Sunday, 29 July 2007

Weekend….

 

Right, if it weren’t for the weather, the Payday Fridays are not so different here compared to good old England.

Everybody skips the office late in the afternoon and goes for a drink. Of course there are no pubs here, but there are tokos. These establishments are some sort of mixture between an off-licence (Trinkhalle oder Bierbeisl) and a kebap shop.

They are invariably run by some Asian family and usually have a Happy Hour and some Chinese food. But whatever, during Happy Hour you can get beer for about a dollar, so what could be better?

Well, actually the beers could be a bit bigger and most of them have some work to do on their toilet facilities, but still…

One of the differences is that everybody arrives by car and will usually leave again by car something like 5 to 15 beers later!

I have not yet seen a bad accident and the chances of getting stopped by the police are apparently virtually non-existent, but getting back into a car with someone you just had ten beers with to drive you back home still makes me a bit uneasy.

 

In any case, that is all I can offer you for my Friday. 10 beers or so at a Toko…

 

But, do not despair, it gets better on Saturday.

 

After a relatively early night, I’m all good to go for something big on Saturday.

First of all, it is very hot, so that would suggest going to the beach. Unfortunately I need to lose another 10kgs and a bikini-wax to be able to do that, so that is out of the question (although a beach will actually feature later in the day).

So, when my loyal side-kick Marianela suggests to go and check out the local Ostrich (Straussen-) Farm, I’m all up for it.

It is actually quite a bit (maybe 25kms or so, i.e. the other side of the island) but at least this time we have air-condition.

The Ostrich farm is quite something. The place supplies Ostrich meat to the whole Caribbean and they have about 600 of them. The farm is trying to be completely ecological, so what happens to all the rubbish they generate?

Well, with the exception of any plastic or metal, they feed it all to these guys.

 

 

 

These are Pork Belly Pigs (Haengebauchschweine) and they eat about anything. Because of their bellies they can’t really move around so all they do is eat and sleep, which sounds alright to me. They are however, really ugly f@#kers as well, so everything still comes at a price.

 

The farms also keeps emus (which are rather bad-tempered bastards, if I may say so myself) and 3 crocodiles. The emus are really for decoration only, whereas the crocodiles will take care of everything that is left over in the slaughtering of the ostriches. You can’t use everything and stuff like the lungs and the hearts is going to the Crocs.

 

 

Now, who would have thought, but they do actually have some Ostriches as well.

 

In fact, they have them in all shapes and sizes.

 

The unfinished product….

 

 

At a few days old…..

 

At a few weeks old

 

And Mr & Mrs Ostrich

 

 

For those of you who are taking notes, the birds become fertile after about 11 months. They then have to literally shag for their life.

If they don’t turn out to be really fertile, they get slaughtered. Only the best “producers” are kept alive…

Now let’s think about that for a minute. Consider you’re somewhere between let’s say 12 and 14 years old and not really quite sure what to make of your body. You’re then told to either

a)      knock up as many chicks (haha) as you possibly can in the shortest period of time or

b)      getting jumped on by some horny geezer every 5 minutes who doesn’t really know what he’s doing and as if that isn’t already enough, pop out a couple of babies, eggs or whatever very soon or

c)      getting fed to the Crocodiles.

 

Wouldn’t that be something???

 

But let’s not get side-tracked here. The birds obviously don’t know about that and frankly, even if they would, they would not understand it.

This is because they literally must be the dumbest animals out there.

So, while some of them can sport some pretty impressive running and reproduction statistics, their brains are about the size of peanuts. No kidding, their brains are actually smaller than their eyes!!!

 

But enough about stupid ostriches….  Okay, one last Ostrich picture maybe...

 

It is hot, very hot, and time to get out of the direct sun.

So we make our way to Jan Thiel Beach for a drink and to look at some other local attractions.

Jan Thiel is a very nice neighborhood and also one of the nicest and most popular beaches here and pretty much entirely crowded with Dutch people.

Now, it seems that going topless here is acceptable and this brings up another interesting question. I don’t think this only applies to the Dutch, but why is it that only women you could do without seeing them topless actually go topless?

There are loads of hot Dutch girls here who I would very much like to see topless, but no, it is only their gravity-challenged mums showing off their wares. Sigh….

Anyway, at five it’s happy hour and the long drinks are a little bit more than a pound or maybe just 2 euros. There is a DJ that knows something else than Salsa and gets the crowd moving very quickly.

Marianela immediately establishes a good connection with the 2 barkeepers (how do girls do that?) so we get served very quickly indeed. So, after maybe 7 Bacardi and Coke between 5 and 6 and quite a few drinks later on, the party is in full swing. The Dutch are really enjoying themselves here and even the inevitable Salsa band can’t stop them.

It’s also good to know that some of them who have been here for a while still get quite a sunburn and glow in the dark, hehe

 

 

Well, there is only so much Salsa I can take so we take off with some of the Dutch guys from work for Dinner at a Steakhouse (yummy).

After that we go to Sopranos, which is a very cool Piano bar here (www.sopranospianobar.com) . They have this very good piano player who knows about every song there is (www.barryfromboston.com). So, having quite a good time there as well…

 

And so, about a $100 later I finally get home at some point in the morning.

I’m not sure if I can keep this up, but it was certainly a good Saturday. So good, that I need all Sunday to recover.

If any of you ever make it here, we’ll try to duplicate a day like this.

Enough for today folks… need to prepare to go back to Sopranos.

 

Take care,

Wolfi

Sunday, 29 July 2007 04:22:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Friday, 27 July 2007

Okay then, let me give you a little run down on week 2 at work.

Still no car, which is starting to get annoying. Apparently we are now waiting for the bank, which I fail to believe, but whatever…

I’m slowly getting settled at work and have started looking at stuff I’m comfortable with, i.e. the PMS (Property Management System) and POS (Point of Sale) systems of a hotel.

As I told you last time, the hotel has just changed PMS and there are a few things to work through. I get going on that and manage to save the hotel about $17,000 in taxes in about two days. Breakfast revenues of one restaurant had been mapped incorrectly and the hotel was going to pay it all to the government in taxes. Wolfmeister to the rescue.

Well, that made my boss happy as well as putting me in the good book with the F&B guys as it gave them $17K more sales in one go. We’ll see if it remains that way next week after Month End.

I also finally get my bank card. It turns out that for my bank I’m Wolfgang Benodl, which is a variation I haven’t come across before…

On Thursday we get visited by the Area Director of Finance who’s come to look at our Balance Sheet and bank reconciliations. I get to have lunch with him and he sort of tells me his life story and what a great boss I have and in general what a great region I’m now in. He tells me to take it easy a lot and wishes me the best of luck on a couple of occasions which somehow makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Well, he’s French, but this time I’m not sure if that explains anything….

On Friday a couple of important things happen. I get paid for my traveling and relocation expenses and it’s also Payday. So suddenly I have lots of money to spend! This is another story in itself though…

I also go and pick up my boxes from the airport which got shipped here a week ago.

I first borrow a car from a guy in Engineering who has a nice big van. However, there is something wrong with the clutch and the car’s engine always dies as soon as you step of the gas.

Apparently he has a way of braking and staying on the gas at the same time but I have not yet mastered that skill, so after the first 2 traffic lights when the engine dies and only very reluctantly comes back alive I decide to go back to hotel.

I then borrow another car which is a black (d’oh) coupe and not really suited for transporting luggage. It is also slightly dirty (massive understatement!!!!!!!!) and the air-condition does not work, but it does drive without problems.

So, apart from the fact I’m already drenched in sweat by the time I make it to the airport, I get there just fine.

Then it’s visiting the Cargo company and the Customs people a couple of times back and forth until everybody agrees I need to see at least another 5 people till somebody will first inspect my boxes and then actually allow me to take them away.

