Indeed…

My route home from Doha was a trial, literally a trial. It turns out the paperwork that was supposed to have been done back in January in regards to the settlement I had to agree to or be stuck in Doha for two years fighting fraudulent charges on my credit card from 2006. I picked the path of least resistance and paid the fee, went through the court system (which was all in a language I can neither speak or read) and was told all was taken care of back in January. Flash forward to March 1st at 5:00 AM Doha time and I’m at the airport trying to get through passport control and them telling me I was black listed because I had a court case against me… You can imagine the anger I felt. I was ready to puke, punch someone, and torch the country all in the same second. Of course I abstained from doing all of the above and instead I went to the source. I missed my flight to DC and instead went to the bank where the court case started. They swore up and down it wasn’t their fault, I found out later that it was, but I will leave that for the moment.

My journey on March first took me from the airport to the bank to the police station to the court (which was all in Arabic) I originally visited to cancel the court case against me, something the bank should have done and didn’t, back to customs and then back to the airport.

The moment at the airport when I went to passport control and the lady, dressed in the traditional garb, sitting behind the counter said to me “You can’t leave” was one of those moments that you don’t want to have. Not to say that being in Doha was bad, but I was just done with the country and I needed to leave. I was done, dusted and packed. Ready to leave and get home! But that wasn’t to be, Doha had other plans for me and I wasn’t very happy with them.

I was shunted to the side, told to follow a man in a thawb; he took my paperwork and had me follow him to a small office. After a brief conversation with some other official type person I was told I was “blacklisted” and I couldn’t travel. I was sick to my stomach, wanting to punch a wall or someone, but how could I get angry and these people, they were just doing their job. It’s not their fault; it’s never someone else’s fault is it?

Given no choice and no information I had no option but to go to immigration, I asked what the issue was and they said that I had a court case against me from the bank in question. It was supposed to be done in January, but it appeared someone didn’t check a box or call the right person or whatever happens when a government official doesn’t do their job as their supposed to. I was the victim of someone not doing what they’re supposed to do, but again who am I to blame? I don’t speak their language and I’m just a visitor in their country.

I went to the arrivals terminal next, had to pick up my bags, thankfully they didn’t get on the plane without me, and head back to the apartment I had been staying in, something I didn’t’ want to do, but had no choice.

During my time at the arrivals terminal, about two hours, I had a cup of coffee and stared researching what had happened, thank god for free Internet. I ended up calling all the people I could think of that could help me, not a long list given the nature of the issue I was facing. One of the people I ended up calling was the banker that had helped broker the settlement I had to pay for credit card charges that were not mine, but again what am I supposed to do? After calling him at home (waking him up) and asking him what the hell happened, he gave me the advice that I needed to go back to his office and get a copy of the letter saying that I was free of all charges from his bank, which I did. After my time running to the bank and trying to figure out who fucked up, I found a great deal of peace, I don’t know where it came from but I managed to find peace in all the angst I felt. I was able to center myself and go through all the issues of the day with less anger than I feel I should have had.

After the bank and then going to the police station to check my record I discovered that the court case I had thought was complete and done, was not in fact. Someone had not checked the box indicating that I was supposed to be able to travel again. Years ago if this had happened to me I would have put my fist through someone’s face / wall / torn someone a new asshole. I managed to find myself delving deeper into a peaceful calm, no matter what happened to me in the fucked up place I was in, I was determined to not get angry. I was prepared for the worst, as I always am, but in this case it was not the worst I was thinking about.

I managed to make it back to the court I had originally gone to get my court case canceled and had to go through the trials (no pun intended) of trying to navigate a place where I don’t’ speak or read the language and try to get something as simple as canceling a court case done. I got all my files in order and it turned out someone in January didn’t check the box stating that they needed to cancel my travel ban. That mistake cost me an extra 50 QAR in fees to get people to type my forms in Arabic and some fun times following my court file around the building. I didn’t let that file out of my sight; I felt that if I kept it in sight it would get taken care of.

Now keep in mind it’s still the same day I was supposed to travel and it’s now getting towards the end of the day for government and I’m looking to get the fuck outta dodge on the same day.

I ended up sitting in front of a Qatari judge and he looked at me, looked at my paperwork and then back to me and said “You come back Monday”… Given that the day I was sitting in front of him was a Thursday and I was less than thrilled about staying an extra day, I was less than thrilled with his response. I asked him nicely how long would this take really and I had a ticket for this afternoon so I couldn’t come back on Monday as I needed to travel today. He was a nice enough guy to recognize that I was ready to leave and wasn’t ready to wait any more. He managed to stamp my paperwork and get it ready for the guys who had to tick the box saying I could travel.

After all the fucked up things I had to do to get the hell out of the sandbox, it took only a few hours of running around to get myself on a plane. Granted it cost me an extra 3500 QAR to get the first flight out of Qatar, something I was willing to pay to get the f’ing hell out of the sandbox. I was done, dusted, ready to leave and ready to get back to the cold and shitty weather that is Seattle in the late winter.

When it was all said in done, someone forgetting to check a simple box on the form (I know it was a simple check box because I have copies of the forms, not that I can read them, but I can tell they are the same forms with the only difference a simple box being checked) cost me 1000 USD. I’m still keeping my cool, not getting angry about the whole situation, but I’m planning on getting even….

Exit stage left

Well I’ve started my exit procedure for the Arab games… So far I’m a little freaked, not that I’m leaving, but that they’ve taken all forms of identification that I can use to be recognized as a US citizen… I have no ID card and no passport in hand; since rule #1 when traveling internationally is no never relinquish your passport for any reason I’m a little paranoid. Also given my luck with legal system in Qatar I’m freaked even more than usual.

How do I deal with this freak out? I go to the one pub that doesn’t require a form of ID to get in and have a few pints.

My bags are replaced and mostly packed, I have a weeks worth of clothes laid out and ready, I’m planning on getting rid of some more things before I do my final pack. Right now I’m looking at to checked bags and a single carry in. I’m hopefully going to learn from my last trip to Doha and pack my gifts into my carry on so they don’t get lost at sea like they did the last time I traveled from the sandbox.

March 1st I should be home enjoying the company of good friends and a special someone at I can’t wait to see!

Brain Dump

What to say, I’ve been at a loss for words recently and I’m not quite sure why…  I’ve been busy as hell, but I just don’t have much to say I guess since its really just the same things I’ve been doing since I got back to the sandbox.

It seems I have a routine, Sunday I get up and go to work thinking “this is a new week and it   better than last week”, then by Tuesday I’ve given up that it’s a new week and I’m really just dealing with the same bullshit as I have been dealing with since I got here, only the stress level has gone up because we’re getting closer and closer to the event.

Way back during the EID holiday I discovered I have a travel ban here in Qatar, which in lay mans terms means I can’t leave the country due to legal reasons.  The simplest explanation is someone committed credit card fraud against me and now I have to pay the bill from 2007.  Something that I didn’t have a hand in, but I’m the one left holding the bill.  I’ve negotiated a settlement with the bank in question and am trying to pay it off before the end of December so I can get the f’ing hell out of this country.  I’m not going to say I’ll never come back, but I will think twice before I take a gig here again.

I was told the “good news” last week that my contract has been extended until the end of February…  I see it as a balance of news, both good and bad.  The good part is I can have two months of pay that is full pay and not being spent on paying off a credit card bill that isn’t mine.  The bad part is that’s another month I’m away from home…

I had started making plans for February and was looking forward to maybe getting some snowboarding in before the end of the season.  With all that is happening to me here, I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to get any snowboarding in this season, which is kind of depressing to think about.  It’s been a huge part of my life for the last few winters and it’s been a great way for me to get out of the house during the winter, which until 2008 has really consisted of me gaining weight and complaining about the weather.  Fuck it…  I’m going to get some snowboarding in this season by hook or by crook!  I need the outdoors and I really need to eat some snow!  I will find a way to get to the mountain, any mountain really will do as long as the runs are long and the powder is fresh!

"You’re still in the middle of the fucking desert…"

So it got a little warm here in Tucson over the weekend… Not nearly as hot as the middle of the summer in Doha, but still pretty hot… I made it out last night with the rest of my co-workers to a country western club, and everyone knows how much I love country music. Sometimes I would rather gouge my own ear drums out then listen to country music, but this bar / club was alright. I had a good enough time to go back a few more times, it also helps that I was able to get the names of a few other bars that are more my speed. Dive bars in Tucson here I come!

Vegas, how do I hate thee

I’ve never been a fan of Vegas, even with it’s draws of scantily clad people and cheap drinks if you’re throwing money away, I’ve ever been happy here. This is a place of bad memories and frankly I’ve never been drawn to try and make new ones here. But I’m here now and I might as well make the best of it. Maybe I’ll go hiking in the desert this weekend, of course I didn’t bring my camera, but that’s alright. I suppose I’m looking forward to hiking in red rock as well so there is something to look forward to here.

