Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Interesting Chinese Encounter

Last week I ran out of minutes on my Chinese SIM card and needed to replenish.  On a whim I decided to carry my phone in my hand instead of putting it back in my pocket...seriously, don't ask me why.  As I was crossing the crosswalk a Chinese woman starting waving at me as if she knew me.  She was probably in her late twenties sporting an 80's style Tina Turner hair style, red camouflage T-shirt which read Army, black mini skirt with tights complete with the knee high boots. 

She took me by surprise when she actually stopped me in the middle of the crosswalk.  Since the crosswalks are death traps here in China, I made sure to walk back to the corner as she was rambling to me in Chinese following my lead.  Never once did she speak English even though that's pretty much all I was speaking; I really only knew how to say "I don't know" in that sort of situation.  Even so, most Chinese people do not understand me when I do try to speak Chinese.  She started pointing to my phone and her phone - still rambling in Chinese while I kept repeating I don't know.  I thought she was going to translate something using her phone as many people in the refinery I work at do so often.  With no hesitation she grabbed my phone and put in her number, pressed talk and made sure my number appeared in her phone.  She made motion of calling, while continuing her ramble in Chinese, gave me a hug and then walked off waving back to me.  I made sure to save her number, as Random Army Chinese Gal, in my phone in case she did end up calling.  I figured she wouldn't since our conversation did not get very far on the street...

However, while I was at work that night, she called!  I did not answer the call in time but luckily there are translators here at work.  I had the night translator call her back and talk to her since I could not understand.  Apparently, she thought I looked Russian when she saw me earlier, which I have heard that comment multiple times from workers at the refinery.  She lives in a part of China that is close to the Russian border and she speaks a little Russian.  She wanted to get together with me because I looked very friendly and kind.  She did appear to be a very nice woman but unfortunately I do not have a translator with me all the time and not sure our next conversation would improve any in understanding one another.  Maybe I will run into her again...I mean, how can you miss an 80's style Tina Turner hair cut in China?!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 in China

I did not think I would still be in China for Thanksgiving but as I have always said with this job....you never know what your plans will be or when you will be leaving from your current assignment.  Just before Thanksgiving I was able to get two days in a row off and took a mini trip to Hong Kong.  It also worked out that I did not have to make the trip alone, Tom was able to join me.

We arrived in Hong Kong late Sunday night and hungry.  Since we had been in China for a while (Tom longer than me, but still...) we were definitely looking forward to eating more Western type food.  Tried Outback Steakhouse but it just closed.  Saw a sign for a Thai place that was open til 3AM but it probably took a good 15 minutes wondering around the area of the sign before we figured out how to get there.  Since Hong Kong is small and expanding, they expand up!  Since both Tom and I had been to Hong Kong before, we were not interested in doing tourist things but more so in getting good food and relaxing.  After sleeping in until noon, we ate Subway for lunch, Haagen Dazs ice cream for dessert, walked around the pier area on HK island, and made our way to the Kowloon side to watch the Light Show at 8pm.  The light show consists of corporate buildings which have lights on timers that go with the music along with lasers blasting from the very top - very cool!

Afterward we met up with Tom's friend Maggie who is from Hong Kong.  One great thing I love about this job is the connections you can make with people.  Tom met Maggie when he was working in Belgium.  You meet people from around the world allowing you to be able to reconnect in other parts of the globe as well!  All three of us went to Outback for dinner and then to a midnight movie - Skyline.  The next day Tom and I went to the grocery store to pick up items we can not get back in Qinzhou along with some Thanksgiving dinner things.  We had kebabs for lunch and made sure to pick up Subway again to bring back with us for dinner.

On Friday the UOP crew had Thanksgiving dinner and celebrated Ben's birthday.  We were able to get Parky to allow us to use his projector at his bar so while eating dinner we could watch some football games on delay.  Combine that with the feast we had made equals just like Thanksgiving back home. Turkey did not make it to the table but I think the meat we did have made up for that.  The feast included 2 pigs, 7 chickens, brats, 50 mashed potatoes which were peeled, cut and mashed by hand, sweet potatoes, stuffing, deviled eggs, green beans, and cranberry sauce.  Definitely had left overs!  While we were eating dinner we noticed a few Chinese people with really nice cameras taking pictures of our festivities - which we had no issues with but found amusing.  Brent ended up doing the 'Chinese' thing and just butt into what they were doing so he looked over their shoulders while they were at their computers.  Apparently they spoke good English and he found out they were posting the pictures and story about our Thanksgiving get together on the website for the town called qinzhou365.net.  All and all it was a great Thanksgiving!

Internet connection not allowing me to load pictures into the text at the moment but feel free to check out more pics from Hong Kong and Thanksgiving  HERE

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Little Late on the Update

I know, I know...I have received many reminders from various people that I have not updated my blog in a while.  I thank everyone for your push and sorry it has taken so long.  In the past 2 months a lot has happened which I will try to shortly sum up and then direct you to my newly developed Picasa page in which you can view more photos.

A week after I returned from Hong Kong my parents were inbound for a visit.  I met up with them in Beijing where we took two full days of tours which included the Ming Tombs, The Great Wall (Mutianyu section), Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, a Jade factory, Pearl gallery, and a Silk factory.  The first day in Beijing was more relaxing; we went to the zoo.  I was super excited to see the Panda, which we did.  Perfect timing in a sense where the Panda played in the bushes before climbing a tree to settle in for his or her mid morning nap.  I was a little depressed with the rest of the zoo however because the animal areas were not kept up too well.  It appeared as though the zoo was in it's prime maybe in the 60's but has not been maintained very well.

After Beijing we flew to Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors as well as the Bell and Drum Tower.  Behind the Drum Tower there is the Beiyuan Men Islamic Street Market where you can buy little trinkets and street food.  I recommend going to this street market if ever in Xian.  I also recommend going to the  Defachang dumpling restaurant (on the 2nd floor) to get a course of 18 different dumplings.  The shapes they come in are very cool!

After my parents left I had to work for the next 2 weeks straight...needless to say I was exhausted.  I told myself I didn't want to travel and do tourist things...just relax.  There isn't much in Qinzhou to do so I hoped a short flight to the island of Hainan. There I stayed at a nice beach resort and spent 4 days just reading and napping on the beach, it was glorious!  Got a lot of sun too - no sunburn though!
The crew here used to be around 30 people but recently the customer released more than half so we are down to 13 people.  That being said the schedule has changed so much where I do not really have a long stretch of days to travel to many places.  I am due to a visa trip so will be heading to Hong Kong again soon.  We have been able to make our own fun around here in Qinzhou though.  I was here Halloween weekend; I dressed up as cat-woman and the guys were dressed in toga's - options are very limited here.  We went out Saturday night and were the only ones in costume however the next night, other UOP people went out, and the bar was decked out in Halloween decorations being that it was actually Oct. 31st that night.

Halloween Saturday Night
GXPC Dinner - Remaining Crew (3 people already gone from this picture even)
All and all I have had an amazing time here in China - as I expected nothing less.  Not sure how much longer I will be here or where I will be heading next but I update this as soon as I know more.  Until next time...which I vow to try to not make so long!

View pictures from the past 2 months and before at http://picasaweb.google.com/KatieMarcene 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Visit to Hong Kong - Mini UW ChemE Reunion

This past weekend I made my way to Hong Kong (HK) to visit my college friend, Claudia. Another college friend, Sophia, happened to be in HK at the same time so we all met up for lunch one day. Traveling to and from HK for my first time was just as interesting as the say in HK.

Travel to HK: I worked evening shift until 12:30AM Saturday morning for which I arrived back at the hotel at 1:20AM. My taxi left at 4AM to get me to my early morning flight on time. I had yet to pack so needless to say I did not sleep that night. Since the flights straight to HK were too expensive I traveled to Shenzhen and that is where the journey begins…

Flight to HK – check, went well
Find Bus from Shenzhen to HK – check, able to catch 1st bus
Arrival to Customs to Enter HK – check, waited in line for 1.5 hours
Find Bus after Customs to HK Railway stop – check, it happened to be the last bus I checked
Arrival to Correct Railway stop – check, luckily it was the last bus stop so I could not miss it but it did not drop me off right in front but I had a map to find my way.
Contact Claudia to tell her to come get me – fail, SIM card purchased in mainland China not able to call phones in HK since it is technically international.
Purchase HK SIM card to call Claudia – check and fail, able to buy SIM card but kept receiving a message stating Claudia’s phone was not registered so call failed.

At this point my mind is racing because I have no clue how to reach Claudia and no address to take a taxi to her house. Since HK is more westernized, I was hoping there was Internet cafes someplace close so I could email her. Ask and I shall receive – there happened to be free Internet stations inside the train station! I was able to get a hold of her and she came to the station to pick me up. Only waited an hour and half since I first arrived which I think it quite short.

Activities in HK: Saturday afternoon and evening Claudia and I went around to the shops of HK and I bought a bunch of things – all practical of course or gifts. We ate at this yummy Japanese place where we ordered pizza that used rice as the crust and no pizza sauce. It was delicious. I much rather eat these than American Pizza! She also took me to a place that makes the best dried meat I have ever tasted. I bought about 2kg worth of various meats (pork, chicken and beef) to take back with me and for my parents to try when they come.
Beef and Fish balls with noodles
Best dried meat place ever!!!
Sunday was a day of touristy activity of sorts. We took a bus to Kowloon which is across the harbor from HK and took in the sea line view of the skyscrapers. A ferry ride brought us back to HK and we went to the Victoria’s Peak to see HK from a bird’s eye view. It was somewhat hazy but the view was still nice. Actually the view from Claudia’s parent’s condo was just as nice but just lower down on the hill. After the peak visit we were walking back to take public transit back to the shopping area, we saw a large group of people walking across the road into this park area. It happened to be a peace walk for the HK tourist victims whose bus was hijacked in the Philippines. Tens or thousands showed up for this walk and the street was just filled with people dressed in black and white – quite the site. Claudia and I met up with Sophia for lunch and ate at another Japanese place – yum! That night, Claudia’s parents took us to a real local restaurant that served yummy seafood. It wasn’t a fancy place but the wait was out the door, literally. Luckily her Dad is friends with the manager so we did not have to wait long for a table. I tried for the very first time, squid meatballs and spaghetti with black ink as the sauce. Quite delicious actually but I did not want to eat too much and stain my mouth black. To avoid this problem I squished some beer around in my mouth.
Peace Walk
HK view from Kowloon.
Vitasoy drink keepin' up with the times!
Eating a squid meatball with ink as the sauce.

 Travel back from HK: I was not sure how long to plan for customs clearance on a Monday morning from HK to China so I assumed it might take as long as it did coming into HK. This meant I needed to leave at 5:30AM from her condo to catch the bus departing to the customs point 6AM to ensure on time arrival to the Shenzhen airport. Claudia’s mom arranged the taxi for me and her dad was kind enough to walk me down that early in the morning. The taxi driver dropped me off and I saw a bunch of buses so I assumed this was the correct spot since this location is different than that I got off at when I arrived. The ticket I bought was substantially less than my before and I did not see the company’s logo on the side of the buses in this depot. I asked how to find the correct bus to the Shenzhen airport and they said that they did not take me there. Come to learn that this location is not correct – not the fault of Claudia’s mom but the taxi driver who did not listen to her instructions. The man at the bus depot directed me and pointed in the general direction I needed to go. I reached the corner and there was no way to cross except under the street. I came up on the correct side I wanted – by luck, and started walking towards the building me pointed at. By this time, 6AM was fast approaching and I did not want to miss my bus so I started running. Soon came to realize I had no clue how to get to this bus station terminal. To my luck there was a runner passing me, and 99% of those in HK speak English, so without hesitation I said “Excuse me, do you know how to get here?” as I pointed to the map of the bus location. Without him I do not think I would have been able to easily locate the bus terminal because I had to go inside of a mall, up to the first floor, to the bus company’s desk. I had missed my 6AM bus but there was a 6:20AM so I was all good; I was even able to check into my flight there and obtain a boarding pass!
My timing for getting to the airport was a little overboard. There were absolutely no lines and I had to sit around in the airport for 2 hours. I did not get much sleep while in HK and prior to departing so 2 hours felt like forever! I arrived back to Nanning at noon and did not have to be at work until midnight so I took a cheaper mode of transport back – the bus. However, taking the bus adds an extra 1.5 hours onto the trip back so I didn’t get back until 3:30PM – which only gave me 5 hours of sleep after eating some dinner before going to work.

It was a great adventure and I was exhausted after it was finished but would not have change the experience!
Thanks Claudia for a great time!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Interesting Lunch

So it's been about a month since I last updated and I am sure you all are dying to know what I have been up to but since I am not the greatest at keeping up this blog thing I suppose I needed to reason to write something.  Today at lunch I found my reason.

There is a eatery right across the street from the hotel we are at which we call the Green Restaurant just because it has a green awning but it's not the true name of the place.  Anyway, last time a huge group of us went we discovered they made this chocolate filled crispy tortilla goodness.  Anytime you say chocolate, I am always down - thanks Dad :-)  Today, being my day off, I decided to get some take out from there which included the chocolaty deliciousness!  After I ordered the waitress pointed to a booth I could wait in but as I was walking towards the booth this Chinese man pulled out a chair at his table and asked me to sit down (in English).  I figured he wanted to practice his English, which he did, so I did not mind.  I was then given chopsticks and rice and served tea.  I tried to communicate that I ordered take out and thank you very much but they did not seem to understand and kept saying 'don't mind, please eat eat' so I ate.  They were very nice men but only one, Sean, spoke English.  He learned English to become a tour guide on the side of his construction business.  He likes America very much but has yet to visit due to money constraints.  Thanks to the hospitality of these nice men I had a lunch for free but now I am sitting staring at the chocolate treat, full from lunch, but still yearning to eat it....did I or didn't I?  You caught me, I did, but only a quarter because I can save the rest for afternoon snack.

Now for some updates over the past month...

Location:  We are located in the city close to the grocery store and clubs and within walking of some really good restaurants!  The city itself is very clean, there are people that ride bikes picking up trash daily.  I look out my window and see green hills slightly beyond the city.

Weather:  Hot and humid ALL the time, even at night which I was not expecting.  Although I enjoy working at night because even though it's still warm and humid there is no sun blaring down on you.

Food:  Some people have asked me to describe the difference between Chinese food here and in the states.  It's hard to describe, I mean it's definitely different, but to put in words is a little difficult for me.  A lot of things are stewed here, but don't ask me in what and I probably don't want to know.  They do like things spicy here which I can handle if I have bread with me or rice, which is a plethora here.  The pictures on the menus look exactly as what you may find in the Chinese places back home but the taste is not.  By trial and error people have found dishes that work and are delicious.  And of course, you always have the staple KFC and McDonald's here.  I do have to admit I have had both a couple of times since being here.  They don't have cheese over here and when I crave cheese I go get a McD's double cheeseburger - yum!  And the take away bags are cute for the drinks and sundaes.  They actually have a handle to carry your drink and if you have ice cream sundae they put ice in the bag to ensure it stays cold for you - thoughtful huh!?

