbour area, and we got a lift back to the BP Warehouse building with Tango Delta. Warren and I were crammed into tiny little seats in the back of a Hyundai for the trip back, and it was seriously cramped. I said we would not sit int he back on the trip back to DeBeers, as that could take hours, even though it is only like 3.5 kms, if that.

We got a new vehicle, luckily, and headed off back to DeBeers. This was about 13h15. We arrived . . . 16h25!!

Traffic - Sonills

Rammed! Even the Cop on the bike is struggling to get through!

3 Hours, 20 Mins to travel less than 4kms!! Why??? Because the harbour on a Friday and Thursday is an absolute f*ck-up!!! All the trucks pull in on those days, adn there is only one entrance and exit, the same as the entrance, to the harbour container depot. All this is via one road that also services the entrance to the actual port and relevant support bases. Obviously being African Portuguese the drivers of the respective vehicles don’t give a toss about anyone else, so they all just go at the same time. Each vying to get their own little bit of space in front of the other. Traffic control??? What traffic control. It doesn’t;t exist. SO at one stage we we literally parked in the same spot for 2 hours. We didn’t move an inch for 2 hours. Me, I slept! 🙂

I was woken when I heard my phone ringing. I was so tired from the weeks happenings that at first I didn’t realise it was mine, and almost missed answering it. Quality.

Well, I won’t be going back there in a hurry that is for sure!

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

When you just CAN’T Win! – Luanda!

Well, this is more about work, and how sometimes you just can’t win at whatever you do. So, we have had a massive issue on the FPSO, network wise. We had a device failure, a router Supervisor blade failed. We do carry spares, and managed to get it up, eventually.

On that note, a couple of things to take note of

1) Always double check the IOS version of the replacement blade. This is to prevent about 2 hours of wasting time trying to figure out why routing is not working.

2) Always think logically! It helps! 🙂

3) Get to the source, and remove the obvious issues immediately!

So we had a router Supervisor failure around 08h00 in the morning. We replaced it, and got the box back after a bit of hacking! Shortly afterwards we were made aware of a desktop issue, with regards to the desktops not getting a DHCP address. To cut a very, very loooonng story short, and we all know how I love those, this issue resulted in us logging a P2 call with IBM/EDS which landed up in us being on a conference call at 23h00 that night.

Issue unresolved, but a temporary fix in place, we left work at around half-past-midnight. Pretty insane actually. It was one hell of a day, and I’ll get into the nitty-gritty later.

The next day we were back at work at 08h, and I was approached by one of the managers to find out if I had completed a change that was scheduled for 23h00 the previous night. This was the same night that the we were running with a P2 issue on the FPSO, that luckily to us we were able to prevent it from going to a P1, which basically means that it is a financially business impacting issue, which means that practically all business unit owners are made aware of the issue, and you start calling out the big boys. So basically we were pretty much doing everything in our control to prevent it from getting there.

And this manager proceeded to kak me out because we hadn’t implemented a change – to rectify the time displayed on the phones, it was fast by one hour and five minutes and pretty much all the users were already aware of the issue – because I was running with a P2 issue on a vessel that is solely responsible for recovering their close on $11 Billion investment in the country!!! When I explained that we were busy with the major issue at the time, he didn’t care. All he cared about was his bloody time change! Well, that just goes to show where their priorities lie, and what little they understand of their actual business. Unbelievable. I am actually still in disbelief over what happened that morning. And they wonder why they are no longer number 3!!

Helloooooo??? Here is your answer right here! Do I really give a sh!t?? Well, yes I do. Why??? Because I try my hardest, damndest and best to do what I do well. And, at the end of the day, to be treated like this . . . just shows complete ignorance, and is just plain discouraging and demoralising.

To top it off, a few days later I got a call from some w*nker at BP/EDS who thought that he was the absolute sh!t. Called me up and proceeded to crap on me about the fix we had put in place and who gave authorisation to do it, and how we must take it off immediately, regardless of the consequences – try the site being down for about 3 hours whilst changes are made to manually reconfigure all the devices – because they had control, and this was wrong. Well, I fought him on that one, even after being quizzed and spoken to like I was a little boy, and a level one desktop jockey! And I didn’t remove the fix, and wasn’t prepared to either, because we were being proactive and providing a working solution, and all you were doing was providing an administrative f*cking nightmare with all your processes, and procedures that were just plain crap! Bureaucracy 101! Mate if you ever want to see what a network looks like, and what providing service actually means, come on down to Luanda and I’ll happily give you the TOUR!! Then you’ll understand what you are supposed to be supporting. Mr Microsoft Active Directory Muppet! Once again . . . another reason why you are NOT number 3!

