Monday, 7 June 2010

Much as my children obviously missed me

they seem more than happy with compensation in the form of a humongous tin of Baklava from a reknowned Arabic sweet shop in Sharjah very kindly provided courtesy of Sheik Sultan.

Methinks they'll now be happy to see me disappear to the Middle East again on the off-chance I re-appear bearing such gifts :o)

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Totally Spoilt!

In every conceivable way

48 hours of unadulterated luxury

Zighy Bay, Musandam Peninsula

Sultanate of Oman

Major thank yous to The Middle Eastern Correspondent & Sheikh Sultan

Friday, 4 June 2010

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Visited another major project today receiving a very comprehensive briefing and then then climbing up a 60ft watchtower in order to be able to view where the threat was most likely to come from! Afterwards we had a Q&A session with the guys. It’s hard work being put on the spot about stuff when you've only been in an organisation 3 months and they tend to ask about such a wide variety of things, half of which I've got no knowledge of. Then there’s a language issue…it's like the league of nations here as there are 22 nationalities working for us in Iraq so interpreters were required at points. At the end of the meeting they presented me with a company baseball cap and insisted on a photo shoot....they apparently love having visitors.

Had a beautiful Nepalese curry for dinner tonight and one of the Directors made a cheesecake in my honour... the guys have been really chivalrous, so nice to be treated like that once in a while. I have to say they’ve made me feel welcome and safe despite the circumstances. Speaking of which, there've been two incidents in 24hrs here. An IED went off on the route back from al Hillah an hour or so after we'd passed by yesterday and there's been an explosion locally a few minutes ago plus tracer fire...really know where I am now!!! The base is locked down for the moment but they'll clear it again once they have intelligence it's ok again. Am I in an underground bunker, with flak jacket and tin hat? Nope I'm in the HR office and we're all carrying on as if nothing's happened but the PSD guys have been taken off the road!! Back to Dubai least it's a little quieter ;o)

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

2 hours drive through southern Iraq down to the city of al Hillah. The journey wasn't too bad as the roads are in a reasonable condition (albeit with no signage whatsoever) and we were only stopped at one checkpoint on the way down. al Hillah feels much more 'normal' than Baghdad as although there are checkpoints and military vehicles around the place there are far more people in the streets and kids playing etc. The set-up down there is pretty good and the guys have a decent standard of living, the project is well run and more importantly they have a good relationship with the local community due to the way we operate and the fact that we are providing employment in the area. There was an IED literally round the corner from the base the other day which fortunately was spotted by a local who immediately informed the authorities and the camp security officer preventing anyone getting injured. Really useful seeing the place and doing a Q&A session with the guys. On the journey back the whole team were pulled at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Baghdad, they searched the car, the contents and all the passengers. Slightly disconcerting for me as I was segregated from the guys but it was all over and we were back on the road before I had time to start worrying. It does feel bizarre sitting at an Iraqi checkpoint waiting for some form of clearance, sweltering in a flack jacket and helmet 3 sizes too big, in temperatures of 45° accompanied by the H.R. Director who's toting an AK47. Still can't quite believe some days....

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Day 2

(said in bestest Geordie accent)
Frosty has been in the Iraq house for two days now.
Today, she has not been able to enter the Diary Room (Skype) to report home on her adventures.
The 40 degree heat is stifling, the work-based conversations relentless and the Ghurka situation....well, we'll just have to wait and see what transpires from the Embassy.
Tonight the guys did a huge BBQ with fab Iraqi food which was absolutely fab but this is a dry zone so Big Brother has has refrained from challenging the housemates to distil the alcohol from the hand sanitizer gel.
What's in store for tomorrow? The itinerary states I'm off to a place called Hillah. Early start so that the roads are quiet, also told to pack an overnight bag in case we don’t get back..... slightly ominous…but then it turns out they're worried about sand storms.


Managed to get a reasonable night's sleep albeit interspersed with the occasional low flying helicopter. Having said that the air conditioning makes as much din as a generator for the national grid so that's providing enough background noise to block almost anything out! Room's comfortable enough with typically kitsch middle eastern decor but clean and the shower is literally next door so don't need to wander too far in my PJs. Not really cut out for this house sharing malarky at my age...