Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Andrew on Field Duty

Ten days after getting back from Europe I was scheduled to go south for the three monthly field visit.  Both my Vientiane finance staff couldn’t go – so it was a perfect opportunity to bring Andrew to the field to see where I work and my colleagues.  It was an interesting trip

First off our flight to Savannakhet was delayed by 30 minutes – we later found out it that it was because the Prime Minister’s plane had landed before us – and everyone else just gets rescheduled.  We were sent out to the airplane, only to be turned around by the pilot blocking the door because he wasn’t ready for boarding yet – so like a line of Lemmings, wilting under the blazing hot sun, we returned to the waiting room to await a later boarding.

We got into Sepon much later than expected – as it gets dark driving speed decreases dramatically.  Sepon isn’t a bustling metropolis at the best of times and at 7:30 pm Sunday night ‘dining’ options are next to none.  So we picked up some grilled chicken legs & rice from the ‘night market’.  The extent of the market was 5 vendors with a light hanging above them.  But we purchased some cold beers from the hotel and prepared ourselves for the week ahead.

After a walk in the morning, it was time for french baguette and the strongest coffee known to man.

Andrew undertook the role of accounting–assistant and did a reasonable job of not giving everyone around him his opinion on life, finance procedures and forestry in general.  Some staff automatically assumed the tall male foreigner was the ‘Boss” 

And he cemented that role at the party on day 3 of the trip.  One of the top managers from Europe was visiting our operations so there was a team meal followed by…karaoke.  Eventually a few English songs were put up and Andrew joined for a rendition of ‘Hotel California”  Sadly he didn't know ANY of the words and the lyrics weren’t on screen for that one song.  But there was no stopping him from putting his moves on.  Below are 2 of my expat colleagues, a Thai colleague and the boss from Finland – and Andrew- look at him dance.  I didn't realize Karaoke was part of my job description, but it was almost compulsory to join in. 

And here he is looking happy just before his plastic chair collapsed under him and he lay on the floor covered in spilled beer.  But like a jack-in-the-box he jumped up, a more solid chair was found and the party continued. 

While here we visited the charcoal kilns.  We are working on a process whereby villagers make/sell charcoal from plantation thinnings.  Charcoal is still huge here as every uses it to cook with.Traditionally it is made in earth kilns but we have metal move-able kilns.  The process takes 3 days and the recovery rate charcoal : raw wood put in should be 20 – 25%.  anyway it was very interesting to see it in process. 

From Sepon we did the 7 hour drive around the mountain to the even smaller settlement of TaOy.  Not even a night market here, but a nice restaurant down by the river.  This trip was also dubbed ‘hit-your-head-on-low-beams-Andrew’ trip.  Everywhere he went he hit his head – low door frames, small doors, outside cabanas – you name it – he hit it. 

Sadly while we there one of our staff was involved in an accident with a motorbike.  Unfortunately one of the 2 young men on the motorbike died and the other had broken bones.  It seemed to be a true-accident, no one obviously at fault, but the outcome was our staff member was put in jail and remained there until the company concluded compensation negotiations with the families.  The police prefer that grievances are sorted between the parties – to reduce their paper-work.  And no-one wants to go to court because the law is not guaranteed to be blind and the party with the biggest pockets will win.  In this case our staff member was in jail for 10 days while the process was worked through. 

In his parting remarks my head of Field accounting asked if Andrew would come again.  I said maybe.  He then suggested maybe in the future Andrew could come on quarterly visits and my accountant and I could stay in Vientiane.  He and Andrew could go drink beer and sing songs.  Yeah, no.  Not going to happen that way, sorry!

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