Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ban on Sale of Dogs and Cats

I saw this last night at one of my favorite sites. Then I caught a quick blurb about it on Fox News. Today there are two articles in the Arab News on the issue of cats and dogs being a threat to morality in the Sandbox.

I'm not even going to weigh-in on this one. I'm just gonna shake my head and mutter to myself that I live in a "LFZ." [Logic Free Zone.]

I saw something rather sweet two days ago when The Kids and I were out for our morning walk. As we rounded the corner to walk down one of the alleys there was a young boy - a Saudi boy - and a cat. The young boy - maybe six or eight years old - saw me coming with my small Great Dane and bouncing black fur-ball of energy Standard Poodle and quickly bent down and scooped up the cat - as if protecting the cat from being used as a live squeak-toy and walked between two houses out of sight. I never, ever would let my Kids get close enough to a cat to harm it - and I had tight control of both leashes - a reflex whenever I spot a cat. It was just really touching - heart-warming even - the way the young boy thought to and made such an effort to ensure the cat's safety. [And, for the record, some of the "wild and stray" cats here - of which there ARE many - would be like buzz-saws on the muzzles of my two Kids if I ever allowed the Kids to get close enough.]

Letters to the Editors

Some voices from this side of the world... Letters which I should have pointed out, and didn't...

From Arab News this past Sunday several writers in response to crimes against housemaids, specifically this:

D.D. in Jeddah, "Kathmandu should train maids before sending them to the Kingdom." Train them for what? How to behave during a gang rape? Please, take some serious action to put an end to such crimes. Implement Shariah law and punish the guilty. All these problems will vanish."

Khaled Abdullah in Jeddah, "The crimes are occurring on a "more frequent basis" now simply because the guilty are not being caught and punished. Why would not they be encouraged to commit crimes if they knew that they had nothing to fear from the authorities?

Has the lack of action by the authorities got anything to do with what seems to be the generally accepted view in the country that maidservants, foreigners in particular, are fair game for Saudi males - that they are there to be used at will, to be worked to death, assaulted and tortured? The action taken by the authorities and even by the courts when cases of abuse are brought to light lend credence to this view. In too many cases which Arab News has reported in detail, it was the victim who was punished. By the time the case ended, the aggrieved party turned out to be the rapist and torturer whose reputation was alleged to have been "tarnished." Evidently, the flaw is not just in the authorities. It is in this society.

Any society that believes that what is violated in a case of rape is not the victim's honor, but the rapist's reputation, is sick. There can be no values in such societies."

Sandy Mitchell of Jeddah, "Why is that rape of Asian housemaids has become so endemic in the Kingdom, and yet prosecutions for these barbaric crimes are so rare? When rapists of housemaids have their identity protected, so that their families are not embarrassed, it is as good as encouraging them to keep committing the crime. The reason for the widespread incidence of the crime is simple: There is no protection for maids either in the Saudi legal system or in Saudi society because there is no accountability for men who consider maids to be no better than slaves. Even though slavery was abolished in the Kingdom some time ago, one has only to investigate the cases of runaway maids lodged in female prisons or in the sanctuaries for abused maids to know that the crime of slavery still goes on, and that the rapists who should pay with their lives are going unpunished."

On traveling through airports, here:

S. Gupta of Ras Tanura, "The letter "Unpleasant experience" by "A Bangladeshi" (July 20) expressed the feelings of most expatriates who have passed through Saudi airports. I myself experience the same rough treatment by the airport staff at the check-in counters of Dammam airport when I travel. They get irritated whenever anybody approaches them for any help. As a person who has traveled widely, I know that it is not so in other parts of the world. For instance, take Dubai airport. Officials there, all of them, are so well-behaved and courteous that they make you feel that you are home, among your own people.

If Dubai can, why not Dammam? There is no difference between them. They have the same language, culture, religion, climate etc., etc. I care about Dammam's reputation because, as a long-time resident of the area, I consider the place my second home, and it hurts me to hear its facilities criticized."

I won't travel in and out of Dammam airport. I would much rather be inconvenienced in time and expense and travel out of Bahrain. The few times I have had to fly in through Dammam having my luggage examined and emptied out while Customs determines that there really is nothing more than dirty laundry and shoes packed in my suitcases just makes me feel violated. [Exactly why do you think you have those x-ray machines - when you are going to search my luggage by hand, anyway?] And getting through the lines - what lines??? NO ONE HERE KNOWS HOW TO PROPERLY WAIT IN A LINE!!! in Dammam is a nightmare. Airport officials stand around and do nothing whatsoever to prevent the chaos. Nope. I will continue flying out of Bahrain unless is it absolutely impossible to do so.

