Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I have found my dream woman

This article was sent to me by Industriage, one of my foremost drinking buddies. May just point out that the author of the article, my soon to be wife, drinks Maker's Mark, the bourbon of bourbons. Any of you who have been around me in the past 6 months will be familiar with my obsession with this most delightful of libations. Only downsides are a) that she takes it with soda, which is a bit of sacrilege, and b) that she's married. But as far as I'm concerned, these are both easily remedied maladies.

Unrelated to this, I'd just like to inform my reading public that I've been moved to a new office. The senior executive corner office which has a sea-view. I'm so hot.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Libya - First Impressions

Argh...I had a whole post written out. It was brilliant, it was prescient, it was erudite, it was....lost. I shall attempt to replicate its magnificence, but I doubt I will be able to capture its original majesty.

Having spent 5 days in Libya, I feel like I can now make some intial observations. In reading several travel articles touting Libya as the next up-and-coming tourist destination, I was struck by the unanimity with which all agreed that Libya completely and utterly lacks any night life. I don't mean bars and nightclubs, the absence of such establishments is to be expected in a dry (both in terms of precipitation and alcohol) country. I mean rather, that there is, quite literally, nothing to do past...oh, I'd say 8 pm. Here's how the Lonely Planet guidebook characterizes it:

"Tripoli is the sort of place where you can linger over your evening meal or get an early night, safe in the knowledge that you're not missing out on much"

Rather generous and diplomatic, I think. This is not by any means to complain though. After the year I just had, I could use 12 months of quiet nights and early bedtimes. But still, it does make me glad that I work 12 hour days to keep me busy. A typical day for me looks like this:

8 am: Wake up
9 am: Be at the office
9 am - 12 pm-ish: work, work, work, work, gaze out window, work, work, have some tea, work...
12 pm-ish (or whenever I can get around to it: Lunch
12 pm-ish - 9 pm-ish: work, work, work, work, have a banana, work work, gaze out window, work...
9 pm-ish: Dinner with colleagues
10:30-ish: Dinner with colleagues ends, head home
11:00ish: Watch episodes of "The Office" on my hard disk
11:30ish: sleep

repeat as necessary

Speaking of work, it's going well. I have some real responsibilities, which is nice. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that rather than following the classic neo-liberal model of development, Monitor is focusing on local capacity-building and finding context-appropriate models, rather than just opening the floodgates to foreign corporations. No Starbucks for Libya....yet.

Well, more to say, but will save it for another day, I've already written this post out twice as it is.

Salaam to all

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back to the Dunes

Hello all once again, I shall skip over my obligatory apology for not updating my blog more frequently...or at all.

As many of you know, I have moved to Libya to begin working for an international strategy consultancy firm called The Monitor group. I arrived yesterday and immediately faced a mini-disaster. A driver was supposed to come pick me up from the airport, however, unbeknownst to myself and the driver, there was another Monitor team member on the flight, whom the driver thought was the only person he needed to pick up. And so I emerged into the Tripoli International Airport arrivals hall, with 2 bohemoth suitcases (another story, see below), my backpacking back-pack and my handluggage (containing two laptops), bewildered, exhausted, and with no one to meet me. To add insult to injury, I didn't have the address of the office nor its phone number in Libya. And so I wandered around the airport, wondering what I should do for, oh, I don't know...about 45 minutes. Finally I managed to get through to the London office and get the address/phone number for the Libya office. I hopped into a cab and headed over to the office, and finally made it here.

I should pause at this point and point something out. Because, while the above-mentioned story seems pretty straightforward, one must bear something in mind. Imagine a man of my physique attempting to lug 90 kilos worth of luggage around a city that he has never seen before in his life in 32 degree temperature. I had two giant suitcases of 30 kilos each, my big back-pack which was 20 kilos, and my hand-luggage which, owing to two laptpops, my SLR camera, and Naguib Mahfouz's book "Palace Walk"was another 10 kilos. In fact, BA was supposed to charge me 466 quid in excess baggage fees, but the lady behind the counter took mercy upon me and only charged me 160, which is actually cheaper than what it would have cost to ship it. Should the need have arisen, my luggage very easily could have been used to anchor the Queen Mary II.

I arrived at the office a hot sweaty mess. I can't even begin to imagine what my co-workers thought upon meeting me for the first time in such a state. Shock and horror come to mind. In any case, a few of them helped me carry my belongings to the flat which is accross the street from the office. Across the busiest street in Tripoli from the office. What should be a quick stroll from work and back therefore turns into an Indiana Jones-esque adventure as one bobs and dives in order to avoid becoming a hood ornament. I think it's one of those things that one gets better at with practise.

Finally, the flat is actually quite nice. Very large, several balconies, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and well-appointed (though not incredibly tateful) furnishings. I'm quite happy with it, but then again, after moving out of student halls, anything short of a cardboard box will be a step up. My room has an ocean view, which is nice, but it also faces an outdoor market, which isn't quite as romantic as it sounds as it deals mostly in knock-off and imitation merchandise and tends to get incredibly noisy. It makes King's Cross look like a pastoral country-side. But still, this is part and parcel of living in a Middle Eastern capital, and I think one learns to find these things endearing.

No overall impressions of the city as a whole nor of work yet on account of the fact that I've seen negligible amounts of both. These will likely be the topics of my next post, unless something more pressing comes up in the interim.

One more note before I leave, and I realize that I'm romanticizing and, dare I say, even orientalizing the Middle East, but as soon as I stepped off the plane, that first breath of desert air was so refreshing. In the evening I took a stroll down to the shoreline that's just near my flat and breathed in the Mediterranean breeze. It was too late to catch the sunset, but the sky was still dimly lit by the sun over the horizon, I can tell that I'm in for some amazing sunsets soon. It's good to be back in the Middle East. There's just something about it that I can niether explain, nor find anywhere else.

Salaam to all from the dunes of Libya and the Bedouin Project