Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bored in the USA

Hey hey from Lafayette, Louisiana. I have some time to kill before heading out for some excellent Cajun food, so thought that I would pump out some crap on here.

It's been a hectic couple of weeks. Last week (or was it last year?) saw a whistle-stop tour around the Middle East. First up was Saudi Arabia, followed by Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Qatar.

Saudi was its usual self: perfectly friendly and welcoming but without anything of genuine interest. I did have a little time free, so took a wander away from my hotel for an hour or so. I think most people wouldn't have bothered doing that due to the reputation of the country; in reality everybody either ignores you or smiles hello. The infidel-hating-crazies image is a construct: it's like judging the USA based upon the hardcore Bible Belt types. Oh.

Abu Dhabi was bland and warm. I got a chance to go right past the fantastic-looking Yas Island complex that was used for the final Formula One race of the season and, yes, it does look like something from a futuristic computer game.

Dubai was only a flying visit so I was unable to re-assess my antipathy for the place. I can, however, say that the Burj Dhubai (or Khalifa) has become a worthy tallest building. We drove right past the bottom of it and, boy, is it tall. I have been under many big buildings, but this one is mind-boggling. 50% taller than the next tallest building! Thankfully, it has supplanted the (in my opinion) ugly Taipei 101 with a structure that is elegant and, well, tall.

And so to Qatar. Doha was actually a pleasant surprise. This was a modern city in the Gulf that still had some semblance of tradition. Old buildings were scattered around the area my hotel was in, the highlight being a 100+ year old Souk (or central market) which had been refurbished into a vibrant centre for food, shopping, tourists and locals alike. It was a fun mix of sights, sounds, and smells. The "new" part of the city was dotted with modern skyscrapers that appeared to be fairly empty. It is as if they have built this huge city in anticipation of loads of businesses, people, and events but none of them have really come yet. I think Qatar will be an interesting one to watch.

Back to Aberdeen, then, for a couple of nights prior to the USA trip. Mark has been helping my foray into malt whisky over the last few months, and last weekend furnished me with some Aberlour A'bunadh which I have now purchased my own bottle of. This might be my favourite whisky so far.

My body clock was all over the place by Sunday morning when I checked in for my 0600 flight to Amsterdam and then on to Houston. A couple of days there for work was followed by a short hop to where I am now: Lafayette, Louisiana. I am here for a conference which has just finished. We have a lovely stand that I was going to man and look all professional; unfortunately US customs had other ideas and I have spent a couple of days sheepishly standing behind an empty white table. I'm glad it's over...

So now off out for some lovely local Cajun food at the famous Blue Dog Cafe, washed down with some regional beer. Tomorrow I will nip to Walmart to fill up my bag with American junk and sweets before making the trip home. When I get back on Saturday morning, I will have taken a total of 13 flights in 14 days with a total of over 40 hours in the air...

Thankfully I then have a little time at home before Iran at the start of March. See you on the other side.


Blogger Jenny said...

Too bad LA (Louisiana) is so far from LA (Los Angeles). I'd love to show you around again, if you ever wind up here on the west coast.

That sucks about customs.

Your trips are so exotic...and dangerous. I read today that someone was killed in Iran during the celebration of the revolution or whatever. Be careful!

12:44 am  
Blogger swishfish said...

One good thing about the oil industry is that a lot of the locations are "unusual" or "exotic" which means that you get to visit lots of places that you would not necessarily go on holiday. Niall is an even more extreme example than me with his west African adventures.

Yup, CA and LA are worlds apart. I will definitely come back to the west coast. Good times, good people so will definitely take you up on your offer when I'm back in LA.

My parents liked our tales of the West Coast so much that they are doing their own road trip this year.

2:44 am  
Blogger Simon Varwell said...

So what did customs dislike about your stand?

8:12 am  

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