Transportation:  There are the usual transportation methods such as a bus, walking and taxi cabs but then there are two methods, that I do not know what they are called, but I call them motorcycle and motorbuggy (I just made those up now actually).  There are the guys on motorcycles that just wait around until you come up to them and tell them where you want to go.  The motorbuggy's are essentially motorcycles with a domed cavity attached that can hold anywhere from 4-7 people depending on their size.  We take these everywhere and it's a cheap way to transport our large group.  Every weekend we use this to go to the field where we play Ultimate Frisbee and Soccer. 

Work:  Now that this isn't my training assignment, I am going on shift which has it's ups and downs.  For the past week or so we have been doing inspection of the vessels and for being a new unit it sure is dirty.  When I was in Trinidad and we did inspections I came out looking like when I went inside but here, it is dirty as heck for being a new unit.  We look like we just came out of a coal mine our faces are so black with dirt.  I really should try to get a picture of that!  I am excited to get on a normal shift rotation and have long offs to allow for travel to other parts of China.  I have not really seen much since I have been here the past month but looking forward to what lies ahead.  My parents are already planning a visit in September! Also, the Asians truly value sleep and most cubicles have a bed that you can pull out and sleep on.  For an hour after lunch, everyday, everyone sleeps...not UOP though, we don't have beds in our cubicles (although some people do).
I would also like to say Thank You to my mom who drove down to Chicago while I was in town for a week in between Trinidad and China.  She was my personal shopper.  She also brought down my cat, Bode, so I could visit with him since I hadn't seen him in 7 months.  He is the cutest thing!!!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy 25th and Arrival in China

I left the afternoon of July 17th for China and arrived the afternoon of the 18th to Beijing...probably my shortest birthday yet :-)  but it was a good one.  Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday!!

Today, all and all, went fairly well.  Arrival at the airport - check.  Checking in, getting boarding pass and not being charged for overweight luggage - smooth.  Boarding the flight - fantastic because I started drinking the mimosa's before aircraft doors closed.  Food on the flight was delicious and I ate a lot - had seconds on the ice cream.  While eating I watched the movie Date Night which I thought was funny and cute all at the same time.  For the rest of the flight I slept and listened to music until 'morning' time which was really lunch time because it was the next day...skip head 13 hours already...time really does fly. 

Disembarking from the plane went smooth as well and no problems with customs.  I headed down towards baggage claim for the dreaded hurry up and wait game.  To my surprise the bags had already started around when I arrived.  Since the baggage trolleys were free I snagged one to use and after only 5 minutes my safety bag showed up.  Now I was thinking "sweet, maybe I won't have to wait around until the end" but I thought it too soon.  I waited, and waited and waited and saw everyone slowly leaving the area from my plane but my second bag was no where to be seen.  A nice lady with a scanner scanned by baggage claim tickets and said the bag I was waiting for did not make the flight.  Bummer - I filed a report and hopefully within the next 2 days I will receive my bags at my final destination hotel.  This happened to me as well when I went to Trinidad except it was my safety bag which did not make the flight.  I wonder if this will start to be a tradition/game - let's see which one of my bags did not make the flight at the other end?!

I went to the area of the Beijing airport which has shuttle buses thinking maybe my hotel had a shuttle bus I could take.  Well it did not but the nice lady at the ticket counter said that if I took bus number 6 right outside it would take me to where I needed to be - alright then, I hoped on the bus.  After taking my seat and the bus left the airport I then realized I did not exactly ask which stop to get off at but recalled which area she said.  According to the sign I just barely noticed before I got on the bus my gut told me I stay on until the end of the ride.  The end of the route came and I did not see any buildings with any hotel names on them so I confirmed with the bus driver that I was indeed in the correct area.  The bus driver pointed to the main road and told me to turn left - hotel will be there.  I did just that but only noticed the Marriott.  I did not want to keep walking just in case I was going to wrong direction so I walked into the lobby to confirm.  The bus driver was indeed correct, I just needed to keep walking about 5 minutes further.  Now keep in mind that I am wearing a backpack and pulling my heavy safety bag or other carry on luggage behind me while the temperature was 90F and high humidity.  Doesn't that sound exciting?! 

It was glorious to check in and go up to my air conditioned room.  I tried turning the lights on but noticed nothing happened and I thought maybe something was wrong or fuse blown.  I determined somehow that this small box with a red light next to the light switches fit the room key so I swiped my room key in then back out again and what is that saying...?...'let there be light'  Although after maybe 20-30 seconds the lights would go out and I would keep swiping my key card thinking how am I going to keep these lights on continuously.   Took about the third or fourth time for me to realize I leave my room key in the slot to keep the lights on.  That was my clue that it will be an early bed time for me tonight!

Hopefully Air China will not lose my safety bag tomorrow....night y'all! (or should I say morning to most)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Goodbye Trinidad - Hello China + Happy Birthday

I was warned that road life could become hectic when you think you know what direction you are headed.  My current training assignment here in Trinidad is not quite finished yet but I received notification three days ago that I was assigned a billable assignment in China.  I figured I would finish this assignment first before shipping out to China....WRONG!  I am heading back to Chicago this morning - I leave for the airport in an hour.  I will take care of personal and work related items during the next six days in which I then fly to China on Saturday. 

I had plans to celebrate my birthday which happens to be next Saturday the 17th with everyone here in Trinidad - Trini style.  Another UOP crew member even has the exact same birthday - cool huh?!  So that is now not happening but...I received an email from my future crew members in China saying that on Saturday the 17th they will be getting together to celebrate my future chief's birthday, which happens to fall on the 17th as well.  Seriously now, think about these odds.  My first assignment and someone has the same birthday and now my second assignment all the way in China and someone there also has the same birthday...I still can't get my head wrapped around the idea but it's pretty cool anyhow!!  Sadly though I will be unable to make it to China for the Saturday event.  What will I be doing you ask?  Have you guessed yet?...I will fly out on my birthday.  I will be drink mimosa's as soon as I board!!!  Champagne is my drink of choice.

Since I went from having two possibilities of celebrating my birthday on the actual day either Trini or China style to being on a plane by myself, my Trinidad crew had a surprise.  Being that tonight was my last night I felt it only appropriate to have dinner at a Chinese restaurant, right?!  Upon arrival we sat down at the table and it took us a few minutes but noticed that there was a Happy Birthday sign with balloons above the end of the table.  Now I know what you are thinking, ah that is sweet - but that was just a coincidence and not the surprise.  I am not sure when Vinosh had time to ask the waiter but at the end of the meal the waiter brought over a slice of cheesecake with one candle.  The local saxophone player and singer sang Happy Birthday to me and then I made a wish :-)

L to R: Vinosh (Petrotrin), Ken, Jeremy, Me, Afshin, Kelly, Eric

Thanks for the wonderful birthday wishes and cheesecake!  I will miss you Trinidad...until next time!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July from Trinidad

Yes, Yes, Yes I am still here in Trinidad but to relax on this 4th of July weekend I decided to take an overnight trip to Tobago.  Eric, a fellow crew member, and his wife Kelly were already there and they were kind enough to let me stay with them in their hotel room because they had two beds and we were all leaving the next morning.  Sounds all well and good....it should have been but.....  I arrived to the airport a little more than 45 minutes before my flight.  Waited in line to check in and when I reached the counter the clerk said my flight has 'closed' 3 minutes ago.  I kept asking what that meant and her response "It closed!".  Finally I was able to get her to tell me what my next steps should be which was to check in as a standby passenger.  No problem I thought because I have flown standby my entire life - no biggie.  I turn to my left and saw a large large gathering of people in line trying to fly standby to Tobago.  When I reached the counter here is how the conversation went:
Me:  How long is the wait?
Clerk:  Can't say
Me:  Okay, can you tell me how many people are infront of me?
Clerk:  Can't tell you
Me:  Alright, how come you can not tell me?
Clerk:  Because it causes conflict with others who I flying standby
Now, as soon as I heard that last statement I knew I was going to be in for a treat (and not one you look forward to either).  I suspected that their system of standby was not based off when you checked in with the clerk but random order upon when the agents felt like for a variety of reasons.  I was indeed correct because the man who checked in before me left 2 hours before I did.  What? you ask yourself, 2 hours?  Yes, I know, I waited around the airport for 4 hours until I was able to get on a flight which takes 20 minutes to reach Tobago. 

By the time I landed there really wasn't much sun left so I walked the 5 minutes to the hotel and the three of us relaxed by the poolside until we got ready for dinner.  The hotel was extremely relaxing; I am definitely going back there another weekend! Here are some pictures so you can live vicariously through me.  We ate dinner at a local place that was owned by a German.  The food was yum - and since he was German, part of the veggies that came with my ribs included red cabbage german style - delicious!
Kelly and Eric had the flight back to Trinidad which left 30 minutes before mine.  Their flight was on time however mine was delayed and I arrived back an hour after originally scheduled.  This weekend was not my luck at the airports!

Tonight the entire crew contributed to making a Fourth of July grill out to bring a little home to Trinidad.  We found a disposable grill and made brats and hamburgers.  Kelly and I cooked the sides - pasta salad, baked beans and deviled eggs.  Everything was delicious and fun had by all.  The one thing we forgot to pick up - fireworks!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Crab, Some Caterpillars & A Queen

I came back to my room at the hotel for lunch one day and noticed something on the hallway carpet.  At first I just thought it was a small pile of dirt which I thought was in an odd location of the hallway.  As I continued moving forward the dirt piled moved incredibly quick behind a newspaper...the dirt pile turned out to be a tiny crab. My stupid point and shoot camera would not let me focus on the crab by I tried my best to capture him or her - now image if that was in my room...actually let's not.

Kelly and I were heading out to see the new Shrek movie, the hotel staff stopped us to see if we have seen the caterpillars.  The only caterpillars I had ever seen were small and not too jaw dropping to stare at so I was wondering what was so special about these...?  To my fullest surprise these caterpillars are the largest and prettiest I have ever seen.  Can you spot them in the trees?  I saw hello to my new friends every morning.

Now you are probably expecting to see more pictures of animals for the Queen bit of my title.  Will it be a queen ant or bee or boat?  Boat...what...boat?  Yes, indeed the queen in which I refer to is a party boat called the Treasure Queen.  The bartender at the hotel, Ria, asked me if I would like to come along.  A few of my co-workers went on the same boat experience a month prior and very much enjoyed themselves.  The Queen sailed at midnight and docked back at 3AM.  There was drinking and dancing all night - just like a fete during Carnival season but on the water.  It was a lot of fun however I wore the wrong skirt for the boat so I could not go too close to the edge or else I would pull a Marilyn Monroe.

Columbus Bay Lime

A couple weekends ago, Vinosh, a local manager-type who works at the refinery, took Kelly, the wife of a fellow UOP advisor, and I to Columbus Bay, a beach on the most Southern tip of the island. Columbus Bay is said to be the point at which Christopher Columbus first landed in Trinidad. The beach is surrounded by miles of coconut plantations and the "Three Sisters" (3 tiny islands) protrude just off the shoreline.

Vinosh ended up running into two of his friends while at the beach and they invited us to have dinner with them.  It turned in to quite the adventure as later that evening we ended up at Vinosh's friends home for a Fish Broth dinner (shown below) and drinks.  I always enjoy trying local food, especially if homemade, and it doesn't hurt enjoying the food with some locals as well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

54 Days Have Passed - Want Highlights?

I know I know it's been it has been 54 days since I last updated my blog; this was something I was afraid of when I first started. People even reminded me (thanks Liz) and I put the task on my to do list but somehow it kept getting pushed to the next day and the next and the 54th.....so here is a brief overview, well actually somewhat lengthy, of what has been happening.

