Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Damn ! Got me ..

March 31st 22:30

Ring……. Ring……..Ri

Me: Hello

S: Hey – Quick get up – I left something for you outside your house.. *sounding all urgent and all*

Me: Oh okay hold on.. let me go have a look

S: I left it right behind the bush right outside your house..

Me: Okay – *I start looking under the bushes*.. “I don’t find anything

S: Oh look again – I left it right there.. keep loooking

Me: I have looked all over and I don’t find anything..

S: That’s okay “happy april fools day - in advance

Me: Oh Blast it.. wait till I get my hands on you...

Monday, March 30, 2009

more cairo

Uncool Cigarette Packs

These are the most effective cigarette warnings I have seen so far and the Egyptian govt. are in no means shy about being graphical about it. Just looking at the pack definitely would make any casual smoker uneasy. Also the packs look so uncool and it would look stupid to have it anywhere around you. Great job Cairo!!!

Taxi Meters

I found some of the most battered taxis in Cairo and they beat some of the Fiats you find on the streets of Mumbai. The charge meters installed in them are made in India and called Ashoka meters. And in one of the taxis it actually worked. Amazing – it could be easily 40 years old. Mind you the Taxi drivers are some of the most polite ones that I have come across although there is nothing polite about the way they drive:-P


I ended up in one of the Egyptian households and they served me coffee in a mug with King Khans picture on it. Apparently he is quite popular there along with Big B. But he is known as “Sharoocan” which I found very amusing.. viva bollywood !!!


What I also realized is that Cairo is a very normal city where you find leaves on the streets, water puddles, kids playing in the streets.. cars double parked etc. It’s like a lived-in place unlike Dubai which looks very artificial where there are too many rules to follow and what not and the roads are all spic and span.. almost unreal. Also one can find “chembatrathy” poovu in Cairo which is in abundance back home in Kerala. I was amazed to see one just outside our staff house. Don’t know what the English name for it is.

And I might even be going back next week.. YAY.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Roads of Cairo through a D880

Last two days we had to go downtown to Giza to meet clients etc. It was a good forty mins drive from where we are across the Nile. We had a battered old Hyundai come and pick us up along with our driver Gallal “Schummy” Sabry. Schummy was the name he acquired due to his F1 style driving during rush hour.

I was brave enough to sit in the front seat and keep my eyes open for the complete ride. I would tug on my seat belt every now and then just to make sure they would do their job when the need arises :-P . Since the dash board was all scratched up – I had to strain my eyes to see if it had “SRS Airbag” etched on it. I tried to match up the various scratches to convince myself that it vaguely read “airbag” :-P As far as Schummy was concerned he wanted to keep the business with us and his way of getting the nod from us was to drive as fast as possible, drive through one ways in the wrong direction, cut in on other drivers and swear at anyone who even gives him the look.. He was quite a character.

By the second day I was used to his reckless driving and I took some pictures using my D880 Samsung mobile which has crappy resolution.

Kids hanging on to back of truck..

Rush hour at Giza

Brokendown buildings in Giza

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tomato Juice with Pepper ©

A colleague of mine introduced me to this combo on the flight to Houston last year and it has become my flight drink ever since. I used to be a wine guy on the flight but that leaves me dehydrated and slightly hung over (it doesnt take much for me) when we land :-P. This is perfect to sip on while listening to some good music or chatting with the person next to you..

I have made it a point to pass on the “TJ with pepper ©” tradition to other co-passengers each time I fly. This time on my way to Cairo it was an Aussie lady who was my victim – I think she has taken a liking to it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

yemen calling..

We used to dread going to yemen or at least that’s the general vibe we used have in the office. But I used to secretly enjoy my time there due to reasons of my own.. but hated admitting it to prevent them from cutting down our hardship allowance for Yemen :-P So yea every time I used to get picked to visit Yemen – I would put on this long face in the office as if it’s the end of the world, although I would get home, punch the air and go “YES”.

a village in seyuun

It was a really interesting to go to Yemen. We used to arrive in Sanaa and then we get on the next flight to Seyuun – which is small town with an air field that is closest to the oil fields. Sanna is just a boring dead city which is polluted and corrupt and hectic. The only place worth seeing is “old sanaa” where you can only walk as no cars or bikes are allowed.. any way I will write about it later. But yea Seyyun was this little air field from where we would get picked up to go to the camps. There would be body guards who escort us because the co I used to work for was “Amrikie” which was Arabic for American and there are chances ( one a zillion ) of getting kidnapped etc.. Body guards aren’t exactly the black cats that you find in the movies but anyone who knows to pull the trigger of an AK-47 and not shoot himself on his foot would qualify.

the yemeni bodyguard..

I would carry a few bottles of whiskey and boxes of chocolates all paid by the company to bribe the officials at the check posts to let us pass without hassles.. Most of the time our journey would be interesting with occasional stops for a few shots of whiskey. On a few trips the body guard let me fire a few rounds of the AK-47 into air.. that was fun. So after we reach the camp the body guards depart with another bottle of whiskey and a box of candies for their kids.

Work is sort of boring and tiring as its usually 30 – 40 hrs long without much sleep. During that week or so in some remote location, we have no contact with the outside world except through Thuraya phones. I used read a lot of books write stuff and at night go on top of a hill with people we meet there and share experiences over a few cans of beer.

an oil rig in yemen

The return journey to the airport usually has a stop at one of the traditional shabby restaurants in the middle of nowhere for a feast which would be on me as a token of appreciation for their help during my stay. The guys would disappear to the back of the cattle shed and come out holding a lamb by the ears in each hand saying “this ones for you you and this ones for us” I really cant eat them as I feel sad for the lamb but I am perfectly okay to order lamb while dining out back home in Dubai :-P They are so yum.

Our next stop would be at a the “gaath” shop. Gaath is a herb that is an intoxicant – it’s a tradition there that most men folk flollow. They chew gaath all day long and by evening they are all on a high. Most of them have this bulge on the side of their cheeks as they refuse to spit out the old bunch – they just add on every hour or so till night fall. Even though the gaath looks all filthy a good quality bunch could cost up to 75 USD. Personally I have never tried Gaath just because it looks dirty ( I have tried weed on a few occasions and hated that :-P ).

yemenis at a gath shop ( the tiny bunch he has in his hand caused a 50 USD damage )

Farewell would be hugs and nose rubs ( seriously – we touch each other with the tip of our noses and rub thrice). It sounds totally gay but I do it lest I piss off my body guard and he decides to put an extra hole in me.

And finally I fly back with some serious beans, ready to bitch and moan to our boss about how hostile yemen was and how we almost got kidnapped.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

here I go again..

Email from boss –
You're cranking to Cairo next week (sorry about the short notice) can you sort out a visa today pls.

This has become a part of my life – short notice trips to not-so-exciting places. But it has become not-so-exciting only after I went there last year and did the usual touristy stuff etc.. :-P Why cant it be like “you are cranking to NZ for a week.. or may be California or Maldives..” but NO it has to be some sorry, sad, war torn place. I guess oil is found in the nastiest of places – either in the burning deserts of Middle East or the jungles of Brazil or in freezing oil sands of Canada or in chilly Norway..

Anyway this time I am looking forward to the trip – hoping to get out of Cairo and go to the mountains if I am there for the weekend or may be I can take a few days off and explore the countryside.. hmm now where did I leave my lonely planet..

Friday, March 13, 2009


Things were happening so fast –and I never got a chance to think about how 2008 went by.. Now I have a lot of free time in hand ( a bit too much I would say ).. let me recap.

The divorce finally came through – no hassles and that was a big relief as I was expecting frantic trips to Kerala to meet lawyers and running around family courts, having to bribe the clerks to get things done etc... none of that. Just had to pay one lawyer and he took care of the rest. Very efficient.

Traveled quite a bit this year – Houston, Kerala, Turkey, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Dallas, California and Bali in that order.

Flew every week to Kuwait and back for the full 52 weeks while I was working and came to the point where the airport staff and cabin crew were beginning to look familiar (scary). Sick and tired of the traveling job and looking for a change.

Cut down on alcohol and glad that I am not an addict but had to get some home made rum (over worked dates – as someone had put it) while in Kuwait. Btw Kuwait is a dry country. Bali and Vegas were different though as I was high on spirits (literally) throughout.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wimployee of the year..?? NOT

I had always been a hard worker, dedicated and a “yes sir” type at work. But no I wouldn’t consider myself a kiss asser. Although some people might argue that point and to them I will show the four warning letters that I picked over six years. The first one was for rolling over the company Land Cruiser in the desert – completely my fault and still regretting going too fast. I was lucky to come out of it alive and so were two of my colleagues. So yea a guardian angel does exist. I was half expecting to get fired and had already started looking into appointment times. I survived the crash and the job..

The second was for use of abusive language on my boss. I deserved this one too but so did my boss (obviously he didn’t get one) for asking me to break procedures. It was one of those days when things were going horribly wrong due to some equipment malfunction and my boss tried to get me to pass the blame on to the clients with his usual bull. I refused point blank. And when he got really pushy (this is after 30 hrs of non-stop work on the oil rigs in the middle of the desert at 45 deg C), I lost it and gave him a piece of my mind which included but not limited to the extensive use of the F word. So finally when I got back to the office I had a two page warning letter and a bonus cut waiting for me. Nothing that depressing which downing a few beers couldn’t help me get over.

The third was a routine one for missing a flight to go to Yemen – not that I was really excited to go to Yemen but I didn’t try really hard to catch the flight. So the counter closed a while before I got there. It was a short notice trip and I could have refused but I obliged and then messed up.

Fourth was again for abusive language, this time on a client. He started it off and so I countered and I won as his vocabulary was limited – so that was my fourth after a strong recommendation from the client. Which again I deserved... but on the other hand my boss gave me a hike in pay because he thought I didn’t deserve that one :-)

And btw I am usually not as abusive and reckless as I sound .. just that when you are tired and knackered after hours and hours of work without sleep or proper food or shower the tolerance level kinda drops.. so the Jekyll in me comes out. But it’s been years (actually three) since I got cautioned so I think its time I got commended for good behavior *angelic smile*

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Just booked dad on a flight to India for the weekend – he wants to go to Sabarimala – it’s a temple on top of a hill and he just decided couple of days ago that he is going.. yea he is very organized that way. As it is his legs hurt even while climbing regular stairs, thanks to old age and a free kick gone wrong ( I think he managed to uproot a good patch of lawn along with the ball - *ouch* ). Anyway so here I am telling him that it’s not a great idea to go climbing mountains by himself and his justification is that that he might get more punyam if he does it while he is hurt. Mum agrees with him too. So I let my case rest. Then they asked ME to go along with him and that’s when I thought I heard my phone ring in my room.. “Oh that must be my boss calling.. be right back”


Monday, March 9, 2009

oh .. am I in your way ?

Yesterday I started reading a book on general etiquette, it was dead boring and I dumped it along with the rest of the books that I need to take back to the second hand shop.

There are some things that really puts me off (as would loads of other people) like jumping the queue, rash driving, littering public places etc.. but there is this one thing I just cannot put up with and it happens a lot in places where I have to be for various reasons – that is invading the personal airspace. I mean I don’t get it – imagine you waiting in a queue and the person behind you just tries to jack you up from behind – you are shocked and turn around and the person behind you gives you a look as if you did something to offend him. I try and ignore him and inch forward a bit – and guess what he is right behind you with his groin on my bum and his chin literally on my shoulder. For a person watching from outside it would look like a chain of men, each trying to plug into the guy in front – filthy. Okay may be I exaggerated a bit, but there is always that someone who wants to maintain body contact with you just to emphasize that he is next in line. I found a way around it by having a backpack over my shoulder most of the time – but then the continuous taping on my bag makes me uncomfortable as I am worried now that he might be trying to nick something from it. And even if I finally learn to put up with it, they wont give up till they inch me towards the person in front and I make contact – This I refuse to do and on more than one occasion I have had to talk down the guy at the back who will give me a confused irritated look…

I have learnt to ignore a lot of unpleasant behavior but I haven’t gotten around to learning to ignore this one.. and I don’t even want to try.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

the first

Over the years I have had loads of friends who have been blogging and it has been a pleasant experience for them and so I have decided to have a go.

I used to keep a dairy on my PC for a while – like the old Doogie Howser MD types and finally one day I just erased it all (dont ask me why) and have been regretting it ever since.