Tag Archives: Angola

5th September – Angolan Election Day

A Good Day for Angola! A BAD Day for us! The day started quiet and slow, without any issues. No gunfire, shouting or misbehaving. Fine so far. 🙂

2008-09 - 02 Elections 2008-09 - 03 Elections

Election Flags; Election FLAG! (The size of a car)

The roads outside the house were really quiet, and it was around lunchtime that we decided we were going to head out to Ilha and go check things out. We were also gonna look for Carvao (Charcoal) for the braai we were gonna have later on. Tango Delta wasn’t driving that day, unless specifically required to do so, like airport trips, etc. So all staff jaunts were out. I called up The Architect and we picked him up on the way thru. Everything was closed and we just drove down to the end of the Ilha to the lighthouse. At the end of the spit we found a market on the right that was half open, they weren’t really selling anything except food and drinks, so we pulled in to find out if we could get any carvao nearby.

We landed up asking the one stall seller, who was serving a policeman. He spoke really good English, had apparently worked in Namibia for a while, so was interesting conversation whilst we waited to hear where we could get carvao. Well, no one knew, so we chilled at the lighthouse on the corner, and just watched the people for a while. 2 things were soon very apparent about the lighthouse corner:

1) It was a great place to park off and watch literally everyone who drove past wheel spin, handbrake, wheelie or rear-wheel slide trying to get attention. It could only be a matter of time before some taxi, 4×4, or bike would wipe out here. Saturday nights must be legend here with a camcorder. But, it was not to be our time. As much as the taxi and bikes were pushing he envelopes on that corner, there were no such entertaining moments. 🙁

2) It appeared to be a good place to get picked up, if you were looking to . . . as we were being eye-balled by everyone on the way round. One person chatting us up after they stopped, by emergency breaking, to put the child’s safety belt on in the back. Classic.

IMG_4403 IMG_4413

THE Lighthouse; Torres Atlantico 

Well, from there we were headed back towards the house, without carvao, when we decided to call The Techie and pick him up on the way. We took a short detour via town first to get The AV/VC Techie. I had been to the staff house that Techie was staying in before, but I couldn’t fully remember the way, so Architect said we would give directions. We were about 100m away from house, which is situated in a one-way, which was about 50m ahead of us on the right, when The Architect called out “Right, turn Right now!”. The Namibian who was driving at the time, our driver didn’t arrive, suddenly turned right. Almost into a Traffic Officer on his Motorbike. Almost hitting the Traffic Officer on his Motorbike, who was the front rider to a motorcade or 2 Black Volvos! With Flags on them! FUCK!

We backed up immediately. Well, the copper definitely wasn’t very chuffed at all. Firstly, he almost shat when the Namibian hit him, and secondly he was fuming when he got off his bike. He stormed over to us and started shouting at us in Porra. Well, we don’t speak Porra and said so. He wanted The Namibians License, which he duly handed over. Then he wanted the vehicle papers and we handed over what we could. It is a bit of a mess in the glove box and all the papers are all tattered and old in an old envelope. He looked at them and grabbed what he could get hold of and told us to follow him. Which we did. We followed him into the city and stopped outside the a building where the other vehicles of the motorcade were. The building was the CNE. Comissão Nacional Eleitoral. The National Electoral Commission. And we had almost hit their motorcade. We were sooo fucked now! 🙁 The cop called The Namibian out, I followed but was directed to stay in the car. I returned and The Namibian was escorted inside the gates. The property has slatted wooden fencing on the street front, through which you can see the movement of people inside. Not very safe for a big wig I must say. Out vehicle was stopped on the right-hand side of the road 5 metres up from the building, so we could see the goings on. The next thing we were all called inside.

There were about 15 guys here all in suits and all looking at us very gravely. We stated we don’t speak Portuguese and asked if anyone speaks English, where to our amazement, we found out that no-one spoke English. No-one here with all these guys in suits and could speak English? That is very, very surprising. Even our guards at the house understand a bit of English, and most people will help out if they can’t speak it. So 15 guys, who work for am official of sorts DON’T SPEAK ENGLISH?? Right. The one guy who appeared to have assumed control was very disapproving and kept shaking his head, with a very stern look his face.

The Namibian had already called The Girlfriend, a local, who spoke the language. She had been speaking to the copper, and now he passed the phone back to her. His take on this was that we had just made an attempt on the President of the CNE! Haha, legend! Well, at the time it wasn’t that funny. This was ridiculous. He informed his girlfriend of this and she spoke to the copper again. He stuck by his story. Us . . . 4 guys, 2 in baggies, 2 in jeans, 2 with caps on, none speaking Porra, driving a hire car 4×4, not fully aware of our way around the city, one with a local girlfriend, all profusively apologetic! What a joke. And what a bunch of morons for thinking that! Around about now they kicked the 3 of us out, and told us to go back to the car . . .  with the keys! What the hell? Yeah, you let assassins go back to the car with the keys? Right. Shortly afterward we got into the car, a guy ran out, whom I think was the driver of the one car, looked at us and mimed handcuffs on our wrists. That was when I laughed. I still can’t tell if it was a nervous laugh or a truly, this is funny, laugh. I got a call from The Girlfriend said that she had called her brother, The Shipper, who just happened to be in country and that he was on his way around to help out.