As most of you know I am still in Trinidad. The assignment here seems to be taking one step forward and then two steps back which makes for great training!!

One day when the Instrument Advisor Ken, his wife Sylvia, and I were driving around because traffic was way too hectic to go to the beach they decided to show me a place that they found that made steel pans. The pans are all made by hand normally in someone’s back yard and for the final finish or color it is sent to a chrome shop. I ended up buying a steel pan (drum) as a practical souvenir! It makes great wall decoration and then I can take it down and play music when I am bored. The pan however did not stay with me in Trinidad too long after because my parents came down to visit again!
The purpose of my parents 2nd visit was two fold – to see their daughter (of course) but to also ship my pan back to their house so I would not have to fool with extra luggage at the airport whenever this assignment ends. Don’t I have the greatest parents in the world – thanks Mom and Dad! We ended up packing a ton of activities into a short period of time again. My parents actually went to see Pitch Lake before I have and I have been here for six months now. Pitch Lake is a lake made out of asphalt. It was raining when they arrived so they did not go on the tour but they took pictures.
                                          Pitch Lake                             Local Showing the Asphalt
That night I took them to see the turtles nesting on the beach because that was something my mom wanted to do the first visit but it was too early in the season. Again we walked out to the beach and met up with two leatherback turtles laying their eggs right next to each other (wonder if they are related?!?! Hahaha, just kidding) The group was not as large as when I went the last time so we could take up close and personal pictures!

Look at the length of that turtle!!

We were actually able to see two more turtles in the distance coming out of the ocean and slowly making their way onto the beach. Luckily we had already taken all of the pictures we needed and then it started to downpour. Since we were already wet and saw what we came to see we headed back to the hotel.

The next day we headed off to the Asa Wright Nature Center but of course since roads are not labeled here we went the scenic scenic route before we found the actual road we wanted; and without asking for directions! We arrived to the center an hour and a half before the scheduled tour was going to begin. Although the house did have a lovely old English charm I was not looking forward to spending that amount of time in a confined area on uncomfortable chairs. I asked the receptionist if there was anything to do and she explained that just shortly, about 10 minutes walk, up the road there was a clear water pool. This sounded great to me; my parents and I changed into our bathing suits and headed down to the pool. It was breathtaking creation. They directed the stream through the forest to collect in an area which was about 4 feet deep surrounded by stones. The pool flowed over a rock bed on the over side of the waterfall to continue down through the forest. I know my words are painting a wonderful picture but go ahead and see for yourself!

The tour of the center did not last more than an hour or so but we saw a few neat birds. My favorite was called the Bearded Bellbird and it sounds like they are hammering on an anvil when making their bird calls. It was the largest collection of leak cutting ants I have personally ever seen. Be careful not to step in the middle of their path or else you will be bitten – just ask my Mom! I did not have any ant bites but came out eaten alive from mosquitoes – I very much dislike those bugs. It made for wearing my Nomex and safety shoes on Monday quite enjoyable….not!
                                                                                                  Can you find the bird?
The next day we decided to take the sightseeing and adventure seeking easy and drove around the capital Port-of-Spain then upwards along the northwest coastline until it ends at Chaguarmas. My sister even joined us in spirit…
All and all the trip was awesome as expected and I enjoyed my parents visiting. Hopefully next time I see my parents it will be back in the states !

Idoko, one of our crew members, went back home for paternity leave because his wife Ruth was expecting to deliver their twin boys any day now. Idoko was replaced by another crew member, Eric, who travels with his wife, Kelly, who also happens to be approx. 3 months pregnant. Kind of ironic – is this a sign that the assignment will last another 6 months so we might need another replacement…oh goodness I hope not. It’s nice to have another gal here to hang out with although the boys are fun too :-)

No promises but I hope to not take this long to write another entry. I was recently introduced to Picasa and will try to implement that into my blog so y’all can see more pictures (and don’t have to read the boring words).  Enjoy the weekend!!