Tuesday, November 07, 2006

 

Week Twenty Four

Al-salaam alaykum,

This week was a very special week. For most of us, we celebrated our 100 days to go. Now in a normal games in a normal part of the world, 100 days to go celebrates how many days left until the games start. For us, 100 days to go marks the number of days until we leave Doha. The night was marked with a small celebration of fish n chips on the grass on the cornice by the water. It was a nice way to celebrate. Vic did a great job organising it. There were around 20 of us just sitting around, eating and enjoying some great food.

Unfortunately other than that there isn’t much to report this week. It is week 3 of Ramadan and as always, I’m hungry.

Hope you are all well at home

 

Week Twenty Three

Al-salaam alaykum,

A new week, a whole new level of work, not to mention changes, hours and hunger. This week has been even busier, with us having to work isn’t exactly practical when you will be working in 30 odd degree heat every day. One sleeve is yellow and the other is red. The shirt itself is a light blue. It also comes with a very fashionable pair of yellow pants. I know I will be in need of a job when I return to Melbourne, therefore I would like to signal my intention to become a clown! I have the clothes, all I need is the wig and I am home and hosed.

We are now officially out at the village permanently. It is great to finally be out there. We are close to the venue team, which makes it easier for us to make decisions. The team has had a few big decisions made in the past week, causing us a lot more work.

It was great to finally see the weekend. On Thursday night, around 20 of us went down to Sealine Resort for the night. It should have taken us around 1 ¼ hours. Instead it took us nearly 2 ½ hours. The road leading to Sealine was having road works. After some bad directions from, well, me, we ended up around 10 kms from the Saudi border. When we took the wrong turn, we in the town of Messaidd. When I realised we had gone the wrong way, we had travelled 28kms away from the town. Oopps… Anyway, the resort is amazing. It is right on the beach. When you walk out of the villa’s you practically stepped on to the beach. All of them had a bbq and a porch with couches. They were very relaxing. We fired up a big bbq, then sat around listening to music and having a few drinks.

Friday we drove back to Doha. Thankfully the trip only took just over an hour to get back. After doing a bit of work the night was spent relaxing. Saturday it was back to work as usual. Once again it was a one day weekend for us all.

I hope you are all well back home and abroad.

 

Week Twenty Two

Ramadan Kareem,

It’s the first week of Ramadan. That’s right sports fans, life as you know it is entering a whole new realm. From September 23rd until roughly October 23rd, it is the time of fasting. Now although I’m not Muslim, and neither are ¾ of the DAGOC staff, it is expected that we follow the requirements of Ramadan while at work. This includes the following:

- No eating or drinking during daylight hours, or while at work
- No smoking (easy for me as I don’t smoke)
- Cover up as much exposed skin as possible

If I was to follow Ramadan completely, I wouldn’t be allowed to do the following:

- No eating, drinking or smoking between roughly 4.30am – 5.30pm (daylight hours)
- No alcohol for the month
- No sex for the month if single
- No sex during daylight hours
- Keep as much skin covered as possible

This is just the stuff that I can think of. The whole not eating and drinking at work isn’t easy, however we all manage to find ways around it. I casually sneak in to the kitchen where the tea boys are and have something there, along with everyone else in the office. At the village, we eat and drink in the kitchen, or sit behind big filing cabinets so we are hidden. Mind you, at the end of the day I am absolutely starving. When the sun goes down you are allowed to eat again. This is known as the breaking of the fast. Most of the big hotels have Iftars, which is the meal you have to break the fast. These usually involve massive amounts of food.

The other annoying thing is that most of the shops are not open during the day, and if they are, it is only for a few hours, or while I am at work. Because you’re not allowed to eat during day light hours, all of the fast food and take away outlets are closed until around 5.30pm. This isn’t exactly ideal for people who are used to eating all day and snacking on anything they can find.

Thursday night we went to an Iftar at the Ritz-Carlton. We got there around 9pm. It was a buffet, and it had that many food options it was crazy. Twenty of us went and ate our way through the night. The range was great. A few of us also got our palms read. Mine was rather interesting.

Friday was spent on the computer. Our operations plan was due and it had to be finished. As I am sure you can imagine, the day didn’t exactly involve much.

Saturday was Grand Final day in the AFL. West Coast played Sydney at the MCG, and thankfully it was live here in Doha. The game started live here at 7.30 am. That is when the first, and unfortunately the only beer was cracked. We did however eat meat pies (they actually taste great) hot chips and watched the game. There were around 15 of who watched it. We were expected to be at work at 9am, but thankfully a few of the ‘non-Australians’ covered for us. Sadly, a few staff did go to work at half time, thinking that the game was practically over. They missed out on one of the best grand finals played in years. I don’t think it was better than the 1989 grand final, which had possibly the greatest last quarter in football history.

That afternoon it was off to work just like normal, except this one was a much later one than usual.

I hope everyone is well at home and abroad.

 

Week Twenty One

Al-salaam alaykum,

The weeks are getting busier and busier, and Doha has turned in to the land of the Mum’s. Around half a dozen of my friends either have their Mum’s coming, Mum arrived or Mum’s that have left. This week it was my mum’s turn to join us here in the land of sand.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her due to work. On the positive side Mum did get to see the 2 main shopping centres, the souqs (markets), a few restaurant’s, and possibly the world’s most disgraceful zoo. You would think that with all of the money they have here in Doha that the animals would be well looked after. Unfortunately that definitely is not the case. They had a dingo, which sat on its own on a stone floor, without any water. The conditions were disgraceful. The RSPCA would have a field day.

On my day off, I organised a secret day for Mum. I didn’t tell her where we were going, only that we were getting picked up at 6am Friday morning. We went to the airport where we caught a flight at 8am to Dubai. When we landed in Dubai we got a taxi to the Burj Al-Arab, the 7 star hotel in Jumeira Beach. The two of is went and had a buffet brunch on the 27th floor restaurant Al Muntaha – Sky view Restaurant and Bar. The food was exquisite, clearly surpassing anything I even think of making. At the end of the meal we got in to a taxi and went back to the airport. We flew back to Doha at 5pm. It was a rather surreal experience getting on a plane, flying to another country for brunch and then flying back again.