I gave The Namibian a call and he answered. We had a chat about what was going on and he told me that they did speak English as the one guy had told him he could take a seat, in English. When he questioned the guy about his English, he suddenly switched back to Porra. The 3 of us sat in the car and got chatting about our predicament. We didn’t think we were really in that much trouble as we wouldn’t be in the car with the keys if we were. If they suspected anything, we would be inside with guys going the car, and us in cuffs already. We also wouldn’t be allowed to make calls on our mobile, and The Namibian definitely wouldn’t be allowed to make or receive calls. I did comment that we were lucky it wasn’t The President’s motorcade we had almost run into as if it was, one of the many, many armed guards would have shot us already, onsite! They don’t stuff around here. Also, it was noted that today was not the best of days to be almost bumping into the President of the CNE. We considered contacting The Architect and AV/VC Techie’s company’s security department and ask them for help, but that would only get us, and likely them in serious shit as there was a ruling that they weren’t really supposed to be out and about today. The fallout from that call would be serious, and they would most likely be shipped home for ignoring and breaking company security policy. So I decided against going that route, unless really really necessary. Like handcuffs necessary.

The Shipper arrived and got chatting to The Namibian and the copper. Well, after much back and forth he came and informed us that it comes down to the following:

1) The driver of the car needs a note from the car hire company in Angola to drive the car.

2) The company who the driver works for needs to issue a letter allowing the driver to drive the car.

3) Today was the wrong day to be doing any of this. Election Day. The FIRST true elections in 16 years or so. Bad day to be running into the President of the CNE.

As all 3 points were against us, the driver was looking at jail time. He would need to be taken downtown, booked and arrested. The car would be impounded and then that was a mission of paperwork to get it out. The car hire company would need to come to get the vehicle out and we would have to pay a fine – a large, hefty fine – to get the driver and the car out.

Alternatively, we could just sort things out here . . . ah-ha Welcome to Africa!

Show me the MONEY!!

There was a catch . . . there were 7, yes, SEVEN guys in the mix! The 2 cops, the 2 drivers, a few security guys, etc, etc, etc. Fuck me! So now we got counting. The Architect pulled his cash out and tried to pass it to me, sitting in driver’s seat. “Whoa dude, keep your cash down” I said, pushing his hand down. You don’t blatantly show your cash in these situations. Well, we had about $500 in mixed currency on us, and The Namibian reckon he had about $130 or so in US. So about $630. Hmmm, not enough. They wanted $700. $100 a piece. Man what a RIP! So, we called The Big Zimbo  back at the house and asked to stand with a little extra cash that we could pick up. The Shipper returned and advised us that now it was $1000! WTF!!! Well, now the others weren’t happy, and wanted more in case someone mentioned something and reported them. What we would never do that . . . willingly! 🙂

So we made a plan. There was more cash at the house as that is where The Zimbo’s were, and they had cash on them. Okay, The Shipper had organised for us to go get more cash. The copper held our papers and we drove off to organise. We stopped off to get The Techie, the original plan, and continued on to the house,  where we got the cash together and The Shipper and his mate returned to the copper and shortly returned back with all our papers and The Namibian’s licence. Fantastic. They informed us that the Angolan cops here were just plain unfair and had previously put The Shipper’s mate in jail for the night as he had left his licence at home when he was stopped. Crazy huh?

So we got about getting the fire going. Ahhhh . . . . No Carvao! After all that. Still no carvao. We decided to go look for some in the hood, and were about to get in the car AGAIN, when I asked our guard if he could organise. A few minutes later there was some random at the gate, and he said he could organise. So we sent him off to go get 5 bags of carvao, a case of Cristal cervesa and garaf of Vodka. Well he returned empty handed stating he needed the cash first, so The Namibian and I ventured off with him, thinking it was just down the road. Well 15 minutes later we were still walking, through the hood. An hour later we returned to the house, on foot, carrying 10 bags of carvao, a case of Cristal and a garaf of Johnny Red. At least we learnt where to get all the things we need afterhours, should we run out again! 🙂

So, the braai proceeded and we al got a bit wrecked, me waking up in the early hours of the morning, still fully clothed! What a night!

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Not Being In Jail! 🙂

 

 

organise carvao, booze, walked a good few kms

Getting Out . . . To The Ghettos – Luanda

So on Sunday we, PG and myself, went to Bellas to go see a movie: The Incredible Hulk, which was actually really good. I thought it was cool. The really scary thing for me was how much we actually just take really good special effects for granted nowadays.

2008-06 01 - Coke Truck

The “This Is Africa” German Coke Truck!

After seeing IronMan a few weeks back :), and now this, it is just normal to see a CGI movie, and actually think that what you are seeing in there, you could walk out of the cinema and see in real life. Some green dude running down the road. Really freaky the way it starts to blur the lines of reality.

Well, at R60 for the Movie and R60 for the Popcorn and a Can on Sprite, it was an expensive experience. Little Portuguese kids shouting and talking the whole time through-out. Really little Portuguese children crying – like months old babies – who’s parents obviously decided they weren’t going to miss out on this on the big screen, and just had to come. And no one said anything about it. That is the most amazing thing. It is just the done thing. Man, and I like my quiet movie theaters! Haha, experience of note.

So on the way back the driver, not one of the usual 2 we have, they have the weekend off now, decided that he was not going to go the normal route, as the road was rammed, so he would go another route, a shorter route. Cool, PG was happy as we would be back in time for the Footie: Spain vs Germany!

