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Bitter Coffee with a little Persons and works in Arabic Countries

Dimitris Spanakis

Copyright Š 2018 DIMITRIS SPANAKIS Email: dispana@hotmail.com This Intellectual Property Project is protected under the provisions of the Greek law (Law 2121/1993 as amended and currently in force) and of the Berne-Paris International Convention, ratified by the Law No.100 / 1975. It is strictly prohibited, without written authorization by the author or by any means or means (typographic or electronic), the partial or total copying, reproduction, translation, adaptation (literary, artistically), publication, retransmission to the public and general exploitation of the whole or part of the Project This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writers Imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead. actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. Author: Dimitris Spanakis Cover: Konstantinos Spanakis Editor: Dimitris Spanakis LEFKOMELANI.GR


ISBN: 978-618-84067-1-1 Works of the same author: Holes in Water I & II - Lyrics – Poems - in Greek Cretan Folklore – Lyrics – in Greek The Diary of a Greek Love Story - Fiction – in Greek and English

To those who like it

With special thanks to all the people mentioned in this narrative novel wherever they are today

A FOREWORD FROM THE EDITOR In the 1980s, all Greek construction companies were the first to undertake major construction and infrastructure projects in the Arab countries in Asia and Africa. They were followed by thousands of Greek engineers, of all specialties and tens of thousands of skilled workers looking for jobs abroad with higher payrolls in harsh working conditions. The author, engineer in profession, participates in the construction of the projects as a staff member of these companies and records the experience he has gained during his stay and work for seven years in Libya, Cyprus and Saudi Arabia. Along with the problems in the execution of the works, he observes and records historical, political and social events, he meets and communicates with persons from other cultures, analyzes and criticizes the great political and historical changes of the period. He is a modern Odysseus, a fortune seeker experiencing actions and adventure in the developing countries of the Third World. The title, "Bitter Coffee", that I chose, metaphorically means the bitter taste of life, just as the taste of bitter coffee, but it is pleasing. The following “with a little” - which means a pinch of sugar - could, at the reader's discretion, be complemented by another essential element, such as joy, happiness, action, adventure, history, politics, love, etc The first person narrative invites the reader to experience the hero's problems, adventures and actions, while meeting countries, faces and customs of other known and unknown peoples, religions and cultures. The simple, comprehensive language, with dialogues and judgments, prompts the reader to watch the breathtaking narration. The whole story, without escaping the boundaries of the reality, is a novel with literary, folklore, political and historical testimonies and descriptions that the reader is invited to participate in and ultimately to judge. Enjoy reading. THE AUTHOR

*O* LEFKOMELANI.GR


CHAPTER ONE: In Libya

MEMORIES

I hadn’t seen and held it for almost thirty years. I found it while searching for an old passport. It was a leather dark green wallet with the Rolex logo written in gold at the lower right corner. I was suddenly surprised. The golden Rolex watch that accompanied it had stopped a year ago, but this wallet seemed to me brand new, as if it was the first day I took it in my hands. I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to concentrate, and then I heard the voice that always prompts me. - Open it! I opened it slowly. In the first case was my residence permitting in Saudi Arabia with my photo, next to the country logo with two crossed swords and below that my personal information, all in Arabic. I read my name, the date of birth, my nationality and the date of issuance in 1983 with difficulty. I looked at the photo again and before I could recognize my face, I heard the voice in my thoughts teasing me. - It’s you! This is you back then! Now…! I tightened my teeth and I did not answer. In the second case, I found my driving license and my insurance card, all with my photo and the same logo. I placed them next to each other on the desk and tried to spell the words. I heard the voice again, ordering me this time. - Do not try that! You've forgotten to read Arabic! Continue searching! I listened with understanding, pulled a series of folded papers and heard the voice again. - Leave them on the desk and go on! I obeyed. I opened the other case and took out some business cards, some of them written in Arabic and others in English. I started reading them one after another and persons forgotten began to march in front of me, like ghosts, suddenly taking flesh and bones, others happy and others sad; I was trying to match faces with names, names with events and events with countries of origin. Jamil! The mute Indian guy graduated from Berkley as a civil engineer who was coming to our table and eating with his hands. Cynical to the bone, he insisted on not using forks or spoons even in soups, although he was warned that his way of eating often disgusted us. Samir! Another Indian civil engineer, who when got a letter from his mother, informing him that she was engaging him with an unknown girl, he announced it proudly with the argument that he trusted his mother and his mother's choices and called everyone to congratulate him. Assad! He was a Syrian courteous and discreet engineer, who sent me a letter after my return to Greece that touched my heart. Joseph and his wife Nina! He was an Armenian engineer, who invited me to visit him when he immigrated to Canada and we had kept correspondence for the next three years. I couldn’t but leave an exclamation. - Uh, where were you all hidden! I heard the voice again. - In your subconscious, you've been hiding them all these years! Now you remembered them? - You did not let me to! I answered back. - Of course, you would blame me! You've always been the nice guy and I was the bad one! Do not delay me anymore. Continue searching! I felt angry, because the voice suddenly stopped my efforts to remember these persons, so I responded abruptly. - What do you want again? I searched everything! There is nothing else! - There is! The voice answered me ironically. Search the hidden pockets in the last case!

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I felt the order like a lightning in my head. I remembered this hidden pocket and my hands began to tremble. I opened it with anxiety and I pulled out a business card. I held it for a moment before reading it; I left a deep sigh and read it loudly pronouncing the words as slowly as I could. - Vanessa Reeves, Air Hostess, Saudi Airlines. Below that there was the following hand-written note: Hotel Semiramis, Riyadh, a phone number and the date 10/5/1984. I closed my eyes and a fragrance, her fragrance, invaded into the room. I took a deep breath, filled my lungs with air, closed my eyes and felt sedated. - Do you want us to leave on a trip together? I heard the voice asking me and mine voice to respond urgently and maliciously. - Not together! I do not want you with me in the trip of memories again! The journey is long and you will be great trouble. I'm leaving alone!

*O*

IN THE INDUSTRY

In the seventies I had been working for four years as a maintenance engineer of a factory in an industrial complex, the largest in Greece even today. Since the very first day of my recruitment, the big boss, Mr. Nikos, who interviewed me personally, had appreciated my experience from past services and had instructed me to take charge of the maintenance department. After recruiting me with a very high salary, which according to the policy of the company would remain secret, I realized that after sending my curriculum vitae in response to an advertisement in the daily press, a thorough check of my personal information had been performed by an investigation office in a wide range of my family environment, as well as data from the police department of the region I come from. I understood the reasons later, on the day of the general recruitment after the Turkish invasion in Cyprus. That day, before leaving for work, I made a stop to get with me a French engineer that had been called to run the final tests on a new production line. Upon entering our office at the factory, the news for the general recruitment had arrived and all engineers were gathered anxious in the General Director's office for more information. At that time the telex began writing something and one of us approached and read the text with the speed of transmission. The stress was so intense that dead silence was spread so that everyone could listen to the news he was literally spelling. - Upon announcement of the general recruitment, the following engineers are recruited in the factory. My name was second after the name of the general manager followed by three more names. Signature, Army General Staff. The production machines stopped one after the other and all men that could be recruited were allowed to present themselves to the military offices they belonged according to the instructions. Only the elderly, women and the five engineers remain in the factory. We tried to put things in order and organize production over the new data. During the first two days we were sleeping in the factory. On the third day we agreed to take shifts with others in the morning, others in the afternoon and others in the night shift. I was in the night shift and I left for Athens. In the days that followed confusion and chaos prevailed everywhere. All foreigners were leaving the country and with them the French engineer left as well. The recruits hurried to the recruiting centers by every means while rumors and jokes were circulating that showed the tragic situation prevailing in the reception centers. Everything indicated that the ruling junta was unprepared for LEFKOMELANI.GR


war and quickly came to a fiasco. It took two months for the country to return to its normal pace, as the new dictator, who had overthrown the previous one, was overthrown by the wrath of the people. During that period, I undertook the task and concreted the production line, with excellent results, as it turned out later. * But in order to get back to our story, my skills, since the first month of my work, were considered exquisite by Mr. Nikos' secret eyes in the factory and I quickly took over the maintenance and construction section with four experienced sub-industrial assistants, five excellent foremen and about one hundred people of skilled technical staff. My relationships with the other colleagues and foremen were excellent since day one, and I quickly gained the appreciation of the staff and the other directors, all of whom knew from previous occasions, that the position of engineering maintenance and constructions was a hot potato job. The plant was constantly working on three shifts and in the first three years the factory’s equipment tripled and the production of each month broke the record of the previous one. The country's electrification had reached its zenith, as well as the export demand, and all the efforts of maintenance were concentrated on the non-stop operation of the engines. Never should they stop! During this time, the production of high-tech new products was expanded and the pressure to observe the delivery schedules was a daily nightmare for all managers, and especially I, who due to my position, when the production was below one hundred percent the first reason was due to damage. These damages, however, even statistically justified, had become my nightmare. Everything happened suddenly, in the most inappropriate hours during night or day and every time the alarm would rang. The alarm was even ringing in my dreams. As I was asleep, an alarm ringing in my dreams would wake me up; I suffered from insomnia and I could calm down only after calling the shift engineer on the phone. Other times the phone would ring at dawn, and I would drive with about one hundred miles per hour in the national road to minimize the consequences. Ten years after leaving the factory, I would still have the same or similar nightmares. * At that time the Nephew appeared. In the beginning his presence was discreet, but slowly he would interfere more and more in our business. The industrial complex, despite its size, was in fact a family business owned by Mr. Nikos, who was honoring his mom and sisters and other members of the family in minor roles. The Nephew was the son of Nikos’ sister and the only grandson of his grandmother, who, since Nikos was named after her husband, founder of the industry, had special feelings for her grandchild. The Nephew after trying unsuccessfully for several years in Greece and abroad to obtain the diploma of mechanical engineer, he decided that since the family had a lot of factories, the diploma was not necessary to practice the profession as a hobby. Since he was a teenager, he had begun installing a railway system with power-driven railway trains that started from the play room and slowly - or rather quickly - expanded to the adjoining rooms and half-open spaces of the mansion, where the family lived, with steam engines and wagons of all kinds, as well as bridges, tunnels, stations and all the sophisticated accessories that the world gaming industry could offer. When finally the amazing construction of his time did not give him any further excitement, he decided that it was time to help his uncle in his industrial activities. To the desire of the family, Mr. Nikos took a step back and offered his nephew, for the sake of his mother, a small but real factory to play and learn. At the same time, Mr. Nikos, as an excellent entrepreneur, together with the appointment of Nephew as the General Manager of the factory, he kept all experienced staff and old mechanics in their place. In his new duties, the Nephew was proved very talented. His office was the best in the company's administration building, housing the general support services of the industrial complex with the other general directors of the economic, commercial and technical sectors and the subadministrations of the factories scattered all over Greece. His own factory was luckily enough two steps away from the Administration Building. From the very first moment he took office, he worked very hard. His office and factory became his home and next to his office he organized a space into a bedroom with a bath, a bed and all elemental furniture, without any unnecessary expenses. Only when he wished to play with his train or less often to see his mother and grandmother, he would leave his office a few times for a few hours a week. LEFKOMELANI.GR


Even his trains, because of which once he would stay asleep all night to play with them, did not satisfy him anymore. After all, the trains were nothing in front of a real factory and a whole industrial empire he could expand and take care of. It was just like a delicate woman receiving favors in need of his caresses. He was offering and receiving pleasures in this relationship. The big boss, Mr. Nikos, was locked up in another building with his staff and few close associates, and he would come out there one or two times a year for a quick visit - mandatorily rather than willingly - to his factories. But even then he was trying to go unnoticed by the staff and only the directors and some executives recognized him, whom they had seen only rarely. Many had never seen him, he never made public appearances, nor had his picture ever leaked to the daily press; they all knew he was an emperor without a face. Something like a god. He governed his empire being unseen, taking information from hidden eyes, reading reports, studying the economic results on a daily basis and giving instructions that no one in the hierarchy dared to question. That was, I believe, along with his skills, the secret of his success. * At the same time, the Nephew had his own ambitions. The factory that had been given to him to play quickly turned out to be very small, and he started hesitantly at first and then systematically to intervene in the management of other factories. In the beginning, the other directors accepted with courtesy his interventions, and this gave him more audacity, as ultimately he became annoying. The general director tried to turn his attention to other activities and hired a beautiful woman as a personal secretary in his office, but even her presence was not enough. The girl did not stay for long and in her position they hired a new, more beautiful and sexy woman. But the Nephew had no eyes for nothing else but his job. He put pressure on the girls and the other directors, he would interfere in their tasks, and no one was willing to talk back. The most beautiful women of Athens had walked into his office, but he remained tyrannical and indifferent. He even despised the “traps” set by the general manager who hoped that he would fall in love, but in vain. In fact, he was a peculiar person who, as much as he lacked in height, both the “Nephew” status and his position in the company gave him prestige. He had a bad taste in clothes and he was frugal and greedy, radiating so bad energy that those who were close to him felt fear. My impression was that he was so piteous that I could feel sympathy for him, but I would never want to be in his shoes. He was incapable of enjoying the joys of life and is the typical case where making money is a waste of time. The only qualification that I could recognize in him, if it is a qualification, was that he was workaholic and had good ideas to improve production. The truth was that he would disappear for a few days, he would go on his own as a visitor to similar factories in America, where there was a contract for technical assistance, and he would return with a lot of ideas for improvements and innovations that he would present as his own. Immediately after his return, he would call the senior executives of the company in overnight meetings and give orders so that they would apply his ideas to the machinery and production lines. It was mandatory that all executives, who had a fixed salary, i.e. they were not paid for overtime work, should follow his work hours. At these overnight meetings he would ask for one or two loaves of plain bread, which we expected like hungry crows, and he would enjoy his generous gift with us, as if he had done us a favor. Whatever he was asking for, no one would ever dare to challenge his decisions. Whoever dared that would be suddenly transferred to another factory and after a few weeks he would be fired. As a construction engineer, I would always assume the responsibility to implement his ideas, to increase speed, to build a new production line and several such improvements, always in a very short period of time. It was times when, at our weekly meetings, I had been entrusted with thirty tasks to study, implement solutions and report results. And I made a race and I rebuked my strengths to get it through, having as an only reward to impress him. That was a big mistake, because instead of appreciating my efforts, his demands were increasing day by day. I had not yet understood that I was unwillingly running in a competition route, where the winner would not be the most capable, but the stronger. At that time, the first energy crisis broke out, and the Nephew, who had taken over, with his uncle's permission, the factory’s management, felt it right to cut back on gasoline and phone calls, All executives, who until then received a small allowance for their journey from Athens to the factory when they used their car, were forced to take three or four more people with them. As far as phone calls are concerned, they were always made through a call-center telephone - with a possible secret tape – even when they wanted to call their home, they had to get permission from the general manager. LEFKOMELANI.GR


These measures had caused great dissatisfaction by all the executives, but no one dared to protest except for me, although this reaction was indirect. Specifically, when I first asked the phone operator to link me with my home number for something urgent and told me that I had to get a license, I got my car, went to the next village and called from a telephone booth. This leave, which was recorded at the concierge desk with the justification of the phone call, brought a lot of disruption to the company. When I came back about ten minutes later, the general manager himself was waiting me at the entrance to let me know that I was personally free to call without permission. I asked. - And the others? - Nobody else! He answered me. From that day I never called my house again. Something like that also happened with the issue of gasoline cuts. I used my car every day and asked for gasoline allowance for only eight days. By order I was paid for twenty seven. I knew that I had become a target and was prepared for the sanctions. The truth is I did not expect them so fast. * I understood it when, at a meeting in which the Nephew had called all senior executives of the company, twenty engineers of all specialties, I dared to announce that we had built infrastructures for the installation of a new high production machine and finally, as he announced later, we would have to installed a fairly low production machine. This critique was unprecedented for his mentality, according to which all decisions he made had to be welcomed. He kept it, and shortly after, when we had changed the subject, he stopped his speech and announced it seriously. - Now the bomb will burst. The DS is transferred to the new factory! Everyone and I realized that the countdown had begun. In three days I got the compensation for four years of work and took over my new duties in the new company waiting for the day of my dismissal. Later on, I learned that my transfer had outraged Mr. Nikos, who had the best impressions of me and refused to ratify my dismissal. This refusal made the Nephew even more stubborn, and after about two months that he let pass so that the case could be forgotten, he gave me a new transfer to a new company that would take over the construction works at the factories of the complex. I received the second indemnity, because I had completed two months of work and assumed my new position. From the very first day his intentions became apparent. He asked us to prepare an offer for a big project on the same day. We stayed up all night with the other engineer, who had the role of a director, to prepare the offer he had just received and he turned it down on the ground that he had changed his plans. This process was repeated everyday for the first month. It was obvious that he was playing with our nerves. Then there was an event that changed the game. At the factory, in which I had worked as a construction engineer three months ago, there was a serious failure that had to be restored immediately. The Nephew asked us for a financial offer and time. He accepted the offer as his only solution and set the half time schedule, six days in total. I called the head-foreman to organize the work and we decided to organize working groups in three shifts. The crews got the job the same day and the following morning I went to the factory, faraway outside Athens, to watch the progress and any existing problems. I parked the car outside the factory and went to the gate. My surprise could not be described when the guard, who three months ago would give me a warm welcome, refused my entry. - It's forbidden! He told me and I realized his difficult position and regret on his face. I asked him on whose command, and he replied. - By order of Mr. Nephew! I realized that it was futile to insist and went on foot to the neighboring factory of the complex, which was not under the jurisdiction of the Nephew. From there, I called the head-foreman who worked in the factory and after an oral briefing I gave them a phone number to contact with me for instructions and support. In five days all the related work was over, we delivered the project and the crews were left. The same evening, the Nephew called the other engineer and asked him for a new offer for another project, which he described as urgent. When we stayed once again up all night to prepare the offer, I could not restrain myself and told the fellow engineer, who was also a friend. - Kostas, I told him, I decided to talk to you seriously about my case. It is obvious that what we are suffering on an everyday basis, as you know, due to the Nephew’s insistence to fire me. His uncle, however, Mr. Nikos, refuses to do that, and now the Nephew does anything possible to force me resign. Because of me you suffer as well. That is why I have to propose two solutions. I stopped for a while, and then continued. - One solution is to resign right now! He looked at me with surprise waiting for me to continue. - In that case I will not get any money as compensation! LEFKOMELANI.GR


