In the Eye of the Tiger

In the Eye of the Tiger

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

(Our own correspondent informs us that Mr. Fraser seems to be a member of a totally new breed ofA?A? NGO workers, so far never observed in the Bay: Here is -at last- a man who seems qualified for the job, and more so: He is getting on with his given tasks! All the earlier E.N.J.O.Y.’s did was to waste donors cash..) This the main reason we decided to include Fraser’s personal account of his well earned break:

The bar under construction
Tin Smelter stuff

As luck would have it, when I got back I only had to survive a month before I got to take a whole month off, due to having to take the compulsory break between contracts that we have to do. In this time I spent about a week in Colombo, then 3 back out east getting survey started, and sorting out a yard and store room for the next project. This time we are going to construct about 8km of road, but mostly with hexagonal concrete pavers that we are making ourselves. We need to turn out something like 900,000 of these pavers, and will have around 300 people working on the casting site when it is fully operational.

So I left again, a bit disappointed that I would be missing the bulk of monsoon season (more on that later), and headed to Phuket to catch up with Spratty again, as he is living in a place called Rawai which is in the south of the island.

Thailand was a great laugh, the Thais are pretty cool people and always up for a beer and a few laughs. IA?a??a??d turned up on the same day as Kristy-Lee and her daughter (SprattyA?a??a??s girlfriend), so it was a bit of a tug of war between me and her for his attentions. I think I won out in the endA?a??A?Spent a fair bit of time on the piss with a couple of English guys that Spratty was mates with, so had a pretty good time but really needed a holiday after it. We went on a visit to the tin smelter that SprattyA?a??a??s old man runs (it was really hot around the furnaces, so I managed to sweat out the previous nightA?a??a??s folliesA?a??A?) then went fishing which was a bit of a disaster but was nice to see the island from a different perspective.

Mambo #5 (or Holiday #1)

Kottukal Road, completed

After being roundly harangued for not updating my blog more often (I didn’t realise I had such a big readership) while on holiday, I promptly left it for ages before updating…so IA?a??a??ve broken it down into bite-sized pieces. Good luckA?a??A?

In my last post I was enjoying the creature comforts of Hilton Colombo – big, comfy bed and a hot shower. I was there for about a week or so just tidying up the project stuff and getting everything together for the final claim. Got there in the end, and learnt some valuable lessons from that project. Went back to Arugam Bay for four days or so before going back to Colombo to go on leave to Australia, where I basically chilled out and caught up with friends in Bunbury. I went to the Royal Show in Perth for the first time, with Spratty and his kids. I also managed to catch up with the guys I used to play rugby with as they were having their end of year function the night before I left. I stayed at John and AngeA?a??a??s new place in suburbia, visited everyone at RoadCare (now SRS) but generally relaxed.

I nearly didnA?a??a??t make it on holiday with anything I owned, as the locals where I lived went a bit mad after 10 bodies were discovered in the jungle not too far south of Arugam Bay. They were all Muslim, and had gone to repair an irrigation reservoir and didnA?a??a??t come back. Most people blamed the Special Task Force (STF), the paramilitary Police, as there had been some sort of tension previously. They decided to protest and riot, and consequently UN security wouldnA?a??a??t let me go there to get some clothes to take away, even after it had all calmed down. But thatA?a??a??s another story. I managed to send my driver with another vehicle, and he basically gathered up everything I owned (except the fridge, but that was probably the only thing he left behind) so at least I could pack some clothes to take with me.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Glad to see the back of August

Buy clozaril labs

It’s been a hell of a month. With the project finishing up, we had to go hell for leather to get it done, as per normal with construction. I’ve learnt a lot off this one, especially about how things “work” in Sri Lanka, so the next one should be a lot easier.We’re being given more money by USAID to build roads, everyone was pretty happy with what was going on and the huge amounts of labour on the sites did look pretty impressive which I think sold it. I met one of the local councillors the other day, and he told me that he was organising a protest outside one of the NGO’s in Arugam Bay that had been given money to build roads using community labour but hadn’t used the labour. They were going to protest that the money should have been given to UNOPS instead, because of what we had done locally. Warm fuzzies…A couple of weeks ago one of the guys that worked for me got shot and killed. Looks like it was the LTTE for some reason or other and not because he worked for us, although him working for us may have been a factor according to word on the street. Wasn’t a fun time, I can tell you. Hopefully I won’t have to deal with that sort of thing again.