In response to this, Sameer Bijlana of Riyadh, "I am ashamed to say that, for the most part, we Muslims don't follow the basic rules of Islam such as honesty, hard work, keeping promises etc., while non-Muslims do. And yet, we look down upon non-Muslims and Westerners because they are not Muslims despite the fact that many of them are much more "Muslim" than we are - far more committed to moral values and with stronger work ethics.

In most Muslim countries, those with power and influence can easily flout the law and brag about it without suffering consequences while, in most non-Muslim countries, such things do not happen as often. The reason is that they follow the rule of law. Their actions are judged by the law, not by connections."

From yesterday's paper, Fatima of Jeddah, "May I ask, “Why can we not have fitting rooms in dress shops? What harm can be done by having them?” Women are using public toilets to try on clothing in order to avoid endless trips to the same shop to exchange them. Last week it took me three trips to finally get the clothes I wanted. And, as you know, I could not just hop on the bus or drive myself there. I had to persuade my husband to take me. The solution seems so simple, yet so hard."

Boy is she spot on, there! I've wondered for the last five-plus years why there are no fitting rooms - oh, sure, there is the odd fitting room here and there - or a broom closet - but there are no fitting rooms as a general rule.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Been Busy Cooking!

My Kids eat well. Probably much better than many, many people do. I have spent the past three days in the kitchen cooking a couple of months - two - of food. It is major work. And I do a couple of months at a time and freeze it, because it is almost as time consuming to do a couple of weeks worth as it is to do a couple of months worth. Beef and chicken - pounds and pounds and pounds of it - or kilograms... Carrots. Lots. Green beans, broccoli and sweet potatoes. And rice... Do not know how I ever cooked so much rice without my Krups Ricer. What a difference - cooking rice in a ricer versus on the stove. Comes out perfect every time and although I can only cook ten cups at a time - and need thirteen for each batch of food - it doesn't take all that long to cook two batches of rice for each batch of dog food. The Honest Kitchen is going to save me major work when we ship a hundred pounds of food over here in a couple of months. But, until I can get to the States to get it, and get it shipped over, I have to make the Kids' food. Yes, like I said, it is major, major work - but my Kids are worth every minute of it!


A whole slew of car accidents! Carnage on the roads in the Sandbox continues and won't end until authorities get serious about issuing tickets and fines and suspending driver's licenses and jailing habitual offenders. Truly, driving here is dangerous. You have to see it to believe it. DH does not consider a trip downtown successful unless we "almost" get killed. I can't even look... Too scary! It pisses me off that DH won't let me "run my mouth" by cursing the offenders or flipping them "the bird" when I think it is "necessary." Sometimes I just can't help myself, and my middle finger flies up and out the window before I can catch myself...

This is disturbing: "An unidentified woman abandoned a three-month-old baby in the Emergency Room area of King Fahd Specialist Hospital... Nursing found the crying infant and a note that said, 'He is a legitimate orphan baby... Please don't hand him to anyone but only an orphanage.'" What is a "legitimate orphan baby?" At least the mother woman handed him over to someone - the outcome could have been much, much worse...

Not, locally, here, but I am also "disturbed" about the case of Caylee Marie Anthony. If Caylee's mom just did not want to be a mother anymore, surely there must have been an option for her to seek help at some agency... There is speculation that the child was sold. Huh? No. I don't think the child was sold. I think this child is dead. And I just do NOT understand the mindset of Casey Anthony - the child's mother - or of George and Cindy Anthony - the child's grandparents. HOW THE FU¢K do you NOT REPORT TO POLICE that a two-year-old has gone missing FOR OVER A MONTH!?! There is something very, very, very wrong with this whole situation. And, I, just don't get it... I am not a big fan of Greta Van Susteren, I don't dislike her - I just think she is a "fluff" reporter - but I find myself watching her show almost every day, lately, for developments on the Caylee story... The outcome is going to be bad - bad for this child. There is no outcome bad enough for the mother - who does NOT deserve to even have the privilege of being called that, mother - she knows exactly what happened to this little girl and she is not telling. Casey Anthony is a "poster child" for forced sterilization if there ever was one!!!

