11-12 June 2016
7 out of 10
11-12 June 2016
7 out of 10
Tuesday 8 September to 22 November 2015
Well it has been a long while since my last post. I had a free day in Paramaribo on 8 September after I returned from Windsor, and on this day I found out my Grandfather was diagnosed with a brain tumour with a very short prognosis. With that devastating news I started my rotation. It was the most hectic yet as the project hit peak, I moved into a new camp and there were many meetings (including one week in Denver), issues and events that occupied my time. None of it fully planned. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the only thing that stresses me out is when everyone wants a piece of me. I felt it more than I think ever before.
With flights booked back to Perth hopeful to see my Grandfather one last time, I was scheduled to land on my nephews 3rd birthday and grand final day with my team, the West Coast Eagles, in the Aussie rules football ultimate game. Flight delayed. Not an hour, not a day, but 2 days. Luckily my good friend Madison was on the same flight to Amsterdam so we spent a couple days in Parbo. Worse places to be, and being in a fine hotel such as the Marriott is better than most places. I finally departed Parbo early evening on 3 October and slept on 4 continents in 4 days to get home. I won’t detail my 8 days at home in Perth. Other than to say it was important to be with family, the first time for 9 months, and the funeral went all according to plan. My time on the ground was brief and I experienced another flight cancellation along the way. But who complains in these circumstances.
I flew back 16 October (my cousins 18th Birthday!) 3 days early (which I will take for a Perth Christmas) for an audit. Went well and set me up for a 27 day rotation as I also stayed a bit longer. Busy but productive, with some memorable moments of hiring people, giving promotions, playing complex boardgames, work mates birthdays, booking my home Christmas flights and Madison resigning. Never a dull moment in Suriname and I still struggle to find the time to just be by myself and catch up on outside life. It’s quite social here! Which is weird considering the work hours are longer than Ghana.
With all that it was time for a break on 14 November. On an island, in a vacation rental, with no expectations, bookings, or must dos. Time to be alone. Let go of the work persona. Enter the Dutch colony of Sint Maarten. I only booked the trip a week before and the only planning was to fly into one island and out from another. There were a lot of Airbnb places to choose from and I’m really glad I picked a good one.
I went out with some work friends the night before flying out and with a 230am pick up for the airport we didn’t sleep. I was flying with another guy on the same first flight so we shared the weariness together. At least until Trinidad where he went home to Canada and I connected to the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. A short taxi trip to my Beacon Hill apartment and I thought I would crash out, but it was only 9:30am and a whole beautiful Saturday ahead so I powered up and explored. Simpson beach is windy and turbulent but beautiful to look at. The airstrip runs parallel to this beach so the roar of the jet engines is a bit distracting. I found a couple of nice bars and much to my stomachs surprise I was enjoying tequila sunrises. Nice. Then to the grocery store to stock up. This involved a trek passed the Sunset Bar and Grill overlooking Maho beach, which is famous for the low flying aeroplanes that land just metres from the beach. Crazy dangerous but awesome. People stand where the signs say don’t go so they can be literally blown away by the jet blast as planes take off. The force is a lot stronger than I thought, with people holding on to the fence so not to get blown back.
I ended up extending my stay by two nights to make it 9. I just wasn’t ready to move on. And that’s the beauty of travelling without a plan. Some days I stayed in and caught up on my life. Other days I ventured to the main town Phillipsburg. Most adventurous I got was a day trip to the English colony of Anguilla with an organised tour. The day was sunny and clear, but unfortunately the surf was up and the beach not as incredible as everyone makes it out to be. The sun sets early at 5:35pm so the evenings feel longer, which is good when I don’t want to spend full days touring.
The apartment was blissfully quiet and modern for $139 USD per night very reasonable for the location. The owner lives in NYC and this is his vacation home that he rents out when vacant. The terrace had a nice view, but the waves reverberated off the enclosed space making it loud and having to shut the door to hear TV or music. Annoyingly the owner has a property manager who seemed to come and go as he pleased. One morning before 8am I’m still asleep and he came to hose down the salt from the terrace. Very invasive and not what you expect from a vacation rental. But other than these two things it was great. Oh and the owner only charged me a tiny fraction of the rate for the two nights I extended which was a welcome saving.
With the batteries recharged, the mind freed, the sleep reserves built up…time for some island hopping…
Wednesday 29 July to Wednesday 5 August 2015
travellingross rating = 8/10
My short rotations and short breaks continued. This time a 15 day rotation, then 7 days off then 15 days on before finally getting back to my normal 19 off, 23 on. All to provide coverage for one week when the top 4 environmental staff would be off-site. I don’t mind it all that much but it is hard to get into a rhythm and have people around you wondering what the hell kind of roster you are doing. But for sure I was not going to fly out of the country for just 7 days off. So I stayed in Suriname. Spent 5 nights in Paramaribo at a different and nicer hotel than the Marriott which is what work puts us up at (although I have reached Gold Status with Marriott so the upgraded rooms are growing on me). Had 2 nights at a jungle resort as well. Would like to have travelled along the coast to see the turtles coming ashore to lay eggs but it is wrong time of year.
I tried to make plans with the locals I knew were on break in Parbo but quickly realised the Surinamese are not the greatest for sticking to plans. They don’t know what they’re doing until 5 minutes before they do it. It’s a level of disorganization that grates against my every instinct and motive. But maybe that’s all part of the test. I did spend a day out with some local guys from work and went to the cinema (saw Pixels which I enjoyed), which was good to see parts of town I’m yet to experience.
Berg en Dal (the jungle resort) is considerably larger than I expected. Full bus load of people came along with me for the 2 hour journey from the city. Beautiful setting by the river. Had to wait 2 hours before I could check into room. Food is average. Lots of families. Down side was that everyone speaks Dutch so all the tour info and greetings are in Dutch (this convinced me to download the Dutch language in Duolingo and finally succumb to learning Dutch over Spanish). Very tranquil place with cabins immersed in the rainforest like you’re in a tree house. No ceiling fans anywhere so lack of air movement makes it stuffy in this humid climate, but rooms have air cons. The beds are super comfortable soft, but I do prefer a firm mattress. There was a father and son who wore the same outfit every day – day and night. There are many adventure activities available; I chose kayak on the Suriname River which was a good mix of energy and exploration (the threat of Piranhas is an added incentive not to capsize).
The 7 days spent in Suriname were perfect time off to catch up on life and have some alone time. Work is so time consuming and hectic that there’s not much time to do anything else. Or when I do have a spare hour, I just want to vegetate.
Tuesday 24 March to Wednesday 15 April 2015
travellingross rating = 9/10
Still in Costa Rica, the newly tyre changed rental car made it to the petrol station on the sniff of an oily rag where I fuelled up and returned the car. Sitting in the free shuttle to the airport I yelled stop as I glanced out the window to notice my wallet sitting on the rental car company counter. Phew, close call. Costa Rica is one of those silly countries that charges a departure tax. And u have to pay before going to check in. I didn’t leave much time for this but lucky I checked in online and no bags to check. 3 flights and I was back in Paramaribo fairly exhausted which is not how this break thing is meant to work. It actually took me 5 or so days to get back to a normal sleep pattern which is odd for me.
This rotation was zero alcohol! It’s something I wanted to do when I started. I actually hoped this would be a dry camp not selling alcohol. Working continuously like this is tiring enough without throwing in the temptation of a beer or several down at the bar. Most people couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t drink but I still socialised and went to the bar. Sometimes with a mug of tea! I think I’ll make this a trend.
Highlights this rotation:
Wednesday 11 February to Friday 13 March 2015
travellingross rating = 8.5/10
Following 6 relaxing nights in Tobago, I got back to Suriname for the longest rotation yet…
Needless to say I was brain drained at the end of this 32 day rotation. Productive, enjoyable and much better than the last one. The sun is setting later so I have time for walks after work which is nice to break up the days. Longer rotation means shorter break. But I will take days in lieu next break. For now I have 12 days in central America.