That night we had a dinner for the parents. Shay’s Mum, Alex’s Mum and her partner and my Mum, along with around 14 others all went out for dinner. It was a really good way to end a very fun day. Saturday it was off to work for me, and for Mum, a day at the Marriot Hotel. I organised a day of relaxation including a Turkish Bath, full massage, pedicure etc. I dropped her off at 9.30am and picked her up at 4.30pm. Unfortunately it was Mum’s last day with us in the land of sand, but I’m glad it was a relaxing way to finish her desert tour of duty.

For me it was fun to have her around, it was nice to be mothered for a little while. For me life continues on as normal, no more sleeping on a single mattress on the floor.

I hope you are smiling wherever in the world you may be!!!

 

Week Twenty

Al-salaam alaykum,

Once again it was another week at work. Things are starting to get busier. With only two months until the athlete’s village opens, there is still a lot of work to be done. We are all working hard to resolve as many issues as possible, but as usual stuff keeps popping up. The venue transport managers are working more and more out at the venue which is good, it’s always good to be out on the ground.

Not too much happened during the week other than work. There are a lot of photos from the birthday party. This web site has a heap of pictures from my birthday party.

Thursday night it was Shay’s birthday party. There were around 160 of us who went out in to the desert for one of the biggest parties so far this year. After being at work all day, the massive group all met out front of our old apartment building, next to where the new staff are living. It took 35 four wheel drives to get us all out there. The drive out was fantastic. We did some sand duning which was fantastic. We then made our way to the camp for the night.

That is when the real partying started. It was huge. There was a dance floor, tents, you name it. It was the same place that we went to last time, but was even bigger. After all of the music finished, about a dozen of us, arm in arm , sang Aussie anthem after anthem. We sang everything from Throw Your Arms Around Me, to the theme from Burke’s Back Yard to We Still Call Australia Home, which mind you, was sang with absolute gusto. After that it was off for a swim. By this time it was 3 am. I had about half an hours sleep, got up and started the day again. Here is the link to some photos: http://subactive.coronadigital.com/gallery/Shays_Pimped_Out_Camel

We all got back home around 10 am. We went back for a shower, then ate steak pies and drank beer. After only half an hours sleep since 6 am the day before, we went and watched the football. There were around 40 of us who watched the Fremantle vs Melbourne match live. This time the coverage started before the teams ran out, giving us the chance to sing the demons theme song when they ran out. Once again we all stood arm in arm and sang the national anthem. For a couple of the boys it was their first time watching AFL footy. Nabel, an Iraqi who moved to Qatar, joined us for his first game. He had a ball. It was great. He picked up the game really quick, and ended up yelling stuff at the screen that actually made sense, and fitted the moment. Plattsy, one of the pommie lads also saw his first game. He ended up receiving lessons about footy from Jess. It was handy because after a while he knew why I was yelling and so pumped up. Unfortunately we lost the game putting us out of the finals.

That night I hit bed at 7.30 pm, having been up for 37 hours. It was disappointing finish with a Melbourne loss, but you get that. Look out season 2007, it will be the Year Of The Demons!!!

I hope everyone is well at home.

 

Week Nineteen

Al-salaam alaykum,

Monday was my birthday, and what a day it was. I went to work in the morning, and volunteer training that night. Not exactly a big birthday, but it was made really exciting for me. My boss made a chocolate cake for me that was to die for, it was unbelievable. That afternoon and evening it was off to volunteer training. We finished up around 8ish, then headed back to the apartment. Loz bought me a birthday dinner which was nice. The rest of the night was very quiet. It was a quiet but enjoyable birthday.

The rotational dinner was cancelled for the week, as no one was able to go. Instead I made tandoori chicken wraps. They weren’t too bad. It is amazing how many different foods I am eating since I have moved here, Bruce Reid should be proud of me.

For the past 3-4 weeks, a group of my friends organised a party for my birthday. They decided that it would be on the Thursday night after my birthday. There was 12 of them on the team, who decided to call themselves QOCBOC 2006, which stands for Quarter Of Century Birthday Organising Committee 2006. They went to so much effort it was unbelievable. The invitation was fantastic. I had no contribution to the party, and when I say none, I really mean none. The theme they chose was a school dance, and the costumes were fantastic. There were that many school uniforms it was amazing, cheerleaders, you name it. There are so many great photos. I’m sure you can imagine it without me even saying it, but it was a brilliant, and massive night. There were around 100 odd people there, which was great. Vic designed a quiz about me. I challenged Carissa Harris, who happened to beat me. I was never good at trivia, even when it is about me. I was told that because it was my birthday I had to be the Headmaster. I wasn’t even allowed to choose my own costume, that was all done for me. It was an amazing and fantastic night, I loved it, and so did everyone who attended. There are a lot of photos, only thing is many of them cannot be shown to the general public, sorry!!! Here is the link to some photo’s: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cathmellis/sets/72157594274907568/

The party was also the first chance we have had to catch up with Luke Hudson since he arrived in the country the weekend before. He had a few issues with his visa. There are now 15 of us from traffic and transport who worked together in Melbourne, working in different areas of the Asian games.

Friday was once again simply huge. Here in Doha, were able to get the St. Kilda v Melbourne Elimination Final live. Around 30 of us watched it the Ramada hotel. It aired here at 12.30, and every minute of the game was watched with pure excitement. We all stood as one to sing the national anthem, which created the most amazing atmosphere. I think I let out around 18 weeks of anger and frustration at the screen. By the end of the game I could barely speak, which wasn’t very handy, especially since I had to go to volunteer training afterwards. The win by the demons was fantastic, we went absolutely crazy. The game was live here in Doha, yet it was delayed in Melbourne. Mum rang me around 45 minutes after the game telling me the Dees had one. I love it, you never know what to expect in Doha…

Friday night around 20 of us went to watch Al Arabi v Al Khor in the soccer. Tony Popovic, the Australian World Cup Player team member and English Premier League player has been poached by Qatar club Al Arabi. There were Al Khor supporters on one side and Al Arabi supporters on the other side, the there was us in the middle. Every time he got the ball, passed it, headed it, or just ran near us we cheered. It didn't matter what the rest of the team did, it was all about Popa!!!!! What an experience.

