Sunday, February 14, 2010
Never a Dull Moment
I always try to plan my days in advance – what I'm going to do and when. And it's generally a useless activity. As much as I try to organize myself and guide the direction of things, the obstacles that come at me on any given day defy prediction. It's more unpredictable in the field but even in Dar it has its moments.
On Monday we arrived at the office about 6:45am as we normally do. The Finance Controller and I ducked off into our respective offices and I began to address the hundreds of emails and various other tasks that I was unable to finish over the weekend. After about an hour and a half in the office, we got a call from our Logistics Officer who was downstairs telling us that there was a fire and that we needed to evacuate the building. By this time other staff had arrived in their offices and we all slowly started to make our way for the door, unsure whether or not this was for real. I took my laptop just in case.
As we filed down the stairs we began to smell smoke and I was starting to think that there may be something legitimate about this little evacuation. Sure enough, the lobby was filled with smoke and staff from offices throughout the seven floors of the building had already gathered outside. The smoke was coming from the left side of the building but it was hard to pinpoint exactly where. This biggest surprise was that a fire truck had already arrived and men dressed up as firemen were scurrying around. I'll refrain from directly giving them the title of fireman since, though they looked the part, I didn't actually see anyone appear to do anything that might contribute to putting out the fire. In fact, I was told that the fire truck didn't have any water. Now I don't claim to be an expert on fire fighting and I realize that an empty fire truck gets much better gas mileage than a full one, but that load of water would seem to come in handy when the men dressed as firemen confront an actual fire. As it was, I'm not sure what they were planning to do.
I didn't wait long. Having been out of the office for several weeks travelling to the field, I was obsessed with getting my work done. I told my colleagues to keep me posted and walked up the road to the Holiday Inn to hammer out some emails for a few minutes. I figured I'd come back, it would all be over, and we could all get back to work in our offices.
As I entered the hotel, a TV switched to CNN International blared the results of the Super Bowl (something I was going to try to avoid the entire day so that I could watch the game that night without knowing who the victor was). I settled in, did some work for about 45 min. and then headed back to the office. Upon arrival I noticed that the smoke was now coming out the other side of the building and there was still no sign of water or anything that might serve to extinguish a fire. Realizing that this was going to be a while, the Finance Controller and I decided that we'd go work from home. Before leaving, however, I was hoping to get some paperwork from my office. I noticed that every once in a while someone would enter or leave the building with their mouth covered so I figured that I could probably do the same. So I covered my mouth with my tie and our Operations Manager, John, and I headed in. Power was out in the building and we were using our cell phones for lights. The stairwell was rather creepy as it was filled with this horrid smoke and darkness. After making our way up the two flights of stairs, we arrived at the office door and, once inside, were protected from the hallway smoke. I grabbed my things and we turned to go back down. By now the smoke was making me a bit nauseated and I was looking forward to getting out of the building. We opened the door and sped down the stairs, passing one of the men dressed as a fireman.
Once outside, clothes reeking of smoke, we headed to the car. The rest of the team would keep me posted but they seemed confident that eventually the fire would be extinguished and they'd be able to re-enter the office. They were right and by afternoon they were back at work. My work day took a few other weird turns which had me running all over the city so it turned out to be irrelevant whether I'd waited out the fire or not. Never a dull moment.