In the Eye of the Tiger. Part X

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Another Holiday

The yearly “Contract Break” rolled around again, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was doing it last year. This year was a bit of a repeat of last year, it is such a long way to go to NZ that it is hardly worth doing on the shorter breaks so when the month long break comes, it seems to be the best option.

The A380 at Changi Airport

I went through Phuket again, Steve was having his 40th birthday so I thought I’d drop in for a couple of ales to help him celebrate. As per usual, it was a pretty crazy week. Highlight would have to be trying to rock n roll dance with a bemused and probably slightly scared Thai girl while Max, an English guy that lives there, belted out Elvis over the stereo of some bar. Should really stay off that Samsong I guess, does funny things to you…

Steve ringing the bell to bring in his birthday
Eddie helping Steve with his birthday bikini and water wings
The girls behind the bar in Sirocco – Goong, Fa and Aon

After that flew to Perth and down to Bunbury for a few days. I stayed with John and Ange, Ange was pretty pregnant by that stage (she’s due around Christmas or New Year). Did a bit of visiting around, saw some of the old flatties etc which was all nice. Went to Perth to catch up with Aza but he got the wrong month – he thought I was talking about December when I was actually talking about November. He’s still Spaza.

Langley Park in Perth

From Perth I trooped on to New Plymouth where I did some hardcore sleeping for a couple of days – achieved about 13 or 14 hours on the first couple of nights. Mum cooked me a lamb roast which was grand and I did a fair bit of lazing about and hanging out with my niece. After that I flew down to Christchurch, my first trip back there in a long time, maybe 6 years. Hasn’t changed too much. Caught up with Greg, Rik and Kate, Setter and Cheryl and Poo as well as doing a bit of shopping.

Mountains north of Christchurch
Greg’s dog Kupa

Next was Blenheim, I hired a relocation rental (which didn’t turn out Fincar price in india to be as cheap as I thought after petrol was $1.70 per litre) and drove up to Picton which was a nice drive. I stayed with Lorree (she was house sitting). On Saturday, along with Andrea, we went and played mini-golf on the Picton foreshore, where I got a resounding hiding from both the girls as they have both been playing a lot of golf lately and had home-course advantage (OK, I was just really crap). After that we had lunch and a few beers. The next day Lorree and I went across to Nelson to see Marco and Anna in Mapua where we had a nice BBQ lunch and a chat and then an icecream at the inlet.

The Kaikoura coast
Marco and Isabella

The new week had me in a plane to Wellington, where I stayed with Luke and Anna. I hadn’t seen them in a long time, and they had moved back from Melbourne earlier in the year so it was good to catch up. We did a short pub crawl then went to a Japanese restaurant, then another short pub crawl before having to go home as everything shuts quite early (or doesn’t open) on a Monday night in Wellington. Except for Luke and Anna’s house, where the bar was open until about 4am… Whilst in Wellington I also had lunch with Sean Gledhill and caught up with my cousins in Lower Hutt and my Aunt in Paraparaumu.

Paekakariki and Paraparaumu from Paekakariki Hill
Kapiti Island

Then it was on up to Hawkes Bay for a night with Jock and Kylie before back to Taranaki for Georgia’s 6th birthday party (kids can be so tiring, and I was only there for 1 1/2 hours with all of them!). Next day was on up to Auckland, where I had lunch with Theuns (who I used to work with in Napier) and also saw my Aunty Pat and Uncle Denis and cousins Brian and Craig. Craig had just arrived from Sweden and it’s been a few years since I saw them so we had a cuppa and a chinwag.

Georgia’s “rock star” birthday party – shes in the blue T-shirt and headband

I flew back through Singapore (11 hours, ouch) for an overnight. I got upgraded to a suite at the hotel but couldn’t really enjoy it fully as I was absolutely knackered and only there for about 8 hours, most of which was sleeping. Then back to Colombo where I got stuck until the day before Christmas Eve. Now I’m back out east for Christmas and New Year, Christmas will be in Arugam Bay and New Year I’m not sure about yet.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Work and Play

Just so it doesn’t look like it’s all fun and no work here, I’ve added a couple of pics of some of the roads I am doing at the moment. I’m just about finished the bottom layer of a couple of kilometers, with the macadam (stone) and surfacing to seal it all off will be started soon. We’re going balls to the wall to try and get as much finished off before the rain, but I fear we may be fighting a losing battle.