Here is some advice for you:

When moving to a Caribbean country and trying to pick up your stuff, bring lots of time, patience, humor (even though you do not want to try that humor on the Customs people; the same applies to any form of irony or sarcasm by the way), and if at all possible somebody who speaks the local language.

Coming back to the car, it is also advisable to bring a car into which you’ll be able to fit your boxes.

Now I sweat very quickly even in the best of conditions.

But just imagine me standing in direct sunlight (and we are talking 33’ Celsius in the shade, so no idea how hot that would be without shade) and trying to wrestle 30kg boxes into some sort of tiny trunk.

I would like to be able to say that I was sweating profusely, but that would just not do it any justice.

Water was cascading down my face to an extent that I could not see through those streams anymore.

It was ridiculous. Once I had somehow stuffed it all in, it was back into the oven that is a black car without air condition in this weather.

 

It must have been a glorious sight for the guys in the hotel lobby when we pulled up: Some completely wet guy close to madness trying to pry some boxes out of a car.

 

For some strange reason that I guess has something to do with a sense of duty I went back to the office which immediately had everyone in hysterics when they saw me. They probably thought I had fallen into the pool.

 

Anyway, I now have a DVD player which of course I can’t plug in anywhere and other bits and pieces, so I guess I’m glad.

And because writing all this makes me tired, I’ll tell you how I spent my weekend and my money some other time.

 

Take care

Wolfi

Friday, 27 July 2007 03:56:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
 Sunday, 22 July 2007

Alright, it's Sunday and I have survived my first week at work.

I've attended my first meetings and I have met most of the key players in the hotel. I have also met most of the staff I will be responsible for and that will be another adventure in itself.

There is the usual hotel problems here just like everywhere else. In addition, the hotel has recently changed property management system and so there is a few quirks still to iron out. I guess that will be my job...

Apart from the technical expertise, the language will prove the most difficult. I will start Spanish lessons at some point soon, but nothing definite yet.

I also attend the longest departmental meeting ever (over 3 hours) and get a feel for what is important to people here.

Overall, the hotel is humming with groups and weddings and is fully occupied most of the week. So, when I come back from car shopping on Wednesday evening, I'm told to pack my gear and that I'm going to the hotel next door. They are booking me out instead of real guests. Bit of a pain, but there you go.

Yesterday sort of the same thing happens. This time I can stay but need to share my room with another colleague who is in the same boat. The things you do for your employer...

After work it's mostly out to go apartment and car hunting. I think I have found a car on Wednesday and I will hopefully get it next week. It's done via a broker and currently he is trying to get the price down a bit more. I haven't heard from him in 2 days so I guess he was not really successful. We'll see.

I'm also out to look for an apartment but have been less successful this week. The place I have seen is too small I feel and the other place has no cable TV or internet, which is not an option.

I might still go for the small place as it even has Housekeeping included once a week and is very close to work. As long as I'm alone, it would certainly do.

On Friday we go to the cinema and see Transformers which is awesome. The cinema is okay as well and that is a big relief. I guess I'll pretty much see all the movies coming out from now on. On Saturday I start on that quest by seeing Shrek 3 which is funny, but you realise that it's running out of steam.

I've also played Softball again on Thursday and yesterday along with socialising afterwards. People in Curacao really like to sit in front of the corner shop and have lots of beers together. As most of you know, this fits me quite well, so no problems there.

All in all a successful week I guess and I'm starting to settle down. My shipped boxes have actually arrived as well, even though I haven't picked them up yet.

Tonight and tomorrow I'll be doing a night shift so I might find some time to email some of you individually. We'll see. In the meantime I'm off for a nap at the pool (hehe) for some sleep preparation for tonight.

Take care

Sunday, 22 July 2007 16:33:36 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Monday, 16 July 2007

Okay, my first few days in Curacao have passed and here is a bit (quite a bit actually) of an update. 

Every day it is warm straight from the word go, which in my case is usually pretty early as my body is still five hours ahead. I'm getting there though.

I did not bring a jacket but I did bring 4 sweaters. It looks like I will never use them...

Thursday morning I meet my new boss and the HR bunch who all are very nice folks. The hotel has been without an Assistant Controller for about half a year and I think my new boss is honestly glad to have me around.

So, even though I officially don't start until Monday, I get a tour of the hotel and meet quite a few people already. Previously one of my big strengths used to be remembering names quickly, but that skill seems to have gone somewhere. Same place my hair has gone to probably.

After the showround, it's back to HR to sign my life away. As I don't have any luggage, they also give me my first Polo shirt. Man, I can tell you this is so much better than shirts and ties.

Then I go and see Systems who do all the necessary requests to change my email and 2 dozen other logins. That'll probably take a week or so. The Systems Manager is new as well and she has all sorts of good information about getting a car and an apartment.

In the late afternoon, my luggage finally arrives!!

Straight away Thursday evening they take me for Softball training. Now, I did play Softball @ The Grosvenor House but this could not be more different. For starters we play at a real Ballpark with proper bases and everything. Second, training starts at 9pm, but there is almost 30 people including the General Manager, the Director of Finance, the Director of Engineering, the Director of the Casino and various other relatively senior staff. Moreover, they do take their Softball seriously. Whereas in London we tried to catch the occasional ball, here you better catch it all the time. And these balls travel fast! At least I seem to be better than my boss... I will find out this Thursday if I make the hotels second or third team (!)

The Softball experience already illustrates what is going to be my main problem: the majority of people don't normally speak Dutch, English or even Spanish, they speak Papiamentu, which is the local language here and which is some sort of mixture between Spanish, a little bit of dutch and various other influences. They might as well speak Klingon, because I understand Zilch. It'll be interesting how that'll turn out.

After the Softball it's round to the corner shop (which seem to be run exclusively by Chinese or Vietnamese here) for some beers. Now, not having worked the day, not needing to work the next day and with some decent beer drinking experience, I fare better at this than the softball, even though I have no idea whether they are discussing World Politics or my socks.

Friday I manage to open a bank account and afterwards go into town with the hotel shuttle. The town really looks like on the postcards with all the very colourful houses. There is easily more Jewelry shops here than in London and in general the town is nothing special. When the shuttle returns 4 hours later I feel pretty confident I have seen all I needed to see.

Later that evening some other associates take me back into town to a very nice Piano bar and we are the last people to leave.

Only a very short while later it's Saturday morning and I'm off with the Systems Manager to hunt for a car. With public transport almost non-existent, you can't get around without a car. I'll spare you you the details, but it's quite surprising what sand and saltwater will do to cars in a relatively short period of time. I haven't bought it yet, but I will probably by a Chevrolet some time this week.

Back at the hotel I'm told to go to the hotel's own Jurassic park. This means a side of the hotel grounds where loads of Iguanas live. In the afternoon they bring all the kids over to feed them and it's quite a spectacle with them munching away bits of fruit.

You can find them everywhere and I'm really looking forward to my girlfriend making friends with them.

After that it's Sports on TV until Baseball and Nascar comes out of my ears.

Sunday is my beach day and I sit in the sun pretty much all day. Luckily there seems to be a constant breeze blowing that makes the heat more bearable. I have written a good amount of postcards, so look out for them.

In the evening Front Office sort of recruits me to help with a group check in and because I'm quite bored at that stage I gladly accept. Turns out to be quite fun.

Then it's already Monday and my first day at work. I'm presented at the morning meeting and then I have the pleasure of doing 17(!) A&Ls as it is MIP 66 time. Unless you're in Finance within Marriott this will not mean anything to you, but I think the Finance people will appreciate that that is a fair few (even if I don't understand half of them though). Tomorrow it'll probably be the same. I get to have lunch in the restaurant (yeah) and learn about the challenges awaiting me. Doing so I lose all my hard-earned tan again by going very very pale, but I guess in a way I asked for that. The rest of the day I spend in the office and by the time I get out, it's dark outside. For all you Grosvenor House people who might be reading this: Yes, again I sit in an office with no window, even though this time it's at least not 2 miles below ground level. On top/outside it is quite nice though.

