The driver wasn't not waiting for me. Again nothing new. Scenes from Tom Hanks' "The Terminal" started playing in my head.
After several tries, I managed to get the driver on the phone, who apologized that he had forgotten about picking me up. Still nothing new. Fortunately, he lives near the airport and was there to meet me within 15 minutes.
Algiers was a lot colder than Beirut. I heard it had rained for the past 2 days.
By 4:30am, I was back in the Sidi Fredj guesthouse.
By 9:00am, I was awake. The curtains were unable to hold back the glare of the morning sun from my room. Only 4 hours plus of sleep. How annoying!
I was thinking of going back to bed around noontime when I got a call from the office. Top gun needed my help in the office for some presentation to our principals the day after next. Bummer!
Things picked up towards the evening.
A while ago, a group of 2 Singaporeans and a Malaysian got in touch with me via my blog. We arranged a meet up at Bangkok, a Thai restaurant in Draria.
A little held up at work, the guys were already waiting for me at the restaurant. As I entered the restaurant, to my pleasant surprise, the group of guys appeared to be around my age.
The guys, Pradeep, Jek Suen and Yong are based in Bejaia, about 4 hours of drive to the East. They are working for Porktek, a Singaporean company, contracted to provide management expertise to Bejaia's port. They were in Algiers for holiday.
Pradeep, a fellow NUS FASS alumni, has been here since 2004. Yong, a Johorean working in Singapore for a long time, has been in Algeria since 2005 and will be completing his tour of duty in June. Jek Suen, the newest addition to the group, started working in Bejaia only two months ago.
In my opinion, these guys are big time hard-core! My professional interaction with local Algierians are limited mainly to the graduates of Ecole Polytechnic, the creme de la creme. But these guys are managing the blue collar workers on a daily basis! Pradeep mastered the French language and the group even got the port workers speaking Singlish, Singaporean accented English, now
Yesterday's meeting was after a long time since I last "talked cock". It was nice to hear and speak local accents as we traded stories about life in Algeria. There were so many common grievances or topics but just to name a few:
Unscrupulous cleaning service: My previous cleaning lady once stole my Bak Kua, mom's home-baked pineapple tarts and washing powder. Yong's cleaning lady most probably took some of his perfumes. Pradeep's wife lost some of her cometics when she last visited.
Missing things: We all complained about the missing food from our office drawers and the security guards that feign ignorance even though only they have the keys. Yong had his cassette deck and high-performance speakers stolen from his CDV! Unbelieveable!
Water problems: The water supply in my apartment is miserably low (40 minutes to shower). The guys in Bejaia sometimes don't have water in the summer!!!
Ramadan: Why is there a spike in fighting incidents during Ramadan?!
Food and social entertainment: The lack of variety in food choices and pitifully few social entertainment venues to speak of.
I had the most enjoyable and hilarious evening in Algeria so far.
The inaugural dinner of the Singapore - Malaysia "huay guan" in Algiers
P.S. This pretty much disproved my theory that I am 50% of the Singaporeans based in Algeria. As far as I know, there is also one other Singaporean blogger based in Oran. I am now 25%. =P