Monday, 30 March 2015

First Trip Offshore

Arrived back from offshore on Saturday, came off the platform earlier than planned as the company wanted me to get a course I had booked for May done sooner.

Having gone offshore and not knowing what to expect, or at least not knowing what to expect compared to what I had previously been used to in Beryls and Forties, it is safe to say that it was a great first trip.

The guys were great, the food was great, the ice cream freezer was wanting to see me more often.

I also found that my bed was probably the most comfy bed I have had ever in my offshore career. I was quite use to taking a few nights to get into any sort of decent sleep, but here it was from 1st night. Television was provided by OSN and there was a reasonable selection of British TV /English language programs and more than what I expected to get in the offshore Gulf. Was unusual at first also having my cabin and office as one with a concertina wall between them, but after a couple of days never gave it much thought.

The other thing that really made a difference was the bridge links, the cluster I have is 5 structures all bridged in a T shape. so going out for a walk around the place actually means you can go for a walk. Don't know the length of the bridges or the size of the structures (still trying to find the drawings!), but I did time how long it took to cross one of them at my normal walking pace and it took 90 seconds. The main processing platform in the cluster is a fair monster, and there is so much space on it compared to the compact "squeeze everything in" Forties.

The other big difference was the interfield shuttling of personnel. This was done a boat, and then the guys were basket transferred up to the platform. The boat they use is called the Seacor Leopard, has a top speed of 42Knots and can take 150 Passengers (+12 Crew)  and can be seen in the videos below;

Looking around the field it is amazing to see so many platforms, tankers, FSO's from all different companies. There was definitely more than I expected to see.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

First 24 hours solo!

Having arrived offshore on the 15th I had one of the OCMs leading the way on the first day and then on the 16th my new back to back came out for a day just to share any other insights into the operation. He went off yesterday and left me to it.

Safe to say made it through the first solo 24 hours without wanting to call it quits, so things must be going alright.

As expected the usual teething problems exist, i.e. Account permissions on various systems need tweaking, remembering the meeting schedule, remembering what time meal breaks are etc. and then there is the Cisco video conferencing system and how to use it.

It helps that the supervisors know what they are doing, although with so much transformation happening in the business they are also trying to keep up with the changes.

At least I have found the biscuits, and soft drinks. I have even surprised myself and been eating a lot of apples again. The cabin boy does a good job keeping the place in ship shape state and regularly tops up my supply of water bottles.

Camp boss is on the ball as well, and only wants to keep the boss happy!

Food is pretty good here, good selection at lunch and dinner. Don't really do breakfast as I'm not ready to eat at that time of day. One thing I do miss is the bacon rolls and toast at 9am on the Beryl Bravo!

Anyway, slowly getting to grips with all the systems and processes. Certainly different have multiple platforms and bridges between them. Makes for a pleasant walk.

I'm sure the trip will be over before I know it.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

What a day....made it offshore though!

D-day arrived this morning. When I woke up it was still not 100% whether I was going to make it offshore or not due to all the passes required etc.

First thing on the agenda was to go to the bank. I had opened new bank accounts last week, but didn't know what the account numbers where or the IBAN etc. I needed to get this details to finance for the payroll close, otherwise I would probably have to use UK accounts and didn't have all the various info for those an given the time differences and different work week it might have been a struggle to get things for the deadline.
Anyway, I took my offshore bag with me this morning just in case I wouldn't have enough time to go back to the apartment to drop the car etc. and headed off to the office. Parked in the multi storey and then walked to the bank. It wasn't open for another 30 mins so just sat outside and watched the rush hour go by. I did see the bank agent in the banks own car park so he knew I was in to see him. At 7.30am on the dot the bank opened and in I went. Just as I went in the agent was coming out to get me, so at least they are on the ball. Wouldn't expect that in the UK!
In I went and the agent went to see if the various cards Had arrived, but they weren't due until that afternoon. He thought I had received the 'pickup' text message and was a bit confused. Once I explained that all I wanted was the account numbers as I was heading away that afternoon it all made sense to him.

Walked back to the office, and then went and got the relevant form off the system filled it in and sent it off to the relevant party in finance.