Well, we drove and drove and then the light was gone and the road went from being 2 lane tarred, to one lane tarred, to one lane dirt, to just a complete tailback. We were stuck in traffic. Lots of traffic. Then we got nudged from behind by another vehicle in the middle of this chaos. Our driver, though not very good with the Safety Procedures just climbs out, leaves the door open with the engine running and walks back to check the damage. I leant over, closed the door, and locked it. Now it’s not like anyone would try hijack us, as we were going nowhere in that traffic, but the safety factor is till very much an unknown! And not a f#ck was I getting out to check the issue. These guys still carry guns around here. Plus the location wasn’t the most inspiring I will say.

So, the damage was minimal, just a nudge actually, nothing doing, and we carried on at a walk. In fact at one stage people walking past were going faster than we were. We continued on this road a while longer, and then the road stopped. There was some detour and loads of construction, and the driver was a bit foxed, but we carried on down another “short-cut”. It was around about now that I saw a plane coming into land on our left, about a km away. This was mildly concerning as the airport is a way out of town, and should have either been in front of us, or to our right on this trip back. We went through a fairly busy crossroad/taxi-rank intersection, and had to slow down considerably as we did so. All the onlookers on the side of the road were inquisitively peering into the vehicle to see what was inside. Plenty of chaps staring directly at me or leaning closer into the vehicle to get a good look. It was around about now that I started to feel, for the first time since being in Luanda, uneasy about being a non-Portuguese speaking expat. Hey easy for PG and our driver, the 2 BLACK dudes in the car, however for the white guy upfront, it could be a problem. The thing that I was actually nipping about the most was not really me being white, but the fact that we had a driver in full uniform, easily identifiable by the lapels and clothes he was wearing, so I was more nervous about us being identified as being of a “wealthy industry” and therefore “hijackable”. Blame the stories I hear from certain people about Nigeria I guess.

We continued on along this dirt road, the traffic now becoming less and less, and far more free-flowing, until it took another detour . . . to the right. i.e. further away from Luanda. At around about this stage the driver pulled over again, flagged down a passing car, and walked over, once again leaving the door open. Here however was a perfect place for Hijackings, so once again I leant over, closed and locked the door. This time he got “better” directions . . .  back the way we came! I asked him if we now knew where we were going, and he replied everything was good. “Don’t worry, you are Safe.” he chimed. We turned around and started along the road for a while longer, this time slowly heading back in the general direction of the airport.  A bit further down the road we came across a police man, on foot, walking in the direction we were travelling. Appears the directions we had gotten were still not sufficient, so our driver pulled over and we got a bit of direction advice from the policeman. After both repeating the same few words time and again, something to do with forwards, the driver suddenly tells us the Cop is getting a lift with us to help with directions. “Don’t worry, it is good for us.” Appears our driver wasn’t feeling as “safe” as we were supposed to be! 🙁 So our cop got a lift, and we got fairly good directions.

About 30 minutes later of driving through the slums, we emerged onto the main road back into Luanda. We were now quite a few miles past the airport, and it was very interesting to figure out roundabout route we had taken. On our way out of the “slums” we passed loads of sidewalk “shebeens”, with guys standing around drinking and chilling. The taxis out here controlled the road, and had absolutely no regard for the rules of the road or anyone else. A few constantly suddenly stopping directly in front of us, without any sign of a warning, and not caring a damn when the driver leant out and shouted or hooted at him. Once again, the Angolan Attitude showed it’s colours – Me First!

Yet, the surprises were not going to end here. At the one junction that we were definitely supposed to turn left, the driver decides to turn right. Into a one-way. Man, that delayed us another 30 minutes. At thsi stage I was fuming, but there was no point in getting cross now, as there was nothing further to be done. We were now less than 3 kms from home, so it was just sit back and wait.

So, over 2 hours after leaving Bellas, A trip that should take just less than an hour, we arrived home, to just get the last the 30 mins or so of the footie.

PG was well pleased.

So, looking back now in hindsight: It was a bit nerve-wracking at the time, but very informative and interesting to see “how the other 80%” actually live. To see the environment and habitat. The challenges for the Government are HUGE! Can something like this ever be undone? Unlikely. Can this poverty ever really be eradicated or the people truly uplifted and provided for? It is going to take a while. A long while. I don’t think it will ever happen in my life-time. Nor my next generation’s. Something like this doesn’t change over night I can promise you that much. Not even with the amount of money that Angola currently has, or is making. It starts with education and empowerment. And, the way things are going with the amount of Chinese coming in and most of the infrastructure work being outsourced to them, it is a long way off. A lot of Angolans are already very upset with the way things are going, the slow rate of progress, the lack of visible infrastructure, the lack of creation of jobs or better conditions for the local people, the excessive wealth that Sonangol (the state owned oil company) is displaying. However with only one ruling party, there isn’t much they can do about it. Unfortunately.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving being Alive! 🙂

Offshore – FPSO – Luanda

I managed to get scheduled for a trip to the BP Greater Plutonio FPSO (Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading) vessel just offshore from Luanda. At this stage I unfortunately don’t have any pics, as I wasn’t sure what the procedure for pics was, and I know they are pretty tight about it, but I have asked the Telecoms guy there to send me a few, so hopefully I’ll be able to update this a bit later with some then.