First (or sub-base for you engineers) layer in Lahugala
Setting out in Panama

Also, here are a couple of photos of beaches that we are lucky enough to be able to enjoy. Both are pretty deserted (Pottuvil Point has a reasonable break so it does get a lot of surfers when it is on) at present which makes them nice. Peanut Farm has a lovely gentle slope and is very calm at the moment, I had a very peaceful swim around there last weekend.

Peanut Farm
Pottuvil Point. How’s the serenity?

This weekend Fergus and I went down and spent Saturday afternoon at Pottuvil Point, where we went for a wee paddle around the lagoon on a contraption consisting of a pallet nailed to a couple of the local fishing “canoes”. During the wet season we’ll get a couple of big torches and go out at night and try and spot crocodiles (there are some “beauties” in there”). Merete (the owner of Stardust where I was staying at the beginning of the year) had the opening party for her restaurant on Saturday night, which she has finished rebuilding after the tsunami. It’s been a bit of a labour of love for her, slowly slowly at times, but she is pretty happy she has finished and it is a beautiful building with great views of the sea and a nice breeze to keep it all cool.

Last week the LTTE attacked a small Army camp south of Panama, inside the Yala National Park. The usual knee-jerk reaction happened, with the military sending in a whole bunch of troops to look for them but by the time they arrived they were long gone. However they have decided to piss everyone off and cut off the mobile networks again in Thirukkovil and Akkaraipattu, and also this time in Pottuvil which they didn’t do last time, so I am kind of cut off with telecoms at the moment, probably for another week or so. It ain’t so bad though.

South Africa won the world cup, at least it wasn’t the Poms. But I’m over rugby…

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Gooooooooooood Morning Viet Nam

So off I toodled to Veit Nam (Ha Noi to be precise) for a couple of days for a conference, my nice mid-stint break. I was a little bit excited, a new country and all, and also a chance to get a bit more of an understanding of what the hell we are up to here.
Part of Ha Noi from the hotel
The Red River. It’s not so red, and not as famous as the Mekong

Fergus and I went for the SEACAP (South East Asian Community Access Project) conference. SEACAP is being implemented in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam at present but UNOPS has also secured a contract to implement a similar programme in Sri Lanka in the near future. Basically it’s about assisting with developing national standards for rural roads and providing reliable road access to vulnerable rural communities, kind of the same How much remeron does it take to overdose that we are doing under our EU funded project. We get to build 200 different trial sections and do lots of nerdy engineering stuff with them.

The conference was on 2 days but we arrived a little early so had a free day to have a bit of a wander around the city. Didn’t get too far as it rained a bit (wet season so hardly surprising) so we went and hid in a coffee shop for a couple of hours. After that we wandered through the city, got accosted by a lady trying to sell us t-shirts, who actually followed us down the road on a motorbike twice to show us different stock. Full marks for persistance…We ended up at a small bar/restaurant thing next to the lake which was pleasant (and cheap) for a couple of beers and watch the madness that was going on as the lads from three adjacent restaurants tried to get customers. The later it got into the evening, the more chaos there was as they tried to stop motorbikes and cars, and with “valet” motorbike parking, people would just get off their bikes and leave them in the middle of the road until the lads moved them.

Fergus and a statue

Crazy wiring

Me and a big glass o’ beer. Very heavy, had to lighten it a little…

Drummers at the conference dinner

Anyway I quite liked Ha Noi and Viet Nam (what I saw of it at least) and I think it will go on the “visit when I decide to give myself a nice, long holiday” list. One thing that did intrigue me was how they used a version of the Roman alphabet and not script like the Thai or Khmer language or characters like the Chinese. I guess it is a result of the French colonisation.

After Ha Noi, Fergus and I flew to Bangkok for the weekend, after Fergus decided that as it was his birthday on Saturday we shouldn’t spend it in stinky old Colombo. We got in late Thursday night and retired after some pizza and beer just down the road from the hotel.

Bangkok is pretty damned big

On Friday we slept late and eventually I got in touch with Bernardo, the son of Manoel (who we work with). He was in Bangkok on a visa run for a couple of days, so he came over to meet us. We ducked across Sukhumvit Road (a very quick duck, because it is a bloody busy road) and went to the Lebanese quarter for some kebabs and stuff, then jumped on the Skytrain to go to Siam Square and do a bit of shopping. On the top floor of the shopping centre they have car shops – Ferrari, Maserati, Porsche, Lamborghini etc – so we did a bit of tyre kicking and wondered how the bloody hell they got them up the escalators, and how the bloody hell we could scam them into thinking we could afford to buy one so we could go for a test drive.
Bernardo and Fergus outside Siam Paragon shopping centre
I’m not a big shopper so little things amuse me when shopping, like in the Levi’s shop when the shop girl told Bernardo he was fat and laughed at him, as the size he asked for (that he usually buys, according to him) didn’t fit. He spent the next 30 minutes muttering to himself about it as we walked around the shop.After whiling away a few hours there, we hightailed it back to the hotel to change as we had tickets for the Muay Thai at Lumpini Stadium that evening. We picked the wrong time to travel across town (Bernardo was staying on the other side to us), then travel back to the stadium as it took forever but was kind of cool to see Bangkok’s night action beginning, with all the food stalls and markets springing up everywhere.

We had almost ringside seats at the kickboxing, and they bring beer and food to you so you don’t have to miss any of the action. Early in the night they have the younger, lighter fighters and the more experienced guys later. Unfortunately we had to leave after about an hour or so as we were late for meeting up with Fergus’ friends in a pub somewhere. Bernardo and I could have stayed longer but as we had no idea where the hell we were going, we had to leave with Fergus. We just really wanted to see some teeth go flying…

Kickboxing action

Kickboxing Video. The guys in the corners (at the end) were hilarious. Waaaay!

Then we moved on to some pub somewhere and met up with some of Fergus’ friends from when he went to AIT. They were a good bunch and the pub had a good live band playing. However they also sold Whisky and Tequila by the bottle, so I’m sure you can figure out what happened then…I woke up some time the next afternoon, feeling quite strange but I put that down to the Sam Song (Thai rum). Fergus went out that night to have dinner at his friends house which was just down the road from the hotel, but I couldn’t face it and stayed in and went to bed early. We later discovered that no-one could remember who actually paid at the pub, until we got back to Sri Lanka and Bernardo filled us in. Fun times.I like Bangkok, crazy city with heaps and heaps happening all the time. Very noisy and quite polluted though, could get to you after a while.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

My thoughts on Rugby

Rugby is a stupid game. That is all.PS Ha Ha Australia

Sunday, 30 September 2007

My Shitty Week

Just thought I’d share my shitty week. It was pretty shitty.

Shit Monday: My driver got fired after 1 1/2 years. To be honest he probably deserved it. Bright Spot: Got given 1 kilo of wild pork in Panama (the town, not the country)
Shit Tuesday: Tractor driver working for us in Pottuvil got arrested for “illegally” transporting sand between 2 sites, I spend 1 hour trying to get him released then another 2 at the court.
Shit Wednesday: Meeting with Police in Pottuvil to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Bright Spot: The Pottuvil Divisional Secretary (Government Rep) ragging on the Chairman of the Pottuvil Pradeshiya Sabha (Local Council) for 10 minutes about how hard he finds it to work in Pottuvil, and how he has never had so many problems in any other division he has worked in over the past 20 years. We agree.
Shit Thursday: Not much on the shittiness front this day.
Shit Friday: Boundary wall collapses on a site and kills one labourer and injures another. ’nuff said. Visit wailing family, accident site, got offered to see the body but turned it down. Police arrest Technical Officer and Supervisor but release later. Bright Spot: Get another 4 kilos of Panama pork
Shit Saturday: Visit other man in hospital. Bright Spot: Seems like he will be OK with no lasting damage. Fiji beats Wales (sorry, South Pacific solidarity and our Security guy is a big Fijian).
Shit Sunday: Get some sort of weird allergic reaction to something and lips around left corner of my mouth swell up for a few hours. Bright Spot: BBQing some of Friday’s pork tonight. Have lunch in Arugam Bay with Dawn as she is leaving for a few months. Get word that Annette will be back soon. Don’t have to deal with anything to do with work. Guys are here installing generator so I might be able to sleep in AC at nights now (it’s really hot at the moment).

Conclusion: This week SUCKED.

Had to share that. Hope to have some pics from Ha Noi and Bangkok up soon.


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