At this point I bumped into the travel advisor who handed me a temporary QP pass, a local vantage card. She then took me to get my PPE issued and a travel bag. Hat, ear defenders, safety glasses, tinted safety glasses, gloves, safety shoes and two pairs of coveralls. One thing that immediately stood out was how lightweight the coveralls were compared to North Sea. Maybe a sign of the temperature to come!
 As we were checking I had everything she noticed I did not have the original plastic survival certificate card and only had a printed copy. She said I would need a signed dispensation from the ops director. She printed out the form filled it in a stamped it and then we headed up to get it signed. He was in a meeting with the ops superintendent and neither her or the department assistant wanted to go and disturb them. I said I'll go in as we were in a rush and needs must. Knocked on the door, walked in, made an apology, got the form signed and left. That's it ready to go now.
Picking up my kit bag and heading for the lift, checked my email on my phone and noticed that finance had replied and said they needed a wet inked signed and scanned copy of the bank details, so had to go and log back into the system print, sign, scan and send the details. Good job I had looked at my mail!

Now I'm off, down the lift to the basement, jumped in the company bus round to the multi storey and into the car back to the apartment.

Into the apartment and dropped off my mobile phones, checked nothing was accidentally left out that could go off (although I'm sure the cleaners would sort it out) and phoned a taxi to take me to the heliport.

Dropped the car key into reception as one of my colleagues was going to use it while I was away as he doesn't have his car yet. Then waited for the taxi. He arrived on time and off we went.

Traffic wasn't too bad and took about 30 minutes. Arriving at the heliport, I headed in not sure what to expect. I had chatted with one of the guys on the platform the night before and he gave me a run down on what to expect, but over the phone descriptions don't always give you the same picture in your mind as actual. Anyway, walked in and the medical desk to left is where you fill out a recent travel declaration and the medic takes your temperature. Think this was introduced following the Ebola issues. After this just sat and waited for the flight to be called. Got speaking to a guy also from the UK who was heading out to one of the drill rigs, but was one the same flight, so he also filled me in on some other bits and bobs. Check in was called, although not very clear, as was being called through security. Bags checked, safety tickets and pass was checked but despite the beep from the body scanner there was no frisk. There was a bit of chaos at this point as there were two flights to one rig and some people got mixed up. More by luck I ended up in the right gate as my flight was double stopping via the rig then to my platform.
There were 11 on the flight (seats 12), and one of the ground crew put on the safety briefing, then handed out the life jackets. It was time to go and we headed out to the helicopter. It felt extremely odd having no survival suit, no EBS and just wearing jeans and a polo shirt. The helicopter was 3 rows of 4, the passenger behind the pilot also wears a head set to talk to the pilot and rely any concerns or instructions in both directions. It was surprisingly comfy. And the chairs were better than the UK flights and certainly had more cushion. Taking off we flew over Doha and it gave a completely different view of the city, and made the roads make more sense and even managed to work out and spot the apartment. After about 15 minutes we were over the sea and I promptly fell asleep to only be woken when we were approaching the first stop.

Stopped at the rig, 9 off 8 on, then over to my new home. Gets off and followed the other guy down to admin meets the medic, heliadmin and the guy standing in as OIM who I was taking over from. Watched the induction videos went for a walk to the accommodation facilities and muster points then went and met a couple of others, had a general chat, evening meeting then dinner.

I was now needing my bed so headed to the cabin, and had to check if we were wifi'd up and could get online. Needless to say the answer is yes, hence this update!

And that brings a close the first day. Tomorrow get out and have a walk around my 4 new platforms, I'll give the flare platform a miss though. I can see it from a distance that's enough!

No complaints so far....suffice to say it's different to what I've been on in the North Sea. Warmer that's for sure. Must be before the induction video says in the summer to drink 5 litres a day and add salt to your food...

Until the next time!

heading offshore for 1st trip!

As the title says, I'm heading offshore today for my first trip to All Shaheen.

This means there may be a lack of blog posts for a couple of weeks while I work out what's going on!

S'later.....

Friday, 13 March 2015

Villaggio Mall..........and 1st petrol station visit!

Today, me and the neighbour took a run out to the Villaggio Mall in the Aspire Zone for a bite to eat and to get some more clothes for offshore.

Arriving at the mall we headed in the nearest entrance and walking in the door it just completely makes you forget you are effectively in the desert!

With sky painted roof, the street lights the shop designs, everything just 'works.'

Walking round there is also the fun fair, ice rink, cinema, go karts, laser tag and a whole host of things other than just shopping.
Ice Rink
Fun Fair Area
We stopped by "The Butchers Shop & Grill" for a rather tasty Scampi starter, followed by a 10oz Sirloin. I felt that the food was very reasonably priced, the steak for example was 86QAR which is approx 16GBP.

Took a wander round the mall and popped into various stores looking for some decent cargo shorts to take offshore. Managed to find some in Quicksilver and in GAP. Many of the UK familiar high steet stores can be found in the mall, even Boots and Marks And Spencer!

There is of course also a section of the mall where all the premium luxury brands could be found, and there were also some others "opening soon" including Cartier.

After getting what we headed out, I knew there was a petrol station towards the end of Salwa Road somewhere so headed off on another mystery tour through the streets, but found the petrol station and filled up. Well, actually the station attendants filled the car up, I didn't even get out the car. I think this is the cheapest petrol that I have ever bought. 65Litres = 56QAR or 10.40GBP = 16pence/litre (currently approx 127pence / litre in the UK).

After this stopped in by a few of the car garages to. Being Friday, some of brands were closed, e.g. Mercedes, Audia and the Harley Davidson motorbike shop. Maybe something to do tomorrow!

In the Renault garage they had the new electric Twizy. With its scissor doors and its 2 seater front and back arrangement, it was an odd wee thing. Anyway, had to have a seat in it and it did feel weird. I don't think I would feel safe driving this round the streets of Doha!
Renault Twizy

In the garages we looked at all the big 4x4s and must say the Ford Expedition was quite impressive and would certainly be high on my list of options if I was to buy another 4x4. It was BIG with full kitted out DVD screens from and rear and all sorts of other gadgets. Mind you, there was a rather nice Audi R8 V10 in Matt Sepang Blue with Carbon Blades sitting outside the Audi dealership..hmmm.....unfortunately missed the Aston Martin garage junction, so never got a look in there!




[TripAdvisor Contribution] Butcher's Shop and Grill - Great Spot of Lunch in the Mall

Popped into the Villaggio Mall for the first time today and fancied some lunch, after having a quick look around the food outlets near the entrance we came in, we settled on this place.

The staff were friendly and service was good. I had a Scampi Starter followed by a 10oz Sirloin Steak, Medium Rare with fries.

It was cooked correctly and tasted great. I felt if was good value for money compared to my hometown, The steak was 86QAR (or about 16GBP).

I would certainly eat here again.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d1983785-r259294600-The_Butcher_Shop_Grill-Doha.html#

Thursday, 12 March 2015

A busy day today! Twice across the city and offshore courses...

Yesterday, other than just "another day in the office", it was eye test day for the Qatar Driving License. There were quite a number of staff and family members all meeting at the Al Rayah Driving School for this part of the process.

Leaving the office a bit later than originally planned due to being in a course, me plus one headed over through the traffic with Waze happily navigating us there with backup map provided by the office. We arrived bang on time to meet the rest of the crowd.

We were handed a pre-completed form and ushered one at a time into the eye test room, handing over the UK driving license and the form to the official, took a seat and looked at an image projected on a screen.

The image was simply a line of 5 letters, and the official flicked the image back and forth between two sets of letters and we had to read back what we could see covering one eye at a time. Job done. and we left.

Today, we got an email from the company official saying our Qatar driving license was ready to be collected from the Government Affairs department. That was quick!

Fortunately the UK license is directly transferable to local license without the need for anything other than the eye test. It was absolutely manic outside the test centre with people coming and going for "proper" driving tests, I'm surprised it isn't an accident black spot outside it!

Today, I was over at the Qatar Science and Technology Centre again for what was meant to be a meeting all day. Having just been there on Monday, I gave myself a bit more time, took basically the same route, but this time didn't miss the entrance in the roadworks, so arrived with time to spare.

The QSTC is quite an impressive building as you can see below;
QSTC with Tech Park 1 and Tech Park 2 on the left and Right
Behind where I was standing to the take the picture, there is also the Qatar National Convention Centre, which as you can see is also another imposing building.
Qatar National Convention Centre
Just as the session got going, I had a phone call from my boss saying that I needed to get back to the office as they had arranged my H2S course for going offshore and also needed to get a picture taken for the QP Pass for offshore. They are desperate to get me out there as soon as possible and aiming for Sunday afternoon.

Shot back to the office after a few hours, picked up my driving licenses (Qatar and UK) from Government Affairs and then met my boss at his desk and he took me down to get the photo for the QP Pass. He also handed me joining instructions for the H2S course which was back across town at the Qatar International Safety Centre (QISC).

Below is what the Qatar Driving License looks like.


The QISC covers various courses like fire team, offshore survival, MEM and of course H2S. The centre was just like the centres in the UK.

The course was also OPITO approved, and covered the basic theory around H2S and its hazards/responses, a 13 minute video summarising the discussion, as well as practical exercises on donning escape sets and escape hoods. The donning exercises had to be completed within 30 Seconds from sound of alarm to pass. There was also a 22 question multiple choice assessment with an 18/22 pass rate. The course would normally take 3 to 4 hours depending on how many persons were attending, but I was just there myself so manage to get through it completely in about 1.5 hours. I found it quite amusing when he asked during the course what my job role was and when I said OIM, it was like royalty had just walked into the room, and at the end of the course he got one of his colleagues to come and take a photo of him next to me! I received my certificate and headed off back to the apartment and then photographed the cert and emailed it to the company offshore travel department so they had it ready for Sunday morning to get the offshore pass sorted out as a priority.

Leaving the QISC, I went a slightly different route through the industrial centre, and met some of the largest pot holes that could have easily swallowed a small plane. Fortunately I was paying attention, as the roads have been perfect here, so I was quite happily bombing along then these things appeared. Think these 'streets' had been given up on in the industrial estate and all the trucks have churned up the tarmac. Just glad I was in a large 4x4 and not a car!

A busy day and the most miles covered back and forth across Doha, so needless to say the sofa is such a welcoming object this evening...


Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Quiet Traffic, Villas, More Apple and Survivals

Traffic was unusually quiet this morning on the way to work. Everything was moving relatively smoothly compared to previous days.I though this was maybe just a one off event, until it was time to go home, it took only about 20-25 minutes tops. Sure it will be back to chaos tomorrow.

Took take receipt of my company provided iPad, for those who know me, you will understand the pain I must be feeling!

Trying to get my passes and required tickets all in place so I can get offshore. On the good news, my UK FOET is accepted, so won't need to do a local survival, that just leaves me to get my H2S ticket, so waiting for the dates to come back for that. The QP Pass is also required to get offshore and will also need a new Vantage card as the system here is independent of the UK Vantage system.

Tomorrow, heading off for the eyetest for the driving license and that should allow me to get my UK driving license transferred to a local Qatar one.

On the villa front, had a face to face with the housing manager at work and confirmed with him my selection. they will be getting the place made ready tomorrow and will be able to get the keys towards the end of the week or early next week. Then I'll be able to go in and work out exactly what I'm going to do with the place and what I need to get done before my shipment arrives late April.

I even bought a 5M tape today from the supermarket to measure the rooms etc!

Another good day.......

Monday, 9 March 2015

Roadworks, Banking and Villas

Today, I had a course over at the Technology Centre. started at 7am. So, looked at the map and could see it was pretty easy to get to, along Salwa Road, hang a right onto Doha Expressway, then hang a left to the Tech Park a few miles down the expressway.

Thought I would leave at 6.15 as that should give me enough time. Got up this morning, was ready and out the door and in the car at 06:10. proceeding along the Salway Road, missed the Expressway. the turn off was ages before the actual road, so I didn't think it looked right and though there was maybe another junction just ahead. So, next thing I'm over the express way flyover and looking down the express way it was chock a block. Looking at the map I elected to just follow the road that ran parallel to the expressway. It was surprisingly quiet. Got to the turn off of the tech park, and due to all the roadwaorks missed that exit. It looked more like a roadworks entrance than the actual turn off. By now it was 6:50. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to find my way into the tech park, going round in circles, even got to the staff gate, but the guard turned me round and gave me a map to find the visitor gate. Anyway, eventually finds it, parks up and then headed over to the class. I wan't even the last one there and there were more to follow some 20 minutes later.

Looks like I am there again on Thursday, so hopefully won't make the same mistake again!

The way back was a lot easier into the town centre. Parked the car in the car park and took a walk along the road to the City Mall to go into HSBC to set up bank accounts. Fortunately I was prepared and had my Residents Permit, Passport, Letter from Work, so it was a simple case of discuss what accounts I wanted (USD and QAR), turns out although the account carried fees for certain activity, employess of some companies have the fees waived and the bank guy simply told me to write on the charge sheet 'No Charges' and then sign. They would send me a text to my Qatar mobile in a couple of days and I can go in and collection the cards, account details and set up all the internet banking etc. Short, sweet and painless!

