Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kuwait and Indonesia - Fall 2007

I am writing this post from memory about 3 months after the fact. From now on, however, I shall try to only make posts in 'real time' - i.e., as my trips unfold. Last year - 2007 - was already a busy year for me: a month in Sumatra in April - May and 7 weeks in Kuwait in July - early September. Then, in mid-October, it was off again to the 'sand box' in Kuwait. More exactly the Partitioned Neutral Zone (PNZ) - that little sliver of land in-between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The two countries decided that since they couldn't agree on exactly where the 'real' Saudi-Kuwaiti border lie, they would simply split the oil production coming from within that area of disputed territory 50% - 50%. The company I work for manages the Saudi half of the concession.

Having arrived in Wonderful Wafra (Wafra Field is the name of the oil filed from which the PNZ oil is produced) in mid-October and stayed for about three weeks. Thanks to an urgent request from a customer in Indonesia, I made a ten-day side trip to Balikpapan, on the island of Kalimantan - that's what we in the West often refer to as 'Borneo'. A truly interesting and enjoyable location. I stayed at the Hotel Gran Senyiur - perhaps the only 5-star hotel in the area. Nice rooms and excellent food!! Also of note, the hotel employs what they say is the world's second shortest man - Mr. Rahmat Santoso (picture above). Rahmat - despite his size - deftly lugged my suitcase onto the elevator and up to my room without a hitch!

After my one-week assignment in Balikpapan had ended, I returned to Kuwait (via Dubai). I spent one night at the Grand Hyatt Dubai - very comfortable but very expensive ... as are seemingly many of the hotels in Dubai! The next morning, I flew to Kuwait and resumed my work there. When I finished my work I returned to home-sweet-home (again via Dubai) on Monday, December 10 using the new NON-STOP 16.5 hour Emirates flight from Dubai to Houston. It's a looooong flight but taking this direct route to the USA sure beats having to go through Europe (Amsterdam, Frankfurt or London).

That's it in a nutshell. I should be more detailed in future posts as I will try producing them as each trip unfolds rather than writing the posts from memory (after the excitement has faded).

Ta ta for now .........

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Historical Background ....

Just for the record, I've been working for my current employer for over 30 years. My first field trip away from home was to a dusty little town in Wyoming - BIG PINEY, WY!! I recall the population at the time of my visit (Spring 1978) was less than 1,000. My first international trip was to Saudi Arabia in December 1979. That trip lasted six (6) weeks and I spent most of the time in Abqaiq, about a one hour drive south of Dhahran, headquarters of the Arabian American Oil Company - also known as ARAMCO (now officially called Saudi Aramco following the nationalization by the Saudi government in the mid-80's). Aside from the various projects that took me all over Texas, California, and Louisiana (primarily New Orleans), the next big venture overseas for me came in 1983 when I was able to make about four trips to Oslo, Norway and one to Germany (still called 'West Germany'). There were a few more trips to Saudi Arabia in the mid-80's but my big 'break' came in 1989 when I ventured all the way over to Jakarta, Indonesia to give a paper at the Indonesia Petroleum Association meeting in October, 1989. I managed to couple a visit to Singapore which has since become my favorite Asian city (next to Bali!!).

Throughout the 1990's I made over one dozen (ca. 12 - 20) separate trips to Dhahran (located in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia). I also made my first trips to Sumatra (Indonesia) where I worked various assignments for our affiliate CALTEX.
In 1998 I finally got up the courage to actually work overseas on a full-time basis and I began a "rotational" assignment (28 days on and 28 days off) in Angola (West Africa) in September, 1998. That lasted until January, 2001. In June, 2001, I began a residential assignment in Kuwait which lasted until the end of 2003. Although I relocated back to the good 'ol USA in January, 2004, I am frequently called upon by customers to help them with their field operations. As a result, I still venture overseas (Indonesia and Kuwait mostly and occasionally to England and Scotland - Edinburgh being my favorite European city .... besides London).

While in Angola, I became addicted to digital photography and since then I take a LOT of digital pictures while on a field assignment. Not all of the pictures I take are job related, however. I try to photograph as many interesting people, places and events as I possibly can. I will share as many of these pictures with you as time permits. The picture I leave you above with this posting is of the Burj Al Arab - one of the nicest hotels in Dubai - if not the world!! I almost forgot to mention the fact the Dubai is my favorite Middle Eastern city. A truly great place in which to spend a lay-over while enroute to one's next location.

One thought I' like to share with all my fellow world travelers .... travelling around the world makes me appreciate what I often take for granted back home

Friday, January 18, 2008

Have Project ... Will Travel!!

Travel acts as the "spice" that helps makes my job more enjoyable. Without the travel my work would still be interesting but just a tad mundane and, at times, a bit tiring. However, having a project that involves the chance to travel to a location that I might otherwise never have the chance to visit on my own (e.g., Saudi Arabia; Rangely, Colorado; Lago Agrio, Ecuador; Oslo, Norway!) keeps my interest and energy flowing. Once the day's work is completed and my corporate obligations are fullfilled, I can take the time to go out and explore the world around me, meet people, experience different cultures, sightsee new places and - most importantly for me - take a LOT of pictures. Photography is my hobby so bringing home a treasure trove of pictures to show off to friends or simply make into "wallpaper" for my computer screen is a real treat. Hence, in addition to the many ramblings which I shall be writing here, I will also be sharing many pictures to complement the descriptions that will be posted.

The traveling chemist ....