Anyway I’ll post something a little more substantial when I’m fully doing nothing, at present I’m enjoying Colombo, staying at the Hilton for a couple of nights for hot showers and a bit of luxury, and then going to stay with Mick and Fergus which I’m sure will degenerate into a drinking binge interspersed with visits to the office. Then back to the east for maybe a week, and back to Colombo to see Pete and Sogol who arrive on the 22nd for 10 days or so. And after that, maybe, just maybe, I might be able to go on a holiday!!!

Friday, 28 July 2006


Can’t believe it’s been 2 weeks since I posted. Oh well…I am going through another maddening phase at work, with so much to achieve last week but then being distracted by a million other things and not really achieving much at all.Last Monday I was lucky enough to get delayed at site in Pottuvil in the morning. I say lucky because there was a bit of fighting near to the office, with a stray bullet leaving it’s mark on the wall of the building. Not a very impressive hole, but it made me think about speeding up construction of the safe room/bunker…If I had left Pottuvil when I planned I would have pretty much driven right into the thick of it.

On Wednesday I went to Ampara town for the security meeting, and I managed to stock up on bacon, sausages and lamb chops for a fry up on the weekend. It’s been a while since I got to eat bacon so I was pretty excited. After sourcing a gas bottle on Sunday morning it was full steam ahead. Tim came over and joined me (he works for the company that is managing the funding of the project) and we enjoyed an English breakfast. Buying a fridge is turning out to be a great idea, not only can I store meat for weekend brekky but I can keep my water and vodka cold, essential in this sort of climate. I also had a water filter delivered, so once I get that plumbed in and find out if it will clean up the well water, then I can get a hot water heater. HOT SHOWERS, YAY! So the house is developing nicely now. I also have a new neighbour (well, kind of). Relief International have their office next door, and Chandra has arrived from Pakistan to work for them.

When I was in Ampara I also bought a great framed poster – it was in a barber shop that I have been to 3 times now over the past few months. When I went the first time I saw it and thought that I had to have it, no matter what the cost. I guess I’m still overpaid. Anyway, the first and second times I went there they wouldn’t sell it to me, but this time a different dude was there and he would. He wanted 1,300 Rupees for it (US$13) which is a bargain as I was prepared to pay a lot more just to have it. Here is a picture, and I’m sure you’ll understand why I wanted it so much. The guys in the shop thought I was mad, but I’m not sure if they thought I wanted a “do” like the dudes on the poster.

“New Hair Cutting Styles” – Check out the dude at the bottom centre and right. Yeah!

Some USAID guys also came on Wednesday and wanted to visit the site on Thursday morning, but they were late and I ended up waiting around for them for 45 minutes, so didn’t make it to the office until 12. So pretty much I lost 2 days in total this week when I really needed it most. However they were pretty impressed with what was going on and want to give us more money to build more roads in the area so that is a good result.

Thursday and Friday I managed to stay up far too late (Friday especially, which made my 2 hour car ride on Saturday morning very taxing). There are a few more people floating around Arugam Bay at the moment, but I don’t know how long that will last. There has been a lot of bombing around Trincomalee, over the Tigers cutting off an irrigation channel which feeds tens of thousands of people’s farms. So the government responded by bombing the crap out of them, then at last report the Army were advancing on the sluice gate to open it up again, but the LTTE were standing their ground and fighting back. Not a good sign for the ceasefire, which is pretty much done for now. It looks like things are rapidly heading for open warfare again, which won’t do anyone any good. Watch this space.

In other news, two of the places where I had projects in Kandahar were overrun by the Taliban, then taken back by the International forces, and Sogol informed me today that another place got the crap bombed out of it. Kandahar seems to have skeleton staff at the moment, so I’m not sure what I’d be up to if I was still there. To be honest I’d rather not know, give me the beach any day.

