Sunday, June 30, 2013


As expected, work has continued to be busy. There was another round of OBO staff bidding on upcoming construction project positions this month, but as earlier this year, this process seems to be somewhat continuous. It's certainly interesting to learn how the process works, but it seems nearly impossible to predict assignments due to an incredibly high number of variables.

The whole Snowden thing has come up in some conversations, but it hasn't had any impact on our daily life (e.g., no classified materials handling requirement changes). I admit that recently I haven't thought much about US diplomatic relations with Russia until I read this article. From it, I gleaned this sage advice from Vladimir Putin, who said, "It’s O.K. to kind of pinch somebody’s behind, perhaps, but not to hit them with a baseball bat.” So true.

(This post written while listening to Mark Kozelek What's Next To The Moon)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Form DS-1999

As expected, the two weeks since my last post have been busy: we responded to many questions on the Freetown project, but it seems to be in decent shape at this point.

Otherwise, it's been work as usual, more or less.  I'm developing a feel for what constitutes a normal workload, and I'm pursuing as much information as my brain can absorb to prepare for working on a project site.  I've started developing a list I call Things I Need to Know Before Going Out.  No, it's not the most creative of list titles, but given all the information I'm attempting to collate, I'm trying to keep things simple.  As I think of things, I add them to the list, whether or not I think I know the answers.  For example, this week I added what to do in a medical emergency.  I shouldn't be surprised that there's a department dedicated to responding to major emergencies; I found their website, instructions, and phone numbers.  This would be key information to have readily available, which of course I hope I never need to use.

Considering all the information we're expected to know is quite intimidating, but management continues (at least the appearance of) its patience.  For a while, I admit I was starting to whine to myself, if not to the poor people around me, as I attempted to make sense of the big picture.  Maybe it's a natural phase in a new job, and I've lived a fairly sheltered life as I've had only a very few jobs and have changed jobs very infrequently.  But I recently decided the whining was pointless, and I'll simply plow ahead.  In an odd coincidence - I hope it was a coincidence - a coworker copied me on a Foreign Service form (link to the full form) he suggested would have a great impact on promotion potential.

I haven't looked up all the regulation references yet, such as the Foreign Affairs Manual, but who has time to look up every reference in these forms?

(This post written while listening to Robbie Robertson Somewhere Down the Crazy River)

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I just got back from a short trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone for a prebid meeting on an upcoming construction project. Here are some basic stats:
- Country Population: 5.6 million
- Freetown Population: 1.2 million
- Country Size: Slightly smaller than South Carolina
- National Language: primary is English, secondary is honking
- Brookfields National Soccer Stadium Capacity: 45,000

The countryside around Lungi (Freetown's airport) looked beautiful from the air: lush green vegetation, many winding rivers, and palm trees. Of course, not a lot of development.

As soon as we left the airport in a shuttle bus, we experienced the poor road conditions that justify most African posts recommending 4WD vehicles for employees. Even with a skilled driver, crazy traffic and/or pedestrians can align a tire with a nasty sinkhole (or whatever is worse than a "pothole", these holes were ridiculous). Not even Jeep Wranglers could escape major damage from the terrible roads: I saw one by the side of the road with its rear axle gone and its drive shaft hanging down in pitiful submission.

The prebid meetings went well: a lot of work came out of the trip to clarify the scope of work, which will improve the accuracy of the construction bids as well as lower them. The contractors engaged with good questions, Post's help and insights were invaluable, the local government officials we met with were helpful: all the pieces I'd experienced in non-federal prebids...except for the foreign country issues.

While we drove around town, I got some interesting photos like this one: check out the local scaffolding. It's scary because it clearly works, but I somehow doubt there are any injury statistics.

Safety violation: the guy sitting in the middle isn't wearing a hard hat.

I also managed to get this partial picture of the soccer stadium. Soccer is huge, not surprisingly. People were playing in fields, roads, all over every time we drove in the day.

We were told not to drink the tap water, so we bought bottled water. The predominant bottled water brands were produced locally, and my favorite label was this one - I'm not sure if I agree with their choice of image for their motto "The Sweet Taste of Purity":

I had a good experience with their claim that it was "bottled under strict hygenic conditions"

On the trip back, I ended up with a 6-hour layover in Brussels, so I wandered down to the Grand Place and nearby sights. I found this awesome Manneken Pis souvenir that would be a great white elephant party gift:

It was a good trip. The tropical heat and humidity made me appreciate the DC weather when I got home.  Now that we're back in DC, we'll focus on responding to the questions - I think we'll be busy in the next couple weeks.

(This post written while listening to John Hiatt Perfectly Good Guitar)