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12 November 2006

i'm alive and missing you all...

NOTE: i DO HAVE pictures, but my connection here is MORE THAN shitty, so it maight have to wait until i get back to the higher caste of civilization. please be patient. when i post them, i'll refer back to this post, so you can get a better feeling.

so, i got my visa on tuesday and flew back home. i asked the people in italy if i could have off through the weekend so i could go meet emma in kokomo, indiana where a family member was going to get married, and i was *GASP* going to meet the parents. well, even though i explained that the people had been waiting for over a month and "hey, what's a few days?", they disagreed, and i had to book a flight for thursday. fukkers. anyways, i booked my flight from pittsburgh to atlanta to london-gatwick on delta, and the italians booked me an "oil-industry" charter flight (hah peons, NONE FOR YOU!!) from gatwick to hassi messaoud, algeria. as usual, i didn't sleep very much on the flights, but was surprised to find out that my baggage arrived in algeria no problem, AND i could occasionally the TheMom and emma with my blackberry to let them know i made it "hassi" safely. i pulled out the GPS and found out where i was so everyone could stalk me (i was at 31 35.962'N, 6 11.588'E).

my room is a typical camp room from what i've experienced, which from what i hear, i've only experience the worst. small decent bed, sink and mirror, private shower and toilet, with a TV with minimal channels. apparently, the nicer camps you have your own phone (and i'd die for that right now, i'm in internet/personal connection withdrawal). so, i went to dinner at the camp canteen and was blown away... yes, i said "BLOWN AWAY". wow, the food was amazing. i had sliced beef, baked macaroni and cheese, fried potatoes, vegetable soup, and some sort of celery stalk with pesto. i was pleasantly surprised. they had fried chicken too, but i wasn't in the mood. nothing to really so i went to the room and watched a bunch of "scrubs" episodes until i fell asleep. i woke at 6:00AM to be packed and prepared for my ride to arrive at 7:00AM. at 7:10, the HR guy drives past and says they are still arranging my driver... 20 minutes. at 9:00AM, the driver and escorts are arranged and we get on our way.

it is about a 90 minute drive from hassi to the zotti camp. lots and LOTS of sand in between as we are in the northern sahara desert. i saw one camel, but apparently they are getting ready to give birth so they are away. still, i've been assured i should see more before i leave. i get settled in around 11:00AM and start my orientations (safety, medical, and security). i finished by around 12:15PM and went back to my room to map my LATEST position (30 52.963'N, 5 38.919'E) for all my loving admirers. with those, you should be able to just about look in my window as i sleep. lunch started at 12:30 but i couldn't find the canteen on this site until about 12:50. shouldn't be that tough to put the word "CANTEEN" on the canteen building considering it looks like the other 300 or so buildings, BUT i found it and ate. again, it was good. they'd packed me two sandwich buns full of chicken, red and green bell peppers, onions, and an italian like dressing, plus 3 bananas (one of which i'm eating now... yeah, i know, don't freak out) and an apple. after that i went on to work, met the people i'd be dealing with during my time here, and checked out the site. i'm here for alignment but there are major issues with elevations on ALL four units PLUS some of the alignment parts for the first unint aren't here yet. luckily i'm expensive so hopefully the project manager doesn't want to pay me to be here through christmas. i have a decent feeling i can make it back stateside for the holidays, fingers are crossed. dinner was excellent again: steak, salad, peas salad, fish, soup, the same chicken i had in my lunch sandwich, excellent potatoes, and bread. they have yummy looking deserts, but i don't do desert. the food here is amazing compared to both the kinda i dealt with on my last job, AND the last camp i was in.

after dinner, i came back, unpacked and was invited to visit with one of the guys (sadly, it's an all male site) who i'd talked with earlier in the day. yes, this is algeria, a muslim country, and this is a "dry" camp, but some people know some people who know some people, and i was able to toss back a few beers with some of the guys ($30/case!!!). then i came back, showered, and decided to write about this before i forgot all the good stuff.

the one thing about this site that drives me absolutely batshite is the lack of connectivity. the main building, which the site personnel call "the white house", is the only place with an international phone line. it is open ONLY while the site manager is working which is 6:30AM through about 7:30PM. i'm going to be working most of that time, and i'm guessing that the place is packed during lunch, so i'm not sure i can reach out and touch anyone. we'll see. my phone only picks up an SOS cellular signla here, but i might have a hookup on getting a local SIM card and some minutes. apparently here to canada is about $.35/minute. not sure about america, but i got some dollars. only problem is due to the ingenuity of everyone trying to rush me in here, they sent me through airports that couldn't change dollars to the algerian dinar (PIT, ATL, and gatwick), or were so small they didn't even have a change place (hassi). so i have some chedda' in my pocket and it is basically useless. BUT, i think i might also have heard of a person who knows a person who can get dinars for me and let me buy them. again, we'll see. there is internet in the white house, but it is the customer's proprietary system and personal/non-customer laptops can't install the software to connect. i'm going to try the slow-as-shite connection in OUR mech trailer onsite. i tried tonight at the end of shift, but it was crazy slow. apparently, mornings are better.

so mom... emma... i made it here safe, i'm working, and things are going OK so far. i'm getting the shakes from my lack of connectivity, but i'm eating healthier (this banana is killing me though, YUCK!) so maybe that might decrease the withdrawal effects. i'm gonna try to call once i get my SIM card and try to e-mail as well as soon as i can (hopefully tuedsay sometime). no webcams this time around, sorry. love to all y'all.



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