Thursday, July 24, 2008

The End of the Chapter...

I finally got on the flight and was back in the ‘burg before you knew it. Most of you know what has happened since then, but basically I am spending my time between White Sulphur Springs, Morgantown, and Pittsburgh. I saw my sister get married in a beautiful ceremony where as Carrie's friends put it...they saw a 'sparkle' of a tear during the ceremony. I am applying for jobs trying to enjoy my time off. I am enjoying Greenbrier county and all of the things that make it home. I am riding a wonderful Harley on some amazing trips. Thanks for always riding along, Uncle John. We all miss you. Mom and Dad asked me to help on some projects around the careful what you ask for. I think I am working them crazy, but I am having a blast with the parents that I love so dearly.

I have no idea where I am going to end up or what I am going to be doing. So far I have applied for Jobs in Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Vermont, and Texas. I am still hoping for that fellowship, but we will see.

This is probably the end of this blog. I will start another on whatever adventure I end up on. I have no idea of the name or have no idea of when it will start, but I will put a link to it on here. I will also let everyone know when it is up. I cannot believe how far this blog has reached. It is amazing the people that tell me they read it all the time. I get comments from friends of friends that I never thought had any idea what was going on. People in many of the states and around the world, from 'Mum' in Pittsburgh to friends on the west coast and Europe. Wow. I realize how many friends and family that I have and how special they are to me. It is really nice when I see all of them again…that they already have read what I have been up to…so there is no need to update and tell the story 100 times.

Finally, This has been a heck of a trip. I have grown professionally and personally. I have made some great friends and truly consider myself ‘international’ now. I traveled to some amazing places such as Bahrain, Dubai, Jordan, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Austria. Worked with some really great people from Pittsburgh and Qatar. That included everyone from Tunisians, Australians, South Africans, Canadians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, Qataris, UAE, Filipino, Indonesian, New Zealand, etc. I lived in the Ritz Carlton for 2 Months. I played cards with a great group of people with as many different nationalities. I got Insh' Allahed a thousand times. I learned a lot about Islam and the Muslim culture. I learned that not everyone hates Americans and that not everyone in a white robe is a terrorist.

It was truly a great experience…to have a country boy from West Virginia working with Arabs in the Middle East… Who would have thought it? When asked “Knowing what you know now, would you choose to do it all over again? Or Are you happy you did it?


Chilling in Rotterdam

So, I got to Rotterdam finally and was able to hook up with Chad. It was really early in the morning, but he was nice enough to come down and pick me up. The weather was just a bit chilly with a wonderful drizzle in the air. It was fantastic and a welcome relief. We settled in and started our tour around town. We just started walking and they showed me thing like the Cube Houses, Some Local Parks, and just nice sights and sounds of Rotterdam. We hit a few rainstorms throughout the day, but otherwise it was awesome. We stopped at little deli for a awesome HAM sandwich…I am not in the middle east anymore! We continued walking and looking around when I passed a cheese shop. Carol told me that since I was in Holland I was required to import cheese that you can only get in Holland. So I went into the cheese store and was able to procure a few wheels. I got one for Mom and Dad as well.

We continued on to a local watering hole that Chad loves. Since the Tasty beverages are so great in this city we had to start trying them. So we were on a little bit of a tasting mission throughout this weekend. After walking for a while longer we stopped at another place to get a tasty beverage. Since I did not get any sleep on the plane…I was crashing hard. They even said something about me falling asleep while talking to them. So we decided to walk back to the house to allow me to take a short nap. I slept about an 1:00-1:15 and it was fantastic. I woke up feeling great…a much needed renewal.

After the nap we walked to another park. I know…but it is so nice to see green. We walked to the tower in Rotterdam which when we got closer we saw that people were repelling off of. How cool is that? We took the elevator ride to the top and got a great view of the city. After the tower we met one of Chad’s co-workers Slowka at a bar. She is from Slovakia and her English is broken enough to make it funny. She was hilarious and I had a great time making fun of and not understanding my WV accent. It was getting late, even thought the sun was still up so we headed home. Chad and I decided to watch the Sugar Bowl…how great is that? The girls joined us later. Soon after Slowka left, Suzie headed to bed and Chad and I finally crashed. It was so nice to sleep with window open and hear the sounds of the city. It was also so nice to sleep where it was naturally cool outside and you didn’t need air conditioning.

