I like travelling. I like seeing new places, meeting new people, getting a fresh perspective on things. I even enjoy flying. Unfortunately I suck at saving money so I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like. During my childhood we visited United Kingdom once or twice a year and the occasional cruise to Finland and back but never anything major.
But in 1998 the company I was working for was doing so great that we got a trip to Greece as a “good job!”-present to the entire company. And I got a trip to Kenya later that same year as part of my promotion. After that I didn’t do much travelling at all besides the usual trips to UK (and a special one for my sister’s 30th birthday).
But in 2003 something awesome happened. The state department contacted the company I was working for about hiring a consultant or two to do some work at the embassies. At first I didn’t want to do it since I was… well, stupid. But after some convincing from my friends, family and my boss I signed up. And they must have liked my application because I was hired! After a weeks introduction to this project and team members, some education about the job we were suppose to do and a lot of “do’s and don’ts” of travelling around the world I was all set to go out into the world as one of 7 technicians in this project!
The usual routine was: Friday before we left – attend a meeting at the state department to get the tickets and some info about where I was going; travel on sunday or monday so we could start working on Tuesday. On the Tuesday we backed up the old environment and Wednesday / Thursday preparing the new equipment and Friday bringing it all to life. If everything was going according to plan, and we had a really strict time plan, we’d get to do whatever we wanted all Saturday and Sunday. On Monday and Tuesday I’d be tearing all the old equipment down and wednesdays was spent cleaning up after myself. Thursday was spent going back to Sweden and on Friday I’d go in for a debriefing.
What I can summarize those trips with was that it was the most amazing project I’ve ever had the privileged of being a member of and a core member at that. Not a single one of my installations failed, everyone was done on time. It was a blast getting to travel all around the world, it was an eye opened to see the world and it was amazing to experience the food and people in different countries. Some embassies, usually the ones far away from Sweden, treated us like welcomed guests. Others, usually the ones in Sweden, like professionals there to do a job and some like a nuisance that was in the way of them doing theirs. Here’s a small summary of those trips.
My first trip went to Guatemala (May 11th 2003). Since it was my first trip I had a seasoned veteran with me that was in charge of everything so it was just a learning experience for me. The part of town that we lived in was pretty ok but the rest of the place was pretty poor. We went to Antigua which was the capital before a few earthquakes devastated it. But foodwise this was the third best place I’ve ever been to! The had so many different cuisines and everything was very spicy and sauces all over, it was just amazing! After a very long trip back (going through Miami) I landed in Sweden and got a chance to sleep before I was off again to … Images are here.
Singapore (May 25th 2003). This trip was at the same time as the SARS scare so the jumbo we flew from Frankfurt was pretty much empty – I got an entire row to lie in and sleep. When we landed we didn’t only go through a metal detector but also a body temperature detector cause that was the first symptom of SARS. And there was another one at the very nice hotel we stayed at. Singapore was very nice and friendly place to us and the installation went without any problems at all. And my parents mailed the ambassador to notify him that it was my birthday so he made sure there was a strawberry cake there for me which was pretty fun! Images here here.
After I got home I got a few days rest before I headed out to Budapest, Hungary (June 10th 2003). The work had some issues and I was forced to do something that’s known in the biz as “Crazy-Stoff” which is basically fix the problem and deal with the consequences later. But we had a blast there, alot thanks to the weather. During the weekend we took a bus tour of the town and then took a train out to Szentendre which was a beautiful small town north of Budapest. It was just a really nice place to walk through and then sit by the Danube enjoying a beer or two and then taking the boat down the Danube back to Budapest, it was just a blast! Images are here.
After that it was off to Sofia, Bulgaria (June 25th 2003). This was the first time we hit a really big problem with the actual work. All the hardware was stuck in customs so the first few days I had nothing to do, literally nothing to do. And going out on the town alone wasn’t fun at all so I spent most of the time on the hotel. But the hardware was eventually released and arrived on friday afternoon. And since the plan is for the users to be able to login on Monday morning I pulled an all nighter and worked most of Saturday to catch up for those lost days. But come monday morning we were back on track and they could log in! There wasn’t much to see in these town and the food was pretty much the worst of all the places I went to but it was still a fun experience, being ripped off by a taxi driver among other things. Images are here.
Then I had a few weeks off until it was time to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina (July 19th 2003). Workwise we had a small glitch (HP had updated the network hardware on their servers) but nothing another Crazy-Stoff couldn’t fix. The hotel was awesome. The staff at the embassy was awesome (they actually invited us home for a small party!). The town was pretty nice but man the food was out of this world! I promise you, until you’ve eaten a big steak at “La Caballeriza” in Buenos Aires you haven’t had a really good steak! One interesting thing that happend was that one of the guys I was there with hooked up, stayed a few weeks and last time I talked to him she was actually moving to Sweden! Images are here.
After a few weeks rest it was off to Brussels, Belgium (October 11th 2003). As opposed to all the other places I didn’t stay in a hotel here – I had my own apartment! And the embassy was in a house full of Swedish companies and a Swedish store so it didn’t really feel like I was abroad. Funny coincidence was that in the same building was the office of the law firm I worked at as a consultant when I wasn’t traveling and worked at full time from 2005 to 2011! Work wise it went without incident. During this time there was a lot of soccer (qualifying matches for the guys and the World Cup for the ladies) so I spent some time at an Irish sports bar. In the weekend we went out to Brügge, mostly famous for the birthplace of Austin Powers and the movie with Colin Farrell. That was a very nice place to walk through and enjoy a good meal in. Images are here.
And then it was off to Abuja, Nigeria (October 27th 2003). After not feeling like I never left Sweden this was the complete opposite! A city with almost no tall buildings all, everything was flat. Not many restaurants to chose from either but we ventured out to an Indian place that was pretty kick ass. The only glitches at work was with the very unstable power supply that was common there, but we had batteries for almost every workstation and server so wasn’t that much of a problem. One of the babes, and she was a babe, working at the embassy was dating a guy that had been there for a long time and hooked us up with the local Hash House Harriers, which was a totally new concept for me. But fun to just go out and see the countryside and then after party, it was above expectations!
Barely did we get back to Sweden before it was time for me to go on a personal trip to Scotland (November 12th 2003)! We kidnapped my sister on her 30th birthday and took a flight over to Glasgow and a 3 day long party! On the very last evening we had some 30 people, friends and family, taking up almost an entire pub (“Lauders”)! It was great but I kinda pushed myself with that bad diet those three days while still taking the anti-malaria pills since I was going back to Africa soon. When it was time to go back we stopped by a sandwhich joint and they forgot my order. When I reminded them of my missing chicken sub they turbo-fixed one for me and I didn’t notice they hadn’t cook the chicken properly and by the time we took the train to the airport I started feeling queasy. And on the airplane it got worse and by the time we landed I felt really shitty. But after sleeping and not doing anything all Sunday I thought I was OK to go for another trip. Images are here.
This trip took me to Kinshasa, Congo (November 17th 2003). I felt ok most of the trip there and thought another good night sleep would settle it but after eating I went from worse to terrible and I actually didn’t think I’d wake up if I fell asleep, it was that bad! But after sleeping I felt a bit better and got back to work and started unpacking stuff and then every ounce of energy I had poured out of me and I had to go back to the hotel to sleep. The day after was so bad that they took me to the hospital, which wasn’t as bad as you can imagine – because there are so many UN people stationed there the hospital was decent. I passed out when they drew my blood, I just had no energy left in me. Then went back to sleep at the hotel and back to the hotel for test results. They didn’t know what was wrong with me but they could do some things to keep me going long enough for me to get the job done and get back to Sweden. So popping about 15 pills a day and drinking Coca Cola and eating pizza and a very nice phone call from my dad kept me going and the job got done in time and by the time it was time to board the airplance I noticed a few swedish UN soldiers, one was a medic, and decided to sit close to them all the way home. Images are here.
When I finally did get myself to the hospital thanks to my sis AC. They didn’t want to rule out anything at all and almost everyone I talked to said “you’re burned out after all these trips and your hectic life!” but I didn’t buy that. After a few days the results were back and it was a salmonella. Not the aggressive kind that can be fatal, one that would fix itself but it would take a few months. It got so bad for me bacause of my bad diet, the malaria pills, the warm climate in Africa and the extra pills I was taking just to get the job done. Had I skipped that trip it would probably have passed and I could go on my next trip to Jordan instead. But then I would have had one failed installation in my resume and I’m not gonna have that! For the next 2-3 months I was depressed and wasn’t really myself thanks to this salmonella but not much I could do but just deal with it.
After the winter break it was time to go to Helsinki, Finland (February 2004). And since it’s just across the pond it wasn’t really anything special with this trip. Work went well, ok food and the embassy treated us ok. But not much to write home about. As a matter of fact I couldn’t even find any pictures from this trip!
Then it was off to Ankara, Turkey (March 6th 2004). Not many people go to Ankara when they go to Turkey and it was easy to see why. It really isn’t a tourist friendly place at all. Still the people at the embassy treated us very well and helped out as much as they could. On the weekend we decided to just walk all over town, seeing old castles and a big ass mosuqe! Except the weather (who thought it would snow in Turkey!) it was a fun experience seeing the other side of Turkey! Images are here.