I will leave you with a few more impressions of the outside below.

That'll have to be enough for today folks. I'm not sure I can keep this kind of blogging up... Email me if you have any questions and I will try to get back to all of you...

 

 

Monday, 16 July 2007 02:50:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
 Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Well, the big day has finally come.

After a more or less sleepless night it was time to get up at 5:10 am.

After saying goodbye to Janina and closing the suitcase it was time to go to the airport.

The car was waiting and and the trip to the airport went smoothly. We got there far quicker than expected.

Checking in was also fine, even though I had 28.9kg which was politely pointed out to me by the guy at the desk. No extra charge though...

Okay, so far for the the good part of the trip.

After sitting down and starting the first of many Sudoku attempts that day, I looked back up to the departures screen after maybe 10 or 15 minutes. There were some words which I did not want to read:

0745 KL1554 Amsterdam  INDEFINITE DELAY

Rrrrrrright, ah, I do have a connecting flight to catch, so what now? After checking with the KLM folks, the news is that there is some trouble with the incoming flight and it could well be a while. The one thing we could do is change me to the flight at 8:45 which should be on time, however I still might not make my connecting flight. Grrrrrreat.

To cut a long story short, this is what we ended up doing and I made it to Amsterdam at about 1115.

For those of you who have been through Schiphol know that it is quite a massive airport. So, with me arriving in B and needing to go to E, there is now 2 things I don't like to read:

1) 1200 KL0735 Curacao  BOARDING

2) Terminal E Journey Time 20 to 25 minutes

So, I'm off running and I do make the plane (flight is uneventful, but I think I do like KLM), but, as it turns out about 10,5 hours later, my luggage doesn't.

KLM knows this already, so the good news is that it is not lost and gone somewhere else in the world, but that it sits in Amsterdam waiting for the next flight to Curacao.

This takes me another 45 minutes to sort out and dealing with the lady at the desk gives me the first taste of what it's gonna be like working with these very nice, but possibly a tad slow, folks here.

Anyway, KLM gives you $50 for not having your luggage, so it's not too bad. And, to make me appreciate this even more, I don't have 3 little overheated kids and a slightly exasperated wife with me like the guy next in line who now have no swimming gear or anything else for that matter. Life might not be great, but it could certainly be worse.

But whatever, I'm finally here, somebody is there to pick me up, and 30 seconds after stepping out of the airport building I'm sweating. Boy, it is warm.

20 minutes later we are in the hotel and it does really look like it is shown on the website.

I get my room, meet my new boss and have a quick walk around. To beat the jetlag, I'm trying to stay awake for as long as possible which, thanks to American TV, is not all that hard.

Yes, there is ESPN (with lots of NFL previews and some feigned interest in the Tour de France), FOX (Simpsons, 24(!)), HBO and many other channels with stuff like Home Improvement, Seinfeld, King of Queens and other rubbish to keep me happy.

So, I guess this is enough for one day. I have to go back to my room and watch some more TV if you don't mind. I haven't quite figured out how to attach pictures properly, but I hope to do so for the next episode.

More soon! Sweaty Greetings from Curacao

Wolfi

 

Wednesday, 11 July 2007 03:49:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
 Tuesday, 10 July 2007

So, this is it.

I might be leaving London, but I got my own blog instead.

I will keep this short as I'm a bit stressed for time. The removal people have just been here and taken all my stuff with them.

That leaves me about another half day in London.

Tomorrow at this time I will already be in Amsterdam waiting to board my flight to Curacao.

There'll be more once I get there and am settled in a little.

Thanks

Wolfi

 

 

 

Tuesday, 10 July 2007 10:24:53 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |