Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Travel Update - Doug in Guyana!

When you think of business travel, you often think of flying business class, arriving in a glamorous city, sitting in meetings with a glass boardroom table and eating gourmet food.  The reality is flying economy and sitting in airports, arriving in a developing country on your own, trying to figure out where you are and how to get where you're going, struggling with inconsistent Internet and eating food that you know will make you sick!

So why do I do it? Why do I love to travel and experience new places?  First of all, the work is really interesting.  You are often faced with complex problems that your fresh perspective can solve, or maybe it's a new problem for the locals that you have solved before.  For example, Guyana's shoreline has very little sand.  It's mostly mud from the Amazon that flows in waves from east to west.  All of our numerical models and coastal engineering equations are based on sand.  So you really have to dig deep and understand the system from a whole new perspective.

The second reason I love to travel is meeting new people.  People are the same everywhere, with the same dreams and aspirations.  Some people work hard, others are lazy, and government employees have the same complaints whether it's the U.S. or a third world country.  Meeting people and seeing their living conditions renew my appreciation for life in the U.S., if not a little guilty for our excessive consumption and materialism.  I've met people who are very happy with a simpler life and find joy in sharing what they have.

It's surprising to me that we in the U.S. know very little about Guyana.  It is the only English speaking country in South America, and they have the lowest per capita income.  When I ask my taxi driver in the morning how he is, his answer is always "tryin'" It's a beautiful country once you're outside of the capital city Georgetown.  Just a few miles up the Essequibo River life is still wild.  The houses are elevated to keep snakes and jaguars out.  People beat the river water with sticks before swimming to chase the stingrays away.  Keiteur Falls is one of those Amazonian waterfalls that you only see in movies with a 714 foot drop.  And there is a tiny, poisonous, golden yellow frog that only lives at Keiteur in the leaves of a specific giant bromyliade.

So that's why I accept the hardships of business travel, and, every now and then I do get to go to paradise!

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