Well, this issue lasted about 6 days, and was finally fixed. It was a networking issue, but related to patching, not config, nor hardware.

It’s been a long few days, and probably the hardest on me yet. It has been demoralising, and just plain depressing. Doing what one does best, and getting no support, nor encouragement for what you do. Instead you get hassles, issues and some prick on the phone, who thinks he knows better, even though he is nowhere near your site, and hasn’t even had the courtesy to read the lengthy emails you have been sending regarding what troubleshooting steps you have taken to try resolve the issue.

Amazingly enough the only support I seem to get is from the expat (UK-based) staff who come out for a few weeks at a time to manage certain arenas. So, why is it that they seem to understand and the locals, with a few exceptions – as there are few good guys – don’t?? I call it Attitude. The only thing that makes you in life.

At this stage, for the first time ever, I am counting down the days till I go home! Right now, I just can’t bloody wait! I need a holiday and a refresh and it’s only been 3 weeks! 🙁

Enough.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life – kinda

Warren, Another Braai, Bellas – Luanda!

So, weekend has finally arrived. Thank goodness! The last 2 days have been seriously long and hectic with this bloody FPSO network DHCP issue! 2 Long Nights, and long day on Saturday! 🙁

Rubbish - 01

A typical roadside scene of rubbish everywhere.

Warren, a new engineer arrived on Saturday, and I went straight from work to pick him up. Sly and I were still dealing with this DHCP issue. After two 16 hour days, we found ourselves back at work at 09h on Sat! Not fun!

Warren is from Namibia, though previously from Cape Town. He has worked in Zambia, Mauritania and a few other countries in Africa, so should handle Angola just fine. He seems like a nice dude, having met him briefly at DD in CPT when I was there. He has just been on IPT training, so hopefully he can add some more support to our environment, though he is actually here for another project. An IPT project. Surprise, Surprise!

We celebrated with another braai, of which Blythe pulled in with another dude Bradley, who is managing the cabling of the new BP building. Also a fellow Capetonian. Cool!

More good meat, and more G&T’s! 🙂

Another late night followed by an early morning. We were planning on getting out to Mussulo, but it didn’t happen due to the rain. It had been raining the entire night before, on and off of course, and Blythe cancelled the trip due the chaos that would ultimately ensue on the roads.

We (Sly, Warren and myself) headed out to Bellas to go shopping, and do a bit of looking and grab a late-ish lunch. We headed through to Shoprite to change a bit of cash. However Shoprite Cambio was closed. Man, this was bad, as we had a sum total of about  4000 Kz between us for lunch, as the chick there did say that if the Cambio was closed, they would take Dollars at the checkout counter. R400?? Man, that’s plenty! Wrong! That’ll get like 3 of us a roll and a coke each! We checked out the prices at Portugalia, and figured we could get 3 burgers, and 3 drinks and have about 400kz left over. Yeah, 1000kz per burger and about 200kz per soft drink. Uh, yes, that is R100 per burger!!! 🙁

So I ordered, which once again was a bit of a farce as the dude didn’t speak English, and had to get the chick doing the drinks to help him out. After waiting at our table for about 30 mins for our food, we were now really, really impatient. I had already checked about 4 times for our food. As I was bored I checked through the receipt again, and noticed that we had only been charged 500kz per burger. “Hang on a sec, that doesn’t make sense!”

I went back to the counter and checked out the menu again. We had “Burger no Pao” printed on our receipt. What the f#ck?? Burger NO roll!! How the hell do you have a burger with no roll?? Haha. Quality. Only in Luanda I guess. Or maybe it is a Porra thing. Anyway, it took about 10 minutes to explain the issue, and eventually I got it sorted. Our food however had still not arrived. Ten minutes later it, the burgers arrived. Sonder “Pao”!! Man, this was a joke. It took me another 10 minutes to of waiting at the counter to get our rolls. Man, what a joke. I won’t be back here on a Sunday!! Carnage!

We got back to Shoprite, to find the Cambio open again. Obviously the chick had gone for lunch. I was seriously miffed, as had we had more cash, we could have gone elsewhere for lunch. Bummed! Well,the burger did the trick anyway, and we did a big shop and bought a tub of ice cream, at R79 a small tub. It’s just wrong!

