A different kind of the middle of nowhere

Image Source: Wikipedia


Nursing a double espresso in the Air France lounge at Charles De Gaulle, it’s the first time in a week that I get the chance to be by myself and reflect on what has been a whirlwind week. From being up at 5.00 am two Sundays ago (to catch an early flight westward from Heathrow to Abidjan via Paris), multiple flying stops to a number of offshore assets and then to this stop on the way back to normalcy, it has felt like a blur of perpetual motion. It has also, much against my natural bent, been a time spent overwhelmingly in the company of others -  work colleagues, fellow travellers and the odd hustler looking to make a quick buck amongst others. With each change of location – Heathrow, Paris, Abidjan and offshore – there has been a progressive browning of my surroundings, one that means that by the time I arrive at the work site I am lost in a sea of similar faces. Not since my last job in this part of the world at the back end of 2008 have I found myself in this sort of surroundings; not in the minority but one face in a sea of similar faces.

Stepping out of the airport terminal, the humidity hits like a bed sheet heavy with water might if flapped about by a strong wind, along with the million indecipherable smells – smoke from cooked food, the linger of car exhaust fumes, dried sweat – the minutiae of life which might be from any city along this West African coast. The airport itself is not significantly different from one I am more familiar with – Murtala Mohammed International – with its milling masses of people; particularly the hustlers who sidle up to you, somewhat conspiratorially offering up various taxi and money changing services and a Burger King. Like that other airport, this one is also named for an African strong man.

The days start early and end late, involving a variety of boat transfers including the frog, a walk to work solution and the odd clamber up boat landings via ladders. My two slight concerns turn out to be unfounded – the heat isn’t overly oppressive and I find enough familiar food to subsist on. One can hardly go wrong with eggs, bacon and sausages or rice and fried plantains for that matter (and EVERYTHING tastes infinitely better with a dash of chilli sauce).  Somehow, I get cast in the role of the Africa expert – asked to weigh in everything from food choices to social mores.

Nights are spent trying to get to sleep whilst being swayed by the swells rocking the accommodation vessel we’re on. Fairly recently the beds have been doubled up to increase capacity, which is how three of us get a room with two beds. I volunteer to take one of the top bunk beds, given I have less of a frame to squeeze in than the others.

Being out and about brings back memories of another life, being the young local engineer learning the ropes and then chomping at the bit to take on more responsibilities. In the stories I tell myself of that time, I wrestle with the tension between wanting to do more but feeling like the real decision making power was elsewhere, which is one of the reasons I upped sticks and left in the end. With the benefit of the distance of a few years since then, it is clear that structural problems notwithstanding, my youthful headiness played a part in whatever grievances I carry from that time.  I can’t help but wonder if these younger engineers feel any different, and if the various players in this space have the global reach and structure to truly develop these minds into ‘world class’ engineers. This is the first of many trips westwards and south I suspect. I am curious to see how this pans out.

A Sense of An Ending?

 

Spread out in various states of recline around a long table in the inner room of the Indian restaurant we have gathered in, I imagine we cast a scene not too dissimilar to the last supper. Not only are we thirteen (ignoring for a moment that S is barely 9 months old), it is a last supper of sorts, pulled together to celebrate the two J’s, in these their final days up here before they up sticks and move to study not too far off from ground zero in America’s bible belt. That we’ve plopped for Indian cuisine is perhaps a slight oddity given all thirteen of us have African roots. I suspect it is more indicative of the paucity of suitable eating options than adventure, which is why phones come out when it is time to order; google comes to the rescue. All that drags out the ordering process, which has a knock on effect on when we get our food.

When dinner finally arrives, we break out into leisurely conversations, in which it transpires that the two J’s are not the only ones on the verge of leaving. R is off in about a month’s time, O has his feet on two continents already, A’s entrepreneurial life is very much in full flow, two other youngsters are on the cusp of going away to University, and I am one job opening away from upping sticks myself. Even those who do not have active moves planned suggest in conversation that they would consider a move outside of town, all of which feeds the sense that a lot of change is afoot, and that the group is tottering on the edge of significant change, particularly over the next few months.

With the benefit of a few days to reflect over the events and feelings of the day, I find myself wondering what about these particular set of circumstances make the sense of change deeply personal. It is not like the group has stayed the same over the past few years I have been part of it. As recently as three or so months ago there was a significant departure, which make my initial guess that it is the sheer number of moves in a relatively small time scale that  has largely engendered this feeling. Other possible reasons might be the relative importance of some of the people on the move this time, the season of life I am in, or just a plain, unexplained increased sensitivity to all of this.

Change they say is inevitable but on this occasion I feel like I am being dragged kicking and screaming towards it.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Pedestrian

Lone walker in the distance, grey granite walls, a bit of wetness and a  path I take on my way home everyday from work. Pedestrian, both in the sense of someone walking rather than driving or taking the bus and also the sense of something mundane, repeated and without excitement; Quotidian for what its worth.


For the WordPress photo challenge, Pedestrian.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows

39.Windows

Somewhat fortuitously – long story for another day –  I have somehow found myself working bang in the city centre for most of the last six years, the chief joys of which include being able to stroll leisurely into work in twenty minutes tops, and this – views of the harbour through the window of the canteen on the third floor.

Between the middle ship and the green ship, if you look hard enough you’ll see the remains of seagull poop. For now at least, these two are constants, ships and seagulls.


For the prompt, Windows.

Windows to The Sea

Although I am only three runs into my ParkRun ‘career’, the three blocks of granite on the grassy edge of the Beach Esplanade just before it turns West towards Kings Street have become a beacon of sorts. Situated around the 4.5k mark of the total 5k route they have very quickly come to represent the prospect of rest, relief and completion.

They also mark the halfway point of my morning runs, which again speaks to turning points and the call of home. Finding out they were donated to the city by a company I once worked for added a sense of serendipity to all of that.

Two for the price of one then for this week’s challenge, a grainy low light version from this morning’s run and a clearer one from the archives.

#Corner.

For the WordPress weekly photo challenge, Corner.