The next morning I woke up to Suzanne and Chad cooking Pancake/Crepe style breakfast. No syrup, just dip it in a strawberry or peanut butter mix for flavor. We walked down to the docks which was a great journey and not too far from the house. We saw that a cruise ship had pulled in and was a wild sight to see. It was huge. It took a while to get there because we had to walk down to the bridge and then back to the boat. We decided to keep walking to another historical attraction, the Hotel New York. This is a hotel that has been around a long time. This is where people stayed while they were preparing to make the transatlantic journey in the early 1900’s. Very historical and very cool. They were in the process of a renovation, so that was a little hectic. However, the tasty beverage counter was open so we enjoyed our first tasty beverage of the day…and we helped Suzy eat a piece of wonderful apple pie. It was getting close to a late lunch for us so we went to Smaak for appetizers. It was a really great meal and it was not that far from their place. We headed back to the house as they were the ones that needed a nap…so I played online and updated my blog.

After the nap we headed to another restaurant near their place to enjoy a nice dinner. It was a fantastic steak place and was not that expensive. Afterwards, we headed down to a very popular area to watch the European cup final game between Germany and Spain. The Dutch are not too favorable of the Germans…so when a German fan went by…they treated them like a Tech fan. It was really hilarious. We watched the entire game and realized it was late…but still dusk. When we got home we realized that the reason for such a late sunset was our latitude. I thought we were in the range of New York…or something…however Rotterdam is more like Nova Scotia or Calgary. They have like 18 hours of sunlight a day. Wow. Plus I was there during the longest days of the year…

It was a really early morning the next day and I really appreciate Chad helping me back to the train. I got on and when I got to the airport, I found that flight had been delayed about 5 hours. FUN! Luckily I was flying business class, which allowed me access to the lounge. When I got there it was awesome. Not as nice as I have had before…but nice none the less. The best part was they had a self serve buffet and a full self serve bar. It had all of the necessities, mixers, and a Heineken tap. So, my feelings about being stuck were slowly abating. Soon I was on a plane for the final leg of my trip.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The End of Doha...

My last week in Doha was crazy busy. I am going to give you a quick update of what was going on.

Sunday was easy with our normal pod meetings and operational meetings. Sunday evening was making sure I was totally in my suitcases ready for the movers to come. All of my stuff was getting packed and shipped on Monday, so I had to be ready. Monday was nothing special just finishing up some random projects and trying to get out the last edition of the newsletter before I leave. At 3:00 I had another interview for the fellowship and found out I am much closer to getting it. The first round of interviews narrowed the list down to 10. The second round narrowed It down to 6. Depending on how I did, I might get the third round of interviews with the big boss next week. He is going to select 1-2 candidates for the position. No matter what happens, I feel great to be in the top 6 of 51 applicants. That tells me a lot. At 4:00 the movers came and packed up all of my stuff. They did a really good job packing and moving everything and I was a step closer to moving out. Tuesday was another busy day with my last educational meeting at 7:30 followed by a day full of more filling in the gaps and making sure that the new guys were up and running. That afternoon, I had an interview with an EMS service in the Midwest. (Wisconsin) Very cool little service, nice looking town. I think I did really well with that interview as well. After the interview, a group of neighbors and friends took me out to the Irish Harp. We even ran into some people from EMS there. It was a great time and nice to hang out one more time.

Wednesday, I was supposed to teach the Docs from 9-1, however none of them showed up. There loss! I was able to stop and see some people that I probably would not have got the chance to see otherwise. I was able to get to the Helicopter office once more and the Trauma office. About 1:00, the new Pittsburgh project director came to EMS to be introduced and showed around. We had a really big lunch for/with her and it was a good time to sit back and relax. At 3:00, I took her to Majestic Gardens, because she was moving into my place. So I wanted to show her around. Plus, It worked out well as I needed to grab my stuff because I was moving into the Ritz, and she could go back to the hotel with me. She already started moving stuff when she was in the house and I wasn’t even out of there yet. She is a little cooky, as she was telling me that my place was not very Fung Schwa. Whatever. It is not mine any more.

