Saturday, October 23, 2010

Autumn at Home - But Getting Ready to Travel!

Autumn in Houston! The high temperatures of the summer have vanished - mostly. The humidity is lower and the Holidays are approaching. And, after spending a month at home-sweet-home, I must soon pack up my suitcase and get ready to travel overseas yet again.

Earlier this week I attended a meeting on the 40th floor of one of our company's two downtown buildings. This building has a history behind it: about a decade ago, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling ran Enron from this same building and these two crooks had their executive offices on the same floor as where I took this picture of the Houston skyline. Naturally their offices are long gone (as is the company Enron which went bankrupt many years ago forcing the layoffs of hundreds of good employees). After my company bought up the former Enron headquarters building (reportedly for a fraction of its original cost and with some tax abatements thrown in by the city of Houston), we redesigned the entire building. Now the 40th floor is used only for meeting rooms. Still, this floor offers a vantage point which gives visitors one of the BEST views of downtown Houston anywhere! And to think that Enron conducted all its financial scams from this same floor just a few short years ago, well, its an amazing turn of events.

Fall in Houston! Yes, the above photo may appear to be a little silly but the it is the best I can come up with on short notice. I mean it to represent the changing of the seasons and the approaching end to yet another year that has simply FLOWN by so fast!
As always, thanks for following my blog and please take time to leave comments!
In a few days I expect to leave home again and hope to resume posting from that location as time permits. Until then, happy travels!

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Trip Home From Africa - Epilog

It's been almost three weeks since I returned home from Angola. Jet lag is but a distant memory and I simply wanted to share with you the details of the looooong road home. If you compare this blow-by-blow account of my trip home with last year's account of my trip home you will see it was a virtual carbon copy (apology to my younger readers who may not know what the term 'carbon copy' means!!). The main reason I do this (and risk boring some of my loyal followers) is to allow visitors a view of what it often takes to travel to and move around inside countries such as Angola. Please don't mistake my tone. I like the country of Angola - but the infrastructure is still rather rudimentary such that getting from Point A to Point B can be a challenge to the novice traveler. A reader of this blog and fellow world traveler - RON - mentioned he would like to visit Angola. Fine idea, Ron, and anyone else thinking of traveling to Angola. But .... BE PREPARED!! Every traveler needs help getting around inside Angola. Simply showing up and taking a taxi can be a risk. Security remains a concern. Still, if one can have a certain degree of patience and can arrange to have a trusted person on the ground in Angola to assist them with their travels, then Angola truly can offer opportunities for the first time visitor. Just remember, most visitors are business people and expats working in Angola. There are very FEW tourists. That may change as the country stabilizes and recovers from the civil war that began in 1975 after independence from Portugal and ended in 2001.
At any rate, for the record, here is the hour-by-hour account of this year's trip from Malongo to home-sweet-home:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010:

12:25 pm - Depart my dormitory; a friend drives me to "Hotel Malongo" where we go thru bag checks and immigration control.

1:05 pm - get on line for the bus to take us to the Cabinda Airport.

1:45 pm - depart Malongo and head to Cabinda Airport.

2:45 pm - arrive at Cabinda Airport. Smooth check in and security clearance.

3:08 pm - AMAZING! Practically no waiting - we board our brand new DASH 8 plane.

3:20 pm - wheels up, up and away!!!

4:15 pm - land in lovely Luanda, the capitol of Angola. Standing besides our plane on the tarmac, we collect our luggage (suitcase and carry on) and lug it all onto a bus that takes us to the domestic terminal. We disembark from the bus and hurriedly scramble with our stuff thru the terminal then wind our way through a parking lot, across a street where we then divide ourselves up and pack ourselves into several small vans.

4:50 pm - Arrive at the International Terminal. Get on line at Atlas Air. Check in starts at 5:30 pm so we sit around and wait and wait until the line starts moving.

6:15 pm - I am at the head of the line waiting to check in. Guess what. Computer is down (naturally!). After 20 minutes, the check in process resumes and I FINALLY receive my boarding pass! Clear immigration, security and the financial police! Head upstairs to the business class lounge.

6:50 pm - in the Business Class lounge. Hey, this is a nice place - really! Well air conditioned and plenty of snacks and drinks and the rest room is clean!

8:05 pm - we head downstairs to our Gate 1. Get on another line; go thru security (AGAIN) and then .... more waiting.

8:30 pm - still at Gate 1 waiting .... and waiting ....

8:50 pm - YIPPEE!! We board the bus that takes us to the flight.

9:00 pm - I am in my seat.

9:30 pm - the door to the plane (a new 747) closes.

9:42 pm - wheels up! We're off!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010:

5:45 am (Houston time = 11:45 am Luanda time) - we land at Bush IAH Airport in Houston, Texas.

6:45 am - we depart the Houston airport and head home.

7:42 am - HOME SWEET HOME!!! I unpack and after over 24 hours of continuous travel I crawl into my own bed for some badly needed sleep!! End of trip!!!