We worked our first Saturday which was real exciting. We had our first Venue Readiness Exercise. Without a doubt, most of the functional areas in the village found that they were not ready, what a surprise.

I hope everyone is well at home.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

 

Week Eighteen

Al-salaam alaykum,

Sunday it was back to work with a fantastic hangover. I was lucky though, we were at the beginning of two days of bus testing. I spent the day either sleeping, playing cards, or sleeping. It was great. The perfect way to pick up after a big night (sorry Nana & Pop). The bus testing was interesting. We took all of the venue transport managers (around 40), games motor pool and a few from bus systems. The two days did come in handy, especially when we went to test the Athletes Village. The other positive is we got to see all of the other venues and how they will work. The Monday was especially handy, as we were given a full description of what was happening transport wise at each of the venues, really good stuff, some very handy knowledge that is for sure!!!

Tuesday I cooked dinner for a few friends from the Village, including a few who I worked with in Melbourne. Wednesday night was my turn for the rotational dinner. I decided it was time to make chicken parma’s. Unfortunately there was no ham available, actually ham is never available, but it was still great. The parma’s were huge, it took me around an 1 ½ hours to cook it all, including the 1 ½ kilos of chips, salads and the cheese and garlic bread I made. It was all topped of with chocolate ice cream with Hersheys syrup. Lots of food was made and not a single bit was left.

The work week was back to normal. Meetings until late, then getting called a couple of hours later to be told the person didn’t actually understand what was needed then go back again to re-explain it. We were also told that we would be getting a long weekend, and boy did we make the most of it.

Nana and Pop I recommend you look away now!!!!!

Our bosses have a bar on their roof, and it has named ‘The Camel’s Toe’. On Thursday night we went to Camel’s Toe. The party was a benefit for the dog shelter here in Doha. At the moment, the shelter is not classed as a charity. The owners are applying at the moment, however just like every other process here, it takes a long time. It was decided there would be a cover charge of 50 riyals, and a 10 riyal shot bar. The night itself was fantastic. It was boiling hot, and everyone was sweating like crazy, mind you that is normal for this country. The party was very successful for raising money. We ended up raising 15000 riyals, which in Australian terms is around $6,500. Not bad for one night.

Friday was a day of relaxation, well that was the original plan. A group of us went for a champagne brunch at the Sheraton Hotel. It was great. Only negative was that the champagne ran out for around 45 minutes, very inconvenient. The food was great, a large range, unfortunately no Pork. The chef did make fantastic omelette. This fantastic 3 hours of eating and drinking champagne was followed by drinks at Rydges. We went there with the intention of only drinking one or two. As I am sure you can imagine, this didn’t happen. We finally left around 8 pm. The rest of the night was spent watching DVD’s and relaxing. It ended up being a rather quiet night, which was exactly what was needed.

Saturday was the day I had been looking forward to most of all. I was up at 6 am ready for the big game. We went to Kath Rowarth’s place to watch the Adelaide v Melbourne game. Liam, one of the former road events guys from Melbourne who is now here in Doha, brought over his projector so we could watch it on the big screen. Kristjan leant us his satellite tv card so we could watch the Sportsnet Channel which was showing the game live. It was supposed to start 8.10 am our time. However, due to some technical difficulties, the ended up being postponed until 10.30 am. We didn’t find this out until 8 am, which was really annoying. We managed to fill in the hours before the game, but it only increased our excitement as time got closer. It was great to watch the gam. We had hot chips, hot dogs, you name. For a few minutes, it almost felt like we were watching it on the couch back home. Unfortunately the end result of the game was very disappointing, but it was still great to just see a game.

Saturday night it was off to Plattsy’s for a BBQ and some swimming in the pool. The night was great. It was actually the first BBQ I have had since I got here, and it was great. It certainly in no way matches a BBQ in Australia, but it was great none the less. A good night had by all.

Sunday was a very quiet day, especially after the weekend we had just had. I went over to Mary and Jess’ to watch some episode of series 2 of Lost. It is great. When I left Australia, the second group who were on the plane had just arrived at the beach (for those of you who watch lost that will make sense). I’m looking forward to watching more of the episodes. That night I went over the Kate and Shays for a lamb roast. It’s the first roast I have had since I arrived in Doha. You can’t go wrong with a Sunday roast, including roast vegetables.

The interesting happenings at the new accommodation building never seem to stop. Murray closed the door to his bedroom and his door handle fell off. He was able to open the door which was handy. He ended up using the lock on the door to keep it closed. In another apartment, one of the guys was having a shower when the shower head exploded off the wall, sending water straight out of the pipe and all over the place. A coupe of days later, Murray went to bed, only to go to get up and find that the lock that had been working fine for the days prior, broke. This meant that Murray was locked in his room, unable to get out. Half an hour later, Willo gave the door a few hard kicks, breaking the door and the lock. This apartment building is amazing.

So there it is, another week in the land of sand.

I hope you are all well, wherever you are in the world reading this.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

 

Week Seventeen

Al-salaam alaykum,

This is my first week back where I had to work a full week. It was good working my way back ink, but it was time to keep working. We had a few good results, but generally not much changed. The Director General sent an email out to all of the staff telling us that we had to start working Saturday’s, meaning we were only getting one day off a week. I’m sure you can imagine that the staff are not happy. Most of us are already working in excess of our normal hours and are now being made to also come in on Saturday s. This will all be starting on the 9th September and will last through until the games. I am happy to work any days I need to to get the job done, and this will include weekends, however we don’t need to be made to work extra days. Any way that’s my gripe for the week.

Tuesday night I cooked dinner for Carissa Harris (Hammer) for her birthday. Lozza, Ross and Vic also came along. I cooked spaghetti and meatballs. I made the meatballs myself, and I was really surprised, they actually tasted really nice. After several hours of preparation and cooking the meal ended up tasting really nice. It turns out everyone else enjoyed it as well which was good. It was a big feed.

This week the rotational dinner was off this week as we had a dinner to welcome Danielle Brown to Doha. I also finished my confined water dives which was great, it's taken me long enough. Next I have to do my open water dives.

Thursday night a bunch of us went out for dinner for Thai. This time the food was rather average, which doesn’t normally happen. It was then off to Platts’s place for a pool party. The night was huge, boy was I feeling it the next day. Friday was spent taking it easy. It was the first weekend in over 5 weeks that I had been in Doha and it was nice to just take it easy. Friday night was just a quiet one, a few DVD's and some relaxation.

Saturday it was off to our last Saturday breakfast at ‘The One’. I was told that during the weeks I was away the quality of the slipped which was very disappointing to hear. Thankfully this week the food was great. We spent the afternoon watching the baseball. For those of you who don’t like baseball that may sound pretty boring, but for me it was great. Once the game was over we went over to Kim’s for Singstar and margaritas. I think the rest of the night speaks for itself. Note to self, don’t drink on a school night.

A big positive for the week was for the people who have been living in hotels for the last 6 weeks. Finally the people were moved in to their own apartment building. Normally you would think that would be the end of, not quite. Just like everything else in Doha, things didn’t exactly go to plan. When the elevators were installed, they failed to put the correct ones in. The building has 7 stories plus the ground level. The elevators that were put in, don’t stop at level 6. They only have numbers up to 6. When you press 6, they both go to level 7. The only way to access level 6 is to either go up to 7 and walk down, or stop at 5 and walk up. Unbelievable!!! In an apartment, a girl was filling her bathroom sink with water when it fell of, smashing on the floor.

Hope everyone is well!!!!

 

Week Sixteen

Al-salaam alaykum,

It’s back to work again, but this week it’s just 4 days. Work hasn’t changed much, soon we will be moving out to the village which will be good. The rotational dinner was at Woody’s this week. A really good meal I must say.

I took Thursday off to go to Bahrain with Vic, Disco, Murray and others. What an experience. We flew into the airport around 1.30pm. Our flight was delayed by around 40 minutes after a couple of local women didn’t want to move out of the emergency exit seat. Eventually they moved and we took off. Within 5 minutes of being in the air Murray had already got up to organise some beers for us. We don’t think the seat belt sign was even off. Very nice work. One group of lads missed their flight, but they eventually arrived later that afternoon.

That night, for the 12 of us it was off to Bam-Bu, an all you can eat and drink Chinese restaurant. The good thing is it’s not a buffet. You order from a menu just like a normal restaurant. They keep bringing you courses until you can’t eat anymore. It’s great. We decided that after every round of food was delivered to the table, someone had to make a speech. There were some absolute hilarious ones. After each speech we had to sing a song. The definite winner was Sweet Caroline, one of loudest sung songs for sure. It was almost like we landed in the middle of a musical, ‘Bahrain Bedlam – The Musical’. After that it was off to JJ’s, an Irish Bar. The night was huge. Murray led the way for sure. The bar was great fun, a great first of two nights.

Friday we went out for a champagne buffet brunch. Bacon, eggs, sausages, hash browns, roast pork, ice cream, you name it. It was really nice, not quite ‘The Burj’, but still nice. We spent around 3 hours eating. They had a guy who made balloon animals. He made a monkey with oversized tackle. I’m sure you can imagine the photos that were taken later aren’t really for public viewing.

Friday night we decided to stay in and have a few beverages. We played a few card games and the rest is history. Big night, that's all I can say.

Saturday it was off to tour the countryside. It was great fun. We decided that we had to go and see the Tree of Life. We headed off to the south of Bahrain where we found the Formula 1 Race Track. The security took us up to the VIP Tower where we could see the entire track. There are two different tracks, both with their own pit lane, along with a drag racing track. The track is amazing, and the view is even better.

We then continued along our way to the Tree of Life. Once again we stopped off along the way. This time we saw the first oil well in Bahrain. It wasn’t very exciting. We continued on, except this time we found the Bahrain Royal Air Force base, and this is where the fun stopped. We had trouble finding the Tree of Life and ended up at the entrance to the base. There wasn’t a problem until one of the people in the car leant out the window and took a photo of an oryx (a local animal, also the mascot of our games). Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact we were sitting at a military checkpoint. Two hours later and including an hour of me negotiating with the air force, we were allowed to leave. Unfortunately we left without our video camera and two other cameras which were confiscated by the air force. We are hoping to get them back soon.

Once the fun that was the air force was over we finally found the Tree of Life. It is really big, and the only tree around. It probably would have been better and more exciting had the two hours prior not happened.

Next it was off to the Saudi border. Although Bahrain is an island, they have built a bridge that connects the two countries. It takes around 10 mins to cross the bridge from one side to the other. We stopped on the Bahrain side of the border. There is a tower you can go up which gives you a great view of Saudi. With the cameras that were left we took some photos of Saudi, including a Mc Donalds.

That night we flew out of Bahrain back to Doha, once again on a flight that was delayed. I arrived at the airport and was actually was glad to be back. After 5 ½ weeks travelling, 14 different flights and 7 different countries I was glad for life to return to normal. Now it’s back to work.

Until next time…..

Thursday, September 07, 2006

 

Week Fifteen

Al-salaam alaykum,

Now the trip is over its back to my normal life. Well actually, I thought it was back to normal. I took the Sunday off work to get all of my washing done, which there was a lot, and have a bit of a rest prior to heading back to work. I also had the great opportunity to check my credit card balance. Looking back on the check I almost prefer that I hadn’t.

I went back to work on the Monday and man was it hadn’t really changed that much. There were a few new faces which was great. The Princess (Vic Collins) had arrived, along with a bunch of other M2006’s. It was great to see some more of the old faces.

I am amazed at how much Doha had changed. Many of the roads that were being worked on are now finished, and the apartment building next door was just one level away from being equal to my window. Looks like sleep isn’t something I will be getting much of. Traffic congestion has eased a lot which is even better.

Getting back to work wasn’t easy. Having been away for 3 ½ weeks, I wasn’t exactly in the groove for work. I was lucky to only have 147 emails to sort through. There would have been a lot more had my inbox not been shut down by the IT team on July 23rd after it got too full. On Tuesday, a few of the transport lads managed to twist my arm, actually my must be rubber because it didn’t take much twisting. I decided to go with the lads back to Dubai for a boys trip, except this time it was Rich, Platts, Valcs, and Lakester, along with some IT boys. I ended up taking the Thursday off, making it a 3 day week.

Thursday it was off to Dubai, again. I arrived mid afternoon to find the rooms empty. We were staying at the Four Points Sheraton. Unfortunately the hotel reception forgot to give me the note telling me where everyone was. I ended up spending the day lazing by the pool, listening to music and working on my sun tan. It was actually very relaxing. That evening we out for Indian. Not a bad meal. After that we went out for the night to a couple of different night clubs. It was great fun. We ended up getting back around 3am. It was a massive night. The next day we went to Double Decker for all you can eat and drink at 11am. The food and drinks were freely flowing. It was great. We left there just after 3pm and headed back to the hotel.

The rest of the afternoon and evening, actually 5pm onwards, was spent at an Irish bar. It was the first time since I left Ireland that I was able to include the words gas, grand and craic in sentences and not get looked at like I was weird (thanks for the new words Tracy). We had a cracking night. Some of the lads threw the towel in early which was disappointing. However, just like Thursday night and all day Friday, team 614 (myself and Martin) lasted until the end. It was a massive night but great fun.

Saturday it was off to Wild Wadi. For me this was my second time, but it was still great fun. This time I went on the massive water slide. It was unbelievable. I love it. At one stage I was going down and I wasn’t touching the slide, it was crazy. Once we finished having all the fun there that we could it was off to get some retail therapy, and some dinner. For me the flight was at 2215, but just like every other flight I had over the previous weeks it was delayed. It was great weekend, lots of memories and far too many photos.

Hope you are all well!!

Monday, August 07, 2006

 

Thank you!!

I want to say thank you to Jon, Tracy, Jo, Jenny, Mary, Amanda, Amber, Zoe, Troy, Ross & Anne, Lakester, Martina, Rosita, Karen, John, Nathan, Disco (Yeti, Dunlop etc), Mary, Jess, Muzza and Lewi for making this fantastic experience possible. Thank you for the great nights out, putting up with me staying at your houses, being fantastic tour guides and spending hours on end keeping me entertained. Certainly not an easy task.

Thank you!!!

 

Dubai (United Arab Emirates – 3-5 August)

Hi all,

The last chapter of a fantastic holiday was Dubai. What a huge weekend. Unfortunately it didn’t start off that well, being held up in London for an extra 3 ½ hours meant I didn’t make it to the hotel until around 1 am. However the enthusiasm was back once I arrived and caught up with everyone.

The first beer for Friday came at 9.30 am while enjoying a swim in the pool. It had a swim up bar which was perfect. It certainly wasn’t too early for a beer that’s for sure. It was then off to ‘The Burj’, a 7 star restaurant in the Burj-al-Arab on the 27th floor. It had the most amazing view. The food was unbelievable. We ate and drank there for nearly 3 ½ hours. The bill for 7 of us came to nearly 3700 riyals, or roughly $1400 AUD. It was, without a doubt, worth every cent. We all loved.

That afternoon we spent a few hours laying on the beach at the hotel, trying to let the food digest. It was very relaxing. Nath and I then headed to the Autodrome to do some high speed go-carting. You can get the carts up to 30 kms an hour. Unfortunately when we arrived, it was closed due to track maintenance. They made this decision after they emailed Nath and told him we would be able to drive. Very poor effort on their part, then again, it could have been a safety measure so I probably shouldn’t be so critical.

Instead we went snow skiing at the indoor snow centre. It was great fun. I managed to take out both myself and some poor bloke standing there talking to his girl friend. I am proud of the effort, lucky he wasn’t hurt, I certainly got up a bit gingerly. It was great fun. We met up with Lewi and Mary on the slopes. Mary was a bit rusty at first, but endedup carving up the snow like a pro. Lewi was great right from the start. Unfortunately for Nath and I it took a lot longer. Nath had never snow boarded before, but after some practice managed to get it down pat. Thankfully for all of us we all walked away with no injuries, just a few big bruises and some great stories.

It was then back to the hotel to get ready to head out. In the end we didn’t make. After a few drinks we all decided to stay in. We still had a great night, can’t guarantee we will be invited back to the hotel though.

My last day away, and our last day in Dubai, was spent at Wild Wadi, the most awesome water park I have ever been to. The water slides were awesome. They have fast rushing water which pushes you up the slide instead of down, which is really cool. Although some of the rides aren’t for the faint hearted. If you are claustrophobic then perhaps a few of the rides aren’t for you, however there is enough exciting stuff there to really enjoy yourself. We all had an absolute ball.

After far too many hours out in the sun we headed back to the hotel for a final few beers and to pick up our bags. It was then off to the airport and back to the land of sand.

This ends a fantastic holiday, filled with so many stories, memories that will last forever, and photo’s that will stand the test of time, reminding me of the fantastic 3 ½ weeks I spent in London, Amsterdam, Oslo, Glasgow, Loch Ness, Edinburgh, Ireland and Dubai. 6 new country stamps in the passport, hundreds of photo’s and thousands of memories and stories to hold on to for years to come.

Now it’s back to work and back to reality.

Land of Sand here I come.

Ciao for now.

 

London (31 July – 3 August)

Hi again,

What a flight. After being delayed on the tarmac at Gatwick, it took them ages to take us to the terminal in buses. We were quickly through customs, but then it took a long time for our bags to come out. Rather annoying. As a result, I arrived at Victoria Station after midnight, which meant the tube was closed, just the thing in needed at midnight. After catching 3 buses I finally made it back to Jenny’s at around 1.45 am. Once arriving everyone in the house was asleep, leaving me to spend the next half hour standing outside trying to ineffectively wake them up. Just as I was preparing to sleep on the porch, Jenny came down to open the door. The end to what was a very interesting evening of travelling.

Monday it was to Madame Tussauds with Mary, one of Jenny’s housemates. It was great fun. We got a fair few photo’s. I didn’t see any wax one of me though. Could it be because I’m not famous?? Hmm, I’ll ponder that one. Some of the exhibits looked nothing like who they were meant to be, however the one of Aunt Liz was very accurate, quite impressive actually. On the opposite end of the spectrum was the one of Jerry Springer. If he wasn’t holding a microphone I would never have known who it was. The dungeon exhibit downstairs was great. It was a combination of live actors and wax exhibits. Even I jumped (don’t tell anyone). It was then off to dinner with Jon, Jo and Amanda, Jenny’s other housemate. The fajita’s were actually really nice.

Tuesday was time for a bit of shopping, before giving some of my family in London a call. It was great to catch up with Anne, my Pop’s cousin. We had a great chat. It was then off to the Tower of London. The castle is amazing. The armoury is fantastic, the weaponry on display was amazing. The castle also provided a great view of Tower Bridge. Until I arrived in London, I was under the impression that Tower Bridge was actually London Bridge. Turns out I was wrong. London Bridge is the next bridge along, and it’s a tad boring and bland.

That evening I caught up for a few beers with Troy (Aitkin) and a friend of Sarah Wood’s to talk all things Doha and life in the UK. It was a great chance to talk all things sports and transport, share stories and enjoy a few beers. We went to a great Vietnamese restaurant near Victoria Station.

My last day was very busy. I went to the Imperial War Museum in the morning. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay long enough as I had other things I wanted to see. I will definitely be going back though, obviously not anytime soon, but I will go back. It was off to do some more shopping and seeing the city. I went to Harrods for a bit of a peruse. Then went and did some shopping on Oxford Street before heading to Trafalgar Square. They were setting up for the Trafalgar Square Festival which was starting the next day. It would have been good to go to.

That evening I went to visit my cousin, who I didn’t really know existed, Ross. I had heard of him, but didn’t know where he was in England. He owns a wine bar in Islington called Colebrookes, it’s on Colebrookes Row. If you are in London it is worth visiting, it’s a nice bar. It was great to meet him. Unfortunately he will be following England during the Ashes series, to bad he will feel the horrible feeling of defeat. I then headed out for dinner with Jon, Jo, Jenny and Amanda. It was a really good end to a fantastic holiday in the UK and Europe.

The next day it was off to Dubai. The original plan was to fly out at 10 am, getting me there at 8 pm, 5 minutes before the others arrived. Unfortunately the flight was delayed at Gatwick, getting me there around 11ish. Thanks to massive lines in customs and a long wait for my bag, it made it to the hotel around 1am. Oh well these things happen. On a positive note I did get to watch the end of Ice Age 2. It turns out that the two mammoths did get together and it was a happy ending. Yay for them.

My trip through the UK and Europe was absolutely fantastic. I had the greatest time, added 5 more country stamps in my passport, and got a fair bit of relaxation. Every country had some many highlights, as you can probably tell. I didn’t have any complaints, I got to see some amazing sights, and catch up with people I haven’t seen in months, and years for that matter. If you asked me to pinpoint one good thing, I don’t think I could. So many exciting things happened. Seeing Tracy and travelling across Ireland, seeing the fantastic sights of Amsterdam and Oslo, catching up with Amber and Zoe in Edinburgh, seeing the wonderful landscape and sights of Scotland, seeing so many great things in London, and catching up with Jo, Jenny, Amanda and Mary. It was truly fantastic being able to catch up with one of my best mates Jonno, have a number of beers and travel to so many countries with him. I had a fantastic time.
Although this chapter of my trip has ended, the holiday is not over. Next it’s off to Dubai to meet up with Disco, Lewi, Nath, Mary, Jess and Muzza.

 

Ireland (almost everywhere in Ireland - 26–30 July)

Hi all,

Well it was time for my next adventure, and that was Ireland. I flew out of London at 0930, landing in Dublin just after 1100, after a slight delay. I was met there by a friend of mine Tracy. Tracy is also friends with Disco (aka Yeti, AD, Dunlop, The Hoff), oh yeah, Tracy is Irish. There was to be the beginning of a massive road trip.

We spent our first day in Dublin. After dropping off my bags at her friend Rosita’s house, it was in to Dublin for lunch and of course, a few beers. However we had to work up a bit of an appetite, so we visited Trinity College, which is where they keep the Book of Kells. The artistry in the book is amazing, having been written so many years ago. There were four books on display. Upstairs was the oldest library I have ever seen. There was also a copy of the Proclamation of Independence of Ireland. It was very interesting reading. There were only 250 written and signed.

After that it was off to lunch and a few beers of course. We then made our way to the Guinness Storehouse, via another bar for a quick top up. This was a tour of the brewery. It was very interesting, much like the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam. At the end you go up to the sky bar or a pint of Guinness. The bar is fantastic. It’s a big round bar with an amazing view of Dublin and the mountains. It is a fantastic place to have a beer and get some great photo’s. It was great.

We then went for dinner at a place called La Med. The food was great. I highly recommend it. If anyone is in Dublin I would definitely go there. We went to another bar after dinner before retiring for the night. It was a great day, lots to see and drink.

Day two we kicked off by heading to Wicklow for Tracy to go to an interview. We then went to Glendalough. Glendalough is home to one of the few remaining moscs in Ireland since the early 1100’s. The building of the mosc was amazing. The entry to the mosc was built out of rocks, using no mortar. The wall has been standing for hundreds of years and still to this day hasn’t fallen. We then walked for around half an hour to a lake near by. We sat by the water watching a kid throwing rocks in the water, just hoping he would miss aim and throw the rock at his brother or sister. Unfortunately he didn’t, although he did get his brother wet, it provided a good laugh. The lake is great, it would be perfect for skiing and also just for picnics. After this relaxation it was off to Waterford. I have to say there wasn’t much happening there, but we did find a nice Chinese restaurant for dinner.

The next day we left for Cork, well actually, that was the plan, until lunch time. After failing to find breakfast in a town called Tramore, which is on the west coast, we decided to go for lunch in a small country town called Dungarven. It’s a really nice town. After lunch it was off to Ardagh, a town located near Newcastle West. It was a really last minute decision. The drive took around 3 hours, as we had do travel to the other side of the country. The landscape on the way was amazing, especially in the county of Cork. We went over to visit Martina, a friend of Tracy’s. We had a fantastic home cooked meal, actually it was the only home cooked meal of the trip. It was great. Not to mention the many bottles of wine. It was a big night.

Saturday, it was off to Cork. By the way, Cork is both a county and a city. I doubt it would be much smaller than Dublin. On our way over, we made our way to Ballybunnion. It’s a small town on the west coast. It was excellent. The beach was fantastic and the water wasn’t even cold, mind you I was wanting a jumper, for the first time on my holiday, it was cold outside. It was great.

It was then on to Cork, via Killarny. We stopped off along the way to visit Tracy’s sister Karen and her boyfriend John. They are both really nice. After the short visit it was off to Tracy’s in Cork and then out for the night. We went out to a bar in the city. Unfortunately I can’t remember the name, but it was really cool. It had a downstairs bar, with a nightclub above it. The nightclub was 2 levels, a good place. Once again, a few beers consumed and a great night had by all. Unfortunately it was my last night in Ireland. I really enjoyed it.

My last day in Ireland was very relaxing. We went out for breakfast and then a tad of shopping. We later out for a coffee with Tracy’s friend Rosita, who was kind enough to let us stay in Dublin. The two of us headed out for dinner and had a look around the city. It was my last chance to look around. I saw the tallest building in Ireland. It was 15 stories high, and I am sorry to say, one of the most average looking buildings I have ever seen. It’s on a road called “The Straight Road”. I can understand why it would take pride of place in Cork. This little visit ended up being the last place to see before it was off to the airport and back to London.

It was great to catch up with Tracy, meet some of her family and friends and see some of the fantastic countryside of Ireland. I had a ball there.

 

London (24 – 25 July)

Hi all,

After good nights sleep it was off to see some sights. This didn’t quite work out as planned, however I did get the chance to go and have a few beers with Andy, a guy I work with in Doha. He was also lucky enough to escape the island, albeit for a short period of time. We went to a few bars in Covent Garden. The bars there seem really good, Jonno and Jo also joined us. Covent Garden seems like a good place to go out.

Tuesday was tourist day. It was great. The weather was perfect, around 26 degrees, sunny and clear blue sky. Perfect for a walk. I saw Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. After that it was off to Westminster Abbey. It is amazing. There is so much history, it was really interesting. So much of what we saw and read about when we were in Scotland was also there, which brought everything together. Next it was off to visit Aunt Liz and Uncle Phil at there place, Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately she wasn’t home, so I slid a note under the door saying I would be back next week and could wait to catch up… after a nice wlak through the park, I then dropped past Tony’s house, however his assistant said he wasn’t home as he had Prime Minister things to do, quite disappointing, all I wanted was a glass of water.

Since the day was getting better and better, it was time to keep walking, and back to the London Eye to relax in the park. There were a few street performers, one of which said he was from Melbourne. I was disappointed he said that, cos he dragging the rest of us down. A rather average act I must say.

I am rather impressed with London so far. There transport system is really good, the tube is very handy. It could do with some air conditioning but other that that it is a very effective system. My first couple of days in London have been good. I have seen a fair bit so far and I am looking forward to seeing more. It has also been a great opportunity to spend time with Jonno. Having been MIA in London, we haven’t been able to see him for a while. Don’t worry Ben, I gave him a kiss from you!!

The next journey was of to Ireland.

Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

 

Glasgow and Edinburgh (Scotland – 20-23 July)

Hi Everyone,

After another very short flight, around 1 ½ hours, we arrived in Glasgow. After picking up our car from Avis in the city it was off for dinner. After a very pathetic meal at a joke of a restaurant called Harry Ramsdens, we went for a wander around the city. After walking past one of the biggest rubbish heaps around 9it was an actual rubbish heap next to the road), we took a wander through the streets. The city hall and world war monument were both very impressive. Unfortunately the rest left a lot to be desired. I doubt I will go back there any time soon, unless anyone can tell me that there is something impressive about it?!?

Friday was spent driving to Edinburgh, via Loch Ness. It took around 3 ½ hours, with some fantastic scenery. It wasn’t quite as impressive as Norway, but definitely amazing to say the least. Loch Ness is huge. Interesting fact: There is that much water that you could fill it with every human on earth twice over. Unfortunately we didn’t see the Loch Ness monster, although I was looking.

After our little adventure it was off to Edinburgh. Another 3 ½ hour drive was what met us, but after 2 hours one of the most exciting things on the trip happened, it started raining. Now normally this isn’t anything exciting, however rain isn’t something we have seen for months, so this was a big thing (then again, it could just be me).

In Edinburgh we met up with Amber. That’s right, Amber Rimmer. By the way she is well and loving her time in Edinburgh working on the Fringe Festival. We caught up for dinner and several drinks. It was nice and relaxing, especially needed after all of the driving.

Saturday we spent wandering around Edinburgh Castle and went to the Edinburgh Dungeons. It was good fun. Amber wasn’t as impressed as we were, probably because she used to work there and they weren’t as exciting as she was… That night I got to meet up with a friend of mine Zoe. I hadn’t seen Zoe for around 3 years, and it was a great chance to catch up. For those of you who know Zoe I will be sending you some photo’s soon. We went out for dinner and out for many many drinks. We went to a bar called Finigan’s. It was absolutely hectic. Had a beer there and went to ‘3 Sisters’. We all sat in the beer garden out front. It is huge, and it was filled with Hen’s Parties. Very funny, some great costume ideas, and some absolute hideous ones. Once that closed it was off to the next place, the name of which I can’t remember, not sure if it was the beer or the name was easily forgettable.

Sunday we were everywhere. We went back to Glasgow for a short time, and then off to St Andrews. The golf course was amazing. We then watched a Scottish Pipes and Drums band. By this time it was getting late and we had to go to the airport. We made one last stop and had a look at the Royal Britannia. The ship is huge, no wonder the Queen was always using it. Imagine the parties, Aunt Liz would have been wasted…

Unfortunately for Jon this spelt the end of the Eurotrip and it was back to work. As for me, well, it keeps going.

 

Oslo (Norway – 17-20 July)

Hi again,

As I am sure you can understand, the flight from Amsterdam to Oslo, although smooth flying, wasn’t really the greatest due to our antics the night before. After arriving at Oslo airport around 5pm, we caught a ‘fast train’ from Oslo airport to City Centre, which took around 40 minutes. We made our way to the Anker Hostel, dropped our gear and headed out for dinner.

There were lots of restaurants around, and the food on offer sounded amazing. After enjoying a very nice meal we wandered around for a while and headed back to the hostel for a bit of sleep. Interesting fact: One thing that is different with Oslo is that it never actually gets dark. The sun sets around midnight, however there was never a dark sky, there was always a tinge of blue. It is a fantastic view.

We rose early on Tuesday and headed out for the day. We decided to do a 5 hour bus and boat tour through the fjords and the country side. We had an hour boat tour which was great. The fjords are very extensive, there are so many waterways, so much more to look around in the future.

We went to a sculpture park, a couple of fantastic museums, past the royal palace, around the docks and to the Oslo Ski Jump, which is used or ski jumping etc. It was a fantastic 5 hours. The information was great, we both actually learnt a lot, the history of Norway is very interesting. If we hadn’t taken the tour we would never have seen as much as we did with only a guide book to show us around. We went for a wander around the streets of Oslo after dinner. It was rather busy, even though it was a Wednesday night.

On Thursday we went and had a look at the Royal Palace. It is surrounded by a public park, which is quite interesting, considering 500m is the U.S. embassy which is surrounded by a high fence and armed guards. We saw a changing of the guard which was very impressive. The drill was excellent, could have been a bit better but excellent none the less. We then went to a few of the islands we went past in the tour the day before. It was fantastic. The view was amazing. We did a walk through the bush (not because we were lost…) to have a good look around. The beaches were great, the water was the perfect temperature for swimming. After spending several hours on the boats, sitting by the water and generally being lazy (other than the bush walk) we went out for some dinner and a few beers.

The port is amazing at night. There is a fort which overlooks it, providing a stunning view no matter where you were sitting. There were heaps of restaurants open, giving us the chance to have a few cold ones.

On the last day, Thursday, we flew out to Glasgow, Scotland. However, in the pursuit of cheap plane tickets, Jon booked us a flight leaving from Torp airport, which happened to be 120 km from Oslo, which he didn’t notice until 3 days before we were supposed to depart for our European tour. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. As a result we caught a coach from the central bus station in Oslo out to Torp. The scenery was some of the best I have ever seen. It was amazing to see the extent of the fjords, which we further discovered when we were flying out. It was a great mistake, as not only did we get to see Oslo but we also saw the country side of Norway, a definite hidden bonus.

A very fun few days, Olso is without a doubt one the best cities around. I would love to live there, perhaps the 2011 World Nordic Ski Championships??
Now it’s of to Scotland!!!

 

Amsterdam (and a bit of London – 14-17 July)

Hi everyone,

I thought it was a good opportunity to drop the Arabic. It turns out the world does exist outside Doha, I was starting to wonder if the world was still spinning.

The flight from Dubai to London was only 7 hours, it went really fast. I spent my time watching Toy Story 2, the first 5 minutes of Mary Poppins, Annapolis and Ice Age 2. Unfortunately the flight was on time and I missed the last 20 minutes of the movie. Anyone able to tell me how it ends? I think the mammoths get together, but I’m not too sure. Might have to wait for the return trip.

I flew into Heathrow airport at around 6pm, where I was met by Jonno and Jo. Believe it or not but Jon hasn’t really changed, he still looks the same. We went out for dinner, and got some sleep before the beginning of my new European adventure.

Friday morning was fantastic. It started by cooking the biggest load of bacon and eggs ever. There was so much bacon it was crazy. Now this may seem crazy for me emphasising that I had mass amounts of bacon, but in Doha, we cannot get bacon, or ham or pork for that matter, as the pig is not allowed in the country. Those of you who know how much I love food, will know that this is a big thing. That afternoon it was off to Amsterdam.

After a 3km taxi down the runway at Heathrow we were off. We arrived in Amsterdam a little after 5 pm. We headed out as soon as we arrived. The night life is amazing. The streets were filled with people, most of the restaurants were nearly filled and the streets were covered with locals and tourists alike, all looking for that tasty meal and some fun… We stayed out for a few beers and hit the hay.

Saturday was fantastic. We went in to the centre of Amsterdam, the central station and worked our way around. Within 5 minutes beginning our excursion, we ended up visiting a sex museum. From what I could work out, they did it the same way a couple of hundred years ago as they do now, although a few of the pictures did show a few slight changes in the way its done now, I will leave it up to you all to ponder that one!!!

After the thrills of the museum, we went and had the “Heineken Experience”. It was fantastic. It was a historical tour or the brewery, stopping off for a free beer along the way. The tour was really interesting. It was very interactive, a great experience. It was finished off with another few free pots of Heineken and a present, a Heineken bottle opening in a bottle. That took several hours and was great fun.

Following that experience it was time to experience “The Red Light District”. It wasn’t a massive area, but it was filled with ‘special’ cafes, sex shops and more sex shops. All I will say is if you go to Amsterdam you have to go to the red light district. It’s an experience to behold!!!

That night we went on a pizza cruise. It was a great way to see the canals, have many many glasses of red and eat pizza. It went for around 2 hours and it was fantastic. That night we were out and about again, having a few beers.

Sunday, after a big breakfast, which once again included bacon, we went on a 3 hour tour of Amsterdam. We went and saw a windmill, lots of old buildings, the Rembrandt Museum (very impressive) and many other sights in Amsterdam. We than spent a few more areas looking around the town before getting ready for the night. We went on a pub crawl with around 15 others. It was great fun. After finishing our tour we jumped in to another one and continued with them. After returning around 5.30 in the morning, we had to check out of at 11 am. As you can imagine it was a painful experience. The Amsterdam experience ended with nursing a very bad hangover spilling a large coke all over the table and me at the airport. Interesting fact about Amsterdam, “There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people. This is because every resident owns 2 bikes, one old one for use in Amsterdam and one good one. The reason is that good ones get stolen by the druggies and sold back for 40 euro’s”.

One country down, 5 more to go.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

 

Week Eleven

Al-salaam alaykum,

This is the shortest working week in history for me. Only four days. The week was really busy in the office. Having the two new guys is great. Getting them up to date was tough, but they did a great job learning as fast as they did.

The normal rotational dinner was a success. Chills cooked Risotto, very tasty. As usual I waited until the last minute to pack, but after a solid effort it was time to sleep before the holiday.

Just a short one cos I will be talking about the holiday. Will try and put some photo’s up.

Have fun!!

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