Another Christmas issue of the Bluelou Times…. Has the year gone by this quickly? No, I haven't been issuing too many of them and for you snail mail readers, I'll clue you in…the year has been relatively uneventful until recently. Some of you know…but many don't so I'll give you the entire scoop.

In an eventful embassy-bidding schedule, we bid about a half-billion dollars worth of work and got none leaving an idle staff. I for one wasn't idle maintaining about 90-95% of my time doing proposals and project support along with a couple of trips to one of our projects in Puerto Rico.

A few weeks passed after we got notice that our bids were for naught and the executive VP resigned over budget issues. In spite of my firm stance that I keep out of office politics, I was caught in the aftermath. Two other compadres got their final check that same day. Word has it that there will be more. I finished up my current workload, cleaned out my desk, said my good-byes, and went home to my Birmingham apartment to contemplate my next move. I sent a few good-bye emails and made a few phone calls…

This is the funky part. The next morning, I got many emails including an email from a former associate and awesome friend in Nigeria. She sent me some contact information of a friend of hers with a rival company. She said that if I'd send her my resume, she'd call them for me and put in a plug. My reply was that I'd call and use her name as a reference. I called…busy…left voice mail message. No sooner had I hit the off switch on the phone did the phone ring. It was the human resources director for the company mentioned in the email of my friend.

Could I come in for an interview?

Yes.

Today?

Yes.

This morning?

Yes? It took a large amount of hustle but I cleaned up in an hour and made the two hour drive from Birmingham to Montgomery Alabama so we could do lunch before the interview took place. Well, part of the lunch was an interview as well. When the interview with the big brass started, I was immediately impressed with the candor of what was to be my new boss. Even if he wouldn't be my boss, I'd consider him to be a great friend. He offered me a job at any of their locations in Africa…to call them toilets wouldn't be kind to toilets…but I told him they didn't appeal to me. Then came the carrot…four years back in Beijing, China…tell me more! He couldn't talk money but said I could work at any of their jobs including the home office. He said that he wanted to hire me based up my resume along with the recommendation of my friend in Nigeria…something she'd never done in the thirty years he'd known her.

The following week, I flew to Charlotte for another interview…another offer. This time, I'd return to Yerevan, Armenia. It was truly odd when the first executive said he only had one question…when could I come to work?

Two interviews in less than two weeks after my layoff yielding two offers! The first offer came in less than a day after I got laid off. In total honesty, my brain had not yet come to the realization that I was unemployed! When I compared the numbers, the money was substantially greater than what I made with my old company. Truth is, I'd wanted to leave but stayed out of dedication to my former employer for sticking with me during the lean times. Please note that there's a fine line between dedication and stupidity.

As a personal guideline, I try not to return to places I've been. I've been to Yerevan twice and Beijing once. With an estimated income from the Beijing offer and a known income from the Yerevan offer I had numbers to compare...each offered about fifty-percent more money than my previous job. Both were Embassy projects. Yerevan was already happening but not a shovel had been used on Beijing. Yerevan was 18 months…Beijing 48 months. With the money being the same but the duration of the project considerably longer, Beijing won on location and duration. For those of you hoping that I’ll find someone nice…perhaps a local girl. Forget the possibility that she’d be Chinese. I’d be on the next plane out after I bought the ring…security reasons.

It's been said that when one door closes, another opens. I didn't expect the door to reopen so quickly. I can only offer with utmost sincerity, my highest gratitude to those who helped with their actions, notes, prayers, and the like. There are so many ironies in this whole story that I’m truly convinced that this whole thing was God’s plan.

I was unemployed for all of six weeks...a nice break...three in Alabama, one on the road, and two in Omaha. No, I didn't do much...hard to plan when you're "on call". I just hung around the house, rode my bike, and got to know my family and friends again...not a bad way to spend a vacation. Before I got laid off, I'd contemplated asking for a month off...even a leave of absence if needed...so I could spend it with the family.

I've started work for my new company, Caddell. Caddell is doing a joint venture with H. B. Zachry. For those of you that remember, when I was on the power plant in Virginia, Zachry was one of the contractors on that project. My temporary assignment is in San Antonio before being mobilized to China around February. I've run into a few familiar faces already. I'll get two round trip tickets home each year along with 15 days of vacation. It takes a minimum of a week to become acclimated to the time change of 13-14 hours so trips home will be minimized.

As you know, Beijing will host the 2008 Olympics. The project will be nearing completion around that time. Only time will tell if I'm there to see them. There will be lots of Olympic related construction around Beijing. There was lots of the work being done around Beijing when I was there last…probably in anticipation of those same Olympics.

Currently, I'm living out of my suitcase in a hotel in downtown San Antonio near the Alamo Dome. I've seen one Spurs game already. My hotel is near the famed river walk…lots of shopping, restaurants, and bars. This is the first time I've been to San Antonio so I can't speak for the rest of the year but the Christmas season with the river walk in Christmas decor has to be among the best times to be here. The lights and carolers add to the seasonal ambiance.

I should be in town to see my mighty Huskers play Michigan State in the Alamo Bowl…only a mile away. I'll be home for Christmas. New Years should be here in San Antonio.

The day I committed to my new job, I dumped off a year's accumulation of stuff (a small truckload) at the company warehouse…including my bicycle. Yes, I can get one in China but this one is perfect for the pool table flatness of Beijing. I cleaned out my apartment into a U-Haul and headed to Virginia to get my stuff out of storage and move it to another storage area in Omaha…much closer to my folk's house where I can access it when I get home. It was a revelation viewing stuff I hadn't seen in seven years...or used in nearly ten. I call my storage area my apartment.

I stayed with friends along the way. It was as much a vacation as it was a chore. I got to see Mr. Ed's little girl, Gracie...a first for me. With the long flights I've taken in my life, I've become to abhor driving. This trip reaffirmed my disdain for driving long distances.

2003 was rather non-eventful for me. I spent more time at home with the family than I've done in many, many years…even when I worked domestically.

I made two trips to our project in San Juan, Puerto Rico but that was as far as I'd gone away this year. Each trip was more than a month and I was very glad to return home after each one. One of the few bonuses of Puerto Rico was that I got to go scuba diving on my fortieth birthday.

As we get older, we contemplate the path of our future...I often wonder what I'm going to do when I grow up. At the end of this project I'll have been in international work for twelve years...two more than I'd originally planned. I'll be doing more contemplating over these next years...maybe the road I've traveled is my home...my destiny.

I made my usual events: football, baseball, hockey, and concerts. Nothing exciting. Travel was confined to work activities and going home…drab, drab, drab! Most of my frequent flyer miles were consumed with domestic travel...not many left...need to take more trips.

2004...back to China. I’ve already got three reservations on my list of visitors when I hit China. Get yours in now. Send me an e and we’ll see if we can book you into Bluelou’s bed and breakfast. Merry Christmas!

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