Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sightseeing with colleagues

I will give you the moral of the story in advance: Don't sightsee with colleagues. It can never end well.

If you are interested in knowing why I make this observation, then read on.

Since my business trip to Bahrain was a week in duration and covered a weekend, my three work colleagues and I decided to do a bit of sightseeing on one weekend day. Before I recount our day, let me first introduce you to the rest of my team.

First, meet the solution architect from New Zealand, who we will call "The Kiwi". A big, burly and yet soft-spoken guy who had been on the road already for 9 weeks on this project (please, let that not be a sign of things to come). He was easy-going and informally took on the team lead role amongst the four of us. Next, meet "Costello", a little fireball of a man from Bangalore, India who was our transition expert and could get riled up over the smallest thing - which was incredibly funny. Aptly named because he looked exactly how Lou Costello might have looked if he had been Indian. Finally, meet "P", an easygoing Indian living for the last 15 years in Sydney who was our industry expert. All in all, a very cordial, pleasant, and engaging group.

Since the weekend technically falls on a Friday and Saturday in the Middle East, we were still beholdened to project deadlines and hunkered down for a LONG day of work on Friday. It was decided that we'd take a brief break on Saturday morning and check out the local sights. I mean, how many times were any of us likely to return to Bahrain? Thus, at dinner on Friday evening, we mapped out our route, which was not terribly difficult b/c there were literally only 5-7 things to see and do in Bahrain.

So, Saturday morning, The Kiwi, Costello, P, and Hachie Gal piled into a taxi and commenced Operation Bahrain Quick Tour. With a great sightseeing plan in place, and an air conditioned taxi, we should have been set. Well, best laid plans is all I can say.

The first error in thinking was not to have insisted that our taxi driver, known as "Local TD" for purposes of this post, spoke better English. He was also recommended by the hotel. Although we knew where we wanted to tour, the ability to have our taxi-driver understand basic English words, since none of us spoke Arabic, was kinda essential. At least the car was air-conditioned. The Kiwi insisted he knew where we wanted to go so this was a non-issue. Right! Strike #1.

First stop on the Grand Tour of Bahrain was the Grand Mosque. We had only been in the taxi for 5 minutes when we knew we were in for a hot day. Outside temperature: 108 degrees F. After a few brief pictures outside the mosque, we were allowed to enter the interior, even as non-believers, and take a tour. The only pre-tour requirement: all of us were required to remove our shoes, and Hachie Gal was forcefully put into an abaya and head scarf. No veil required, thankfully. Photo to follow as soon as Costello sends it onward.

45 minutes later, and we have seen only the interior of the Grand Mosque main area. No details on the building, date of construction, materials used, etc...was provided by our tour guide, but rather very lengthy history / philosophy lesson on Islam. Well intentioned but not really what we were after. Strike #2.

After we quietly excused ourselves and exited the mosque, we headed next to see the Bahrain/Saudi Arabia causeway bridge. Why, I am not sure, but 20 minutes later, we arrived at the Saudi/Bahrain border to visit the lookout tower that allows one to see back to Bahrain. Oops, the tower was closed for renovation. So, we saw white dirt and blue sand...yep, already seen that. Strike #3.

Back into the taxi we go and my doubts about the competence of Local TD as a tour guide were confirmed. Next stop was the Number 1 Oil Platform, supposedly the first drilling site in the Middle East. Not really on my top 5 list but there weren't more than 5 sites on the list anyway so I am ready to be wow-ed! Thirty minutes later, lots of driving around in Bahrainian oilfields, and Local TD can't find the location. He's clueless...this in a country that can be driven from tip to toe in 4 hours.

By this time, Costello was getting itchy..impatient...downright verbal with Local TD. Three of us, including myself have been in the back of the taxi for well over and hour and half now...Bottom line: We never found the site. The Kiwi was hogging the A/C airflow in the front seat, and Costello questioned Local TD every 2 minutes, "Do you know where you are going?" Clearly not. Strike #4.

OK, it was REALLY hot now and we only had one more sight left on the list. The team was getting restless, hungry, impatient, and short-tempered. A final stop: the newly restored Portuguese fort. It was actually quite interesting...or should have been b/c it is now SUPER hot. Truth told, this was the only thing I really wanted to see. Upon arrival, we proceeded to walk up to the fort in full-on sun. Not a tree or sign of shade in sight. Twenty steps later, and Costello, with The Kiwi now clearly on his side, declared, "I am done. It's too hot". Sightseeing appropriately draws to a close. We walked back to the car, and Local TD was nowhere to be found. Car was locked up tighter than a drum. 30 minutes later we found him coming out of the cafe area next to the clue where he was or what he was doing. By this time, I have done the mental calculation that I could have actually seen the Portuguese fort in the time it look us to locate Local TD. Strike #5.

Time for lunch. Hachie Gal kicked into overdrive and suggested the Bahrain City Center Mall. It was going to tick all the boxes: Major A/C, lots of dining choices that will surely meet Costello's preferences, no need for Local TD' services any longer, and we can actually stretch our legs. Best of all, Hachie Gal can disappear into a shopping frenzy sans the guys.

8 hours later I emerged from my retail therapy feeling refreshed and ready to face the world.

1 comment:

Cyn In London said...

That makes me laugh out loud. I really can picture it! I will file that little gem away to rely on next time I'm attempting to sight see on a business trip!