Uluru / Ayres Rock

Ayres Rock (Uluru) is absolutely stunning, as well as the Olga’s, which are a lesser known formation about 20k from Ayres Rock. The colors are of nothing I’ve seen before, it really is as red as the photos I’ve seen before coming here, and the detail in the rock is more impressive then the photos I’ve ever seen. Of course everyone likes to take photos of a big rock in the middle of nowhere and I’m no exception. The difference is instead of just taking some wide shots of the rock I took some detail ones as well. Those show you how much texture the rock has and how beautiful the rock really is. I didn’t get the chance to climb Uluru (the native owners don’t want you to climb it in the first place but they understand the need for some people to climb every rock they come upon) because of high winds. There’s nothing to hang onto up there so I would have been blown over the edge at some point, hence why I’m not to disappointed for not being able to climb it.

Being the kind of person I am, I made friends with a lot of the staff I talked to. Some are younger then me and others are older then me, but they all have a great love for this place and couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I can understand the love they have for the rock and the people around them. Yaluru, the township the resort is in and the closest other town is Alice Springs about 400k to the East, which makes this pretty much the middle of nowhere.

The first night here I went on the sunset tour of the Olga’s and I’ve never met a more tenacious fly then the Aussie bush fly. The things just flew around you and crawled up your nose, into your ears and just about everywhere else, it was very odd. Of course they sell these fly net things for your head and when I first got here and looked at people walking around wearing them I thought “I’m not going to be caught dead wearing that”, of course after my sunset trip to the Olga’s I thought the first purchase I’m going to make when I get back to the hotel is the head fly net. Pride be damned I was not going to let a fly, or in this case a hundred flies ruin my time here. So I’ve attached a before and after shot of me without and with the fly net. I’m telling you the net was the best 10 dollars I’ve ever spent. Of course on my first night here they held a BBQ for us, and I ate my first helping of kangaroo, and it was pretty darn tasty.

Something else about this part of Australia, there’s no light pollution, so you can see so many stars. I wish I had a telescope here, but it wouldn’t have fit in my backpack. The only power they have here is done by a generator farm just outside of the resort area. There population without tourists is about 1500 people, and they all work at the resort or the park.

I don’t know why but I did the sunrise tour of Uluru and guess what? The tour company had to pick us up at 5:00 AM for us to make it in time to see the sunrise at 6:15, which meant of course I had to get up at 4:00 AM to make it to the bus in time. You know how well I like the morning; well I was able to make it till about noon before I collapsed. Of course the 9.4 km walk around the base of Uluru on an empty stomach had something to do with the exhaustion I’m sure. Not only did I decide to get up at stupid o’clock to see the sunrise, I decided to do the sunset on the same day, needless to say I was less then awake for the sunset, but I think I got some good shots of the rock changing colour.

Somehow there was a glitch with the booking process and I got put onto two different sunrise tours of Uluru on different days, well given my level of excitement of getting up at 4:00 AM for the first sunrise, I was less then thrilled of doing it again, so I let the tour go without me and decided to work on my tan / burn and sit by the pool for most of the day. Which turned out to be the better choice I feel, I walked around once the sun set and got a chance to see some of the local wildlife, and no I don’t mean the pub, although that’s were I ended up last night.

Well that’s about it from Uluru, now I’m sitting here on the plane just putting the finishing touches on this blog and trying to think of a generic cover letter that I can use when applying for some jobs when I get back to Melbourne.

Uluru…

After spending just a few minutes in the presence of Uluru your first thought is “why the hell didn’t I buy the fly net for my head?” I’ve never met a fly as tenacious as the bush fly in Australia, the damn thing will crawl up you nose if you let it, and even if you don’t let it. I thought the people wearing the fly netting on their heads were a little funny looking and I though I would never wear something like that, then I went out without it and decided the people with the fly netting are much smarter then me.

There’s really not a whole lot to prepare you for seeing this part of Australia before you get here, sure you get inundated with photos of Uluru and the Olgas and are told how beautiful they are and how great they are, you almost get to the point of not even wanting to see them people talk about them so much. Until you’re flying into the small little airport that you catch your first glimpse of the famous rock do you realize you have to see it for yourself, there is no substitution. The rocks that form Uluru and the Olgas are enormous and are a single rock, it’s absolutely awe inspiring.

