Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Back in the Sand Pit...

I know, I know. I can scarcely believe it myself, but I type this from a villa in a remote suburb of Abu Dhabi, wondering how the fuck I ended up back in the land of camels, date palms and Insha'allah.

To cut a long story short, my current job went down the swanny, but this job came along just at the right time...well, nothing else came up in its stead, to be fair, and I had little choice. How things change in the space of 3 months. After Christmas, all looked rosy in the garden (if you dug the snow out of the way), and I was in line to get a stable, secure, permanent role after another 3 month contract. I was that confident it was going to come off I bought a new(ish) car. It all started going breasts north about halfway through, say around 6 weeks ago...not in the sense that I was doing anything wrong, but there was a strange feeling of doom around the workplace, and people were feeling generally unsettled. Then came the announcement about redundancies. They said our office would be unaffected, other than the shedding of one admin person. This didn't stop people fearing the worst, especially those who've been through similar scenarios before. As a contractor, I felt immediately unsettled, and my attempts to seek any form of assurance were met with silence. I put the feelers out, as you do, within the company and elsewhere. In the "current climate", of course, the UK market was not offering up many solid leads. Only overseas did that.

As time went on, the unsettled feeling got worse. Rumours flew around. People got more and more peed off and as much time as possible was spent planning exits to the pub at lunchtime or after work. A phone call came completely out of the blue for this role in AD, and I was invited to attend an interview near London. I went down on the train, and was offered the job about 2 seconds after I walked in the door. I tend to get alarm bells going off when such things happen, but it sounded like a good job, even if the rotations were a bit harsh at 11 weeks on/2 weeks off. I had to make a decision.

A few days later, the decision was made for me. My boss told me I was no longer needed as the client couldn't see my role being full-time. Nothing else was showing on the horizon, so I took this AD one. Since then, I have spent my time buying new pairs of pants and socks and being with the wife and kids. I knew what was coming, and it has hit harder than ever before this time. We spent a last few beautiful days together for 3 months in some wonderful weather, wishing time would stand still. By Sunday night, I was pretty much in pieces. My daughter was distraught again, and I thought through a dozen ways of getting out of coming, including self-mutilation with a rolling pin and running away with the dish and the spoon.

I didn't do that of course, I got on the train yesterday morning, having given more tearful hugs to my kids and wife, and set off for here. The journey was long, uneventful, pretty damn lonely. I watched movies galore on the first flight (Tron and then Tron Legacy...compare and contrast!), then read some HG Wells on my shiny new e-book reader on the second. If I manage to stick this one out, I'll be doing direct flights from now on, at least until the new Doha airport opens, because the little old one is shockingly small and unfit for purpose as a major hub.

I landed in AD just after 3am local time, and joined the muddled queues to go through immigration. I answered 2 simple questions about previous trips to the UAE and journey start points, but then almost jumped and screamed when they scanned my passport through their machine and some horrible electronic alarm coincidentally sounded nearby. I got through without a problem, however, and picked up my suitcase before heading for the exit. I was meeted and greeted by the driver who conveyed my at Mach 2.1 to the villa I am sharing with about a dozen Koreans. It was nearly 4am local time when I turned in, and about 30 minutes later the Muzzein started the mournful wailing. Luckily, there aren't any mosques in the vicinity, so it didn't startle me this time.

About an hour after that I heard movement. The others were getting up for work. Crikey. This is going to be fun, thought I. What kind of hours do these nutters work, for God's sake? I drifted in and out of sleep, hearing the cleaners doing the stuff, listening to jets flying overhead, and dreaming of sunny days at Saltburn-by-the-Sea with ice cream and sandy toes. I finally roused myself around noon, showered and dressed and wondered what the hell I had to do. I managed to find some phone numbers for the company I am working for here and eventually found out that the main chap I was going to be working with was on his way to pick me up. He arrived 45 minutes later and very helpfully diverted to a petrol station so I could get some food. Maynards wine gums and coca-cola had been my only intake so far today.

The office was standard site office fare, with big wide cabins filled with desks and rumbling air conditioning units. I was shown round the offices, introduced to about 40 people with about 10 different job titles (mine, not theirs - it's political, you know. I'm being asked to be somewhat dishonest to two companies now). Then they made me attend a meeting with only one person who had a working knowledge of English, and expected me to understand the complex contractual issues they were bringing up. Thank goodness I have offers of support from around the globe, or I would be sinking faster than a stone with a really big stone tied to it.

It was a mercifully short afternoon, however, and I soon discovered that the hours are strictly adhered to at both ends of the day. We finish at 6 sharp and then have to make our ways back to the villa for dinner. The villa I'm in is one of about 4 in a row, full of Koreans. The food offered is therefore....Korean. I give most things a chance, and discovered some of the food they do is actually quite nice. It was like the proper Chinese fare you find in China rather than on Linthorpe Road, but with more fish and loads more heat and spice. I tucked in with some aplomb, impressing my colleagues with my chopstick technique and ignoring the naughty thoughts of possible canine consumption that cropped up in my mind. I could really have been eating anything, but it tasted pretty good. Then the Chinese/Korean lady cook came out with a huge plate of spaghetti blog that she'd made just for me, which I felt obliged to polish off as she sat there grinning at me and nodding her head.

So now I'm in my room. At least I have the internet. I need an early night as breakfast is served at 5.30am before the bus for work leaves at 6.05 on the dot. Oh joy of joys! At least there are only 2 more days until the weekend!

P.S. you may have guessed that the health/diet regime is on hold somewhat...the Koreans tell me that their food is velly hearthy.

No comments: