Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Watching The Island

Hello. I’ve decided to end all sentences in my next paragraph with exclamation marks.

It’s been a busy old few days! Since arriving back in the Faroes on Friday morning, hurling my thrusting body around like a dervish getting stuff ready for mortgages and Equatorial Guinea preparation, and then flying to the said country and going offshore, where unusually there’s been tons of work! I find myself now, after ten hours of work, with a few hours rest before another ten or twelve hour shift! Who says this job is all about sitting round, drinking coffee???!!?!!!!?!?

Right now, then, I’m somewhere to the east of the small island that houses Equatorial Guinea’s capital, Malabo. Equatorial Guinea takes place on three separate chunks of land, all small. One is a fat (but still tiny) strip on mainland Africa, squished in by Cameroon and... Gabon, I think; one is some tiny little blob of an island near the mainland; and the one I can see now is, for some reason, off the coast of Cameroon. If I was Equatorial Guinea, or in charge of it at least, I would seriously consider getting rid of the mainland bit, which is just a stupid rectangular chunk, and the crappy blob island, and just being the island with the capital. It would make far more sense, and be far more compact, than being a country in pieces, scattered about the place.

But I’m not in charge, unfortunately for the 500,000 people of “Equatorial G”; instead some evil military dictator calls the shots. He has been since the late 70s, when he killed the previous evil military dictator – his uncle - in a coup and ate his heart and penis. It didn’t make much difference to the people – they continue to die at an average age of 45, live in poverty, and know by now not to dare to dissent. Equatorial Guinea happens to be the third richest nation on earth, per head of population, yet the population suffer en masse from malnutrition, have no infrastructure, and live on less than a dollar a day. I wonder who’s got all the money? The vast oil bonanza that could transform this small nation instead just bolsters the bank account of a cannibal. And so it is for the bolstering of this man’s account that I find myself here, staring at his lush jungle island of hell, as part of a giant machine that grinds on relentlessly and unstoppably, so that we can drive to the shops and take holidays to nice beaches.

I was barely in Malabo. It was dark when I arrived on Saturday evening, the first proper darkness I’d seen in over a week (none in the Faroes, and I slept through Aberdeen’s few hours of darkness). By a happy stroke of luck, I’d been upgraded to first class on Air France, and was delighted to find the red wine unchilled and the legspace more than my legs could stretch. Thus I arrived in a relaxed manner, and glided through passport control (reported to be tough) without trouble. The security guy from the oil company we’re working for met me, and basically told me the place was safe. That’s the thing about military dictatorships – they’re usually pretty safe for foreigners.

The next morning I found myself on this rig, or drillship rather, which I expect to be my home for the next two weeks. It’s an absolute tip. The beds are alright fortunately, and miraculously there is a wireless internet connection, and the food “is much better”, but the working space outside is atrocious. It’s extremely cramped, rusted piece of junk metal litter the area and there’s a general air of chaos. It’s an American oil company, not a big name one though, and a total cowboy operation. All the senior guys were still senior thirty years ago, and don’t seem to have adapted to the times yet. Luckily for me, and my two colleagues, this means we can baffle them with our technology, which is extremely niche and specialised.

It’s a different type of jobs from my usual, and is far more involved and labour intensive, and far more is at stake for us, so it’s not my usual month of acquiring a tan and drinking coffee. But hopefully, after the next 24 hours, it’ll calm a bit and there’ll be a pleasant week of “monitoring data” and watching sunsets.

And sunsets are very nice here.

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