My position as supervisor of our work in third world countries often allowed me to go places and see things that the average person may never have been allowed to do or see. While it is not a pleasant feeling when you are possibly considered the life blood of some people, at the same time, there is an advantage to be able to know them without prejudice and I was never really uncomfortable or looked down on the people that I worked and lived with, even if others might have been bigoted toward them.

This fact has made me understand that no matter what some people may be classed as, or how they live, they are human and have lives that it often pays to know and understand. They love, live, and have lives which may be different from ours, but this is their lives, and to a point it should be respected if sometime feared. To me the bigotry is often worse than the sins of the people they appose.

I have sat at a table with bandits and was able to laugh and talk with them, though I knew that they could be dangerous. I have drank thick very sweet tea with Bedouin chiefs in their gathered tents, while never seeing their women, who were concealed elsewhere. These meetings were made to negotiate field workers or purchasing fresh food supply from them or even obtaining permission to enter and work on what they considered “their land”. I have sat at parties of our workers where they danced with each other (man with man) to the cadence of others hitting on pop bottles, sticks, pots, or any other noise makers.

The Tuareg people of the Hoggar, and Mali are interesting. They are rather tall, and other than the blue that many wear, their skin also looked blue to me. Also the men cover part of their face while the women do not~! You will often see the men riding, not camels, but horses with a long rifle looking like they came out of a previous time. I have one of these guns and also swords hanging in my guest house. Those men are not dumb, the sand blows all day~! This is the area of Tombouctou, (Timbuktu in English) one of the most isolated towns on earth and also near the location of the Tassili cave paintings of things which happened eons ago. Like reading an old newspaper in paintings. I have several paintings of these hanging in my home. But that is another story of how I came by these things~!

One advantage I once had was to be invited to the wedding of one of my office workers. This I am sure was a departure from normal, but had many of traditional parts. This was one where I was actually allowed to see the bride, who I knew. Though she was under the protection, tutelage and guidance of what we might call “ladies in waiting”. This, as I said, was partly more modern than what I am sure would have been the more typical, but it employed some to the traditions.

The ladies prepared her with henna body art, putting designs on her hands, face, and other parts of her body, like placing a large coin in the palm of her hand leaving an impression of it in henna, and painting designs with henna on her face and body. Small Gold jewelry from the grooms family were given to her and her family, from the ancient tradition of when a bride was purchased. While this was going on, in another part of the house, we men sat on the floor around a large bowl of Couscous, scooping it up with our right hands to eat, with our left more or less behind us.

The procession was made with the women making loud shrill sounds with their tongues rattling on the roof of their mouths, and everyone was in a very gay mood, loudly shouting greetings both in Arabic and French.

But the most impressive tradition was the one after the ceremony when the bride and groom went up to an upper room, and shortly after that, a bed sheet was draped out of a window, with a red spot on it, much to the shouting of the people outside on the ground.

9 thoughts on “BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

  1. The henna paintings done during weddings are very beautiful, and as elaborate as their several-days-long weddings. What sort of work did you do?

  2. Well Maybe, I worked the Williston Basin about 45 years ago. This is a shallow production so I had a slim hole drill rig following my directions and they hit production in most holes. These holes were then plugged and the land men moved in tying up the leases. The production was not enough at the time for the cost of operations, (a pipeline instead of trucking the petroleum). So now you see at 50 years later one of the most important productions in the US…. I would say in this case that the brains behind big money out show my knowledge of geology and geophysics. Wow, this is the first time I have gotten around to explaining this to anyone~! Must add it to my book.

    My wife Shirley worked with me, I had taught her how to do the math needed to prepare the data, which she did, (she was a very smart little lady and handled the algorithms well, and we had no computers back then) I then did the interpretation and mapping, presenting my recommendations and called in the drilling rig, which would drill immediately. The operation was like a production line. And today they are still arguing about that damn pipe line.

    A side interest is that my son Casimir who was born in Williston at that time, has more or less followed me in computers, and went back there 50 years later, working with data (and some of my maps) in the same field.

    Wow, you had no business asking….I tried to keep my answer short~! Please don’t ask what happened east of the San Francisco fault line (San Andreas), or the steam wells in Arizona, or the several projects I did for the federal Government. I need to keep a few things for my book~! You see there was more than oil in my work… I have tramped on foot, through the jungles of Panama, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Venezuela and Bolivia, etc, on foot doing surface geology, followed by gravity and seismic interpretation…

    Aren’t you sorry you asked~?

  3. Not at all sorry! Ever since I did a term paper in high school, seismology has always fascinated me. And the extraction of oil has been a major part of the history of the country (having grown up in Santa Barbara, though, my thoughts about oil are actually pretty mixed and a little emotional). There’s also a fair amount of geothermal activity in Southern California, just south of the Salton Sea — being tamed for electric power now, but it seems to be expanding.

  4. Yes I worked on a project there but not in California, but east of the Salton Sea toward Yuma. Very interesting, they felt that they could generate electricity from the steam but the real money would come from the chemicals from the steam which is very rich. At the time I was there they were having a Locus swarm problem there and they were like in snow drifts sometime almost a foot deep. It smelled very bad~! That was about 1964-5…after I left Lodi Californa where I had gone to work out a personnel problem~! Funny story~!

  5. There are several steam plants near the Salton Sea, and they are building more — mud pots too! I guess the locusts don’t like the coast very much — I ran into them in the Blue Mountains once, and in Killeen, TX on another trip, but never here. Interesting that I’ve run into several people recently who have lived in Lodi, though not while I was in Sacramento!

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