Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dull dahl days

I just spent an hour composing a post about pretty much nothing at all then accidentally deleted it. I hate laptop keyboards.

Anyway, where was I. Yes, welcome back to the boring blog world championships. Nothing much to write about here. 12 hour working days, interspersed only with dahl and rice for lunch and dahl and rice for dinner. Occasionally we have rice and dahl just for a change. If you would like to read an interesting blog, allow me to recommend;; or

It was great to be home for the weekend though. I can show you a another pic of Kilimanjaro taken on the way home:

But I thought her sister peak Mount Meru more spectacular:

On the way back there were huge thunderstorms, and the aircraft was meandering around them, occasionally skirting through an anvil head. I was amazed to be looking up at Charlie Bravos towering well above 40 000 ft overhead. This one was still developing; viewed from cruising altitude of 38 000 ft:

That's about all I have to tell. I was planning to go to the Masai Mara on the weekend to catch the grand finale of the wildebeest migration, but now I have to work Saturday. *&%$*@!!. On top of it all, I have come down with a miserable cold. Last thing I need ahead of the Swazi Frontier in less than 2 weeks. Protocol dictates that I get checked out for malaria - I hope to fit that in today.

For the last few days the Kenyan national cricket team has been practicing on the field below the office. They are quite good, with victories over the Windies and India to their credit. I thought that the coach looked familiar to me - Its Peter Kirsten!

Kenya cricket team

OK, bye now. Sorry for the miserable blog.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Week 1 down!

Happy braai day, one and all!

Up here, it was a pretty hectic work day. A tense 4½ hour meeting with lots of agro, no lunch and leaving the office at 7:30 only - well after dark, so no exercise for me today. Talking of which, all the locals advise me not to go ride my bike in the park / forest. There is a sports field behind the hospital, surrounded by security fencing and buildings. This is where everyone comes to exercise. It's essentially a cricket field with a gravel walking track around it. You see the expats all going for their daily walk here, round and round in circles like a bloody prison. I could not handle it - I would rather take my chances in the bush. Worst that could happen is someone takes my bike.

I am really getting into the work. I could not imagine that I would have enjoyed the challenge and the pressure so much. I have to pretend that I know everything from boilers to fountains to Linac machines to intravenous drip rails to nurse call stations etc. Apparently, I can bullshit quite well. Working in this hospital, which is building a large new wing to accommodate an ultra modern oncology facility, also makes me feel somehow connected to Charlotte, who spent so much of her life dedicated to her work in oncology, before falling victim to it herself.

I am extremely impressed by the quality of the contractors and the design of the hospital services. Its a very first world design and the contractors are doing their utmost to implement a first world installation. Where in SA have you ever seen an air conditioning sub contractor site supervisor stand on site, laptop in hand, doing a 3D model to resolve a clash?

Things are looking up. I am soon to move into new apartment all to myself. Its newly built and will be furnished from scratch. 3 bedrooms, so any visitors this end of the world are welcome (its not quite the arse end of the world, but you can smell it from here). I will of course miss Grace. I have become quite appreciative of my laundry, ironing, shopping and cooking being done for me! I think I might have a look at finding a wife. Suddenly being hot and young seems not quite so important anymore!

There is also a transport plan being hatched. One solution is that I drive my bakkie up here. That would be pretty cool.

Here's a photo of the view from my office window:

See older posts below - I am also adding some pics from my ride the other night.

That's about all I have to tell. I went to a club last night called Gypsy's. It was a bit boring. There were a few other Mzungus there and I got chatting to some pommies working on a powerstation. I noticed 2 really hot local chicks unaccompanied at a table and sauntered over in that direction. The moment we made eye contact I was greeted with a cheery hello and an invite to join them. D'oh! Ho's. What was I thinking? Back to the yobbo poms.

Anyway, the beer was cheap and I had to be at work early today so by 10 I was out of there.

This it for now. Looking forward to being home for the weekend!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 2 - back to work

Happy equinox one and all!

Off to work today, I have a lovely corner office that overlooks the AKDN Sports Club Olympic size swimming pool. There's a group of Italian swimwear models that have photo shoots there. Oh, wait, that's another fantasy... No, its mainly kids having swimming lessons.

About the job: I cant tell too much, but essentially I am here as construction manager for a job that has fallen behind program and gone over budget. Its a new extension to an existing hospital, that will contain a cancer treatment facility, a cardiac ward and a maternity section. Its called the Aga Khan University Hospital. Its funded by the AKDN - read the hyperlink. The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the Ismaili sect of Islam - a very "westernised" branch of Islam and frowned upon by more fundamental Islamics. His Highness, the Aga Khan, is very wealthy and a cornerstone of this particular faith is massive charitable work in developing countries. They invest hugely in education, health care, arts and culture and finance. Many of the construction staff are volunteer workers, working for free. (I'm not!)

There are some challenges facing me here and already they are trying to coerce me into staying until August 2010. I don't want to. I initially only came here for one day in May to see what they need and now its wanting to turn into a year. No way.

On the plus side, it looks like my present digs are not so bad. During the week we have a servant lady Grace who cleans and cooks all included in the deal! I also learned that I will soon be moving to a nicer house which I will have all to myself, but will of course lose Grace then. Will have to employ someone.

After work, I went for a ride in the nearby forest / park, which was quite nice, but only got in about 40 minutes until it started getting dark and I had to hightail it out of there.

Which one is Dick?

I have disabled that annoying feature demanding that you register in order to leave comments, so feel free to drop one if you wish.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 1 - safely settled in

Ok, I made it here without too much bother. My best smile and and friendly disposition once again got me checked in without paying excess baggage. This despite the large suitcase, bike box and box of drawings - all told about 43 kg. The flights were uneventful; JHB SAA international business class lounge continues to be disgrace to SA. It was dark by the time we landed in Nairobi, and it was cloudy so no spectacular Kili sightings - but just because i have nothing else to show, here's a pic of it from an earlier mission:

I was picked up by AKUH's driver and transported to my very humble temporary abode. Its a 3 bedroom house in a secure compound, but very sparse.

I had been told that I'm sharing with one other Hospital employee for now and had secretly hoped for a very hot late 30's Russian lady doctor, who is also into mountain biking and knows all the trails around here.

Of course, it did not work out like that - I am sharing with 2 others; A young DBA named Kunal from India and another older dude named Khan form Pakistan. They are both very kind and friendly and have been feeding me on dahl. My bedroom has 2 beds, a cupboard, a dim exposed globe above and one socket. That's it. No other furniture. I think its only temporary and hopefully I can upgrade shortly. I did not sleep too well - there's a very busy road just outside my window and a tin roof also next to my window which makes an enormous racket when the tropical rain beats down upon it.

This morning I assembled my bike and went for a ride. I had planned to go to Kikuyu, a village West of here, to visit David Kinjah, whom I had met on the Cape Epic 2006, but set off in a NE direction in an attempt to circumnavigate the city rather than get caught up in that heavy crazy traffic. You think Cape Town minibusses are bad? I was on the road only a while, carefully aware of vehicles behind and sticking to the extreme left, when suddenly a Matatu was bearing down on me head on in the wrong lane! Fortunately there was space to take evasive action next to the road. Eventually found a route called red hill road running out of the City on the Northern side heading in a North westerly direction. It took me past some fairly larney estates, but also some really dodgy areas; including an amazing market where you could buy anything including having your teeth sorted out by a street dentist!

Ultimately I ended up about 20 km North of Kikuyu and had to start heading back, which I did via a different route taking me past the Nairobi university campus and some magnificent country estates. Got a bit lost upon entering the city, and GPS battery had died, but finally found the compound.
There's a pizza take away just next to the compound, so after a shower (cold; due to temporary power outage) I wasted no time getting a 4 seasons and a six pack of Tuskers.
This afternoon (after a good nap) I went for a walk in a nearby conservation area, which is quite pretty and has a large indigenous forest. Just a pity there's so much litter. Its a bit weird seeing this forest, having monkeys chattering around, buzzards and condors thermalling overhead, yet the city noise is still right there. Anyway, it has a vast network of great single track and this is certainly where I will spend my morning training sessions!
Today was a public holiday here (Eid) so off to start the new job tomorrow. Will post again tomorrow evening!