Friday, 9 March 2007


I remember the day - oh, for that day again! - that I could drink and drink, and abuse my body like a man possessed, and not be in suffering the next morning. Great days indeed, even if I was left somewhat psychologically damaged by the end of the heaviest year, the infamous Year Of The Castle. Since then, my behaviour has improved and I would regard myself as a reformed character, indeed as a model young professional; but circumstance still sometimes/often requires a few social drinks, drinks of necessity, and you can't fight fate, can you? Alas, though, I am not the young man I used to be - my Korean age is 30! - and the Dark Powers that control such matters now punish any small excesses of mine with thumping pain the next morning and afternoon.

It is that pain I suffer now, back onshore, in the little guesthouse I'm hiding in. The job on the rig finished, for me, yesterday, and so I jumped on a passing chopper to return to Mauritania's goat-filled capital, Nouakchott. The job offshore was very successful for me, as it turned out, and very, very easy. All I really did was arrive, find my equipment, drink ever-increasing daily amounts of coffee, then pack everything up to go home. Actually, my final full rig day and the following morning were pretty busy - some very physical work and lots of pain-in-the-ass logistics - but as it was preceeded by ten days of extreme indolence, I won't be filing a complaint.

And on the helicopter ride back into town, I was sat next to one of the rig birds! I tell you, after spending all your time with foul, coarse, bulky men, this sort of thing is almost too exciting for the young man.

It's always a big relief to hit dry land again after being so long on a metal platform surrounded by endless sea, and this relief is usually exercised in the manner of hitting the bar. As there is a bar barely thirty seconds away from my guesthouse door, this bar was hit quick and hard, indeed much in the manner I'll treat my future wife. I have no amusing anecdotes from the evening however, because all I did was drink with middle-aged oil expats or helicopter pilots, who managed to provide me with enough mental stimulation so as to keep me awake, but failed to truly entertain or provoke controversy.

But because of that, all I have managed to do with my day of liberty in the dusty, out-of-the-way capital is eat lunch, play poker online and feel sorry for myself. It's pretty damn hot outside, at least 35C, and I'm not in the mood to take a wander.

I have a couple more days here by the looks of it anyway, as I have to check my equipment when it arrives at the port either tomorrow or Sunday. Although I am quite keen to be getting home (despite the fact I'll almost certainly be shunted off to another country for another job as soon as I arrive) I don't mind hanging around Mauritania a little longer, because it's a pleasant place. Peaceful, safe, very friendly. Being stuck in traffic is actually quite fun, as when the invariably terrible driving results in cars blocking other cars, the drivers poke their heads out the window and have a laugh about how terribly they're driving. Everything is taken in good humour. Rather unlike Lagos traffic, where drivers would deliberately ram you to try and muscle you out the way.

It's also the general election on Sunday, the first democratic election in Mauritania's history I'm told. This means that in the evening the roads are filled with people promoting their party politics, and as there's nineteen candidates you can imagine that this means quite a lot of noise and bustle. But while other African countries plunge into civil strife at the thought of an upcoming election, Mauritania seems to be taking it in its stride. It's a good humoured place, and definitely worth a proper visit one day, not tied-down with work.

I might try and take some photos, and put them in here, if I can be bothered. Unfortunately, I've never managed to progress much in my ability to take a good photograph, so you can expect lots of pictures of my hand.

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