Friday, 30 March 2007

The last week.

I look back and a week has just passed. Did you see it pass? I certainly didn’t. I’m still convinced yesterday was Monday and now its Friday. What happened, was it magic?

You know it has been a busy week for me. Work has started in earnest and I’ve lost all sense of time this week with the apparent speed of events. The construction project at the port is about to get underway. There seem to be never ending tasks which need to be completed before we enter onto the site areas and start ripping things up and pouring concrete. Meetings, programmes, permits, gate passes, safety, contract insurances, You name it we’re doing it… (Not all as fast as we would like. You will recall one of my earlier entries showing out site offices. Still not complete!!!). What does this tell me for our super tight schedule for the main works?.... Yes I do worry.

Today is Friday, ‘kick off’ day where we will be having our first formal meeting with the Client and the Contractor to plan the way forward. Not sure at this time of writing if we will adopt a tough stance or to step softly softly. Either way it is my responsibility as the Chief Resident Engineer to make sure we get the job done on time, on cost with a product which will satisfy the Client. Tall order under any circumstances but in 423 days? We’ll have to wait and see. There will be a lot of blood and sweat and tears before then, and not all mine that’s for sure. It’s also a lot of Blog entries. I won’t be bothering you much with the work side unless I need a quick rant, but will endeavor to keep you all interested life in and around Karachi.

Now forget work, tomorrow I’m going fishing. I can tell you however that tomorrow, ‘the one that got away’ will be bigger that any we will catch!!! Have a good weekend.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Sailing to the Isle of Dogs,

Anyone reading this will be forgiven from reading the title for thinking I am in the East End of London on the Isle of Dogs.

But this trip was nothing like going there and yes I'm still alive and kicking in Karachi.

I've had a wonderful day sailing with Shehzad and family. We went about 5 kilometers south of Karachi to a small island and back. The island is also known as Dog Island. Lovely spot, currently uninhabited but scheduled for major development with Dubai investment.

The sailing was great. Light breeze with enough wind to reach 7-9 Knots. We were in Shehzad's boat again. (I've just realised I do not know what is the name of the boat? Will check on next trip).

Shehzad had brought along his son Afnan (in the red t shirt) and three of his Cousins. So Shehraz, 4 younger boys and me, that made 6, plus the Boat man Habab, 7 in total. That's a lot of people on a 27 footer. But the MacGregor was fine. It is only in writing this Blog that I realised there was no confinement or interference with each other on the boat. I'm more and more impressed with her.

Then we had some good wind and the MacG did us proud. Shehzad kept the helm while Habib the boatman relaxed and me, I took a few photos!! Wonderful day, thanks Guys.

Staple Pakastani Food

Few meals are complete in Pakistan without Chapattis. The lovely fresh unleven bread cooked in hot baking ovens. only takes a few minutes and the smell. Wonderful. Goes great with just about anything. Great rice substitute. Look below as I said only a few minutes. The clip is only 40 seconds long and during this time out come 2 chapattis.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Bob Woolmer and Pakistan Politics

There has been a lot in the International press about the death of Bob Woolmer which occurred under suspicious circumstances during Pakistan's World cup bid. The team were a disaster, no doubt about. That they fared so very badly and did not live up to anything like the countries expectations was evident in the total loss of interest in the World Cup..

All I hear on BBC et al, is how it has upset the Pakistani physic etc etc. Hence the problems for its Leaders. No entirely correct is my understanding.

We know there are problems here in Pakistan with came to the for front recently with General Musharif sacking the Chief Justice. This has lead to street protests which seems to be gaining strength. Not often you see Lawyers out on the street protesting, even less often to see non Lawyers supporting them. The Peoples descent here is not so much to do with Cricket but getting on with life. People earning PKR 4,000 (65US$) per month or less, which applies to the vast majority, are finding it hard to survive and there is a growing feeling of frustration with inflation, general conditions and of course the sectarian/extreme activities of certain segments of the population does not help. Little wonder they turn on Musharif as a focal point to all their frustrations. I am sure like in English football when the Country is doing well on the International stage the whole Nation has a 'feel good' factor. Here at this time all this anticipated 'feel good' factor never came and is clearly missing and turned into a mild depression. However we must not loose sight of the main issues and realise that Pakistan has enormous potential in both its people (over 140 Million) and in its inherent strong agricultural sector, domestic and export orientated economies all of which need the strong hand of guidance to make it all work.

That's my tuppence worth. It is not my intention nor will I be commenting on politics very often. I set up this Blog with the intention of it being fun and not as sounding board. Probably will be best remembered for constant poor video cuts!!! But that's something else. Have a good weekend.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Building works Site Offices

Not a very exciting week. Focus locally in the office as been on Pakistan politics with the recent sacking of the Chief Justice and the position of the President in relation to all this. There has only to some degree, any talk about Cricket and the related news of the death of Bob Woolmar. Back to that later.

Work is going well. Various Contracts have been signed up this week and Contractors are on busy moving onto site. All exciting stuff for me. Hence we need our offices soonest.

Now I figured you guys would like some more video. Well not really I know it's the last thing you need right now! Truth is I fancied just adding one more! (and one more and one more later....) Now I know the system works for video so you can all relax, sit back and enjoy even i fit means putting up with some 'rough cuts'.

The video is about the site offices which are under preparation. I did add in a couple of photos to one of my earlier Blogs when I first got to Karachi. Did you bother to read it?... We're refurbishing that old building which was in the photos. We and partitioning the main room to make a couple of new offices and main office area. Also sprucing up the kitchen and toilets. Might even get a western toilet if we are lucky. Asian ones are fine but from my experience westerners find them a bit close to the ground (can easily loose mobile phones as well!) and we need some practice on in siting down but in the getting up!! (sorry about that added attention to detail but it helps gets the job done!!)

We will be housing a team of about 15 persons so we need the room and we need them now!!!

Well you've read the Blog, seen the movie and now you decide. Will the completion of the building works be completed by next week. When completed you can join me of a visual coffee in my office! Milk and sugar anyone?

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Adding video

This last week has flown by. It started on Monday and somewhere I've lost Tues through Thursday. Then it was Friday evening. Never mind things did seem to get done in the office. No major events to report there. In fact I ma keping away from work topics as much as possible and focusing on the general Karachi stuff.

Today I went shopping. Bought some fruits and veg to keep me going next week. Also bought a few DVD's. All copies of course. They are only 90PKR each. That's 75 pence for a new latest movie. Have already watched Blood Diamonds and Open Water 2. I do not have any real scruples about buying copies. The arguement that Companies loose money from piracy is not so strong. Taking into account the avarage Pakistan monthly income is around 100US$ I cannot see a lot of people buying DVD's? even when copied. But leave this agruement alone for now.

Anyway having earlier added in a clip from 'You Tube' to my Blog I've decided to go brave and add a movie of my own. On the way home I took a few shots through the car window. Nothing much but it was a first, for me at least, to do an uploaded movie clip. I've just spent about 2 hours on this and 'cracked it'. Usual thing, once you know it is so soooo simple.

It is just a set of joined clips from my trip home from the shops. No music or proper sound added as yet. Doubt there is anything in the style or content to worry the likes of Clint Eastwood or other producers. Hollywood and Bollywood can rest easy.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Karachi Dry? Is it? I don't think so.

Two posts in one day. Excelling myself.

Most of you know I enjoy the odd beer or two and on rare occasions even three. Well Karachi has its own Brewery and Distillery. I had arrived here thinking Karachi was dry and that the Good Lord had sent me here for a greater good. ( read drying out...). However having had an evening in the British Club (Rose and Crown) which was after 20 days being dry it reconfirmed to me that 'yes' a few beers were not only medicinal but also fun!!!

Needless to say I made a few enquiries about availability of such substances within the Karachi Municipality. I am extremely pleased to inform you that beer and a wide range of spirits are readily available over the counter in Karachi. One can also apply as a non Muslim for a proper drinking permit ( which I will do in due course) but back to the present, yes, it is available in Karachi in an off licence. I must stress that no drinking in public is allowed. Sales of booze include provision of both plastic and paper bags from the shop for carrying such produce to ensure they remain 'incognito'.

I discovered this one shop. Only the one so far up. Located up a side street. See the picture on the right. The photo of the shop is not very clear but it is the one in the middle of the picture with faint strip lights. I know, the photo looks like one of those taken in a TV documentary when on the trail for discovering illicit drug dealing etc but no, this is a 100% genuine legal enterprise. Just has a bad marketing location. Perhaps if you take into consideration the fact that one cannot openly advertise the sale of alcohol in Pakistan then the lack of dazzle and bright lights can be better understood. So maybe it is the converse it is a good location?? Works for me, I found it. Enough said.

Whatever your thinking on the location I can assure you the produce is good. The beer is made in the Murree Brewery in Rawalpindi and is quite excellent. Travels well and is sold chilled at just above freezing. The Whiskey is from the Indus Distillery in Karachi. Sold in plastic bottles!!!!I have yet to try it. So now seems a good idea to stop this Blog and to do just that. Good Night!!

Up the creek without a paddle

I'm getting lazy. Last post was about a week late and so is this one.
I mentioned in an earlier post last week that I had had a super Saturday evening at Khalid's place. Having not partaken that evening of any banned substances I was up bright and early on Sunday morning. A pleasant change from earlier days. No comments please.

So here we were another Sunday in Karachi. What to do?

Well I omitted to mention earlier in my blog that the week before last whilst on my sight seeing I had visited the Marina Club on the Creek situated to the east side of Karachi. Quite an upmarket place with a lot of speed and power boats stacked up on the hard standing.

I'd had a walk around the yard after managing to sweet talk my way round the guard, I had explained to him that I was not yet a member but a 'potential' member so please let me in. Sure enough I did get past the gate and met internal security. They gave me the contact details for the Club Secretary. I wandered off to find him, not in so having gained access I decided to have a walk round and look at all the boats. Loads of boats, some of them superb. Interestingly about 99.9 % were power boats, one hydroplane, you know the type of thing with an engine on the back using the wind to propel it. Sort of thing used a lot in the Mississippi delta. Looked fun.

Then as I went round one large boat I came across a chap standing with a broken weather vane in his hand, just standing there. He was next to a beautiful MacGregor 27. Brand new. After we had a brief chat I discovered it was his boat . Seems he has only recently taken to the sailing lark. He was interesting to chat to and filled me in on the local yachting and sailing scene and related life in Karachi. Soon we had exchanged phone numbers and I before I realised it I was invited for a sail the next Sunday. (That's this Sunday past!! Get it? Are you with me?). Needless to say I jumped at the chance. We said our good byes and see you next week etc etc. I was hoping for the confirmation but not really sure it would come though.

I got back in my car and as the driver was taking me home I reflected on the turn of events. Earlier I was on my own just cruising well sort of cruising if one can cruise round Karachi. Then I met Shehzad. "How about we get together next Sunday and have a sail up the creek? OK?" asked Shehzad. Sitting in the car this had a whole new connotation. Sailing up the creek?!!! ? Is that what he really said or was it 'Up the Creek without a paddle?" Maybe I should not wait for his call but call him to clarify? It could be important as I've been up the proverbial Creek on several occasions in the past (will be subject of separate Blog) and do I really want to do it again?...I don't think so. No creek for me.

Sunday arrived and yes I was off up the creek. Karachi for those of you who do not know is dry. I don't mean alcohol dry, I mean absence of rain. It rains a few days a year. Well today it came early all 14 centimeters of it. It started as Shehzad and I met in the yard. I had arrived early and had to wait inside the gate for him. Not allowed beyond the confines of the guard hut as I was not a member! It was a good thing in some ways as the guard made me a cup of tea and chatted away. He had a lovely mannerism and an ever so very quaint style of english. Almost victorian, courteous and polite with an old fashioned manner, his expression was straight out of a 1950 expat phrase book which made me at once smile but at the same time very relaxed. Then I realised there was some rain. Not real rain but a few spots. Sky was overcast. Slight wind.

Sitting there, waiting enjoying my cuppa and listening to the guard time flew by and before I know it Shehraz arrived. Happy greetings and jumped into his car and off to the jetty. Boat was ready. On we got, off with the lines and watched as the shore receeded. Up the creek we were going. The small drops of rain started reappearing and were getting bigger....

