Having been working almost 3 years without any vacation longer than a long weekend, I was on a consulting gig at Sybase doing curriculum development for a new software package they had coming out and I got to talking to one of my fellow developers, Sarah, about taking time off. When you are paid strictly by the hour, with no benefits or paid time off, you tend to take a very critical look at the true cost of a vacation. To the airfare, hotel, food, and other travel-related expenses, you add the revenue lost by that week or two of no billable hours. This can easily double or triple the cost of the vacation. Plus, you’re proving to your client how easily they can get along without you.
Sarah remarked that thinking like this was a slippery slope which might lead to never taking time off and hitting that dreaded Silicon Valley state of “burn out.” I knew people like this and they weren’t fun to be around. The Tech Bubble was bubbling nicely and I was loath to turn down work, but I scheduled a trip to Egypt and Jordan for the end of my Sybase gig, being mostly interested in scuba diving in the Red Sea.
All the photos of this trip turned out like crap. I vacillate back and forth between full-size SLR and compact cameras for travel. I love the photos from SLRs, but hate to carry that much stuff around. So I bought a nice compact 35mm camera. Except that it turned out to be a piece of shit. At noon in the Egyptian sun the flash would fire. Plus, the airport scanners screwed up a number of my rolls of film. And then the pix below are scans of slides.
On to Sharm el Sheikh
Sharm is a popular dive location on the Red Sea on the Sinai, north of the Suez Canal. As the closest coral to Western Europe, year-round warm weather, and a good airport, it is a very popular tourist destination. It has no history whatsoever, being a creation of the tourist industry. It is an otherworldly place that I can only describe as Las Vegas plunked down on the Sinai coast.
I dove there for two days going out on boats with divers who were so bad that it made me angry. Not only were they dangerous to be around, but their skill was so bad that I saw them constantly kicking fan corals and breaking off pieces of reef. The boats were cattle car affairs, with no attention to passenger comfort. The reefs were beautiful and I am glad I went, as it won’t be too many years before they are destroyed by sloppy divers using sloppy local dive operations.
Amman, Munich, and Home
I was pretty tired of being away from home after four weeks in the Middle East. I got to Amman, Jordan, still thinking about possibly going into Syria. I got there late, though and the next day was a holiday and nothing was open, the streets were deserted, and I was ready to be home. What was open was the toll-free number for Lufthansa, so I booked a flight from Amman to Munich, and moved up my Munich to SFO flight. Early the next morning I took off and landed mid-afternoon in Munich where I had an overnight layover.
That layover was not entirely accidental. After four weeks of being careful where and what I ate, assessing each building I entered for how safe it seemed, and always feeling like someone was trying to sell me something, an evening walking around Munich was delightful. Dinner at the Hofbräuhaus and a stroll along the Marienplatz in late spring was just the ticket.
The next evening I was home in Walnut Creek and the following day started looking for contract work. Within days, I had another consulting gig. The Tech Bubble had its high points.