Maid Abuse Concerns Indonesian Embassy

'Bout time for some concern. Gee. It only took 258 cases of sexual and physical abuse of Indonesian maids in the first six months of 2008 for someone to decide there just might be a problem. Sukamto Javaladi, labor attaché at the Indonesian Embassy, reported yesterday "that it logged 102 reported sexual assaults of Indonesian maids in the first half of 2008... in addition to 156 cases of physical torture reported... from January to June this year." Mr. Javaladi said "The Indonesian Embassy is seeing a steady upward trend in the number of reported cases of sexual assaults, while thousands of women also suffer working inhumane hours for almost no pay with many enduring abuse by their Saudi employers." Hmmph. I've been saying this all along... inhuman hours for almost no pay, that is.

Mr. Javaladi, no doubt in an effort to lessen the blow to some fragile Saudi egos, "described the deplorable treatment of maids [as] 'minimal' compared to the large number of Indonesian women - estimated at 626,000 - working in the Kingdom. Indonesia sends the highest number of women to work in Saudi Arabia. As far as cases of (general) abuse is concerned, the Indonesian Embassy recorded 3,428 cases, which does not include complaints lodged at the Consulate General in Jeddah." I'm no math wiz, but if there are 626,000 Indonesian women working here of which 3,428 have complained, isn't that about five and a half or six percent? And, if that five and a half or six percent doesn't include ALL of the complaints, what is the percentage? It is as high as ten percent? Higher? Are alarm bells NOT ringing somewhere?!?

"...cases typically involve breach of contract and wage disputes... Among common violations, many of which go unreported, is expecting maids to be at work any time of the day or night, seven days a week." There is a solution. Stop sending Indonesian women, here, to be slaves maids! It is a lose - lose situation. Women here would have to make their own beds and run their own bath water; and Indonesia would miss out on the financial gain - although since the pay is trivial to begin with, it might not even be missed.

Mr. Javaladi said "the embassy has been assured by senior Saudi officials that they would take stern action, including imprisonment, against those employers who violate maids' rights." Yeah. Bullshit. Hasn't happened yet, has it? Won't be happening anytime soon, either. There is "no ban on recruitment to Saudi Arabia, which hires the largest number of domestic workers from Indonesia." The issue, according to Mr. Javaladi, is "delicate." Okay. That would be one way to describe it. Certainly not the way I would describe it, but I do understand the "game" that has to be played so as not to offend anyone...

The entire article is here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I'd say this is pretty brazen. Honestly, how much more warning can you give some people. Being caught with drugs, dealing drugs, doing drugs... All taken very seriously in this country. And you have the guts to deal drugs in prison? Of course you are going to get caught, and YOU ARE going to be punished!

You are going to be punished for smuggling liquor into this country, as well. Just. Don't. Do. It.

Don't know if I believe that this happened quite like it is reported. Something is just a little too fishy. It could have happened this way, but I have some doubts. Four Yemenis tied up a 100 year old man to steal 2000 riyals [$536.00]? No. If they split the money, that's $134. each. The Yemenis are being used as scapegoats, here. They did not do this. Just my opinion...

Is there something in the air in the Eastern Province? Why are so many people committing suicide, here? Are as many suicides taking place in other parts of this country and just not being reported in the papers? Interesting. Are authorities giving this some attention? I hope so.

Here is a quick report of a man stabbing his second wife in the arm following a domestic dispute. Reports of violence are becoming more widespread. Not because it didn't happen before; it did. But because people are finally opening up about it and reporting it when it happens - and in the past it was all kept very hush, hush.

Fake Doctor

This guy is so in trouble. I'm going to guess that his crime, impersonating a doctor, is not going to be taken lightly by authorities. Not in a country where privacy is so important to its culture. "Hospital officials said he was caught impersonating a doctor in order to look at the private parts of female patients." Good grief. Didn't he have internet access?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Murderer Succumbs

The two articles in each of the two English newspapers, here, have a few more details on the murder which took place a week or so ago. The Arab News article says, "According to police sources, the man - who was supposed to marry in Taif last Thursday - killed the woman with whom he had a six-year relationship." Not quite sure about this, but it appears as though he killed a woman that he was NOT going to marry. The Saudi Gazette article says, "The incident occurred before the man's wedding, which was set for Thursday in Taif. The woman who escaped said that the incident was sparked by the man's jealousy over his financèe of six years." Was he going to marry the woman he shot and killed - or was he going to marry someone else? I just don't get it...