2008-06 01 - FPSO CGI

A CGI picture of the FPSO – Looks small? It is 310m long, and 12 stories high!

Okay, I can’t really say much about the vessel itself, the layout, or operation, or any of that – NDA stuff, but what I can say is it is pretty amazing! (I have included several links at the bottom of the blog for those interested in knowing more). It is 310 Metres long, and 12 stories high. It has a lift inside that services 7 floors. It can accommodate approx 140 people. The accommodation section is the big white building at the rear, and this is split from the “plant” area by a fire break/safety “air area” – the gap just in front of the accommodation block. We arrived by chopper, and what an experience.

So the flight was from the Sonair charter “terminal” at the airport and was scheduled for around 14h. We checked in at 12h30 and everything went fine. I only had my laptop bag, with my laptop, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – you are required to take as much of your own PPE with you as they can’t provide everything for everyone –  overalls, gloves and goggles in my bag, along with 3 shirts, 3 boxers and 3 socks inside it. My boots and helmet were separate in a plastic packet. Well, that got turfed. You are not allowed to take any plastic on board, so they gave me a mail bag, with Explorer written on it (BP use a drill rig called GSF Explorer in another area further out to sea), that I put my helmet and boots in. We then waited for the flight to be ready.

After the bus ride through the airport tarmacs, we arrived at a Sikorsky S-76C+ helicopter that was to be our ride.

2008-06 02 Sikorsky Chopper

A picture of a Sikorsky S-76C+ chopper. Similar to the SonAir ones.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_S-76)

This was pretty much my first time in a chopper, though I do think I have been in one  before, in fact, yes, I have been in a chopper before, but this was great. It actually taxis down onto the runway,and you pretty much expect it to travel down the runway on the wheels before taking off, but whilst you are in place, it just lifts up straight up, leans forward and flies off. Pretty strange feeling. The noise as the engines power up for the lift is pretty nerve wracking, and the whole heli shakes quite a bit. Next thing you are airborne and flying out past the Ilha and soon the coast is behind you.

The one thing they teach you in the HUET course, or advise you against, is sleeping in the chopper, yet within 5 minutes virtually everyone on board is asleep. This is due to the very monotonous and soothing vibrations that he flight produces. As it was my first offshore flight I remained awake the entire time. Though I don’t know if I’ll be doing that again on the rest of the flights. Soon we were above a cloud base that had appeared offshore, and about 30 mins later we descended through this to see the ocean once again. As we cleared the cloud base, everything around us was pure white, and you couldn’t see anything. I was watching the guy opposite me, and it was obviously his first flight as I could see the entire white of his eyes. He was nervous as hell. However, once we cleared the clouds, he was cool.

We soon arrived at our destination, and the pilot informs you of this before you arrive. This according to statistics is the highest risk time for accidents – Landings. I once again checked my exit strategy, luckily being right next to the door you kinda have THE exit strategy. 🙂 The vessel looks small at first, but the closer you get to it the larger it gets, until you soon realise that this thing is friggin massive! The flame was burning a bright orange colour from the top of gas flare, the long tower at the front of the vessel, and that was an incredible site to see it so close.  There was virtually no smoke coming from the vessel at all, and it was just gigantic when you finally arrived. The landing was great and we waited for the signal from the HLO’s (Helicopter Landing Officers), before removing our earphones, unbuckling and exiting, just ducking as you reach the rim of the rotor reach. Once inside we removed our foam inner ear plugs, and started to take in our surroundings. I noticed my mailbag being carted off to the admin section, and quickly retrieved it.

We were met by Steve our Telecoms man on board, and first thing had to attend a Safety briefing. After that we were shown to our cabins, and given a tour of the vessel in full PPE, as you are required to wear it every time you are outside. The vessel’s structure is quite amazing, and what is even more amazing to me is that there are people out there who thought this up! How to build something like this and how to put it together! That blows my mind more than anything else. This module to that module to there and there, and then eventually to the tanker waiting for the oil. So, as you can all read, this puppy can produce up to 200 000 barrels of oil A DAY, with storage capacity for 1.7 million barrels, and exports of 1 million barrels per cargo, every 5 days. Now you have to admit that that is seriously impressive. You do  the math,using an approximate oil price of $130 per barrel. Ouch!! 😮

On our tour around, I got to put my hands on the oil pipeline that comes in from the sea, and the most interesting thing is . . . it is warm. Apparently the oil comes in at around 50-60 degrees centigrade. Now, it is not something that I had ever thought about, the temperature of oil, but I was surprised to find that it is warm. We were also shown the sun deck, the most important part of the vessel, and the only part you can go without PPE gear. I also happened to see a pod of dolphins frolicking in the sea quite close by. The vis out here is awesome . . . and that’s not due to it being cold! 🙂

I fixed the issue we were sent out for, and also had a really good site visit of what is onboard, and what is fully expected of us in a support role.

The vessel is stationary – fixed in place, yet at times I could definitely feel it move. Not a lot, but ever so slightly. Steve reckons I am mad, but I tell, I could feel it moving. Whether it was rolling or just rising in the swell, not a lot of that either, I couldn’t tell. But, it definitely moves.

I got a wee bit of time in on the sundeck the one day. Half an hour in the sun before lunch, and I now know why a lot of the guys have such dark tans, for blokes that spend their entire time indoors or in PPE kit. They don’t! There were quite a few chaps outside on the sun deck, and it is like a magnet I am told – sun. Especially since it is overcast quite a bit apparently.

The accommodation was okay, apart from the fact that I think a tank had slept in my bed before, as the mattress was squashed flat on the one side! Other than that is was okay, and each cabin has it’s own bathroom with a shower with great pressure in it, which makes a change from the Luanda Res! Our pressure is crap! The food was decent too, as ship food goes I guess, though I still must say the FSV Bourbon Oceanteam 101 had the best food I have yet had offshore.

There is a gym onboard, I never got to use it as I wasn’t feeling great, and a little cinema too. The one lounge also has table tennis. 3 or 4 TV rooms litter the vessel, with each cabin also having it’s own TV. And overnight/same day laundry.

Outside the heliport entrace door is a big sign bolted onto the side of the wall: HYUNDAI. They apparently built this vessel. Ummm, okay, that is a change from the crappy cars we get back home!! 🙂

The one thing I must say, is that it appears to be very well organised and everything is in it’s place. Very “Prim and Proper”, in typical Brit style.

Thursday I was contacted by the offshore network manager and told that we needed to send someone to the GSF Explorer – an offshore rig, as they required someone for an installation/support issue there too. I offered myself as it was Francisco’s 30th Birthday on Sunday, and his wife had plans for him already. Friday morning I suddenly find out all hell has broken loose as there was now a chopper coming out to get me specifically for the trip to GSF and it has caused absolute chaos as it hasn’t been properly approved, or the correct channels haven’t been used. Classic! Eventually that was straightened out and I was scheduled to head out Saturday morning via chopper to Kwanza base in Soyo, up North on the Congo border to refuel and then fly from there to the GSF. Cool,  I haven’t been there yet. 🙂

I arrived in the departure “lounge” at 08h Saturday morning, watched the safety video – another one again – and pull out my laptop to do a bit of last minute work. A while later, I realise it is past 09h. Hold on, my flight is supposed to be at 09h. I check with the guy to be told that everything has changed. I am now going to be flying back to Luanda with the Sedco Express guys (a rig close by) and then heading by fixed wing to Soyo on a plane, and then to the GSF by chopper from there. Cool, even more travelling, and experiences. Throw it at me. I reckon this travelling is costing them a small fortune, like my entire yearly salary (haha), but that is the nature of the beast I guess. 🙂

The flight eventually arrived around 11h or so, and I was gone. Grabbing my bag on exit, I once gain noticed EXPLORER on the side of the mail bag . . . Coincidence? I think not! Once again a quick look at the incredible structure before it slips out of view, and we ascend to the heavens again.

Interested in the BP FPSO – Greater Plutonio? Read more:

Production Begins at Greater Plutonio

Plutonio – Transportation and trade

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life.

Friday = BRAAI – Luanda – Day 6!!

So today I worked from home as I had a meeting with Tonie and Barrie and it just made sense to stay here and not really have to bother about going to the office. Especially with the traffic as always. Shame though as Maria was on her own pretty much as Sly was off, on the FPSO, and I wasn’t there.

Sly has headed off to the FPSO to do a bit of work. Man, lucky bugger. The FPSO is an Offshore Floating Refinery. Think of an oil rig, just on a ship, and then a whole lot more. If any of you remember seeing that massive ship in Cape Town Harbour a few months ago that looked like a city at night due to being lit up like a christmas tree with loads of pirpes everywhere?? Well, that was an FPSO, and BP currently has the biggest in teh world, afaik, and it is a few hundred kms from where I sit right now. And Sly has just gone there! Man, green with envy!! I have given him my camera, so hopefully he’ll get a few decent shots for me. Hence the lack of pictures since yesterday. It does however mean I’ll be without camera this weekend. He reckons he’ll be back tomorrow, but after having heard Maria’s story about her visit, Bradley and myself have a bet going that he’ll only be back on Tuesday. 🙂

So Barrie and I went shopping at Casa dos Freshca (I think) and landed a massive bill for literally one trolley load of food. Man it was insane. A kilo of Fillet will set you back around R450!! We got a load of various meat, soft drinks and the usual party stuff. I can’t quite remember the final amount, but all I remember thinking is that I’ll never worry about over-spending on a braai back in Cape Town ever again.

Luckily for me I got my RPC over HTTP for Outlook working before I left Cape Town, and it has been a massive benefit ever since. It basically enables me to connect directly to the exchange sever in the office over the open Internet without having to use a VPN, or Outlook Web Access. And let me tell you, that’s a massive benefit.

Day 6 - Braai Time

Movement around the table – Dinner is served!

So, back to the braai . . . well, we were expecting quite a few people, a few of the big wigs from the BP DCT team, and then a couple of the ladies too, well so the lads said, as they have invited them. But actually, at the end of the day, Only Maria, with her husband, who doesn’t speak much Porra, and Nina pitched, along with Blythe on his own, as Ash left this morning.  It was an entertaining evening, with me getting a lesson from Nina in some local dance technique, but to me it was virtually the same as windsurfing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokkie in a way). So she was quite impressed that I was already fairly good. Well, I was just as suprised as I typically don’t windsurf. The fillet was awesome and the food turned out really well, thanks to Chef Barrie! There was plenty food left and the evening turned out just right. Probably a good thing the rest never turned up, as it was small and contained and really entertaining.

