Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Now hiring

It's been almost three months since my last entry - I apologize for my sabbatical, life has been extremely busy:

  • We moved out of the hotel into a house. This was much more complicated than it sounds, but at least it's over.
  • Our personal vehicle arrived several weeks ago after shipping it from the US in early June, but we'll have to wait to drive it until the paperwork is complete in about another month. I hear the motor vehicle department literally (and perhaps figuratively) doesn't have the power to run their computers so they can finish the paperwork. So until then, I could sit in the car where it's parked at the embassy. But I don't.
  • The Marine Corps Ball was held at a local hotel, which was our first and was very fun.
  • Our HHE arrived intact. Some of the food we shipped was a little stale or moist, which was likely due to a combination of the 5 months it took before we received it as well as that we trusted manufacturer (non-hermetic) packaging too much. It's still great to have our stuff, though - it was definitely an early Christmas for us!
  • Post's 15% danger pay was eliminated and offset slightly by post's differential increasing by 5%.  Now, I'm not an expert in such things, but we're quite close to Boko Haram's operations in both northeast Nigeria and north Cameroon (13,000 fleed attacks about 250 km away two weeks ago), five protesters were killed about a week ago during a teacher strike, and recently lawyers even went on strike. When the lawyers go on strike, you know you have a problem.

Despite all that, the new embassy construction project is progressing: the contractor has continued site grading, received dozens of shipping containers onsite, and started building many temporary buildings that will be removed at the end of the project. We're also still in the design phase of this design/build project, so we've been scouring the contract documents to clarify as many design details as possible before we get deep into construction and changes get harder. We've been very, very busy.

Speaking of which, we've expanded our staffing slightly, but the contractor still has us ridiculously outnumbered of course. It's great to have other people locally to bounce construction issues off of though.

I did finally manage to get some interesting pictures like the following right before Eid al Adha. Considering that was the Feast of Sacrifice, if you're squeamish then don't think too much about WHY the goats were getting a fun ride.

I'm afraid there isn't much in the way of extracurricular activity options in N'Djamena, yet somehow we're busier socially here than we were in DC. We've done all of the available post extracurricular events so far - three in five months - but post doesn't have a CLO so that makes those things very hard to organize. Some people at post like to hang out regularly and be social so we do. All in all, I think things are going well; if you set your expectation bar low enough, everything's an improvement! Well, almost everything.

My french language resurrection hasn't been going as well as I'd hoped. I was talking to a motor pool driver asking about his family, and it got slightly awkward when I finally realized "deux enfants" sounds exactly like "douze enfants," or at least, it does to me.

There are other awkward things, like they seem to prefer that freaky A4 paper here - man that stuff is just wrong. We're going to [try to] take a stand and use US-sized paper for our record keeping. After putting up with A4 for a few months, using US paper makes me want to salute each piece. But I don't.

Yesterday we got a cool treat of an aerial show by a Chadian Air Force MiG-29.  I ignored the jet engine roar for a while, but I eventually went outside to see the MiG flying inverted low over the city, then climbing up for an inverted Immelmann before a variety of other maneuvers: stall, rolls, and lots of fly-bys that really upset the fruit bats in the trees. It only lasted less than 5 minutes I think but it was still cool. I think it was a practice run for the upcoming Chadian national holidays Republic Day this Friday followed by the big one: Freedom and Democracy Day on Monday. If there's another airshow I'll definitely try to get photos this time.

Which more or less brings us up to date on the big issues. By the way, the Construction Engineer vacancy announcement just opened again today – it closes on December 29, so you’d better hurry up and spend your Thanksgiving preparing your application! Enjoy!

(This post written while listening to Les Yeux D’La TĂȘte I Don’t Speak English.)