The small drops got bigger and bigger. It was real rain with wind. Not ever warn rain but like the usual UK wet and cold rain that you cannot fail but notice.

We sailed yes you got it in one...'up the creek' but no paddle!!! Put up the sails and boy did she move. We had a wonderful few hours up to the mouth of the creek and back to the club house. The Boat went well. Reaching 7 knots in a force 3-4. We only had up a Genoa which was partially reefed.

The MacGregor 27 is a light displacement boat cleverly designed to be good under sail or engine. Ballast is by water in the lower tank with a drop fin skeg for sailing. It means you can use the boat as a sailor or speed boat. The advantage of the skeg is when lifted one can get right up onto the shore.

Shehraz who obviously loves his boat had brought along his two children who thoroughly enjoyed the trip. It was great to watch them on the wheel. Both were keen sailors but I did detect a clear preference for fishing... I was asked so many questions about bottom fishing and trawling it was only to obvious. I was not sure I believed the size of all the fish caught on previous trips!! They had got bigger and as the trip progressed.

We had a great day. Hope I get the chance to do it again. Up the creek without a paddle can be a lot of fun!! Who knows maybe those fish really are that big? Till my next blog.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Late posting for last Saturday

Had a lazy Saturday followed by a super evening. Khalid my colleague at work had invited me to a small family party. Started at 9pm. Small was not the small as I had imagined for a gathering. There were upwards of 75 people at least!!! It was a family evening to celebrate the 'coming of age' of his daughter. The centre of the evening was listening to her read several pages from the Koran. I did not bring my Camera which was a big mistake. Next time! It was a wonderful evening with everyone wearing traditional dress. The ladies were stunning in their flowing gown, absolutely stunning. And the men so elegant in long flowing Pakistan traditional shirts and 'baggy' pants. Sure there is a proper name for the costume...

But most important was the warmth and friendliness of every one. I reflected that sadly we have lost something in UK with hospitality and sense of goodness compared to what I was experiencing here in Karachi in Khalid's house as a complete outsider.

Thanks Khalid and family, thanks very much.

p.s. I'm going to get me an outfit for sure!!!

Karachi Video

Fantastic find. Captures the flavour of Karachi. Many thanks to 'Tamjidaijazi' at You Tube

Monday, 5 March 2007

Sunday. Walkabout

No work today so I decided to get up early and have a walk round the neighbourhood before it gets hot. First thing I need to find on my travels is a café or restaurant to get some breakfast. But all the shops are shut. Few places open at this time. I started walking. With so little open I settled for a simple local Phatan coffee shop. All the customers, men, were sitting around drinking tea and coffee.

Breakfast was easy. No real choice, there was tea with condensed milk and sugar and fried chapattis and a fried egg. Sounds ugh but it was really tasty. Not much hygiene in the place but at 26 rupees what do you expect?

Now on with the walk. I decided to follow the main road down from the café and wonder my way back to the beach front and home. First off I came across some fruit sellers. Lovely display with a wide range of colours and beautifully presented. However I was full from breakfast and did not fancy carrying around a few kilos of fruit. There are a lot of old buildings scattered about some beautifully restored. I carried on and passed one lady walking the other way and then reached the beach front. Karachi is holding its annual Flower Festival and I had a look round. Some lovely flowers and a good array of orchids and pitcher plants.

Finished the show and headed home.

A week in Karachi

God this week has gone quickly!

Only yesterday it seemed like Monday and today it’s Saturday. Must be getting old quicker that I thought. And now it’s arrived. The big day when I move from the hotel to the Condo.

The day started at the Hotel. Once breakfast was over I had to get into action. Ok up and out!! Packed my gear, one last check of the cupboards, bathroom and of course the hotel fridge!! Nothing left behind so off I go. Reception organize a porter. My stuff appears down to the lobby and believe it or not, at the same time my driver appears out of thin air ready with the car. Good omen me thinks. Off we go.

