Days of thunder

February 24, 2010

I spent my youth in the delusion that I was a poet of note, one who inflicts artificial hurt on himself to write ten good lines.  I thought Rilke wanted me to.  Inspiration was everywhere, but undoubtedly it came in the road less traveled.  It was to be found in simpler things; in the good eye of a half blind girl on the bus, the sigh of a bitch in heat, a boy with a schoolbag half his size, a photograph, a memory, a yearning.

I was 14 when I read Milan Kundera’s “Life is Elsewhere”. It was distressing then that I lacked the intellectual maturity and the experiences that would naturally come in later years (I hoped), to fully understand what he wanted to say, but for all my literary pretensions, my sensibilities permitted one good line out of this book:

                You haystacks smoking in the mist

                Burning the incense of her heart

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Work in Terengganu

February 5, 2010

My company was just awarded a lucrative contract (I led the team), and to execute it, I have to be in terengganu for much of the beginning of the year, missing holidays & weekends. I stay in a rented apartment in Kuantan, the state capital of Pahang, by far the largest town on the eastern seaboard, which doesn’t mean much when the population is barely 500,000, though it hosts a couple of starbucks, a bowling alley, 2 hypermarkets and a golf course.

I learn to drive slow, running counter to my city-boy urges, getting stuck behind trucks & tankers, and kampong drivers with no urgency to get anywhere.  With the view this good, it’s more peaceful to just slow down and start enjoying the drive.  This contract covers 4 oil & gas plants, stretching from Gebeng, Pahang to Kemaman & Kertih, Terengganu.  From my apartment I head north to Gebeng in about 30 minutes, and kemanan, where my regional office is at, is a further 30 minutes, crossing the state line. Kertih would be another hour away. At most times the roads hug the coast, lined with coconut trees and sparsely populated villages, passing entrances to starred resorts where welcome drinks with little umbrellas & 2night/3day packages beckon. Stalls would sell dried seafood products, and roadside restaurant shacks are stocked with coconut juices and promises of eastern sea breezes. 

In addition to these 4 plants, we have existing business here in the east coast, and our entire staff + help from other branches + contract workers had to work 16, 20 hour days everyday, Patrick and I found ourselves yesterday having to fill in for some very labor intensive work, when no one else was available.  We donned fire-retardant suits, safety shoes, work aprons, chemical gloves, safety helmets & face shields in the hottest day of the year, moved 1.12 tons of chemicals by hand (in 20kg carboys), first from a warehouse to the base of a cooling tower, then moving the entire load up, and then pouring them in. 2 middle aged men, both senior managers, risking our backs and straining never before used muscles, making our contribution.

Postscript(next day): My entire body hurts like a muthafucker.