Arab News reports that, "Following the shooting, the man's father and brothers came to police saying he was previously suffering from breathing difficulties and other health problems." [A lot of "murders" here are simply attributed to "mental health." I have my own opinion as to why so many in this country are afflicted with "mental health," but for the time being, I am actually going to keep my opinion to myself.] A spokesman for Jeddah police said that "the woman who witnessed the incident was being questioned." She has been "being questioned" for a two weeks now - how many questions do you have for her?

The Saudi Gazette reports that the cousin and the aunt are still in police custody and that "The hometown of the man, the alleged killer, was stunned to hear the news. Several people there attested to the strong moral fiber of the man as well as his family." Um hmm. Of course they did.

Beaten Laborer Has Died

Last Friday I posted this. In today's paper, an article reports that he died in the early hours yesterday after spending 11 days in intensive care. Still no mention of the name of the construction company this man worked for, or the name of the Egyptian supervisor who beat him. [Does this Egyptian supervisor have pictures of the owner of the company engaged in some perverted act? What other explanation is there that company and supervisor are NOT being named???] Is this, too, going to be swept under the rug? Are the authorities going to do anything about it? If and when there are further reports in the newspapers, I will post them.

Another Maid Abused

So says the newspaper headline; I didn't have to come up with my own. When is it going to stop? Why are authorities turning a blind eye to this and allowing it to go on and on and on? The article is here.

According to the paper's report, Ela's employers were trying to "force" her to get on a plane to go home, when authorities realized that she was in no condition to travel and prevented her from doing so. Police took the 37 year old Indonesian housemaid to the hospital in Al-Khobar where "they had treated her some weeks earlier for severe malnutrition. Her body was full of injuries - in her head, neck, back, feet, and her chest and some of the wounds were bleeding. There were also signs of burns on her body and cuts on her left wrist," said a doctor who examined her then. Pretty obvious, I'd say, that the abuse has been on-going and continuous.

This poor housemaid was fed one loaf of bread in the morning - and not a "loaf" like we Westerner's think of a "loaf," either - but a piece of pita bread - that is a loaf of bread, here. I had a "loaf" yesterday, and that was breakfast. Did it fill me up and satisfy me for the day? Absolutely NOT! For lunch I had another "loaf," with Italian salad dressing, some Parmesan cheese and a half of a bag of lettuce on it. I was hungry by four o'clock - and let me say that I do not expend nearly the bodily energy during the day that a housemaid does! There is no way you could live on one "loaf" of pita bread, a day, here. Impossible. No wonder she weighed only 30 kilograms [66 pounds]!

Ela tried to buy food with her pathetic monthly salary of 200 riyals [$59.34!!!] and when her sponsor's wife found out she "slapped, kicked and beat her." $59.34 a month to be a housemaid. I've said it before and I'll say it again, slavery is alive and thriving, here. $712.16 a year - the salary she was paid to be a housemaid - with the benefit of a roof over her head [although I guess we don't know this for sure], and one "loaf" of pita bread. [A bag, which is four loaves of pita bread, cost 3 riyals - eighty cents - and she was fed one a day - so it cost her employers twenty cents a day to feed her... What a benefit! And, by the way, the pita bread here contains no preservatives so by day three if you still have a "loaf" left, it is as hard as a rock. By the fourth day it is covered with mold.]

Think about this: $712.16 a year. That works out to be $13.69 per week for wages. Assume she worked six days a week, nine hours a day - she was paid .25 an hour. TWENTY-FIVE CENTS! [You can be sure she worked seven days a week, and probably twelve to fifteen hours a day... She was making something like SIXTEEN or THIRTEEN CENTS AN HOUR!!!] This kind of pay does not qualify as wages. If that, alone, isn't illegal, it certainly should be.

Col. Yusuf Al-Qahtani, spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior in the Eastern Province said that "Authorities are investigating whether there is culpability on the part of the employer. Why was she in such a bad condition, and why was she being forced to travel?" Give me a call, Col. Al-Qahtani. I'm pretty sure I can figure out the answers to those simple questions for you: Yes, there is culpability on the part of the employer and his wife. She was in such bad condition because she was being beaten and starved to death. She was being forced to travel because the monster's who sponsored her didn't want her to die while she was here and since she was in such an emaciated condition she couldn't work around the clock. There you go. You're welcome.