I let the team down and headed to bed early. Just been really tired the entire week, and think it must also have something to do with my chest (still having shit with my Asthma) and the aircons/heat difference. I have been really tired since arriving – which is probably due to the 2 hours sleep I got before leaving Cape Town, but man, it’s gonna take a while to get into the norm again. Weird as back in Cape Town I was managing fine on like 6 hours a night, if that.

Well, we have plans to get down to the Island tomorrow and then a bit of a party tomorrow night afterwards, so it should be a good weekend.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Then the Slums – Luanda – Day 5!!

So today was just another day. Work was good, but shame poor Sly – Sylvester – landed up not going to the FPSO. He was scheduled to leave by helicopter, then they changed the location to the harbour, and due to travel permit issues, he couldn’t go. So he was rescheduled for tomorrow by chopper. So he landed up at the Harbour Base the entire day. Though, he did say he had a nice lunch!

I ducked out for Lunch with Bradley, back to the “Cafeteria” and there was absolutely no queue this time, though we were like 30 mins earlier. Maybe that was why. They have these TV’s all over the “Caf” that plays the Portuguese TCM channel. Classic stuff to watch whilst you eat, and the locals are transfixed by it. 🙂

We had to pick Sly up from the base after work, and that was very interesting as the driver took a “short cut” via the “slums”. Wow, now you see what Luanda is all about and where people actually stay. Really sad and pretty intense. Think the locations where we are – Gugs, Khyalitsha, Crossroads, IMizamo Yethu, etc – but picture mainly cinder block structures as opposed to houses. Pretty crazy man, but I suppose the “location” areas are all the same the world over.

Dinner was at Maria’s, my local colleague, her father’s restaurant – not too sure what it is called, but it was pretty cool. It is located on Ihla de Luanda, the peninsula and is almost directly opposite Miami. We were joined by a few BP UK Ex-Pats and it was quite funny. OK, one topic that is definitely taboo is taking the piss out of people by asking them what they are doing for the environment or how their job relates to it. Hmmm, I won’t be joking about that with Petroleum Employees anymore. A VERY TABOO SUBJECT indeed. And I love my piss taking!! 🙂 Anyway, the food was good, and I wasn’t as knackered as usual. Why . . . I hadn’t taken my Malaria pill yet, so that is obviously the trick – that and not drinking beers it appears! 🙂

The city of Luanda is absolutely stunning at night, and I am definitely going to get some really awesome pics with my Canon EOS 400D when I return. Dad is borrowing it right now. Good thing though as I wouldn’t have had the space for it, plus I want to use the first trip just to get my feet on the ground and not be distracted!

Tomorrow is the House Braai with a few of the BP Big Boys in our arena, so that should definitely be entertaining! 🙂

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Traffic from Hell – Luanda – Day 4!!

Traffic took about 35 minutes to get to work this morning, a distance of less than 2.1 kms as we drive! It is literally just insane. Reminds me sooo much of Egypt, but just with Black People as opposed to Arabs. Really intense.

Day 4 - Miami Shower

The Shower at Miami – A great vantage point! 🙂

Work was cool, still getting into it, so still bright eyed and bushy tailed. We’ll see yet. I ventured out to lunch, the same place as yesterday, on my own as everyone was busy, and I can tell you, it was strange being the only white person walking down the road to get food, surrounded by mainly very poor locals. Yet, I didn’t get one bad look, or the feeling of animosity towards me. I felt 100% secure at all times, and it is quite an exhilarating feeling to get to your destination and not have been mugged, or felt unsure about yourself. Makes me really wonder how much me sub-consciously fear about being in South Africa, and how insecure we really are back home!

The lunch queue was just as bad as the traffic, and it took about 30 mins for 15 people to get served at a buffet. The lunch “restaurant” – basically a canteen – is 2 floors, with mainly an open buffet type arrangement. On the one side they have a sit down area, where you basically get charged about $10 just to be served, exactly the same food! There are about 6 or 7 dishes available and it is quite a helping, but definitely not worth R 90. But I can see this is going to take time getting used to. THE COST OF EVERYTHING that is!

Introduced to my first 3 power failures in one day, actually in about 2 hours! And we complained about Eskom. Everything is on UPS in the De Beers building, except the lights, so work continues, but the lights go off, and everyone continues as normal. It is pretty much the norm it appears! Amazing.

Dinner was back at Miami, and I had the steak, which was really good. The helpings are usually pretty good, as far as I can tell, but the cost!! Whoa! There was a big screen with the EUFA Cup soccer on, suprise, suprise! 🙂

Once again I was knackered at dinner, and think it definitely has to do with the Malaria Pills and the beers. Okay, tomorrow I change tack! I’ll take the pills when I am supposed to, after meals and just before I go to sleep. Also, no more beers! 🙂

Click

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Loving Life!

A Brave New World – Luanda – Day 3!!

So, today I started my new job in earnest. Man, weird to be back in it. Thrown straight into an operational issue that morning, that was interesting considering I was now responsible for managing the issues, as opposed to being responsible for solving them. So quite tough in a way to have to hold back, but I am getting used to it. 🙂

Loads to do here so I am going to be kept very busy for a long time to come, which is great. Means I won’ have to get bored, or restless . . . I hope! So far the first impression is that we are on top of things, which is good.

Day 3 - Neighbours

Our neighbours, literally right on top of us.

We went for lunch down the road, and the around the corner, and it was my first true experience of being on the ground in Luanda, as we walked. Man, I have already talked about the heat, but unless you have ever been to an equatorial or mid tropical country, you really can’t understand it. I believe Bangkok is apparently very similar, if not in fact worse. But the heat and humidity here is intense. I think the problem is compounded by the fact that everywhere you you are in air conditioned rooms, offices, vehicles, restaurants, etc. So when you do venture out you go from a fairly cooled environment, typically in the region of about 20 degrees, or sometimes less, straight into about 32-34 degrees. Man, it is seriously intense. And the humidity just sits. So it is not like being in Cape Town in 32 Degrees, but rather think of sitting in a steam room at 32 degrees. Okay it is not that bad that you break out in a sweat every time you go outside, but it can be uncomfortable if you are in heavy clothing or wearing trousers. It’s also not as bad as when I did my Sailing trip, which I will actually blog after my first trip home, as I left my “diary” at home on this trip. Part of the 32Kilo constraints!

Personally I enjoy the temperature, and the climate. I enjoy being outdoors and it’s great to be able to get out and enjoy the sun and warmth. The only problem though is that you don’t actually see the sun, or feel the rays of it . . . EVER! Everyday is overcast, or cloudy, but not like dark cloudy, but just hazy cloudy. There is glare from the sun everywhere, but no actual rays.

Costs are MENTAL!! I was warned that it was expensive, but man, this is ridiculous! A main meal, just the course itself, well the lunch venue we go to, will cost you about R90! Plus R15 for the soft drink! So you are looking at around R105 for the entire meal. And that’s just a plate of rice and beef stew, or a large pizza slice with salad, pretty much any “Pratos do dia”, the Dish of the day. I will definitely be blogging more on the costs as they occur, and trying to get my head around it as things go on.

Dinner that day was at Portugalia down near Ilha de Luanda, or commonly known as Ilha. Basically Island, which is actually the Peninsula. It is right next to the BP Staff housing, and it is pretty sparsely arranged with a few outside tables and then big screen/blank wall for watching the football, which I was going to find out is quite a big thing in Luanda. I was really tired by the time we finished, and I think that might be due to a combination of the Malaria Pill and the Beers I keep on drinking. And that was all before dinner! Dinner was ok, not fantastic, and once again, really expensive for what you get. Like R 150 for the main course alone, and the portions would be the equivalent of a R60/70 meal in Cape Town, if that.

Anyway, I was virtually passed out by the time we got home, and am going to sleep like a log now!

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Welcome to Luanda!! – Day 1

So, right about now, I am currently in Luanda, having just been sitting around the table with a real class bunch of guys, getting slightly pissed, as one always does on his “Introduction” to a new environment!

My first Angolan sunset from the House:

Day 1 - Sunset

But, let’s go back to where is starts . . .

Saturday afternoon: I spent pretty much the entire morning moving out of my flat. As always in my personal life, I leave things to the last minute. What should have started about 2 weeks ago, was left to the last day, Literally!

The afternoon I went shopping very quickly for a pair of chino’s, 2 shirts and a few other things, like boxers, which I haven’t worn in about 4 years now, but judging by what everyone tells me about the humidity, it might be worthwhile to get, and a few socks.

The evening/night was spent tidying up mom’s house, my shit in mom’s house that is. I had dropped quite a lot of my stuff off there over the period of the week or so, I’m not THAT disorganised!! 🙂 Anyway, that along with packing etc, meant I only got ot bed after 02h, and I had to get up at 05h to get ready for my flight. Man, that was rough. I literally got about 2h30 sleep by the time I left, and was I feeling rough! I had also had the beginnings of a cold the entire week, with tight chest and runny nose. Great, just what I needed for my new foray into the Wild West!

So, I arrived at the airport with a really, really heavy suitcase, 33.8 kgs heavy to be precise, and was swiftly told to offload some stuff. “I can’t allow that bag on. They won’t check it in, as it is too heavy.” Hmmm, about 5 of that is care of DD and the spare part, a Switch “blade” I had to take up. Cheers chaps! So I had to unpack right there in the hall. I’ve always seen this happen to other people at the airport, and always thought “Why would you need to do that?” Well now you know. I had forgotten I had packed my Unisa books too, so pulled that one out, which was about 2.5 kgs and my Mr Diver fleece top, put it back on the scale and was amazed to see that it only made a kilo difference. 32.8. Hey that can’t be right I thought. I moved it around and it dropped to about 30.5. That’s better. The lady luckily let me go with the overweight after a very “nice” pleading chat.

I picked up a 2 x 1 ltr bundle of Johnny Red at Duty Free for R255, which isn’t too bad! Hmmm, at least I drink my worries away whilst there! 🙂 The flight, Air Namibia, was about 3/4 full and I was in the isle, and the seat next to me was empty, so that pretty cool, except for the fact that the recline button on my seat, 19d was broken so that the seat wouldn’t go back. Now that was kak. So instead of moving to the seat next to me, I stayed where I was, and tried to get a few zzz’s, but it didn’t really work. Breakfast was an omelette which was okay. We had a medical emergency on the flight too. Appears a baby had choked or something and we landed with an ambulance there, but there wasn’t any screaming or crying, so I imagine everything was okay.

