In 2008, my family elected to take an adventure to the Middle East to experience an overseas expat employment contract with my wife Annie and our three children Tom and Maddie (4yrs old) and Ella (3yrs old). When we arrived at Dubai International Airport at 1030pm on 3rd August 2008 and the outside temperature was 37 degrees C, Annie’s first reaction was, “oh my goodness, how hot is it and what are we doing in this place?”
After 16 hours on a plane with our three children, they were exhausted and so too Annie and myself. From this we travelled via a hire car to our apartment on Palm Jumeriah the 8th wonder of the world, a man-made island in the shape of a palm leaf. The trip was challenging in the car as we were driving on opposite side of the road to Australia and it was night-time and we had no idea about this place.
We arrived safely and found our apartment for the next 10 weeks until we managed to find permanent accommodation for the next 3 years, the duration of my employment contract and our adventure.
Well, the first few days were a blur: jet lag, heat in the middle of summer in the desert, the different lifestyle, the Middle East cultures and so on.
While this was happening, I had to support a work colleague who was over from the Australia supervising the constructions works on Al Attar Business Tower II on Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai, a massive tower at near 87 floors almost at its final level. On my third day in Dubai, I travelled up the top of the building via the external alimak (building elevator) to have a look with Phil, our site technician. I felt for Phil, as he had been in Dubai for almost four months solo and was trying to negotiate with the client on completing the final floors of this massive tower and then the decommissioning works of this hydraulic climbing formwork system. I describe this “hydraulic climbing formwork system” like a childrens lego set, a series of piece all bolted together. The trip to the top was interesting, Phil could not really talk as we were crammed into this caged elevator with the expat workforce from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Philippines to name a few.
So we got to the top and Phil showed me around and explained the program to dismantle the equipment and said, “ ok Andrew, we have a problem, Mohammad (Major Contractor – Project Director) has told me yesterday they are sending four semi trailers to start loading our companies equipment and transport it to the newly leased storage yard at Al Quoz”, my reaction is “Ok, any chance of delaying it” and Phil’s immediate response “NO NO NO!”.
So then I thought, we have a major problem, I have been in this country for 72 hours, I am trying to work out what, when, how, who?
From then, we walk around Level 77 of the tower, from memory there were two more floors to be constructed and Phil explained to me the process to dismantle this massive lego set and Mt Everest quantitiy of equipment that needed to be transported back to the Al Quoz storage yard.
After approximately one hour in this searing heat of 46 degrees C, I was completed drenched in perspiration I mentioned to Phil lets go back to the site office at ground level so I can think and work out a plan.
Phil knew that that I was “hit for six” so he took me to a place to eat to recharge the mind and work out what we were going to do. We walked down the street, via my car where I changed my business shirt and we had lunch.
The next day, Phil and myself travelled to Al Quoz Industrial storage yard to see how we would unload these proposed semi trailers with all this equipment. The Australia company owner operated another business in Dubai and they donated a red Manitwoc fork lift to unload the equipment. Phil started up the fork lift and it appeared to work and this was a relief for me as the following day, there were four trucks arriving. The only problem was that I did not have a ticket to operate a fork lift, only Phil did. Phil could not be at the project site and also at the storage yard so we had a problem.
However, Phil was this sort of person that always wanted to help regardless of the adverse circumstances. So Phil arrived the following day prior to the trucks arriving and unloaded the four trailers of C Section purlins however during the process I realised the forklift was not suitable and not mechanically sound.
I had three days until the next series of trucks were arriving and I had to find an alternative as the company forklift was not an option, it was a “piece of junk”. So off I went into the street, and found Mohandas who supplied forklifts with operators. Mohandas was from India and spoke reasonable English.
My next problem was that, my Australian accent apparently was very strong and I used too many words when I communicated with the locals. Phil kept telling me to use less words as the India and local Emarati people would indicate they understand me with body language signals however really had no idea what I was actually saying. So, Mohandas finally after two days began to understand my problems and supplied a forklift to unload the trucks and suggested to me that he could supply a person who could work as yardman and supervise the equipment at night to ensure no equipment went missing, like a security guard. In the background, I completed some research and AED1,000 per month was the going rate and I told Mohandas that I would be willing to pay the man AED1,100 per month if he performed all the tasks that I typed on a A4 piece of paper.
So a day later Rajesh arrived in white overalls and a small bag and Mohandas introduced me to him and his English was minimal. Mohandas was the link in the communication channel however all I remember from Rajesh was his smile and his body language that displayed an attitude, “I will do anything I need to do”.
The trucks arrived, Mohandas and Rajesh unloaded the equipment and partially followed my drawing for layout plan to store the equipment at the storage yard. I sat in the office, with no air conditioner, working away on ideas on how I was going to fund this work as the Australia office of the company was not sending any money due to apparent cash flow issues back in Australia market.
I then decided, I had one day left to pay Mohandas for several days forklift hire and that in next day we had equipment arriving that needed a mobile slew crane to unload these items. I asked Mohandas to find some scrap metal people to come and look at some scrap steel to purchase. This happened and I was able to generate some much needed cash for the company and was able to pay various personnel for their services and equipment hire.
I looked at the room that Rajesh stayed in on site, it was small and had a small basin, toilet and he was happy, in fact entirely happy. I had purchased a bed from Ikea and some other items for his room. My life revolved around money, computers, cars, holidays, shopping for personal and family items etc however Rajesh was so happy with what he had. I will never ever forget the day I paid Rajesh his first pay for his months salary in cash, he fell to his knees and thanked me. Moving for me, YES. I also had opportunity to work in Mumbai, India also and the “Happiness” there was moving despite people having little or no money.