- And the other solution? He asked me impatiently. - The other solution is to wait for fifteen days and then you will dismiss me. In fifteen days I complete two months in the company. In that case, as you know, I am eligible for two salaries as compensation. It is your choice. - This is not possible, he replied, there must be another solution! - There is not, unfortunately! I have thought it seriously. A third solution would be to visit Mr. Nikos and to talk to him about the problem. But it is not in my character to do that, and I do not think it will bring any results. With the Nephew as my enemy, staying at any position in the industrial complex would be wrong. That is why you should choose one of the two solutions I proposed earlier. If you chose the second, you have to be prepared to suffer with me for the next fifteen days! He remained silent before the dead-end, he understood me and replied. - With you, I would live in hell not only for fifteen days, but for fifteen months! After two weeks, we prepared together our last offer and my dismissal! I wrote them down, my colleague and friend Costas signed them and when he handed them over to the Nephew, he without any questions accepted my dismissal and our offer. The next day, with the dismissal in my hands, I received the third compensation within four months from the company's cashier. * The following day, the first day of unemployment, at eight o'clock in the morning, the phone rang. I was still lying on the bed and lifted the headset. He was the factory manager; we had worked together for four years. - I learned that you are looking for a job. Write this phone number down and make a call now. They are looking for a senior engineer and I've given them the best recommendations for you! I thanked him and put the phone down. On the same day, I was recruited to the new company as a resident engineer at the Benghazi’s site with the triple salary and in a week I left with a tourist visa for Libya. My wife's objections, when I announced my decision, were not able to change my mind. * About a year later, I met the Nephew. I was walking with my wife on Aristotelous Street and we were looking through the shop windows. The road was completely deserted when I saw the Nephew ten meters away and at the same time he saw me. He lost it; he stopped abruptly and looked right and left, ready to run away, to avoid the meeting. I walked faster and I approached him before he did. I smiled at him and gave him a handshake while saying. - How are you, Mr. Vangelis? Nice to see you again! I realized he did not expect such a warm reception. He came back immediately and gave me his hand surprised. - Nice to see you too! - I would like to introduce you my wife. Mr. Vangelis S. was my ex-boss at the factory! He was annoyed and he interrupted me fearing that I would tell more. - What are you doing now? - From the very next day of my dismissal I found a job and now I am working in Libya! - Are you ok there? - Not worse than in the factory, but I get the triple salary. That's why I have never regretted that I left your company. Sometimes I think, that all happened for a good reason, and that I owe some gratitude to you for what you did for me! He had been outwitted, remembered the old days, and he told me. - I'm interested in Libya. Your presence there may be useful to me for busyness. Come and visit me tomorrow in my office! - I will try! I promised not to deny it, and we left each other with a formal greeting. When we separated, my wife, who had watched the conversation without talking, asked me. - Who was that? - I told you my former boss. The one who fired me from the industry three times! A billionaire! - Oh I get it. With such an appearance, it's a pity for money! From that day on, I never met the Nephew again. It was written in my fate, though, a few years later, to meet another nephew, but that is another story.

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Bitter Coffee with a little – Spanakis Dimitrios  

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