After this, time was pressing, so headed back across town to the apartment. Grabbed a bite to eat, namely some grilled Cathedral City cheddar on toast , a can of Blood Orange San Pellegrino and headed out onto the balcony to eat. If it wasn't for the sun beating down, I could have been eating some lunch in Aberdeen!

The relocation rep turned up to take me out to visit my two allocated villas to choose from. They couldn't have been more different;

The first was in Al Nasim and was a large walled garden villa. The rooms were big, the bedrooms/kitchen/hallways were all a great size.

The second was in Mirage Villa Compound. This was a more modern villa, large 3 floors, but will small outdoor space in comparison.

To me the choice was clear and the rep said that getting one like the first is a rare opportunity and can't be over looked. So, dropped an email back later one saying I would take the first one.

Can't wait to get the keys soon and then for my shipment to arrive and get in and get it ready. Have a feeling I will need to be investing in furniture!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Resident Premit process complete, and traffic mayhem

At last the residency process is now complete, not bad going considering it only took 1 week from arriving so fair play to the company's government affairs team for all the rushing about, appointments and making it so.

My passport was updated to include the new residency stickers, multi entry/exit visa etc. I also took receipt of my new resident permit/id card.

Now that is in place it makes things a lot easier, e.g. applying for bank accounts, applying for the QP Pass for getting offshore, liquor license and a whole host of other things. Basically you need an Id card for everything. I think they next thing that team are organizing is the transfer of my UK Driving License to a local Qatar Driving License, should happen this week sometime.

Today was also the worst traffic I had seen yet. On the way home from the office, we were about half way home and heading across Al Khaleej Street and everything was basically gridlocked more than usual. Eventually gets to Guest Palace roundabout to find that the transport police had closed the road leading to the underpass and just turning everyone around. Gave up trying to get back towards the apartment so just headed into the town again near work and went to look at more serviced apartments with a colleague to allow the traffic to ease off for a couple of hours. Also grabbed a bite to eat in Applebees American Grill in the City Centre Mall and had a pretty reasonable steak and chips.

Also popped into the Toyota Garage in the Mall to check out prices as my colleague was thinking of finding his own car with his allowance rather than take a company car.

So after the apartment walk and bite to eat, headed back, but the traffic was still mental. Ended up taking a wide berth of the city centre and headed up over the Doha Expressway and then back down the Salwa Road just to keep clear of all the bedlam. No idea why the road was closed, but dare say something will appear on one of the websites.

Tomorrow should also be interesting, heading to the Technology park in another area of town that I have not been to yet, and will also have no navigator. So, if no update in the next week or so, you may need a search party!

Probably end up Waze to the rescue again!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Meet the Scammers!

Bizarre encounter....oh yes they are the local scammers!


Went out for a walk to see where one of my offered compounds is as it was just round the corner and see what it looked like from the outside etc. etc.

Anyway, on the way back was enjoying my stroll and just outside the Radison Blue, a white car went past, slowed down and the guy in the passenger seat waved, but due to the traffic they couldn't just stop, so they carried on another 30m and pulled into a small road junction that went into an office complex.

I was straight on 'alert', but kept walking and as I got closer the passenger got out the car and started walking towards me. Tall skinny european looking in a shirt and tie.

Before he got too close I shouted at him "You lost or something?" so that he knew I wasn't passive. I had a look at the car which was about 5m away and could only see one other person in the driver seat.

The guy starts, asking where the new Airport was. I said, you are on the Salwa Road so just keep going towards the centre and he will start to see the signs, and then pointed in the general direction of the airport. He asked where I was from, and when I said Scotland, he started with the typical comments relating to Scottish weather, Glasgow and whiskey.

I start to move on and the guy shakes my hand to say thanks, and then he starts the well prepared speech.

He has just finished a 5 Day fashion exhibition and was heading back to Italy. He did speak with an Italian accent. I looked at the car again and it wasn't a taxi, but a tatty looking car with a Qatar number plate (i.e. not a hire car), so thought the driver must be a local so should know the way to the airport, As he was chatting I was having a casual glance around to make sure no one else was coming.

He goes on and says he has suit samples left and they should fit me and doesn't want to take them back to Italy as it will cost him more in tax etc. etc. He then proceeds to show me a invoice sheet showing the value of the stuff he has left and nothing was less than about 1600euro per suit.