Chilled that eve and got to bed fairly early. In preparation for another long week, still trying to fix the DHCP issue.

Bummed.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

Chillout to Dine – Luanda!

Bruno from JHB flew in for a few days as there was a Telecoms Conference in Luanda and he was here to help out with a few things. Andile Ncaba (A big Chief of DD South Africa) came through, and on that note, a DD Dinner was organised at Chillout on Wednesday.

_MG_3967 _MG_3911

_MG_3916 _MG_3974

Chillout!!

Chillout is a really nice venue on the Ilha, and the two youngsters who run it, whipper-snappers, I call them, running around with their iPhones (in Angola!) and jabbering on about this and that,  would fit in 100% in Cape Town, all flash and groomed, wearing the threads and acting full of the great All-Importance Cape Tonoians are so well versed at, have no clue about customer service or management. Talk about an experience. Bruno had been running ragged, along with Maria for about 3 days. Maria works with me at BP, but as she knows lank about Angola, she is Angolan, she helped out with a lot of the organising and Bruno also talks Porra, so he can get by quite easily. The venue was booked for about 50 people, of which they expected about 30 to show up. Well, Andile at the last minute decided to invite like all the conference delegates, and literally about 75 rocked up. Which was a problem considering we only seating for 50, and then we were missing chairs.

We managed to organise with the venue next door to borrow a few chairs, and when the staff went to to get them, they returned and dumped the chairs they got at another long table they had laid out for a local party.Nice huh!! We organise the chairs, and they go and use them for some other function. Were they concerned in the least?? No way. They couldn’t give a damn. Why?? Well,we’re not locals. Just another company function that they’ll probably never have to deal with again. Damn Straight they won’t!!! Well, we had a pretty big function, and it must have been an even bigger bill, and I can tell you one thing . . . they’ll never get another cent out of us again. I might go back there, but I’ll definitely make sure I am full of sh*t when I do!! 🙂

It was an interesting evening, and I did get to meet Andile himself, and also the Local Consulate General of the South African Embassy here. He was a really cool dude actually. Told him I’d pop in when I get back from my next trip home. Come shoot the breeze, what have you. He was quite keen for that. So we’ll see.

I had 2 Caipirinhas during the evening,along with a few Sprites, and I was pretty tickets I’ll admit. Come 22h30, I literally hit powerdown mode. It was okay though as most people had already ducked, so I organised for Oscar to take me home. I practically passed out on hitting the bed. Bruno got home around 02h. Legend! 🙂

It was a night to remember for one of my first out in Luanda and quite interesting too.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

S T O P – It’s just petty – Luanda!

So, this blog is not so much based on Luanda, nor Angola this time, but more on the one company I am here to support.

IMG_3967

I don’t think they offer 1 Hour here! 🙂

They have a process called STOP cards. Basically it is a HSSE (Health Safety Security Environment) thing. It requires anyone who sees something that looks out of place from a Health, Safety, Security Environment perspective to log it on the system, and then that will be highlighted and reviewed by management and the HSSE Team personnel. So, basically if you see a plug with a faulty wire, you must log it. If you see a power adapter on the floor that is not secure, or in the way of something else, you must log it, etc, etc, etc.

A great concept, and an excellent way of highlighting concerns, or issues. So that is really good.

HOWEVER, requiring personnel to log 5 cards a month is rather childish I feel. Trying to enforce safety on people is a bit stupid. I think that highlighting the concerns every month, and having a mail that goes to everyone to inform them of what the major issues are/were is a good idea. Having HSSE awareness days is a Great idea, but ENFORCING it on people is pretty stupid. Don;t get me wrong, I am all for HSSE, but having to now spend time finding things that are wrong, is not very conducive to a natural flow I don’t think. I have already noted a few things myself that I would log if I could, but I can’t as I still don;t have a Login onto the network Come to think of it I haven’t actually had a Safety induction session yet, and I have been working in the building for 6 weeks. That’ll be a stop card tomorrow I think! 🙂

What I do take exception to is being told that my team looks bad, as it appears that we don’t take HSSE very seriously. Why?? Cause members of my team haven’t logged 5 cards a month! Mate, childish!! Seriously childish. With all these processes and procedures, it is a miracle that anything actually gets done.

But . . . . then again, we know who does all the work here don’t we?? 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life

Need a laugh ? ? ? What the f#ck are these Haydn??? And what were you doing with them at Gawie’s Wedding??

