I haven't seen that much of it, but I am amazed by what I find, and at times, amused by my amazement.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


When my job working on the new American Embassy in Bern, Switzerland finished in June, 2008, Joann and I made a conscious effort to stay home until after the holiday season. It had been a couple of years since I had celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas stateside. It was great to be home for awhile - a long while. We spent an entire summer, fall and winter, visiting family and friends, sailing Gillyfoyle, getting some projects done and starting others.

Fresh snow at the cabin on New Years Day 2009

Sitting in front of the fireplace with a cup of Christmas cheer, lit by the glow of the fire and the twinkle of the Christmas tree lights, and with New Years day rapidly approaching, we knew that the search for the next job, always present in the background of activities, was about to begin in earnest. With snow blowing against the window and the occassional cold draft that found it's way in through the log walls, we imagined where we might like the next job to be. An island setting somewhere warm would be nice ...

Bahrain is an island ... and it is warm. Other than that, it is entirely unlike any place we had imagined we might go.

A basic fact about life - it has never been restricted to what we could imagine.

The view from my apartment. That isn't smog, it's steam

Actually, "warm" was an understatement - "oppressively hot and humid" would be closer to the truth. The middle of July is not the best time to come here, unless you are a wrinkled suit in need of steaming. Working a night shift at the embassy might seem a bit easier without the sun beating down, but it only increased the humidity. I actually looked better after working outside for awhile. When my clothes were totally soaked, there weren't any tell-tale wet spots. My clothes were just a bit different color. For a guy from northern Washington state, it took quite a bit of acclimatizing. On noontime walking trips to the market, I sought out the shade like a Death Valley lizard. And I was always going out in the hottest part of the day. Between work and sleep, that's the only time left.

The tide is out in a waterfront area slated for land reclamation. In the background is a mix of apartment buildings, with modern highrises and construction projects in the distance.

The Bahrain World Trade CenterYou can see it in the background of the previous picture.
The building gets a portion of it's energy from three wind turbines. (photo: http://www.libertyparkusafd.org/lp/BuildingGreenUSA/)

Where is Bahrain? On the west side of the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia and across the water from Iran, the coastline is dotted with what used to be many small Sheikhdoms. Bahrain, an island near the center, is one of the smallest, one of the first to discover oil, and the first to diversify away from an oil economy when the oil began to run out. Only 257 square miles in size, it is 92 per cent desert.

Google Earth is great when I get job offers for places I've never heard of.

I will probably be here until sometime in February of 2010. Joann has been here for a month and will return home in November. In the next blog post I will update you on just what we have been up to.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Introduction

Gillyfoyle is the name Joann and I have given our sailboat, a Halman 20. Compact and sturdy, it has everything inside required for comfort except room to stand up. We have had some adventures in it, and plan to have many more, but there is another reason for giving it's name to this blog.

While searching for a name for our boat, I remembered a story I read as a teenager about a space traveler who, in a moment of crisis, accidently discovers a way to travel instantly to places he has never been by imagining his destination and desiring to go there. His name, I thought, was something like "Gilly Foyle." An internet search ensued... Alfred Bester's 1956 classic "The Stars My Destination" told the story of Gulliver Foyle, 'Gully Foyle' for short.

Oh, Gully, not Gilly... So much for that idea. But the name wouldn't go away. In the end, we came back to it and made it our own. Accidents...

In 1969, during the height of the war in Viet Nam, when I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school, I joined the Army. One year later, with my military training behind me, instead of going anywhere near Southeast Asia, I was glad to find myself at an army base on the outskirts of Schwabach, a small town near Nuremberg, Germany. In my high school yearbook, under the picture of a geeky-looking senior with thick, black-framed glasses, was the line, "PLANS TO TOUR GERMANY." It was just a vague notion to reconnect with my roots - I didn't know I would really get there, and so soon after graduation! The next Christmas I was sitting in Munich's famed Hofbrauhaus sucking down liters of draft beer, reconnecting with my draft beer roots, accompanied by several hundred other beer suckers, stein-toting Bavarian maidens (as I prefer to remember them), and an Oompah band.

By the time my tour was over, so was the war, and I returned to Washington state to resume my civilian life. It would be 30 years, a family, and several career changes before I would find myself leaving the US again ...

I began working overseas on embassy construction jobs in 2003. I really started in late 2001, going through the process of getting the required security clearance.

Wow, I can get a security clearance?!

After a couple false starts, one of which had me slated to go to Havana, Cuba, I finally boarded a plane for Beijing, China, and my first overseas job. I have enjoyed almost every minute of it since then.

I started writing down some of my experiences and emailing them, with pictures, to family and friends. I hope to gather up these earlier posts, and along with current writings and photos, put them all together here.