Still showing zero interest, I just kept letting him rant on. And then he gets out one of the samples and showed it to me etc. etc. Then he asks about my wife and he also has his and her leather jackets which looked awful. He then folds 3 suits and 2 jackets and puts them into an Armani plastic carrier and hand them to me. I wasn't wanting any of this stuff. He then starts goin gon about how he was in a rush to get home for his wife's birthday on Monday and how the company wanted him to go somewhere else, but he said no etc. The problem he had was he wanted to by his wife an iPhone 6 from the airport, but didn't have enough cash and only the notes he had in his pocket, and would I help him in exchange for the suits/jackets. He was needing about 3000 QAR (approx 550GBP).

I said no, I don't have any cash and can't help him, and don't want his stuff. He says we could go to an ATM and which point I raised the tone, firmly "No, I am not going to an ATM, don't want your clothes, so on your way and hope you find your airport." turned and walked away while checking he wasn't coming after me.

Fortunately just as I walked away, one of the red Emir 4x4 police cars pulled into the junction, so felt at ease.

As I walked away, I just kept checking, and crossed the road (6 lanes of traffic on Salwa Road) so that he was on the wrong side for the traffic, and then I promptly disappeared out of his sight.

Checking I still had my wallet, mobile phones (mine and company issued) and watch and replaying what just happened.

Although felt 'on alert' at no time did I feel threatened. I managed to grab a glimpse of the driver and it was some old guy who probably only ever just drives.

I got back to the apartment and did a search on Google and sure enough it is a simple scam to prey on foreigners who think they are getting thousands of pounds of designer clothes for a few hundred quid and will happily hand over money for the clothes which are of course low quality fakes. This scam operates all over the middle east.

Good job I wasn't into fashion labels and had a need for designer suits!

So, just goes to show, no matter were you are whether Aberdeen or Alabama, Dundee or Doha, the scammers are hard at work trying to get your cash.

Has this put me off in anyway...No. It can happen anywhere. No different to all the shops in Turkey, in the hotels that are selling knock off goods to unsuspecting tourists.

Just be vigilant...and remember the old saying, if it is too good to be true, it is a scam!

Here is a link to google search and you can see how common it is: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Armani+Suit+Scam

Have a nice day!





Friday, 6 March 2015

Finger Prints and BBQ Brunch

Thursday brought another trip out to get the next part of the residency process done. This was the finger printing stage. Headed out to the one of the fingerprinting facilities at the Criminal Evidence  and Investigation Department (CEID) along the Salwa Road, quite a bit out of town.

Arriving we were ushered into a room and asked to take a seat, given a number and told to go up to the finger print processor when the number was called.

It was a scanner machine and the operator took your fingers and palms and pressed them onto the glass one at a time and then as a group and that was it done, there was five of us from work and we must have only been there about 10 minutes.

Next week is the Iris Scanning and the Driving License issuing, so will see how that goes.

The evening brought us to the St. Regis Hotel for a 40th Birthday meal. This was a BBQ evening brunch.

Arriving at this imposing hotel, we went through to the BBQ area and were issued with a chefs apron and then taken to the table. The waitress came over and started serving the water, wine, bubbles and beer. The food was excellent, with great selection of meats and fish. I settled for a huge rib and some fillet. The waitress just kept filling up the glass so absolutely no idea how much was consumed, but safe to say it made for a great evening! It came to 420QAR pp (approx 75GBP) for pretty much eat and drink as much as you want.

You can read some more detail about the brunch offerings at St. Regis here: http://www.stregisdoha.com/en/weekendbrunch

Below is a video of the BBQ that is made by the hotel and published on YouTube.



Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Residency Process Continues and oh no an iPhone!

After work yesterday a number of us joined the company government relation guy and headed off to carry on the next phase of the residency process.

Given how many of us there were, we couldn't all fit in one car, so some of us phoned behind him in a taxi, The taxi driver didn't know where we were going so had to stick close and be a bit ruthless to ensure he didn't get parted from the lead car in the manic traffic.

Arrived at the first establishment, one of the Gulf Laboratory and X-ray branches. This was the centre to get another blood sample taken for blood typing. This was a simple finger pin prick and blood smear on a microscope glass plate. While we were inside, the taxi waited outside as we would only be 5-10 minutes here.

Came out jumped in the taxi and head off to another place, not sure where it was or what it was called, but it was a small photographic studio where we had our pictures taken for the ID cards. Again the taxi waited outside.

Once this was complete we were free to go, so some of the guys walked back to the apartments which were not far away as we wouldn't all fit in the one car and as I was still needing the taxi for another trip I jumped in with one of the other guys who was needing dropped at the Radison Blu hotel.

We went back to the apartment first as that was the easiest route, I jumped out and quickly ran in to drop my laptop bag and get changed into jeans and a polo shirt and then back into the same taxi. Dropped the other guy off at the hotel and then headed over to Al Jazi compound were I was meeting some friends for dinner and a few beers.

Got to the compound and by now had been with the same taxi for 1.5 hours. Not really sure how much this was going to be, he asked for 170QAR which you really can't complain at, a taxi for an that length of time running around and back and forth across Doha and it only came to 30GBP! Couldn't you imagine how much that would be in Aberdeen, but it wouldn't be 30 pounds, that's for sure.

Had a great dinner and catch up with friends and then they called a taxi using UBER which of course is prepaid to get me back to the apartment across town again.

Next morning, got up and jumped in a cab with my next door neighbour who had booked one to get to the office as my car was still at the office given the events of the evening before.

That day at the office was pretty good, meeting more folk and starting to get more into the guts of what's happening in the company etc. Also completed a couple of the mandatory training courses around security, so things are falling into place nicely (I think!).

The previous Nokia mobile I had been given was just not happening, so decided it was going back and after speaking with the office teams yesterday, the only option was venturing into Apple territory. Yesterday I placed the internal request which my boss approved and today I collected a new iPhone 6, I also get an iPad and that should be with me next week. Playing around with the phone and it is just so not me.....ah well, its free so it will do for work. Probably get my own Sim out here for my own phone, but no need for it at the moment.

Had to send some more bits and bobs to one of the schools today, so should almost be there with the applications. Couple of more things required at the moment, then until the attested reports come back and the new June 2015 reports are released from the school and then they will also have to be attested and sent over to Qatar.

Drive home went a lot better tonight, no zig-zagging across town to find the right roads, managed a pretty direct route back, so think we have almost cracked it! That's only the to-from the office though, don't expect me to know where anything else is!

Quiet night in tonight, pizza for dinner and while waiting for that from the oven completed the apartment inventory check as part of the move in process, glad I did as there were a few things missing. Nothing major, but for example, soup spoon, bedroom bin, some sheets, towel etc. There was also some stuff not included on the inventory, like the picture and lights in the hallway.


Monday, 2 March 2015

Day 2 - The Car, the drive home....the blood lost!

Not as bad as the title sounds!


Today was another day of meeting people as well as attending some of the first asset meetings, namely daily field call and monthly production review.

No hassles, but amazing how here they have all the same problems we had in the UK,, bed busts, chopper shortages, planning conflicts etc. etc. Will have to get a bit more into things to understand exactly see what underlying problems are and how can potentially tweak to improve/fix.

Today also took receipt of my company car and company phone.

The phone is a pretty naff Nokia Asha 303, but it is fine at the moment, and will probably get my own phone and swap the SIM over.

After work, went with the Government Affair guy in the office to one of the Qatar Government Facilities to get the first stage of the residency process completed. This included blood test, chest X-ray. Wait for the next part tomorrow which is I believe Blood Grouping and Iris Scanning. Find out tomorrow, The medical facility was run like a military machine, all lined up in batches to get the blood taken, the guy was stamping the paper work while taking the blood. I suppose doing a couple of thousand people a day you would get pretty good at it.

After the medical piece, took a taxi back to the office to pick-up the company car and have the first drive home in the wacky races! For tose who don't remember them here is the intro;

The car is like a bus, well, compared to what I'm use to any. It is as new with about 3000km on the clock, white, seven seater V6 petrol auto.

The first challenge was finding the car in the underground car park, walked round in circles, then spotted it alone in the distance. Getting it out of the car park was hte next hurdle, pulled up to an exit barrier, but it didn't open. tooted the horn to see if security had to open it, but they came out and said these were not in operation and had to go the other way.

The drive was entertaining to say the least, rather than a optimised route home, ended up more in a zig zig pattern across Doha as me and the neighour tried to navigate our way back for the first time while getting caught in wrong lanes and traffic jams etc. Ended up on the right road eventually, still not sure how, but we wont worry about that, the thing is we did get home.

Then it came to parking this thing. Popped into the reception of the apartment to find out which was my allocated space, and it couldn't have been more awkward if they had tried. Up against a wall along a narrow dead end path. Ended up coming out again, turning and then reversing back up the path and into the space. It is in its space, unmarked and that is all that matters!

That's all for today, having a quiet night in, so car photos below and until the net time;



Sunday, 1 March 2015

First Day At Work

Today marked the official start date.

I had previously arranged transport via the relocation company to pick me up at 8am to be at the office for 9am. Traffic can be a bit hit and miss, but today it was generally quiet and took only 15 minutes to get there.

Went for a wonder round to kill some time, but in the end went into the office about 8.30.

Rocking up to reception, signed in and received a visitor pass and was escorted by security up to the department secretary on the 17th floor who was the initial point of contact.

She showed me to a temporary desk and then gave me a quick rundown on the building fire instructions, showed me the tea room and toilet facilities on that level and then left me to sort out my email etc. and wait for my new boss to come out from a meeting. I was also told I had an HR onboarding meeting at 10am down on 13th Floor.

By 10am, my boss was still busy, so I just headed off down for the meeting with HR. There were 3 of us who we new that day, and we were give a welcome manbag with notebook/pen and were promised water bottles once they were back in stock. Taken through some of the basics regarding policy, security, IT systems relating to HR etc. This was followed by being taken up to the Government Relations team to hand over our passports so they could initiate the residency process close-out.

Following this, we were each given the latest copy of Marhaba, which is Qatar's premier guide, then let loose on our way.

Returned by to my desk and met my new boss and had a chat with him and then continued with some initial HR stuff relating to letter requests for bank accounts and school applications etc.

I also continued to sort out my email which had quite a few messages accumulated since the account was created and me actually arriving, and certainly gave me a flavour of what was going on offshore from a safety perspective.

The boss also started to work a schedule relating to the various department leads and teams to meet over the coming days, as well as some up and coming meetings which would be good to attend to get some more early insight into what is going on.

I also received an email to attend the medical screening for the residency permit at one of the government facilities, so that is planned for tomorrow afternoon.

Spot of lunch in the canteen was also had, so at least know how that all ticks.

Before I knew it, day one was over and our driver dropped us back at the apartment block.

Tonight my neighbour and I took a wonder up the road to catch a bite to eat, came across a TGI Fridays on the C-Ring road, so popped in there. Was interested to see how it would compare to the UK and also to the one I had visited in Paphos, Cyprus last year. Had a very good steak with Tennessee Sauce (no mention of Jack Daniel's Sauce over here!), Staff were very friendly and price wise, I would have it said it was probably slightly cheaper than equivalent TGI's in Aberdeen. The place was certainly a lot better than the one in Paphos and probably on par with other in the UK I have been to. Only difference of course was no alcohol on these premises, but didn't really make a difference, just something you have to get use to over here.
Not sure if this is a relatively new TGIF outlet, as it doesn't appear on there official website or on google maps yet.

Overall, a good first day I think!


[TripAdvisor Contribution] TGIF On C'Ring North of Salwa Rd junction.

Out for a spot of dinner after day in the office with a work colleague.

Spotted this restaurant and thought we would just pop in to see what it was like. Decor as you would expect of a TGIF franchise.

Staff were very good, should us to our table, explained the menu and made suggestions.

I had loaded potato skins to start followed by fillet steak with Tennessee sauce and fries. The steam was excellent, good as expected (medium rare).

The restaurant was pretty quite (about 7.30pm).

Compared to other TGI's I would say that it was comparable to what we were use to in the UK and certainly service and food was a lot better than the TGI's I experienced in Paphos, Cyprus in 2014.

Price wise, it was probably cheaper than the UK, with 2 starters a 2 mains + 4 pints of Pepsi (no alcohol here) came to approx 230QAR (about 40 GBP), work out at about 20GBP per head.

Overall, I would certainly eat there again and no issues with the price point.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d5770819-r257124978-TGI_Friday_s-Doha.html#

[TripAdvisor Contribution] SkyView - The bar with the view!

Popped in past with a work colleague on a Saturday evening to see if the view was amazing, and yes is the simple answer!

This rooftop bar in La Cigale hotel, overlooks the skyline of Doha.

Given the location, the food and drink were as expected, i.e. more than you would pay in the UK. This was too expensive however.

For about 8 beers, a chicken burger and a club sandwich this came to about 430QAR's (approx 75 GBP)

Staff were pretty good and attentive, as the evening went on, there were more and more staff appeared in preparation for more customers who were starting to appear.

Review posted at: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g294009-d1058456-r257069115-Skyview-Doha.html#