Monday, November 26, 2007

Groundhogs Day......

This trip makes Bill Murray's stay in Puxatony, Pa look meager. Every day here feels the exact same. Imagine in a period of six weeks not leaving a one mile radius. If it weren't for this giant sand dune and a Swiss-German Engineer from Texas (that is a whole different story, talk about a messed up accent!) to talk to I'd be bored to tears. This project is going really slow and things aren't too exciting at this point. The last few weeks have been pretty busy until about four days ago when the project hit a snag. Hopefully by Thursday we will have our parts that are being hand carried from Italy (the second time in ten days) and can get moving again.

Yesterday we went for a ride out around the facility so here are a few pictures from the back of the dune.

Hans and I, the wind was really whipping between these two dunes.

The electricians truck.

Yet another really cool dune shot.

About three nights ago we had a lightening storm come through and it rained all night. The dunes take on a darker color and the rain makes the sand hard for a few days. I've been climbing the dune almost every day at lunch, it's easier to walk on the flat after a rain but it makes the inclines much harder. I have noticed a big difference each time I hike up though. The first few times I thought I was going to pass out due to lack of oxygen but now I can get to the top without stopping for an oxygen break. Unfortunately I'm not losing any weight because even though the food is not what I am used to I still eat too much.
Here is a picture of the dune after the rain.

Here are three pictures two days after the storm, the clouds are still hanging low.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Now I get it!

It is always the minor details that really make the difference. For instance, since arriving in Algeria all of this Arabic writing looked completely foreign to me. The first reason is because it IS foreign, and the second is the one minor detail that I was missing. Arabic text is written right to left top to bottom. No wonder none of it made any sense to me! Now it is all so perfectly clear.
There are 28 characters in the Arabic Alphabet and the script is written in cursive.
I think, if I'm reading this stop sign right there are only two characters and I haven't a clue how to pronounce either one of them. The guard at the entrance to the plant has been trying to teach me a few words but it isn't so easy. His English isn't so good and my retention ability is even less.
I wish I had a video of a conversation I tried to have the other day with three guys who only spoke Arabic, there was a lot of pointing and hand waving. We were all left confused. It was kind of comical.
The construction contractor is a French company and most of the workers only speak Arabic or French, some speak both and only a few speak English. It is a little unnerving wandering around a construction site with tons of overhead work and people yelling and me not knowing if it is because someone just dropped something or I'm about to get hit with something. The language barrier does make everything interesting. For instance last week for breakfast I asked the cook for three eggs, scrambled. I even made a few circles with my finger. A few minutes later I got two eggs over medium. Since they were eggs, I wasn't going to complain. It is a total adventure just eating the food. One day at lunch I was picking at a piece of chicken (or what I thought was chicken) and Randall asked me if I had ever seen a chicken with that many ribs. You know, rabbit tastes ALOT like chicken. My main staple is potatoes. Both lunch and dinner every day has either baked, mashed, fried, boiled, or broiled potatoes. Add a touch of mayo and I'm set.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sahara Souviners.......

Randall left me yesterday so I'm a little lonely. It doesn't help that I'm so shy and introverted. Ok maybe I'm exaggerating just a touch, but I don't really have anyone to hang out with and talk to in the evenings so I'm a little bored. This site isn't like Alpine (where I work) there isn't a commissary to buy things like toothpaste or gifts to take home. If you didn't bring it with you, you're out of luck. So for souvenirs the only two things in abundance are obviously sand, and I am finding lots of camel dung when I'm on my walks. So with each hike to the top of the dune I try to fill a coke bottle with sand. A lot of people have asked me to bring them something from Algeria; however do you know how much my luggage would weigh if I loaded it with a bunch of 1 liter bottles of sand?? I have found a solution to the weight problem. Have you ever asked yourself how little the average piece of camel dung would weigh after it baked in the sand all summer at 50 degrees C? Well, my studies have concluded that it is pretty darn light! Which is good news to all of you who asked me to bring you something back from the Sahara. If it weren't for this solution somebody would surely miss out on a wonderful Sahara Desert treasure.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dunes and more dunes....

On Sunday the Chief of Security (Peter) took me for a drive in his Land Cruiser out through the dunes. We just took off through the sand and just drove. The terrain here is the same as it is at home in the winter when you get above treeline. The sand is also very similar to snow. The wind can form large sand cornices on the ridges and depending on the wind patterns the sand can go from hard to soft instantly. After we got out a ways Peter let me drive, I got stuck going up the first hill! These Toyotas are all diesel and when driving through the sand you really have to keep your rpm's high. I made the mistake of shifting from second into third and just kind of sank into the sand. Even though the tires were barely sunk in the sand we weren't moving. Peter got us out and got us to a high spot and let me try it again. This time I never shifted higher than second gear and kept the rpm's between 3 and 4k and drove through valleys and side hills finding a way through the dunes. It is just like where we ride snowmachines but it is a little more difficult when you are in a 4wd vehicle instead of on a 3' wide snowmachine. It was a kick.

Here are a few more pictures.

A nice whispy Sahara cloud.

If only I had a sandboard. These dunes would be a kick to carve some turns in.

Proof I was actually here!

This is Peter and he is THE man, and knows everything that happens at this site.

A Sunday afternoon drive.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Every day is a new experience......

Before heading over here I bought a good guide book on North Africa. I like to know where it is I'm going and be able to find it on the map. One of the interesting things that I read was that it only really rains about once every twenty years in the Sahara Desert. Now imagine my surprise when I walked out of my room to go to breakfast this morning and it was raining. It wasn't a torrential downpour but it was a steady rain. My shirt was wet by the time I made it across the compound to the cafeteria. The sky directly above me had one very small cloud that was thin enough to see the stars through and there weren't anymore clouds directly above the compound. Although when I asked a few people that are on regular rotation here they said to tell the author of the guide book he is mistaken that during certain parts of the year it frequently rains like this here. The horizon did have some very black large clouds and there was a fair amount of lightning. It was a pretty cool sight. It rained on and off all morning.

What I find amazing is that in July the night temperature can get as cold as -10C and the heat of the day can get as high as 55 degrees C. That is a low temperature of 14 degrees F to a high of 131 degrees F. Talk about a temperature swing! Right now the weather is perfect, it is like being in Phoenix in February.

This evening after work I was running a little late but still wanted to hike the dune so I went accepting that I'd be coming down in the dark. It all went ok. Here are a few pictures.