Monday, 19 May 2008

Staffhouse Life

Welcome to my life.

These three chairs, two tables and large TV have been the bulk of my existence over the last two weeks, with a few colleagues thrown in for good measure. With all prepatory work finished, we are waiting in our grand staffhouse fortress for news of going offshore. The staffhouse being fairly remote from the city, public transport non-existent and the company drivers we rely on for transportation at a premium, we are fairly cut off from the world. Outside is just steep hill, much of it untamed jungle, and mud tracks. Five or ten minutes away there is a street with a hotel bar and a few other crude bars, but we've never troubled ourselves with the effort. This is because our staffhouse, and the room you see pictured, is really rather comfortable.

Usually on jobs we stay in hotels. This is fine, and gives us privacy, but means that much of the day is spent alone in the room. Our company rarely use staffhouses because we're too small to have staffhouses of our own in countries, and so it's only Angola we make use of them, with Halliburton, our contractor there. I've not been, but reports aren't glowing. But with the price of hotels here - hundreds of dollars a night - NE, our contracting oil company here, reckon it's much cheaper just to let us use one of their staffhouses. And as luck would have it, there are four rooms here and four of us, so we have this fortified home all to ourselves, without "outsiders" to bother us.

This has meant for a lot of drinking.

With even our working days typically finishing about 2pm, it's become very natural for us all to congregate in the main room, with our laptops, and watch TV. Unlike the isolation of hotel rooms, this staffhouse is very social. Like a family, we gather round the TV and make pleasant conversation. Football, Mythbusters and Red Dwarf have become our staple TV diets, with the Discovery Channel standard wallpaper. Having not a TV at home, it's no exaggeration to say that I think I've seen more TV in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years. Life has become very stable and routine, a kind of domestic bliss. We've even got our favourite chairs - mine is the single-seater armchair.

And like every family, something is required to oil the cogs of harmony - alcohol. With bottles of gin and literally hundreds of beers at our disposal, every night - hell, most afternoons - has seen a steady and sometimes rapid intake. We try to hold off, but if one of us is going to the fridge for a beer, suddenly everyone has one. Tipsy is our usual goal, but it's a fine line between this and drunkenness, which we've crossed a number of times, hence bottletop fights, bedroom doors being taped up and bags of pasta being found in my bed.

And that's been life for the last two weeks, or the predominant part. In the first week, it's true, there was some tough work under an extremely intense sun, which we never failed to reward with copious amount of beer later on. And mealtimes are spent at the NE office, which has a dining room and a chef, and with a pretty high standard of food, though has a joyless atmosphere and vast, angry Americans. And we have ventured out into town a few times, to a pizza restaurant (the pizza restaurant?) and a Chinese, and a Chinese-run bar with large rats. But our stupid 10pm curfew means that nights out can never really kick off, and are inevitably just a warm up for yet another night in.

Offshore will likely be this week, and will be a relief to our health, which cannot have benefitted from the last two weeks. And it should be a short, focussed job, unlike the sprawling endlessness of Brazil.


Jenny said...

I'd choose the single-seater arm chair as well.

I am shocked to hear that the hotels are so expensive in EG. It does not seem much of a tourist destination, but maybe I'm wrong?

Nev 360 said...

You're not wrong: tourism is virtually zero here. It's because of this, and that any traveller here is on business, that the hotels are so expensive - everything is on oil company expense accounts. Plus, almost everything has to be imported here, thus bumping up prices.