Wednesday I moved into the Ritz and my boss called and asked if I wanted to go to dinner with him. I kinda didn’t but I see him so infrequently that I thought it was a good opportunity. He, our medical director, one of the ED docs, our new director, and a local friend of his all went to an Italian place with really good food. Before going out I had my last performance appraisal and I was glad to hear that I was really a good and valued employee.

Thusday was a little tough, as my last day in the office. I made my rounds to all the offices and gave out hugs and handshakes to as many as I could find. EMS had a great lunch for me at 1:30 from Turkey Central, which was awesome. The entire building came up to enjoy some food. It was great. I was given a really nice plaque and people said some really nice things about me. Of course, Thursday night was my last night of cards. I did not win either tournament, but I didn’t play badly. I did win some on a side game, so I basically played again for free.

Friday was a chill out day. I had nothing really planned. A friend stopped by for some afternoon tea. I worked out, send my laundry away. Visited with some co-workers that were staying at the hotel, and just enjoyed a quiet last day in Doha. It was really nice. Soon it was dinner time and I was ready to call it a day. Hussein was picking me up at 8:15 so I called a bellman and went upstairs to checkout.

Arriving at the airport I was a little scared. The line went from the front doors all the way down the sidewalk. Luckily, there was some confusion as I was unloading and I was able to jump in near the doors. I don’t usually like to do that, but this is Doha and there is not really any rules. I got checked in and headed to the gate where I got my last taste of Doha entitlement. As I was sitting in the non-smoking airport a local came and sat next to me and immediately lit up a cigarette. A few mean looks did nothing and I was glad when he was finished, however much to my luck, he was a chain smoker. So it wasn’t long before he was at it again. Many staff from the airport and the airlines came by and no one would say anything to him. Typical. Did I mention I am ready to get out of here?
The flight was packed, and I forgot to ask for a window seat so I could sleep easier. So sleep was sporadic at best. We had to stop in Saudi, but I did not have to deplane. We were just picking up some more passengers and letting a few off. What was funny was the amount of women coming on to the plane with their scarves and covers wrapped around their neck. I guess many had started to disrobe as they were going down the jet way. Many more were removing the items after they sat down. It sucks that they have to wait until the Mutowwah (the very strict religious police in Saudi) can no longer get them, but you gotta do what you can. About ½ way home there came an announcement for us anyone with medical training to identify themselves. I usually don’t get involved, especially since I was sure a Doc would be on board. About 10 minutes later they asked again so I meandered up to the patient, who I could see they were attending to near the bulkhead. I identified myself to the crew and patient and started talking to a guy. About 15 seconds later the head flight attendant came up and asked if I was a doctor. I told her no, but told her I was a Paramedic in the United States. She told me “Thanks, but we need a medical professional. I am nurse, and there is not much we can do”. WHAT THE F*&$? Are you serious? So I asked her what she knew about the patient. She said ‘He threw up, is sweating, and passed out for a bit…which of course means that he did not have a pulse while he was out…so we woke him up and put him on oxygen. Now we just need a Doctor to look at him.’ I was silent. I guess people cannot be alive but unconscious on her plane. I turned to the guy and asked if he felt OK. He said he was feeling better. I told him that the flight crew, even after asking for my services, did not want them now. If he needed anything, please let me know and gave him my seat number. That really just pegged me right there. Obviously, they were scared, they called for help twice. Who would not want a Paramedic in an emergency situation? Hmmm. Idiots. I saw the guy walk off the plane when we landed, so I do feel too bad.

On arriving in Amsterdam I got my stuff and was at the train station very quickly. I got a direct ticket to Rotterdam and asked the lady when it left. She said 6 minutes. Are you crazy? Crap. I shot through the station to the platform and the guy was blowing the whistle as I jumped on. I got my bags in the door and the train started moving. Then I looked at my watch, It was a few minutes off. So I was worried that I was on the wrong train. I walked up and down the train looking for a ticket guy, no luck. So I found an empty seat and decided I was going to wait a few stops and see. There was only 2 stops (about 40 minutes) and the announcement said Rotterdam Central. So, somehow, I made it to the right station!
I was going to call Chad in Amsterdam, but as you can see I only had 6 minutes so I called and told him I was in his town. I will tell you about my days in Rotterdam in the next post.