Cool Stuff / Pictures and Places

A trip to the Sahara desert

When I first learned that we will visit the different VAOS sites starting 19 January, I was thrilled. The night before we were supposed to travel, as I was preparing the essential things that I have to bring along with me, I could not sleep. An eager sense of anticipation was more powerful than caffeine.

I’ve never been to the desert before and this will be the first time that I will be leaving Bin Gazhir Camp, Bin Gazhir, Libya – my home for the last eight (8) months or so – and not come back in the afternoon of the same day. The more I thought about it, the more excited I felt about it. It’s exhilarating. This trip is important in the sense that Mr. Josef Famler, the Human Resources Manager and one of the most senior officers of the Company, will be meeting about seven hundred (700) employees, mostly junior staff category, to announce and discuss the changes in employment contract effective 01 January 2011. These changes are for the betterment of the employees and are mostly compensation and benefits related. These changes reflect the compensation philosophy of the Company to standardize the salary and benefits of employees according to the relative value of their jobs, and not on the basis of nationality.

credit: VAOS desert trip

credit: VAOS desert trip

In a nutshell, the HR Department is slowly but steadily moving from being transactional to becoming strategic in terms of its initiatives and programs. For non-HR readers, implementing a strategic program usually requires an acute sense of business-savvy grounded on business reality. Positioning the Company in order to attain competitive advantage is not an easy task. At the outset, the role of HR executives such as Mr. Famler has expanded to include involvement in the initial stages of the strategic planning process and taking the lead role in implementing best practices that will add value – from a long term perspective – to the Company and its shareholders.

As mentioned earlier, the HR Boss is about to embark on such an initiative. This will be the beginning of a long process but ultimately this will enable the Company to improve its compensation practices, making it more competitive in order to attract, retain, and motivate employees.

In 103, Amal, and Nafoora On the first day, we went to 103D. The camp was well-maintained like a Desert Raiders paradise. The small garden in the middle of the camp invites meditation. After a short breakfast the following day, Mr. Loidl Manfred, Project Supervisor, gave us a short tour around the camp. As the sun rose up, we hit the road aboard a Toyota Land Cruiser and passed by 103A; then continued to Amal where Mr. Georg Metzger welcomed us at the Euro mess hall. The donuts were delicious. I took an extra serving and Thani – the Thai Administrator – was eyeing me suspiciously.

credit: VAOS desert trip

credit: VAOS desert trip

From Amal, we continued to Nafoora. Mr. Petar Colak met us and welcomed us into his office. Nafoora Camp is clean and the plants lined beautifully from the office going to the mess hall. Mr. Colak entertained us with his gift of gab. The soup was warm and tasty and Thani and I attacked our lunch with gusto.

We changed car and driver; Ahmed and his Land Cruiser went back to 103 while Omer and his Toyota Previa will be our new companion for the rest of the trip.

In Zueitina Terminal, Marsa El Brega, and Ras Lanuf – On the road to Zueitina Terminal, the Toyota Previa encountered some minor trouble. The situation was reported and we were advised that a rescue car has been mobilized. We continued and had to stop every 50 kilometers or so to check the transmission oil. After a while the rescue car came and gave us some extra oil just in case. Murphy’s Law seems to be acceptable and it’s useless to worry.

photo: VAOS desert trip

photo: VAOS desert trip

At around 5:38 PM, we reached Ajedabia and a Mercedes Vito was waiting for us. We pull alongside and transferred our luggage and drove like hell to Zueitina. We had to be there before 6:00 o’clock PM otherwise we will not be allowed to enter the premises. I was hoping that Omer will slow down but he kept on pressing the gas pedal. The rain is affecting visibility and road traction. The road is slippery and I started to feel really uncomfortable. And you know Omer, he is twice as big and thrice as heavy as me. There was nothing I can do. Mr. Thani is a Buddhist and I’m not certain if he is praying to his God, but I think he is. And I was determined not to give in to Thani’s faith. So I also shoot an arrow prayer (a short, silent prayer in my mind) to my God for our safety.

And you know what, it works! God is awesome!

credit: VAOS desert trip

credit: VAOS desert trip

After that adrenaline-induced, heart-pumping ride, we arrived safely in front of Zueitina’s gate. It was around 5:52 PM. Inside the premises, a road tells us that the speed limit is 60kms/hr. What a relief! “Alhamdu lillah” has a more personalized meaning to me now. The next day, Mr. Collin Leullen gave us a short tour around the Camp and we took care of some HR matters and then moved on to our next destination: Brega.

Jason Cini welcomed us in Brega and as he was showing us around, he explained that he might be running out of space due to the volume of materials currently in Brega’s inventory and the additional forecasted materials for the new demands. Brega employees surprised me. They seem organized and disciplined. The raucous atmosphere which is normal for a large gathering is unnoticeable.

We change car again and this time we were given a Volvo. We arrived in Ras Lanuf and Mr. Brajkovic Zdravko welcomed us. After the employee meeting, we had a nice dinner. The pancit tastes like I’m home. The next day, we prepare for the six-hour trip back to Tripoli. We changed car one more time, back to the Mercedes Vito. This time, we were joined by Mr. Hoellwarth, Mr. Schoergendorfer, and Mr. Taruc.

On the trip back to Tripoli, I can’t help but savor the scenery before me, as well as of the previous days; I was literally dancing in the sands. The vast expanse of the barren wasteland is just too overwhelming to behold. Nature is truly awesome – untamed yet so beautiful. Like a flower that opens its petals to the first dew of the dawn, imbibing the poetry of nature into its very essence. The desert swallows up your thoughts burying it deep inside the crevices of oblivion. For a moment, it’s like time stood still: eternity has frozen and your sense of reality swells and then bursts into tiny fragments of nostalgic dusts.

credit: VAOS desert trip

credit: VAOS desert trip

As far as the eyes can see, there was nothing but rolling plains of magnificent sand dunes. But the enormity of the scale by which it unfolds engulfs the senses, similar to a catharsis that we experience when we watch a real good movie or listen to a really good music. And you will never forget the experience.

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