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

Ahh, a weekend

My house in Arugam Bay
The beach in Arugam Bay, looking southThe golf course, towards the dam, from the hotel balcony

Which one is the elephant?

I just had a very good weekend. Not only did I manage to get pretty much 3 days off (it was a long weekend anyway), but I ate bacon, a big steak, had a hot shower, drove for more than 10 minutes (it was hard work though), corrected my golf swing and got drunk twice. Huzzah!

I went to Colombo on Thursday – took about 8 hours to drive 300 km – and went out with Fergus, Mick and his girlfriend Naoise (I think that’s how it’s spelt – sounds like Neesha, damned Irish) and got horribly drunk, making it home at about 3 the next morning. So work was pretty much a write off for that day, I made it to the office at about 1pm then left at 3 to go and open a bank account. As I’m not from Colombo no-one really missed me, so it was all OK.

On Saturday Fergus and I drove to Kandy, which is up in the hills and about 100km from Colombo. But it took almost 4 1/2 hours to get there, due to everyone in Colombo also heading to Kandy for the long weekend. And Sri Lankan drivers are stupid and dangerous, so there was much cursing and wailing and gnashing of teeth until I actually accepted the fact that they have no idea what they are doing and to be ready for any sort of stupidity, no matter how amazing.

On the way we stopped in at a place with cane furniture for the house, and bought a couch/2 chair/coffee table set plus a couple of lounger chairs which are mighty comfy on the porch. And cheap too. Although we looked like a bunch of gypsys driving around with the back of the pickup stacked up with furniture.

We stayed at a golf course complex on the shores of Lake Victoria (behind a dam) which includes many chalets, “guesthouses” and private houses that you can rent. Anywhere else in the world you’d probably pay thousands of dollars for a night in a place like that, but we were paying about $50 per night.

I got a golf lesson and fixed my grip which made things much better, next time I go back I’ll get my swing tweaked then after a few rounds I’ll be off to join the PGA…We played a round on Sunday which was probably better than the last one I played (god only knows when that was). We had to tip the caddys and the ball spotter dude a fair bit though as we took a fair while to get around and the ball finder spent more time off looking for balls (mostly Fergus’, I might add) than spotting on the fairways.

Sunday night we went to “The Pub” – billed as the only place in town to be, which it pretty much is – and watched the World Cup final which was a pretty good game after all the beer we drunk. Rolled out of there around 2.30am for a half hour plus Tuk-tuk ride back to where we were staying which was great fun.

Monday was a bit of a write off with hangovers and some outstanding work pressing, although Fergus managed to get in some time on the driving range. Tuesday we drove back to Arugam Bay via Ampara for a meeting. The first 60-odd km took around 2 hours – the road was over a “mountain” range (not sure if they were mountains or large hills) so was pretty narrow and twisty (including the section with 17 hairpin bends) but it was nice to have a decent drive, even though I was a bit stiff from the golf and having to work the clutch so much didn’t help. The road after that was pretty good, by Sri Lankan standards.

Fergus has been here the rest of the week and is leaving tomorrow. We have been putting together a proposal for another road which will be around $1 million and pretty much outside my front door if we get it which will be good. Hopefully the donors approve the money. Also a fridge arrived from Colombo yesterday so I will do some shopping over the weekend to fill it up with stuff that I couldn’t keep at the house before – milk, cheese and most importantly beer. Next time I go up to Ampara I will buy some other home comforts such as a toaster. I’ve also got our guys in Colombo finding me a water filter to filter out all the sand and stuff that comes from the well – once they get that I can get a water heater and start having hot showers. I’d forgotten what they were like!

Work is pretty much under control now, I might even get to take a week off in August which will be nice. The claim for the month of June, where we spent only around $100k, currently runs to 4 lever-arch files, which is completely rediculous and I’m glad I’ve only got 2 more to do, although I’m sure they will be even bigger again.

Fraser’s original blog is on:

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