Saturday, August 12, 2006

There and Back Again.

So I'm looking out the window of the small plane I'm on as it rolls up to it's parking space at the airport on the island of Ciudad del Carmen. Waddling alongside of the plane is a big iguana, maybe thirty inches long. Apparently it was a regular visitor to this airstrip as all the guards standing around with automatic rifles were ignoring it.

Ciudad del Carmen is just off the coast of Mexico on the Gulf side just before the Yucatan peninsula. The water is emerald green and the beaches are white, dotted with small thatched huts to relax under. It looked very beautiful from the plane as I flew in. Small shrimp boats tacked about in the water below me hauling in netfulls of the famous del Carmen giant shrimps (roughly the size of a gopher!). Stretching away from the beaches to cover the island were hundreds of brightly colored bungalows and assorted larger buildings. Each was gaily painted in bright colors, red blue green yellow pink purple like handfuls of confetti tossed at a party...

To make a long description short, it looks even better as you fly away from it...

Here's a tip they don't tell you in the guidebooks. The island has no storm sewers. Uh, "So what?" you are asking. "It sounds like a tropical paradise." you may be thinking. Well, it's more of a tropical-rain paradise. Every night huge storms would crash across the island dumping 2-3 inches of rain on this flat island-city. The water then just sits there leaving the roads under anywhere from 3" to 14" inches of the nastiest water you've ever seen outside of Troy, New York. We needed a taxi to get across the street for lunch because no one wanted to walk through the knee-deep, filth-filled water. The taxi costed 20 pesos (each way).

Beaches? Didn't get to them. Shrimp? Saw some swimming in a window tank at a restaruant when we stopped at a red light. Brightly colored buildings? Yep, very pretty as we whizzed past on the way to the Pemex compound. This was a large, old industrial complex with unreliable electricity and surrounded by 12-foot concrete walls topped with razor wire. I spent three days in the complex analyzing crude oils using even cruder equipment. They demanded our values be within 3% of values found earlier. It was a bad sign when the first oil came up over 90% different in the C10-17 (hydrocarbons whith chain lengths of ten to seventeen carbons) values.

This was not good. I kept testing testing testing samples. According to my Visa, I was only there to observe, but laws and such get a little fuzzy in Mexico when large amounts of money are involved. I worked. Some oils matched earlier values while others were way off, always in the C10-17 count. Solids and asphaltenes were dead-on, it was just the damn short-chain hydrocarbons that weren't matching up! It was hot, the fumes were driving me dizzy and the power kept going out so the hot-bath I was using never got up to 180F...wait a minute, that's it! The hotbath was only 140F, so I wasn't extracting as much C10-17 into the acetone as before! I knew what the problem was and asked my interpreter to explain it to the Pemex officials. Once they understood the problem they'd have to realize there was no way I could meet their 3% specification.

Well, that didn't work. They responded that that wasn't their problem. I had to meet their values within 3% or the deal was off.

An hour later I was back at the airport leaving a day earlier that originally scheduled. (Um, technically I should state that it was actually a day earlier than the NINTH scheduled flightplan, but that's a whole different $1000 story) So, Monday morning I get to go into work and explain why I wasn't able to close the multi-million dollar deal.

And I thought last Monday was as bad as it gets...

Oh yeah, the latest antics(!) of the damn sand-bastards certianly didn't make my trip any easier. Note to the Religion of Peace, we can drill through glass...

Adventure! Excitement! Tropical Island Distopia!

No comments: