Tag Archives: Houston

Popo Experience

Yesterday I had my second popo aka police incident since I moved to this country. I was driving from my training base going home. I had a car rental and was cruising well within the dipped limit. Well, the speed limit had just changed from 75mph to 70 mph. I had seen that late, baked and changed lanes just as I went over the brow of a hill..and who was on the blind side of the hill. 3 state troopers hidden from view.

I went past them, did the 3 second count as I cruised by and guess what. One of them joined the road and Immediately knew they were after me.

There were a few semi trucks in between but soon they were behind me and flashed the magic lights.

I immediately pulled over. The lead trooper approached the passenger side cautiously as they always do with his hand on his holster ready for anything. I was scanning him on my rear view mirror. He quickly glanced the rear passenger seats and by then I had lowered my windows.

He said I had driven on the shoulder as I passed them. I told him it was possible since I hadn’t been behind the wheel in 3 months. He asked why and I explained I had been in tech school at an AirForce base up the state. Guess what..he said he was also in the AirForce for 4 years and had been in the Security Forces. The equivalent of Military Police in the AirForce. He asked what rank I joined as. I told him and he says he joined at the same rank. Right there I knew my State Trooper gods were smiling on me.

He took my license and the car rental agreement and asked me to step out of the car and stand in front of his cruiser. I did and he started asking me all these basic military questions..what squadron I was in..he gave me his and what was even better his partner was also in the AirForce and had been in my squadron. We did the squadron chant and life was good and I was let go with a warning for driving on the shoulder, which I didn’t but hey..never argue with cops. Show remorse and you just might get away. Hand shakes and I was on my way.

I finished tech school last week but didn’t have orders to leave. It’s the permission to leave your current base and go to the gaining base. I did details as I waited for my orders to drop. They eventually did. I out processed quickly with everyone on base and I got to leave. I have a few leave days down in Houston. I’m getting my stuff. Getting rid of the Audi, getting another runner and hitting the road for the East coast where my new base will be. I haven’t accumulated enough leave days to be in Houston through Christmas. I’ll be heading to my new base next week.

Houston is humid as always but it’s good to be back. Gotta get cracking as I only have a few days in town.

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Random musings

It’s already 11 months since I made the big move into H town. It’ll be a year next month since I moved here. I only have good things to say about the move and how far the Big guy upstairs has brought me. Giving thanks for everything as always and looking at the positives.

My current job is about to come to an end but I believe greater things are to come in future. I’m traveling to Canada next week to see my good friend and former colleague. I’ve always wanted to visit Canada but the hassle of acquiring two visas out of Nairobi was just too much for me to handle. Luckily this time round I won’t need a visa courtesy of my Green Card. I just need my passport and I’m good to go. I’m thankful for such small things. Being able to travel easily.

Houston is a huge city and it’s so easy to get lost in it. I cherish the few relationships I have with great people here, both Kenyan and American. I’m thankful for my host for showing me the way when I got here and I’m where I am because of him. I still keep in touch with friends back in Kenya but not as often as I would love to.

What scares me about Houston is the gun violence around. Road rage is real people in Houston and the greater Texas. There is at least one road rage incident involving guns. I’m very aware of the fact that it’s legal to carry guns in Texas and quite a number of people have concealed gun licenses. I take a few seconds to react to some of the crazy driving around this town. No crazy rush decisions. It’s plain dangerous.

My accent is an issue in everyday dealings with people but I just keep it real. I guess it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I mean a new accent. I’m aware of it and I try to be understood when I speak. So far so good.

When I arrived here I lost my popular name and acquired an unfamiliar name. The US government doesn’t care about your second or middle name. It just takes your first and last. So now I have a new identity and there is nothing I can do about it. My middle name is dying a slow death. Not cool.

Pets are a big deal in Houston, Texas and in the US. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen pet spas, psychologists, vet, emergency room, mobile grooming vans and conversations with colleagues discussing their dogs or cats and how they baby sit for family and friends and they love it. No offense but in Kenya it’s also picking up quite a bit..having a pet dog. When I was growing up we had dogs but they were for security and slept outside. Had kennels and ate raw meat, bones, leftovers and such. Here they have dog bacon. You travel, your expand your horizon. I don’t think I can keep a pet due to the care involved and I’m always on the move.

