Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Joys of the Job - Now in Izmir, Turkey

I have seen people return to the office from an assignment to turn around that day or the next to travel to their next assignment.  Luckily, thus far in my road career, I have been fairly lucky where I have had a minimum of a week between assignments...until this past Friday!  I had Memorial weekend planned out plus plans the following weekend; however, on the first half work day Friday of the summer, I received an email stating I was assigned to Turkey at the last minute to assist another UOPer (which happens to be my friend Beth).  Beth already had a plane ticket to fly out the next evening - which I was able to book the same flight path.  It turned into a 24 hour hurray up to run all errands you put off and pack day.  It's the name of the game with this job and I am definitely not complaining - but I am bummed I am missing what was planned!

Pardon the mess - Guest House room
The assignment is located in a smaller town outside of Izmir, Turkey called Aliağa.  I believe I pronounce the town close enough to correct as 'a-li-ah', because when you have a ' ğ ' in Turkish it is essentially silent in the word.  The town is very pretty, clean and the weather is gorgeous.  We arrived Sunday afternoon and made our way to refinery guest housing in Aliağa.  This is my first time staying in refinery housing and I find it pretty decent.  The area is quiet, surrounded by many trees; the rooms themselves have a larger mini fridge, sitting area, large closet with drawers, large open space, a decent size deck with good view and a shower with incredible water pressure and hot water!

View from my deck of my room - already have wine to sit outside and enjoy after work!

Beth enjoying our first meal in Turkey at the Guest House.
 The first night after Beth and I already ate dinner at the small restaurant in the guest house, which only had one option it was that small, Mehmet from the refinery came to greet us unexpectedly.  He took us to dinner at the restaurant at the top of a hill which overlooked the water, city center and the refinery in the distance.  It was beautiful - the camera shot with my point and shoot just does not do it justice.  He ordered lots of food which probably only a third was consumed.  We had calamari, Turkish meatballs, salad and of course local beer!  Needless to say, Beth and I were overly stuffed but it was delicious!  It was quite chilly being being night but the waiters came out with shawls for those who wanted one - apparently this is quite typical here.
View at dusk from the restaurant on the hill our first night.

We have our own rental car which is nice so we can explore on our own a little easier.  Beth and I went into town to walk around, grab dinner and pick up a few snacks at the local grocery store.  City center has both a slight European and Asian feel to me.  Many people were walking around or sitting in front of stores conversing, eating or observing, although we noticed it was mostly men.  Beth and I sat down at a little grill stand to have some food.  We were not sure how it operated and of course our Turkish is slim to none, but closer to the none, therefore we made an open/close motion with the hands saying "menu" in English.  The young man at the grill looked at us, turned around and grabbed a half loaf of French bread that was sliced down the middle.  He made the same open/close menu motion with the bread as we did - so we smiled and said "Yes, two please." 
Many stray cats but the look reasonably healthy compared to stray dogs we have seen elsewhere.
It has not even been a week yet and so much has happened.  We have a variety of places on our list to try to visit and I will do my best to update you in the meantime!

Link to more pictures HERE

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Indonesia Update

I've been in Balikpapan, Indonesia for 3 weeks now.  Please forgive for the absence of photos after stating I would have them posted shortly after my last entry.  The Internet here at the hotel has been extremely crappy - I would go for 24-48 hours without access.  Whatever they have done recently seems to have done the trick, fingers crossed!

We spent 10 days doing the loading of the catalyst working 10-12 hour days - it was exhausting.  Since most of the population is Muslim they take longer breaks during the day to provide those who need to pray enough time to eat as well.  I end up getting sometimes a 2 hour lunch and dinner break but after sweating all day I rather just power through.  This coming home and getting relaxed then having to put the nasty nomex on to head back to work was not enjoyable.  Let me just state that the 2 hour lunch and dinner break is not included when I say I worked 10-12 hour days...Unit to be started up shortly!

Yan, my coworker and Ida, hotel sales manager - this is a view from the refinery housing area.

Streets of Balikpapan - looks calm but they really aren't!
 Since we have been working so much there has not been enough time to really see Balikpapan.  I have gone out to dinner with my co-worker Yan as well as some of the refinery guys to taste local dishes.  I never ask what the meat is and if the texture is funny, I just swallow without chewing!  So far the food is delicious but some items are a bit spicy.  I have my first chief, Afshin, to thank in helping increase my spice level tolerance by putting spicy sauce into my food in Trinidad :-)  While at work, this is my first time to experience eating snacks right by the reactors (in addition to the lunch and dinner we get provided). Sometimes it's boiled corn on the cob, others is this fried egg thing and another one time we had this green crepe that had coconut and brown sugar in the middle - just up my alley.  They do have American fast food here - more than any place I have been yet that hasn't been a major city.  So far I have seen: A & W, KFC, McDonald's, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Pizza Hut.  I have yet to eat at any of them.
Karaoke on a work night - Me, Aloq, Yoga & Yesay jamming out!

In China I would have people come up to me and want to take a picture with me but I swear I have been asked more times while inside of the refinery here by the workers to take pictures with me.  It's flattering nonetheless - just funny.  Of course when I say a few words in Indonesian they just laugh because my accent makes their language sound funny :-)
Aloq, Me & Yesay just chilling on the bench during catalyst loading.

Hopefully I will get a little time to explore Indonesia before making the trek back to Chicago in a few weeks...until I have something else interesting to post.  Take care everyone!

See more pictures at my Picasa page HERE.