At Windhoek we chilled out in the Smokers area in the Transit Lounge, as Barrie is a big smoker, which wasn’t great for my chest, but I managed it.  We got back on the same plane, and I was in the same seat, 19d. Shite, as I was really tired now, and could really do with some shut eye! The seating arrangement turned out to be a complete cluster f#ck!! Everyone was sitting all over the place, mainly Angolan Portuguese locals,  and I later found out that if you fly TAAG –  Angolan Airlines, it is open seating. Well, this was a mess. Everyone had just sat where ever they wanted. The one chick and her kid would not sit separated, and kept the plane an extra 10 minutes because they wouldn’t sit. 2 air stewards, and 3 air hostesses later, eventually another lady moved, very unwillingly, to accommodate the chick and her daughter, but I think she could see that if she didn’t we would not get off the ground. Unbelievable! If that was UK or anywhere else, security would have been called, and she would have been forcefully removed! Man, really childish chick, I couldn’t believe it. Not a care in the world huh. Couldn’t really give a shit if the entire flight was delayed, as long as she could sit next to her daughter? She had booked willy nilly and the entire flight was full. There were about 10 of them travelling together and it was absolute chaos. The girl next to me kept on getting up and down and I decided I wasn’t going to have any of this as I was in the aisle and so I moved her bag on one of her forays out, and went to sleep in her chair which was great as this one reclined!! Quality! 🙂 I got a few zzz’s and had lunch in between. Pasta, as the chicken which was offered was finished. The lunch wasn’t bad actually.

After descending through some serious turbulence we circled Luanda and landed to applause of the passengers, which was interesting. I tended to agree on their sentiments, especially after the brief turbulence, so I too clapped. I later out that was a customary thing to do. I had checked out quite a bit of Luanda on Google Earth previously so had a fairly good idea of certain landmarks, namely the huge bay 🙂 and it was a really interesting sight. So many boats in the bay it was crazy. Just loads and loads of small grimy squatter type houses. Very few, if any, tar roads. A typical African type scene from a movie. The airport was really busy, with plenty of planes around. We passed an SAA Boeing about to depart, along with a TAAG Airbus waiting and also an Air26 charter twin prop also awaiting departure. The pilot announced that is was 29 degrees outside, and when I stepped out, I was hit by the heat! Man, worse than a hot, clammy cloth! I can see this getting seriously uncomfortable in the future, but man, I’ll just love the sun!

We cleared Passport Control in about 15 minutes, which is absolutely unheard of. It can apparently take around 3 hours, with about 200 people stuck in a room half the size of a tennis court. Just insane. A local I met on the plane reckons he has waited for 3 hours just to clear this section. The next section, luggage collection is usually just as bad, but this we cleared in about another 10 minutes, after meeting our protocol officer, whose job is to get you through Customs if you have any issues, and then we were done. So literally through the entire airport in 30 mins, which even the local commented I would never, ever experience again!! Hmmm, I guess I’ll have my patience cut out for me next time. Must be the Sunday flight.

Our driver met us outside, and went to get the car. The trip from the airport took another 25 mins or so, which even Barrie commented was not fair. He said I was really getting all the treatment on my first trip, as he has taken 2h30 to do that exact journey in the past.

So, I had finally arrived at my new home for the next however long I decide to stay. A one year contract as it stands, but hey, who knows . . . I’m looking long-term on this one.  Luanda was quite interesting experience, and reminded me quite a lot of Israel and Egypt put together, just relocated to Africa! They pretty much drive the same in Luanda as they do in Egypt, and the buildings and vehicles are pretty similar to Israel. The roads are complete chaos, with virtually no infrastructure like sidewalks, robots, etc. Vehicles just go. They don’t wait for each other, and it is really literally a matter of make your own way. Just crazy. But it appears that Sundays are typically quieter than other days.

Bradley was home when we arrived, and Sylvester was at work. Blythe and Ashton pulled through later, and we eventually got down to braaiing. At that stage I had already had a beer, and you know I don’t do beer. Like Really, Really don’t do beer. Next I was onto the Johnny Red, the bottles I had bought, and we all got really liquored up. The steaks were seriously good and they food was well prepared. Barrie finished a whole bottle of his brandy (1 of the 4), and it has been a pretty wild evening.

Well, that was day and night one in Luanda.

Click.

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

I could get used to working like this!! ;-) – Day 1

So, just started my first day at DD. Arrived at 09h00, at Tonie’s instructions, and left at 09h30! 😉

We had a quick discussion around what needed to happen, and what I had to do. Also we needed to schedule a meeting time with Barrie, my current Angolan colleague, as he was on his way back to CPT.

So, meeting organised for Tuesday, as I have my medical on Monday, and have loads to do for it. I have to get Lung X-Rays, an ECG!, a full medical, and a ton of other tests for the FPSO requirements for Angola!

So, back to work on Tuesday. Tough life. 🙂

Click

Nunnsby

Easy Going Guy 😉

Off to Angola . . . at some time or other!! :)

Back to Didata, or Dimension Data for those not in the know. So, having been working for Portfolio as an IT Manager for the last 2 years I decided it was time for a change. I was once again getting restless and a bit bored of my job as nothing had really happened to motivate me for the last few months, and I had decided that I wanted to return to London. My mind was made and it was only just a matter of time.

But . . .

How things change!!

Continue reading