Tour of Duty, Again


flying

(Caught this shot with my phone on the way for an overseas trip. Somehow I had the dread thoughts of MH370 but all ended well when nothing out of the ordinary happened and we landed safely)

Firstly sorry for missing out on the regular posts for past 2 weeks. You see, it is the time of the year when I clean up my drawers in the office, prepare the monthly budget for my wife, hunt for new clothes / shoes and prepare myself for a painful good-byes to my kids (my precious ones in an eerie Gollum voice).

It’s time for tour of duty where I pack up and go for onsite work in another country for couple of months. Hopefully, I will have time to work on the blog but it is a wishful thinking – 2 weeks into the tour and I am still struggling to do one post. It is almost 9.30 pm as I drafting this post and we have not taken our dinner (my stomach making loud noise protesting).

And I know the team work on the weekends, forgoing sleep, water and food to get the job done. Some of them are coughing and sneezing rather badly, so that put things in a different perspective as well. I know how bad it is to be working with tonnes of pressure and with a stuffy nose (or a bountiful of malaria parasite in the blood stream a few years ago).

It will be living hell – not because the clients like to play the role of the devil (some of them are). Most of them are humans too and they understand the constraints that we facing too. After all, we are all in the same boat, with the same destination, timeline and deadlines. It is living hell primarily because we put ourself into a situation where we want to give the best in what we are doing (a dose of “Malaysia Boleh” sprinkle into it) and try to out do what we have done the day before.

But all is not lost – there is always a silver lining in every clouds. One thing for sure is that we will always learn something new and it can be work related or not. Don’t laugh but this time, I might learn something that is related to washing. To be more precise, washing my clothes with the washing machine. You see, we are not staying in a hotel where we can just chuck our dirty laundry to one end, fill up the form and come back to see the clothes all washed up and ironed and stacked away neatly on the table.

We are staying in an apartment where it can accommodate a larger number of us and is more cost effective to the customer. There is a laundrette nearby but the owner, an old lady often closes the shop before we come back from work (which is usually very late). And it is expensive and slow as well – it takes a week for the clothes to be back, unless you give her extra $$$ and you will get a faster return. So, when I saw my colleague washing his clothes in the apartment washing machine, I asked him about it and he showed me how to get this done. Don’t get me wrong, there is washing machine back home too but I had never tried to wash clothes myself. It is uneconomical. Why waste time, water and electricity when this can be done once everyone had put in their dirty clothes. And this usually would be handled by my wife or my sister.

So, this was considered my first time “venturing” out on my own with the washing machine. And I have already one washing and it was not that bad (I loved when it started to spin on hyper-speed) and looking forward to do my own washing in the coming weeks. I can save up money and get my clothes the very next day.

Another thing I had learned (although this could be very old news to some of you out there) is to set my phone as a hotspot so that I can get internet connection for both my smartphone and my laptop at the same time.

Got to go now – please expect irregular blog posts in the coming months

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Missing Hotel Life


Whenever I am on an overseas assignment, I have always stayed in a hotel.

(The service apartment that I stayed in Bangkok, overseeing the Chao Praya river – so far one of the best of all the ‘hotels’ that I have stayed)

I have stayed in 4 star hotels and I have also stayed in “rumah tumpangan” alike cheap hotels. It all depends on the country, budget and time frame of my stay.

Staying in a hotel has its perks – security, room service, regular house keeping, in-house laundry service, cable TV and concierge services. Nothing beats the comfort of having someone to do some work for you with a smile after a long day at work. For some hotels which have restaurant and pubs, it is blessing in disguise – we don’t have to walk far for food or beer and if we get so drunk, bed is just couple of steps away.

However Iran proved to be a challenge on itself – they do have good hotels (so I was made to believe) but we decided to rent an apartment instead. It was cheaper and big enough to accommodate all of us. Besides, it is a good place to stay in especially on cold nights and we have a fully furnished kitchen to do our cooking when it is just too cold to venture out especially for dinner.

However, staying in an apartment proved to be a challenge and the main three ones are:-

1. Own Housekeeping

That’s right – no room service to turn up your bed or to vacuum the carpet or to clean the bathroom. We have to do it ourselves.

We could always hire someone to do the cleaning for us. It cost about R200,000 but after looking at the quality of cleaning (the cleaner just do ‘touch and go’ kind of cleaning and asks us to provide meals for them), we decided to do it ourselves. It is cheaper and much cleaner if we do it ourselves. However for all the guys in the apartment, doing housework is something alien to them. Some of us have not lifted a finger to do housework when we are back in Malaysia.

But here in Iran, we not only have to vacuum the carpet but we also have to mop the floor, wash the bathroom, clean the table tops and chairs, clean the windows and kitchen. That itself takes at least 3 – 4 hours to complete and by the time we finished, we are almost dropping death from tiredness (salute our wives and moms to be doing the housework on daily basis!). Of course, we wished to have cold beers after a hard day house work but this is Iran where the only beer that we get is the non-alcoholic beer.

So house cleaning is one chore that we wish to put off for next week or the week thereafter.

(Here is another room from my stay in Bangkok – 2 separate beds for one person and this even nearer to a large supermarket and a famous red light area)

2. Own washing

Thankfully we have laundrette nearby so that it was a big relieve when it comes to washing our clothes. It is not cheap but we rather get our shirts and pants washed at the laundrette than trying to do it on our own and get crumpled shirts and pants (not mentioning, not properly washed clothes – sorry but we simply don’t have the patience).

However, we decided to wash smaller items like our undies, handkerchiefs and socks on our own (perhaps to save some money or to get some exercise or to avoid the lady at the local laundrette from freaking out seeing our “rainbow” coloured undies, I don’t really know).

For that very reason, I brought extra, extra undies, socks and handkerchiefs for this trip but there is always a day in the week where I need to soak them in soap water and wash them (we don’t have a washing machine since we have laundry service). Washing is the difficult part but drying is not. The air in Iran is so dry that a fully wet towel will be bone dry within several hours.

3. Own cooking

We have a fully furnished kitchen so we do try our hands on some bachelor alike messy cooking (in other words, plenty of frying foodstuffs like eggs, sausages, nuggets, etc). As much as possible, we try to eat out but eating out is a big problem here – 1. There is not much choice (almost every restaurants has the same menu – sandwich, pizza, fried chicken, sandwich, pizza, sandwich, pizza…you get the idea) and 2. Sometimes it is too cold to venture out – we can hardly walk out couple of meters without freezing our “…toot…” off.

If it has been a hotel, we just need to pick up the phone and call for room service but in this apartment, we need to pick up the frying pan and decide what to fry for dinner. Once in a while we try to be creative and quite often the taste becomes unbearable. We have to swallow our pride and eat as if it is very tasty when fellow colleagues comes over, look at our messed up creation and asked “how’s the taste?” in a “fear factor” look in their eyes.

Staying in a hotel is good but so does staying in an apartment when one needs to do their own washing, cooking and cleaning. Damn, what I am saying here? I miss hotel life….sob

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