Wednesday 19 November 2014 to Friday 23 January 2015
Work and life has got in the way of me updating this website as often as I would like, but sitting on planes for hours on end gives lots of time to type the words and sort the photos so here’s a snapshot of the last couple months…
Named Myself Employee of the Month This Rotation
Arriving back in Paramaribo from Curacao on 19 November 2014 (with a cheeky stop over in Trinidad to collect more passengers that I was unaware of) I checked in and headed straight to a bar to meet up with people. I’ve embraced the social side much more than when I would come in and out of Accra, Ghana. Various reasons but above all is that Paramaribo is a city I feel much more comfortable in compared to the unpredictability and challenges of getting around Accra.
Overall, I’d give this rotation a 10 out of 10. I arrived back to site and met up with my friend Ryan who I worked with in Ghana. Surreal to see him here. And then Madison came in. Another person I worked with in Ghana and have stayed in contact with the most. A truly awesome person and makes me happy. I like to think I make her happy too, although she would never admit that. A realisation this rotation was that I don’t laugh enough anymore. The last years have been serious and humour in everyday life was harder to find. But I’m pleased to say it’s back. I have laughed so much at this job that tears roll and that’s a rarity these years. Especially at work. I enjoy the team and the balance.
Coming home for Christmas on 18 December 2014 was important to me. Spending time with family after working in Ghana last Christmas was a perfect way to catch everyone in one sitting. Plus after a couple rotations, I had a long list of things I wanted to bring back to Suriname.
It was all good, got my appointments done, socialised, enjoyed the summer weather, saw in the new year with the Bri where we plotted out our resolutions and reflected on our 2014’s over some champagne just like old days.
Montreal, Lost Luggage and Hectic Work Days
Departing Perth 4 January 2015 I arrived in Montreal where it was -20C compared to the Perth max of 44.4C. What a variance! I was in Montreal for a work meeting for 5 days. The journey there was first time in all my travels that my suitcase didn’t make it. It didn’t make the short connection in Jakarta. Getting it delivered to me should’ve been an easy task but for intensely frustrating reasons that I am so sick of talking about, it didn’t and everyday I was given the impression that the bag would be delivered so I didn’t buy more clothes or a jacket. Particularly upsetting cause I had a lot of stuff in that case that I was purposely bringing back to Suriname. To think u would never see it again was depressing. $4k worth of stuff. But the monetary value is of limited concern. I just want my things! The bag is now supposed to be at the Denver airport waiting for me. I type this on the flights to Denver. I have minimal hope but haven’t given up just yet.
This and other personal things came together to make my 3rd rotation less enjoyable than the high of the last one. I haven’t been this busy at work in many years and many tasks in my personal life have taken a back seat. I’m one who pride’s keeping on top of everything so when I’m not, it annoys me and gets me down. Given the time in Montreal and working extra time last rotation meant my site time was shorter. I crammed 3 weeks of work into less than 2. January is always busy with budget updates, systems, planning the year ahead etc. With my high standards, there was a lot I wanted to achieve.
I ticked most of my tasks and still managed to have some fun times. Got to know people better and there’s always new people starting which I like that dynamic nature of construction. And I was finally able to transfer money out of my USA bank account to Australia, got my last year’s tax return for review, watched a brilliant movie ‘Gone Girl’, got 3 extra staff signed up to join my team next month. Looking forward to that. So that’s all helping to get back on track with my “be more positive” NYE resolution.
The best thing about flying a long distance out on break is you have solid time to decompress and unwind from work. I’m excited to see where my friend Matt lives in Denver, go skiing, explore that city I’ve heard so much about over the years since it is headquarters of the company I’ve worked with for 10 years. Stay tuned for that update…it’ll be quicker this time.