Arriving on a rig is like sucking in a deep breath of air. For the duration of the stay, you hold your breath; indeed, sometimes it becomes so second nature it's easy to forget there's another way. The rig becomes the all, your entire existence. Usually, I'm ok for the first three weeks, only after that does the lack of oxygen begin to affect me and I start grasping for escape. This time has been a little different.
Despite the rig, the Petrobras-V, being awful, a grudging affection actually began to grow. The bathrooms were filthy, and the bedrooms noisy and congested, but the overall rig had a laid-back and friendly atmosphere, and in the evening the helideck became a social gathering point, which I've never seen before. With terrible music blasting from the nearby gym, groups gathered and watched the sunset, some meandered, some sat on the edge and chatted. Circles of guys sat and laughed and joked.
And the job went really, really well. It looked, initially, to be pretty awkward - some bulky tools I'd never used before, and no back-ups, all a recipe for potential problems. But every step of the way went well. The job was a big success.
So the rig and job, per se, weren't the reason that after just one week I was getting agitated and wound-up, and needing to sit back and breathe deeply. Rather it was the situation. I've been away eight weeks now, with weeks 2 to 6 having been spent alone, doing nothing. This became a little numbing. Two and a half weeks ago, I requested being swapped out, and the boss agreed it was a good idea, but then for two and a half weeks I kept getting assurances that it was about to happen - but it never did. When you're desperate for something to happen, for the conditions of that something to continually change and remain just out of reach is very frustrating.
But usually I wouldn't mind so much. If I spend a week longer away, at least that's a week of extra money. It doesn't matter if I'm hope later rather than sooner. But this time it did. My good friend Matt, whom some may know, was visiting from Australia, in Europe for a month. I've not seen him in almost three years, and so was obviously quite keen to catch up, even if for just a few days. And so for the first time since starting my job, and despite some very lengthy stints away in the past (I have the company record, at 16 weeks), I was requesting to get home. After five weeks away, this is a reasonable request anyway.
But it's too late. Matt's gone home and I've missed him by a matter of days. For weeks, I'd been emailing him, assuring him I'd be getting back soon, but eventually he couldn't wait any longer.
So for these reasons, it's been a frustrating few weeks. Not to mention the news last week that my first job here was, frankly, a disaster. The full analysis is still pending, and I may get off the hook, but even so it was a poor job by me. I made some mistakes and they were heavily punished. I was unfortunate rather than grossly negligent, but a mistake is a mistake, and in this business can be costly.
So after a helicopter flight out of the rig, a hairy taxi ride to get my bag at the hotel, a packed flight to Rio, and discovering my debit card isn't functioning upon arriving at the hotel and so having to change all my remaining dollars and euros to pay for the night, it was with great relief for my hotel door to close, open a cheap can of beer, and sit back in peace and privacy. And exhale. When I arrive back in Aberdeen tomorrow morning, I imagine it'll be some very deep breaths of relief.
Because this stint hasn't been any fun. Personally or professionally. I've had lots of good times with my job - Trinidad, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Malaysia and even, perversely, Nigeria have all been good experiences - but Brazil doesn't seem to work for me.
But home soon. To my beloved flat, a mountain of mail, good beer, familiar faces, pies, Van Nev (which'll need some serious jumpstarting), refreshing weather, and most importantly, real life. In which I can relax and breath, back to normal.