After that I went to the Swedish neighbor of Copenhagen, Denmark (April 16th 2004). I’ve been there before briefly so wasn’t expecting much but it was actually kind of fun.Work wise we had a huge breakdown because as I was copying all the old data the old servers gave up and crashed. The people back at HQ thought it was best to send a new server to mount the drives in but I thought “I got 99.9% of the data” why don’t I spend the night building up the new system and they can log in immediately”. So instead of having them log in on the Monday they were ok to login on Wednesday afternoon which was a record. A “lack of options” solutions but it worked! The embassy treated us well and liked that I solved it that fast. On the weekend we did alot of touristy things but nothing major. Images are here.
Then it was time for the most anticipated trip of all – Rome, Italy (April 26th 2004). I don’t know if they knew I loved Italy when they gave me the assignment but I’m thankful they did. When I got the assignment I told my half Italian friend Ricki about it and he in turn booked tickets to be there that weekend so we could really experience the town with a personal tour.Work wise it went as smooth as can be – by this time I was experienced enough that half of the time was spent bathing in the sun, everything just clicked! After work we always went down to the city center and found someplace to eat and have some beer. We got invited home to a Swedish couple (she worked at the embassy) and as it turns out they lived in Sorunda where I grew up!
The weekend was spent with Ricki and his family and also seeing as much of the town as possible and enjoying the hospitality, the weather, the food, just everything. Except the TV because everything is in Italian!
Aloooot of images are here.
My last assignment went to the Hague, Netherlands (May 24th 2004). Another place you usually never visit but it was actually a pretty nice town! We were booked at a hotel that was overbooked so we ended up in the VIP suites, which included free liquor. And I don’t know what it is about swedes but when you say “free liquor” they tend to overdo it. And we overdid it one evening. Never got messy but we definitely drank more than we should have. The job was pretty flawless, the embassy was ok. The food was actually pretty good there mostly because they had alof of restaurants from alot of countries. We had awesome tapas at a Spanish joint and then kick ass steaks at an Argentinian restaurant. So that was a pretty good way to end those trips. Images are here.
When I got back from that trip I took a wrong step and sprained my ankle and I got alot of laughs when I hopped into the state department on crotches. But they were just happy that happened after the last trip! A few months later we had a “ALL DONE!”-party which was awesome because we got to see alot of photos from all the other trips that the other teams went on and they seemed to have had a blast too.
Then in 2006 we (the law firm I worked at 2005-2011) went down to Prague for a “conference”. The conference was held at Karlsbad, or “Karlovy Vary” as it’s internationally known, and it was around the same time they filmed “Casino Royale” there. And after a screw up with the rooms I ended up solo in the biggest suite they had which is the same room Bond stayed at in the movie And since it’s in the Czech Republic there was alot of beer involved. But not too much for me! Before we went home we had a chance to take a tour of the town with a guide. But I kinda got lost when I turned a corner and was met by a fleet of Ferraris outside a sportsbar! Images are here.
Also in 2006 me an my sis went over to Scotland to meet my other sister. Pretty much the same stuff as usual, hang around her house, spending time with their kids and going out for some beers and just enjoying getting together again. Images are here.
During all of this me an my buddy Mats had played a lot of World of Warcraft and we led a guild through a lot of raiding. And some of our guildmates were Italian. One of them, Mario, was working as a teacher at an international school in Milan so he had good english and on January 13th 2007 we went to Milan to pay him and the other guildmates a visit. We spent the first night partying with some students of his. Then we went out to his hometown outside of Milan and had a dinner with all those crazy italians we’ve talked to over the net and played with for a year! And the day after we tried to go home and that seemed alot harder to do but we eventually lifted off 1 minute before we had been grounded (that airport was in a residential area so no take offs past midnight) and we come home to a snowy Sweden! Images are here.
In May 2008 the law firm were off to Barcelona to celebrate how well the company was doing. And wouldn’t you believe it it was the rainiest 2 days Barcelona has had in years! On the first night I borrowed my jacket to a lady because she was cold and unfortunately someone took the opportunity to steal my wallet. This is where my training from the state department paid off – I had my password and a credit card and most of my cash locked in a safe at the hotel so that wasn’t as big pain in the butt as it could have been!
I still got to enjoy the nice city with all the nice food and beer and very social with our lawyers although as opposed to the rest of the IT crew I didn’t get up and dance. Images are here.
Hopefully I’ll get to add more places to this list!