Brothers in drilling, Part 1: Aaron Zurfluh and Haider Almoosa, Saudi Rig 128

Aaron Zurfluh and Haider Almoosa
Aaron Zurfluh and Haider Almoosa

They may come from the opposite sides of the world, but Aaron Zurfluh and Haider Almoosa have become brothers in drilling.

When they met a few months ago on Trinidad Rig 128 in Saudi Arabia, the two men hit it off immediately. Now, they work together, eat together, and are friends on Facebook.

Part of that connection may come from having a lot in common: It’s amazing how similar the two men’s backgrounds are. Zurfluh was born on an Alberta farm; Almoosa and his brothers operate a farm in Saudi. And both of them found their way to the rigs.

Drilling all over the world

Zurfluh, now Junior Rig Manager, started his career in Canada, drilling in his own country for three years before “going international”.

He then worked offshore for eight years, and not long after his contract ended in the Gulf of Mexico, Trinidad contacted him.

“About two weeks later, I got the plane tickets to come out to Saudi.”

Working far from home is nothing new for Zurfluh, who has also worked rigs in Indonesia, Brazil and Africa. When he arrived in Saudi Arabia, he started on Rig 127 until Rig 128 came calling.

“One of the first guys I met was Haider, an Assistant Driller,” said Zurfluh. “I talked to him, got a sense of his experience, then started working with him and saw he was a huge help on the rig and knew the rig very well. I could see that he was a good hand.”

Zurfluh was a Driller before being promoted to Junior Rig Manager. When one of the managers left for another assignment, Almoosa insisted he join Zurfluh’s crew.

“I said that’s fine with me. We got along well. You won’t find Haider behind me in any kind of work we’re doing. He’s always by my side.

“The other thing with me and Haider, in our work relationship, we have an understanding of what needs to get done in order for the next thing to get done. We always want to be prepared, three steps ahead of the game. He knows what I want, and I know what he can do.

“I don’t really have to say too much because he already knows the game plan.”

Not your Canadian farm

On a brief break from work, Almoosa took Zurfluh to his farm, very different from Zurfluh’s family farm back in Alberta.

Almoosa and his family have 26 horses, 30 camels, exotic birds, donkeys and other livestock. The horses are of the world-famous Saudi Arabian breed, and Almoosa makes money by showing and selling them.

“He’s pretty proud of himself and what he’s done,” said Zurfluh, referring to Almoosa’s two professions. “I’m proud of the kid too; he’s only 23, wanting to do something with his life.”

Being a born and raised farm boy himself, Zurfluh certainly knows his way around a farm, which made this visit even more exceptional.

“It was pretty interesting, pretty cool to see.”

It’s universal: friendships form over food

When the drilling day is done, it’s time to eat, talk and relax. Zurfluh and Almoosa head into camp to choose their evening meal and chat.

The food in camp is pretty good, said Zurfluh, and the chefs try to satisfy everyone’s palates.

“The chefs more or less are Indian chefs, so there’s a mixture of Indian foods, Saudi delights, Western food. They try to mix it up and serve everybody what they would eat (at home),” he said.

“You could have curried chicken and pizza; or Saturday or Fridays are barbecue nights, so they’ll put on steaks and hamburgers and chicken. There’s a lot of chicken and rice, but it’s well prepared.”

Zurfluh and Almoosa talk about the day, have their meal, then head back to their respective camps to sleep. It all starts over again in the morning.

Speaking the same language – mostly

Luckily, Almoosa speaks excellent English, which makes communication easy between the two men, and sometimes smooths out possible language barriers on the rig.

“Most of the Saudis speak really good English. If I’m trying to get a point across, and I know some of the guys are not really understanding what I’m saying, I’ll get Haider to translate.”

Zurfluh’s Arabic is not quite as good.

“It’s coming along, but I’m not going to say I can put a whole sentence together,” he said. “The first couple of things the boys teach you is funny stuff or swear words, so putting sentences together might take a bit more time.”

Back home but not out of touch

Zurfluh works 28 days in and 28 days out. When he comes home to Alberta, he doesn’t sit around. He’s up early, goes to the gym, and often helps his girlfriend, who owns her own excavating company. “I also like to ride my Harley quite a bit.”

And he stays in touch with Almoosa on Facebook.

Check back here in two weeks  to get Haider Almoosa’s take on this international friendship!

And for more on what it’s like to work on Trinidad’s Saudi rigs, don’t miss Chris Porter and Michael Portman’s accounts of drilling on Rig 126.

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