I can see why the Anangu consider this place to be sacred, it’s as if mother nature has created her own cathedral and all of man’s versions are inadequate.

Clutter

Is what’s in my mind right now… I’m going to be able to pay off all my credit card debt and pay for the various monthly bills while I’m travelling for the next three months. Not only that but I’m going to be able to travel for the next three months to Thailand (again) and Australia. Now I just have to decide how long I’m going to be there. We’ll see.

Being out of debt is good, but then there’s the other clutter in my mind, people from the past who keep making unexpected appearances, things I did to people in the past that may or may not have had a good effect on them or me (I suppose I would know so maybe this is just crap on my part), and people I care for but can’t seem to tell them. How funny is that?

I saw the person I want to tell those three words to over new years, but was I able to say it? Nope, not able to. One, she’s happy. So why muck around with it? Two, she doesn’t feel the same way about me, so why muck up myself? Three, I’m not there, even if the second item changed what am I supposed to do about it? Four, I’m a complete moron when it comes to my feelings and how they effect others, so refer back to mucking myself up. I suppose I’ve talked myself out of it, so what’s the deal? Oh yeah I almost forgot, I never forget crap and I like to muck myself up at every chance I get.

I went home for New Years, what a great idea that was, not only did I surprise my mom, aunt and brother, but I got the chance to see my niece and nephew, wow they have grown. But I also got the chance to see friends I’ve not seen in years. It was a good trip minus BA loosing three of my four bags. I guess I was worried about it for maybe five minutes, but if you can’t do anything about it then why worry? I could worry about a little thing like I packed most of my life into those four bags and have only gotten two out of the four back so far, and the two missing contain all my archives of photos from the last 10 years. But why worry about something like that? It just means I have to go back to those places and get the photos again? Or I could just use this as the perfect excuse to move on, take it as the hint that it is as a point in which I can start fresh. I like that idea, maybe it’s time to start again…

The Games…

Before I got this random email from a guy working for the Doha Asian Games, I had never heard of the Asian games or Doha for that matter. I’m not sure I could have even found the place without Google Earth. I used to be afraid of change, I hated it. I couldn’t stand changing the routine I had put in place for myself, not in an obsessive compulsive sort of way, just more a comfort level sort of way. So why did I decide to move to a country where I don’t speak the language and frankly never even heard of before? Change… I needed a change, I was in a place I didn’t like, sure I had people around me I liked but the place itself was pretty much crap. I had taken a job with a company that has crap morals and frankly I can’t stand to do business dishonestly. So when I got the random email from a resume I had posted in Singapore I jumped at the chance. So far it’s been a great time, I’ve met new people and made some good friends. I don’t have any regrets coming to Doha and working on the Asian Games, this was a good change, and the chance to work on an event that was seen by a global audience.

So what next? What is there to do besides travel for a while and get myself around some more? I need to work, I can only sit on a beach for so long before I start getting antsy and feel the urge to work again. Maybe I’ll try and get something while I’m in Australia or Thailand.

The numbers speak for themselves

The Numbers
1. 14 guys
      a. 3 from Sri Lanka
      b. 3 from Nepal
      c. 6 from India
      d. 1 from Australia
      e. 1 from America
2. 53 days straight
3. 1166 hours worked
4. 11 golf carts
5. 8 phone calls to Hydro Turf for golf cart problems
6. 3 golf cart tires changed
7. 329 sodas consumed for a total of 8.38m of pull tabs
8. 2 helicopters destroyed and 1 car still in working order
9. 17 golf cart tows
10. 400 tea bags consumed
11. 360 packets of coffee
12. Sold 2 phone cards and 7 packs of cigarettes
13. 163 points for yelling at people driving where they shouldn’t
14. 120 servings of curry
15. 10 bags of microwave popcorn
16. 11.25k of chocolate consumed
17. 4 slabs consumed
18. 4697 pieces of FF&E
19. 2000 QR of phone cards
20. 147 pieces or FF&E lost, stolen or damaged
 

When you have enough time on your hands to write something like this you can’t be working to hard can you?

We did everything we were supposed to do and then we did everything everyone else wouldn’t or couldn’t do.  We decided all the planning that took place really did help us in the long run as we had the appropriate level of activity for a department like logistics, which in this environment are the equivalent of fire fighters during games time operations.  What that really means is meetings in the morning to give everyone an update on whatever and then moved to the break area for some food and after that falling asleep on a couch somewhere until something broke or fell down, which luckily enough didn’t happen very often.

I’ll write some more after a few hours sleep…