IMG_3952

Another Week Disappears, down the d”rain” – Luanda

Well, it has been a rather calm week, apart from all the rain, and the issue of the National Criminal Investigations Building collapsing last Friday night.

DNIC

The former DNIC building. 😮

I found this article, on a very disturbing website: www.safetynews.co.uk

“NCID building collapse kills 24
It is thought that the Angolan Interior Ministry may invite Portuguese Engineering Laboratories to participate in investigation of the weekend collapse of the 7-storey National Criminal Investigation Department in Luanda, ongoing recovery work on Monday saw the death tally rise to 24, with more than 150 people injured. At the time of the collapse 180 people were inside, including 145 detainees. The building was constructed 34 years ago during the Portuguese colonial era, it is alleged that the top floor was added later and a substantial generator was also later located on the top floor. Quite a number of structural collapses in African towns and cities feature additional development without building control. 1st April 2008.”

That pretty much sums it up I guess. Life in Africa.

Didn’t get up to much this last week. It rained and rained and rained. Literally everyday in the afternoon. Sometimes twice a day. The weirdest thing is coming out of the building during a downpour, and I mean downpour – think standing in your shower, on full blast for like 15 minutes – and getting hit by this heat wave. I am so used to it being cold and cool when being in rain, that in Luanda the temperature is still the same, just the humidity rises, and it is just plain weird. You are literally sweating under cover outside during a shower! The rain actually gets so dense and the downpours are so severe at times that we actually lose microwave communications between sites. Now that is pretty hectic. The outskirts of town just turn into a complete mud bath. vehicles get stuck, huge potholes develop – the size of cars – and roads get washed away. Traffic gets jammed or stuck. People spend hours in traffic on trips that usually takes minutes.

I met a few of the BP big wigs that were down for the week. Interesting chaps. They gave a few very interesting presentations on BP and some internal issues that were pretty much aimed at the DCT (IT) department. A few pointers that affected us, DD, but nothing to worry about. Ate out  a few times too. Went to a new restaurant, new for me, old in lifetime, where the food wasn’t great, well I didn’t think so, but the rest seemed to think it was okay. They must have drunk far more than me! 🙂 I have actually cut down loads on my  drinking – mom – she seems to think I am becoming an alcoholic! I wish!! Anyway, I had the Bacalhau, a salt dried cod, with potatoes. It was alright, but I definitely won’t be having it again in a hurry.

Friday was a public holiday in Angola. The celebration of the signing of the Peace Accord. 4th April 2002. Just 6 years ago. Incredible. Ash and Sly worked, but I chilled at the house. We all worked Saturday, and then Sunday was a day of rest for Sly and myself. We headed off to Shoprite Palanca in the mornign to get a bit of shopping done.

Bruno arrived in the afternoon, coming in from Johannesburg via Windhoek. He was also bringing in the corporate gifts and had a box full of them. His flight landed at 13h10, five minutes early, and the first people came through around 13h35, pretty quick for Luanda. By 15h when the following Windhoek flight had arrived, Bruno still hadn’t appeared. I had already called Sly to double check the time in my mail to make sure that I got the time right. Yup, I was right, so where was he? At this stage I managed to get a peak of a very flustered Bruno. Stuck at Customs!! haha, they had nailed him for the corporate gifts. He managed to clear about 15 mins later, and explained that he was having trouble trying to explain to them what they were and how much the cost. He eventually got a cost for the USB Pen/Pointer units from JHB to be around $2.59 per item. The useless staff weren’t exactly helping to aid the progress of clearing the items. And he SPEAKS Porra! Man, can you imagine if it had been someone like me! I would be without gifts that would be for sure! 😉

We had a meal at Caribe restaurant, cum club, on the weekends, on the Ilha, and it was pretty good. Sly had the prawns, and they were absolutely amazing. The size of two fingers in width (I have small hands –  yeah, yeah, I’ve heard al the jokes) and they looked fantastic. I had the Espetada de Mariscos (Seafood Kebab). Good. Bruno had the Prego steak, with Egg and chips. Classic Portuguese meal. It was a good night, and by the time I hit the sack I was knackered.

Should be an interesting week ahead with old Andile Ncaba coming up for the Telecomms Conference in Luanda, and us having a delegates dinner at Chillout. Time to rub shoulders and mingle.

Network! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life!  – My old byline from my UK days