Amazing so far all has gone according to my time table. Having departed the hotel at 9.30 am we (me and my driver!) arrived as agreed at the Condo at 10.30. Oh yes, I did a quick stop at the supermarket to buy some bread and bits. Interesting all the staff are male. Only females in the shop are shopping!!! Shops here seem to have everything even non-alcoholic beer!!!!! I’ve left that firmly on the shelf. No way I’m buying that stuff. If you ask me it’s a daft idea to be selling pretend beer especially when alcohol is banned!!! Completely stupid, I mean if you don't drink the stuff why pretend you do!!!!!!

On arrival at the Condo I’m greeted by my Land Lady who is still sorting out her final bits and pieces. Fussing about to complete the paint job etc. (Hope it is quick as I want her out ASAP. I did tell her she could stay on a few days to get things finalized, just hope that is taking a few days and not weeks. Could be difficult if more than a couple of days).

Her first question of the day “How are you and would I like a cup of Tea, I’ve got one ready?”. “Fine thanks. Of course, I love my cuppa!!!!”. Off she goes and within seconds reappeared with a steaming hot cup of Liptons.

But just as I’m about to sit down and enjoy my tea my mobile rings. It’s the Internet provider. “Can we come round this morning and sort out your new connection?”. Ok I need to check where is the existing cable coming in. I knew there was one because the Land Lady had told me so. Not in the lounge so I checked the bedrooms and finally located it in a corner of the back bedroom. Good. Done, I’ll be ready for Mr Internet when he turns up. Now to back to my tea.

Just sat down again and there’s another knock on the door. Up we get, tea will have wait. Open the door and there standing before me is Mr Internet himself, complete with briefcase and forms. After a quick introduction we agreed on a service package. Fastest connection he could offer was 200kps unlimited usage for 1,850 PKR per month. (that’s about 30US$ to you!!!). “But sorry we can’t connect you till Monday’. Seems the finance department has to set up my account before hardware can be authorized. ‘OK, thanks see you Monday’.

Now for my tea. As I’m about to sit down the door bell rings again. Open the door and there standing before me is Mr Estate Agent, he is also complete with briefcase and forms!! Well finished with him and yes, you’ve guessed it, my tea is cold! Time for a new pot. Not to be. I’m informed its lunch time!! The morning has just flown by. Is this old age again or my being busy.

Well after all this weekend I’ll take a quick look round the place to see what is the general layout and locality. I know I’ve seen it before but again now I see it in a slightly different way, perhaps in the knowing that I will be here for 12-15 months. The front balcony overlooks the sea and main beach road. I

can faintly see in the distance the crowds of people walking along the beach and there are horses and camels available for rides.

We've even got our own communal garden. To the back of the condo there are more condos and a lot of open spaces. Also directly behind the condo is the School of Architecture set in a lovely old sandstone building. I’m told it was build somewhere else in the Sindh province and recently was dismantled and re-erected in its current location. Might one of these days go and see if I can get a look round it. Its proportions are quire magnificent and the sand stone texture fits in so well.

The interior of the condo is spacious and you can get some idea what it’s like from the photos below.

So that’s it, done, I’ve done the internet, done the estate agent, done the unpacking, done lunch and now its time for that elusive Tea. Only thing left to do this evening. Sort out which one of the 99 TV channels I’m gong to watch! Think I’ll make that decision while drinking my Tea. On second thoughts perhaps I should have bought that non alcoholic beer after all

Bye for now.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Project Site Office

Things are moving slowly along. Should move from our temporary offices in the Engineering Department to the new site project offices in the next few weeks. Went over for a quick visit yesterday to check on progress. Going OK.

The building is a large block building with high ceilings and large rooms. Should be ideal.

Only things to be done before we move are erection of some partitions to make a meeting room and some offices and a quick paint job. Then we will also add in a kitchenette and spruce up the toilets. After that sort out the communications to ensure we have internet and telephones. Once that’s done we can more in.

As I say the building will be fine, but the surroundings are something else!!!!!!. The area is currently a dust bowl and covered in rubbish. It seems I am the only one who notices the muck and plastic bags etc. Anyway it won’t remain for long like this as the whole area is to be transformed into a new port access area for the trucks delivering containers for export.

The secret to "Success" ..... is never, never, give up trying.