Drive texting is so rampant in Houston that you have to be on the look-out for people crossing into your lane. With the crazy speeds people do here I’m amazed there are not more accidents, what with people doing 70mph and texting on the freeway..Crazy.

I’m traveling to Kenya next month. I’m excited. I’ll be there for a short time but I look forward to sharing special moments with my woman and my parents..The main reason I’m going. It’s cheap to travel to Kenya out of Houston. In low season you can easily get a ticket for a low as $740 return. All the big Middle-Eastern airlines come here..Qatar,Emirates,Turkish..and they service Nairobi too..not forgetting Air France, KLM. I’ll be riding an air-taxi service when I go home with 3 stops but who cares. I paid less than $1000 for the ticket in high season. Cool times ahead.

Obama is coming to Kenya around the same time I’ll be there. I know it’ll be crazy with all the security, mobile phone interruptions and inconveniences but home is home in good and bad times. I’m excited to see all the military hardware on display during his visit..I’m a military boy at heart.

All in all it’s been a great ride, looking forward to next chapters in my life.

God bless the hands of my labor.

Warm season is here

It’s that time of the year again, nearly a year since I landed in Houston. It’s coming up to Summer. The official Summer date is June 21 2015. It has been very warm since April.  Of late it’s been high 80s and low 90s…that’s 25C to 32C for my British background mind. The humidity is the worst part about this season. They don’t call it the ‘Air Conditioning Capital of America’ for nothing.

It’s been raining quite a bit too during Spring and Houston even flooded a couple of weeks ago. Houston is technically flat so some areas are flood prone. Generally the drainage system works fine but the Bayous (Slow moving streams) that break their banks and flood freeways and highways.

You need A/C everywhere. Woe unto you if you don’t have it in your car. Sweaty under-arms are the order of the day. Luckily I had mine fixed before I took the long road trip West. Sitting in traffic is the worst especially in the evenings after work. Luckily the sun goes down much later around 9pm by which time it’s much cooler for outdoor activities.

The storm season is here and that brings lots of rain. There is one approaching today from the Gulf of Mexico. It’s being called Tropical Storm Bill. We’ll see what it brings but we’ve been advised to stay home if the roadways are flooded. Guys have been shopping like crazy the last couple of days especially for emergency supplies like Water, Torches, Transistor Radios, Dry Food, etc.

Bracing for a wet, hot and humid couple of weeks ahead. We’ll see what Bill brings us.

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The view of the City of Houston this morning from the office.. Those clouds are about to dump a lot of rain on Houston. #TropicalStormBill

Space Center Houston…NASA

The road trip started in earnest here in Houston, my girlfriend and I went to THE Space Center or NASA is it’s commonly known as. It was such a interesting visit as the same day an astronaut Scott Kelly was blasting off to space from Kazakhstan and it was beamed live from the space center. His mission is interesting as he has a twin a brother Mark Kelly. Mark is also an astronaut. He is going to be testing Einstein’s theory of relativity. They’ll be testing to see if he’ll age less than his brother Mark on earth. That was interesting watching the spacecraft blast off live from one the theaters at the space center. It was great seeing all these developments in progress about science and the future looks bright on that front. My girlfriend was over the moon seeing all the crafts and everything NASA related…Priceless. It’s a whole day tour and it’s fascinating to hear about how far technology has come since the first days on the moon.

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West Coast was a blast

I’m back in Houston and still on recovery mode. My girlfriend and I covered 5600 miles (8960 Kilometers), 8 states, over a dozen big towns and priceless memories. I would do it again in a jiffy. The car performed as expected. No problems at all save for leaking steering fluid. We even got snow up in Oregon. On the way back I got to encounter my first traffic stop by a Sheriff in Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona. It went well. He gave me a written warning and that was it. It doesn’t go into my records or anything. He checked trunk (boot) for drugs. Not that I had any but I guess it’s a drug route from Mexico. Our longest day was from Austin, Texas to Tuscon, Arizona (892 miles/1427kilometers) in over 13 hours. The shortest day was from San Jose/Silicon Valley to San Francisco (52miles/83kilometers) in slightly over an hour. Getting out of Texas was the biggest challenge. It’s so huge and takes hours and hours to cross into neighboring states. California has so much to do, we’ll go back sometime and explore it some more. I enjoy driving so that wasn’t a problem. There are hotels and gas stations all over routes we took. The Audi has a 16.4 Gallon/62.2Liter tank which can comfortably cover over 400miles/640kilometers. There was no time we had a risk of running out of gas. I’ll post the pictures once I sort them out. But for now I’m too tired to do much.

1st Job

I started my first job in this country on Friday night, exactly 3 months since I got here. I’ll be working for an IT company. If it wasn’t for the contacts I’ve made since I got here, I don’t think I would have gotten the job. Networking means everything in the job market in this country. I got the job through an employment agency contracted to recruit contract workers for the IT company. Complicated stuff. Reliable transport was one of the requirements for the job. I don’t have a car yet but I can’t make arrangements to be at work when required.

The employment agency has it’s headquarters in Southfield, Michigan. It has a representative here in Houston. Met her at a Starbucks coffee shop. Tonnes of paperwork to go through, verify legal documents required for employment, a bit of do’s and don’ts, terms of employment, pay check arrangements. I’ll get my first 2 pay checks sent to me before they do a direct transfer.The lady had earlier requested for the go-ahead to conduct a 7 year background check. The offer was dependent on passing a drug test.

I had an option to choose from which Quest Diagnostics laboratory to go to. I chose one closer to where I live. I gave a urine sample and that was done.

I thought it’d take 48 hours for the results to be ready. I was quite surprised when the Agency lady asked me to report to work the following day as the background check and drug test results were back early.

I’ll be working the 3rd shift or graveyard shift as it’s called. I start at 10.40 pm and knock off at 6.40 am. I’ll be working Monday to Friday and Overtime when required during weekends. My host dropped me off early. I felt like a ‘deer in the headlights’. The 2nd shift guys were getting done for the day and 3rd shift was starting. I’d tried to sleep during the day but I didn’t get more that 2 hours sleep.

The majority of the night was spent in orientation by HR. Company policy, data handling policy, hazardous materials training, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) training (never mind that I won’t be dealing with food). There were 2 15 minutes and 1 30 minutes breaks in the 8 hour period. There are vending machines and unlimited supply of coffee in the common area. The coffee came in handy to keep me awake. The last 2 hours were spent getting familiar with what I’ll be doing. It’s a very large building with freezing like air conditioning in place..It’ll take time to get used to that. Glad I had a jumper on. In no time 8 hours were done and I was off to get some sleep.

Sleeping during the day is not normal. The body will need some adjusting but so far so good. It’s a start.

Random observations: Time keeping is of utmost importance. It can lead to termination of employment, Use of cell phones is frowned upon during work hours, Job training is thorough, Rules are strictly adhered to (mishandling of expensive IT components can cost the company thousands of dollars), Discrimination of any kind or use of violence will get you fired, My job pays bi-weekly (after every 2 weeks), Overtime is one and a half times the normal pay.

Applying for a job

I’ve spent the last week applying for jobs online. Having internet connection is an absolute necessity. Most households have them anyway via the cable connections. I’ve had to redo my resume to match what employers are looking for here in Houston. Most of my experience and education from Africa does not account for much to American employers. It has been a delicate balance to show employers you can do the job at hand.

There are very many Manufacturing, Chemical industries, Gas companies, Shipping and Logistics, Oil drilling, Oil pipeline, Customer service, Hospitality, IT, Health care, Warehouse jobs available in and around Houston

Most of the jobs I’ve applied for are through employment agencies. You upload your resume online and fill out lots of details including but not limited to if you are legally employable in the US, Will you need visa sponsorship in the future, Do you have a valid driving license, Have you ever been in the military (Apparently Military Veterans are given preferential treatment when applying for jobs), Are you willing to travel for some jobs and for what percentages of travel you are willing to do, Are you disabled..etc

Having contacts in different organizations is very helpful as you get to know which job openings are available and through which agencies to apply from.

I’m looking forward to hearing back from the recruiters. One got back and asked for lots of information which I provided. I’m hoping to hear something from that end.

It is an interesting and confusing journey at times but with my host at hand to assist when I get stuck, all is moving well. I can’t complain about the journey so far.