This statement of Co. Al-Qahtani makes me want to scream: "We seriously investigate such incidents, to find out if there was abuse." Maybe you do do that - seriously investigate, that is - and maybe you do determine that there was abuse. But that is where everything comes to an abrupt halt. The perpetrators are NOT arrested, are NOT even charged, and are NOT held responsible in any way. We all see that. We read the papers and there are reports weekly of maids that are abused. Someone always has an excuse - someone - the sponsor/employers. And the investigators, in order to "save face" which seems to be such an integral part of the way life is, here, shrug their shoulders and sweep incidents of abuse under the proverbial rug. Hello! Anyone out there?!? Saving face, shrugging your shoulders and sweeping shit under the rug does NOT make it go away!!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Bad Knee

My morning at the clinic, yesterday, was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated it would be. Ahhh. Relief, there. Unfortunately I didn't get everything taken care of that I needed to accomplish, so I'll be spending part of the morning there, again, today... They know me, there. Not so sure this is a good thing. Parking was no problem, yesterday. A first! I got to the orthopedic department and one of the women working the reception area [there are two women and four men working at the reception counter!] who has recognized me each time I've been there asked me how my knee was. Yeah. Thanks for asking. "It is much better today, unfortunately." Unfortunately, because I really wanted for the doctor to see it when it swollen and when I am in pain. I made my way to the sea of black - the women only waiting area - where I "blended" because I too, had my black garbage bag on - covering my bike shorts and a tank top - knowing that the doctor was going to want to examine my knee and this way I'd be prepared and not have to worry about disrobing. I'm so smart, sometimes! There were probably twelve to fifteen women there in our waiting section, and twice as many men in the mens waiting area. Busy department.

I took my book, thankfully, because my wait was long. Yes, as I waited, I could feel my blood-pressure rising due to the fact that my scheduled appointment time had long past, and I am easily frustrated - my impatient nature, I suppose - in such instances. I finally got called and went to the examining room where I waited some more... The point of putting someone in an examining room long before a doctor is going to make his or her appearance is???

Dr. M sauntered in and introduced himself. He is young enough to be my son. He is Saudi - he did his training in Canada. His English is impeccable. And, more importantly, there is something wrong with my knee. Dr. M said that he could see the problem from the very first x-ray I had done and that he didn't need my MRI to see it! Oh, really? Then why have I had a half dozen x-rays taken, and no doctor so far has seen that there is a problem?!? Dr. M asked me to describe my pain, which I did, and he said, "Yes. You are telling me exactly what is wrong - and we can see that right here, on this x-ray." I explained how I fell - hard - on my knee in 2000 or 2001 and how it has not been "right" since. Dr. M said that the fall did not cause my knee problem - the fall may have exacerbated the problem - but the fall is not the cause... That I would have a knee problem regardless. Oh, really? What then? "Age." [I hate Dr. M!] Doesn't he realize that I am only 29?!? I don't care what his computer record says about my birth date - the year that is in the computer is obviously wrong!

I have bursitis, arthritis and something - narrowing of the space for... And that IS why my knee is causing me so much distress. I am the "perfect candidate" for a total knee replacement, but not right now. My knee will have to get much worse before they will consider doing the replacement - although I can expect that this will have to happen within the next five years. Well, if that's not something to look forward to, I don't know what is! Dr. M had all my x-rays for me to view - along with the MRI and accompanying report - which says exactly what he said - and he did a very thorough examination of my knee. I explained where it hurt and "how" it hurt [I describe this as two cords being twisted as tight as they can be on the inside of my right knee]; I explained that I can no longer get down on my hands and knees [cleaning, changing The Kids bedding] and that I cannot walk up or down the stairs like a normal person with one foot in front of the other. Yep. "You won't be able to get down on your knees, nor will you run again, and stairs will be a problem until your knee is replaced." Well, gee, thanks. Dr. M started pressing on all the right spots that cause me pain and then tried to bend my knee and push it up - I screamed and at the same time involuntarily kicked him with my good leg! Oops. Sorry 'bout that, Dr. M! I'll make a deal with you - you don't hurt me, and I won't hurt you.

What is Dr. M going to do, right now, to make my knee better? Five weeks of physical therapy. Great. Just what I did NOT want. Then, five weekly treatments of a high-intensity electro-shock [TENS Unit] to the damaged, irreparable, area of my knee which will be done by either him or one of his colleagues and not a physical therapist or physician's assistant. If the pain cannot be controlled, he will consider giving me steroid shots, but he would prefer to not do so until the pain is "unbearable." Plus a knee brace that I need to wear if I am doing anything but sitting or sleeping. Nice. A prescription for anti-inflammatories and something else - and get some Glucosamine at GNC [which we have, here, in the Sandbox]. Even though, as Dr. M says, there are no scientific studies that prove that Glucosamine actually works, many of his patients have seen significant improvement when they take it and it can't hurt me if it doesn't work. Oh, and "no heels." What? You've got to be kidding me. [Not going to happen... I am much too vain. Pain or no pain, I am not ready for orthopedic shoes! I am NOT that old!!!]

Dr. M spent no less than forty-five minutes with me, going over everything, which is, no doubt, why the wait is so long... I left feeling quite confident in him. Yes. I am pleasantly surprised by this. Today I will go back to the clinic to make all of the appointments that I need, to get my prescriptions, and to get "fitted" for my knee brace. Plus, I need to obtain all of the records and x-rays and the MRI, because I still plan to see the orthopedist in the States when we go on vacation. A second opinion will make me feel better about this whole bad knee thing... Anticipating that I need for my knee to get worse doesn't make me feel real good, but somehow I just think that a total knee replacement is not going to be a particularly pleasant experience, either. I need to get on-line and do some "research" about all of this... Which I will do today, after "work."

Street Cleaner Pay

This is just abysmal. There is no excuse. Nope. NO job in this country, which is so wealthy, should be allowed to pay wages THIS low. 250 riyals a month to be a street cleaner. Six days a week for nine hours a day. In U.S. dollars - $67.02 a month - comes out to TWENTY-EIGHT CENTS AN HOUR! Just wrong. Okay, so his meals are provided as well as living conditions. I have seen what these workers eat. They wrap their rice in newspaper bundles and carry it with them. And I know what a lot of the living conditions are like for these workers. Six and eight men to a single - small - room with mats on the floor - often in tents - without running water or electricity. The pay and conditions for imported workers who come here to do manual labor must be improved. Someone - in some position of authority - needs to be looking into this and do something about it.


Who knows what these parents did to their little girl - it could not have been good. The punishment - lashes and jail time - should deter them from ever abusing torturing her again, though.

In ways, the Saudi justice system, is a very interesting one. I really do think that, for the most part, that it serves its purpose. There is very little "coddling" here of alleged criminals - no matter what the offense - unlike in the States where the criminals have all the rights in the world and the victims have virtually none - where cases drag on and on at the cost of taxpayers over years and decades. Liberal law-makers in the States could learn a thing or two about how justice should be dealt with, by doing some case studies of the Sandbox's system. Do I agree with the actual punishments, here? No. Absolutely not. Lashes and beheadings are absolutely barbaric. But I do agree with the system insofar as how it works, swiftly. And, I would be all for taking some of the criminal's "rights" away from them - in the States - and prosecuting more vigorously. Yeah, yeah, yeah - what about the "innocent" criminals? How many of those are there?!? Very few. I have said before that the punishments meted out, here, work to deter crime. Maybe not for everyone. I know they "deter" me, but then, I don't have the inclination here - or in the States - to be robbing someone or murdering someone or dealing drugs...

If traffic laws were enforced - and they are not - many of these daily pile-ups and vehicle fatalities and injuries would be prevented. When are the authorities, here, going to realize this? Ever?!? How much carnage on the roads does a country have to have before it wises up to the situation and actually does something about it, other than just talking about it and issuing new laws that are not enforced? A lot. Apparently.

Some vigilante justice, here... An man and his family were having a picnic when a couple of young men started showing off in their cars. The article is scarce on some of the details. The man pulled out his AK-47 assault rifle and shot one of the young men in the hand and the other in the foot. Good grief! Who takes an AK-47 assault rifle with them on a picnic?!?

Another worker commits suicide, here; and another maid, here. Why aren't authorities looking at this with an eye toward prevention? I cannot be the only one to notice that there are a LOT of suicides of imported workers, here. Yes. Life here is different and difficult at times, and I am in a much different position than these workers are, I realize, but there has got to be a way of screening imported workers to find out whether they have the propensity for taking their own lives when the going gets really, really tough. No?

Ut-oh! Expired foodstuff!!! You can be arrested for "expired foodstuff?" Probably it was the gambling...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blogging Will Be Light

Finally, finally, finally tomorrow I get to go back to the clinic to see an orthopedist about my bad knee. Blogging will be light... My entire morning is going to be consumed with the "clinic game." And, on top of being seen, I need to figure out where exactly I go to obtain copies of all of the x-rays that have been taken and my MRI [yep, the entire morning IS going to be eaten up, for sure!] so that I can take them to the States with me, where I have already scheduled an appointment to be seen by an orthopedist, there. Not that I don't trust the doctors, here, but I've been seen now no less than a half dozen times and each time I am told there is "nothing wrong." Bullshit. There is definitely something wrong with it. Someone give me one good reason why, if there is "nothing wrong" with it that it is constantly swollen and hurting. It wasn't always like this - so I know that what it is now is NOT normal and that there IS something wrong!

If there is something earth-shattering that is going on in the Sandbox, it will have to wait until tomorrow evening. I plan to spend the afternoon tomorrow "working." My current work hours are from one in the afternoon until four, three days a week, because those three days even though I would prefer to "work" mornings is when the houseboy, gardener and pool guy are all here. Although I could "work" while they are here - with the exception of the pool guy - he's only here for an hour - it just isn't appropriate for me to be laying by the pool or in the pool in my bathing suit. I only have a month and a half or so to sweat and/or swim off baggage I have accumulated over the past few years... I will say that the pool is far from refreshing. It was the warmest [understatement! it was HOT!] it has ever been, at 96
° yesterday. I persevered and spent much of the day on my little blue float, anyway. I am reading an old book - old as in written some fifteen years ago - although I was familiar with the story: Taken on Trust. After I cook ten kilograms of beef and ten kilograms of chicken this morning [meat for The Kids], I plan to put my "working uniform" on and finish Terry Waite's autobiography. I know. I know. Many of you are probably wondering how I do it... Trust me when I tell you that being a professional tanner is NOT easy!

Next up on my pile of books to read is Thunderstruck by Eric Larson, who also wrote The Devil in the White City which I thought was very, very good! I shop, on-line, for books and order them to bring back with me during my thrice-yearly trips to the States. One of my favorite on-line bookstores is Edward R. Hamilton for a fabulous selection and terrific prices. A couple of days ago, a fellow blogger, Gill, introduced me to Book Closeouts and right now I have eight books in my "cart" there for less than $35.00! So many books... So little time... Guess I should just be thankful that my job allows me to read while I work - and yes, I am very thankful that I have the opportunity to have this kind of job at this point in my life. Very!

Warning to Women

Interesting, this. I scan through the job postings in our two newspapers occasionally, not because I am seeking employment, but because it is interesting to me that the ads which are placed can be so specific, i.e., they can state what age they want the applicants to be, or what nationality. Imagine a job advertisement in the States doing so! The ACLU or Labor Board would be involved so quickly heads would spin. I have yet to see a single job advertisement that looks suspiciously like a front for some sort of "entertainment agency" or "escort service" in the papers, here; perhaps they are only in the Arabic papers.

According to the article, "The advertisements in question often offer attractive salaries and benefits to women job seekers who do not have any experience or qualifications... The employers will say that applicants will be given necessary training. Some women job seekers said when they contacted the advertisers, they were told that the employers were seeking pretty, forward-looking women who would not object to mingling with men." What kind of position is being advertised, anyway? And, someone tell me what a "forward-looking" woman looks like... I can understand the not objecting "to mingling with men," and by that, I mean to putting men and women in the same office together - hardly the same as "mingling" at a party. There are, no doubt, many in this society, which for so long has kept sexes separated, that would be outraged at the mere thought of men AND women working together in the same office.

One Saudi woman who spoke about applying for a secretarial job said, "When I contacted them for the job, I was told the applicant should be open-minded, mature and beautiful." Okay. I can see some of the reasoning... "Open-minded," as in not being adverse to working in a "mixed" sex [male AND female] environment... "Mature," as in having some experience in the world versus that of a teenager who has not learned the basics insofar as work ethics, or the meaning of showing up for "her" job and being on time... But, "beautiful?" I am in full agreement that THAT is going just one step too far. [And, besides, aren't women, here, required to be covered head-to-toe in black when they leave their homes? How would you know if she was beautiful or not?!?]

I will have to start paying a lot more attention to the help-wanted postings to see if I come across any that would fit into the category that "The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" is warning about "that aim at luring women into immorality."

Marriages - Yes, Plural

I saw this in the paper a few days ago, the same day I did the post about the ten-year old girl who will be fifteen when her marriage is consummated. Apparently, having multiple wives is not quite as pleasing for some of the women involved as it is for the men in all instances. Hmmph. Who would of thought... There have been articles where women welcome a second and third or fourth wife. Now we have an article where the husband takes a second wife out of revenge, which backfires on the first wife, and an article where the wife reports illegal construction to authorities to prevent her husband from taking a second wife.

Admittedly, the concept of multiple wives is one I will never understand, but then, I don't practice a religion that allows for this, either, so I do not have to "understand" it. Nor do I think that I have to worry about my DH taking on an additional wife - he cannot afford to, unless of course he divorces the "DW" he currently has - and in that case, I can assure you that he will NOT be able to afford his "second" wife!

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Sixteen years, here, without going home once to see her seven children... Something most of us cannot even fathom. Rest in peace, Emelita Ramos.

More on Monday's Murder

A follow-up article/report/story. Something that occurs rarely. Little more information is published, today, than what was previously reported, though. Unless the fact that we learn that "it is presumed that the three had breakfast together" is considered "newsworthy." Today's article does not say whether or not the two women - a cousin of the victim and an aunt - are still in police custody - just that "investigations are going on to ascertain the motive of the crime."

Drugs Can Make You Lose Your Head

Not really funny. But as I was reading this, all I could think of was that old commercial, "This is your brain on drugs" where the eggs are in the frying pan... The criminal justice system, here, in my opinion, is a deterrent to committing crime. You won't catch me smuggling in any contraband for all the money in the world - dog food, yes - but nothing illegal. It just isn't worth it.

We come across the Causeway with our shopping - bags of pork - I bought ten pounds of bacon this past Sunday - and have no problem. Why? Because there is NO law that says we can't have it. We've gotten a hard time from customs only once with our cooler full of pork. But in the end, we were allowed to continue home with it. We do NOT hide it. It sits right there, in the back of the truck in the cooler, ready to be examined. The custom's men know full well what it is - even though the store [which everyone here knows about but which will remain unnamed] will wrap your ham and label it "smoked turkey." If you come across the Causeway through customs hiding your pork, my theory is that you may as well be hiding something else - say, alcohol. There are times when it would be so incredibly EASY to smuggle in bottles of vodka or cases of beer but getting caught is a risk we - my DH and I - are NOT willing to take. The consequences are far too great and severe.

Isn't it enough that 153 people were executed - beheaded - last year, and that 66 people have been executed - beheaded - this year? The warnings are ample. This country, for the most part, takes very seriously the crime of drug smuggling. Why tempt fate?

Being Greatful

There is a really good letter in today's Arab News that I sincerely hope will be read by everyone, here, in The Sandbox. Only the writer's first name is given, Areola, and she/he is from Riyadh. Here is the letter:

Don’t be ungrateful

Have you Saudis ever felt what it is to work as a laborer in the scorching heat and harsh winters of this country?

So be thankful to the Palestinian, Egyptian and Pakistani laborers for their contribution to this country’s development. Have you ever imagined how all these wide roads in the Kingdom are being maintained and all the garbage is being disposed of no matter how rough the weather? Have you ever noticed these poor sweepers eating on the roadside without washing their hands, as they satisfy their hunger after long hours of work? So be thankful to the Bangladeshis for keeping this country clean.

Go to any restaurant/hotel; you will be served with the dish of your choice. Again thank all those workers from neighboring Arab countries, as they serve you with a smile on their face regardless of the low salaries that often are not paid on time.

Look around yourself and see how foreign drivers, salesmen, watchmen, mechanics, electricians, plumbers, swimming pool cleaners, tea boys, nurses, cooks, hairdressers and dressmakers work day in and day out to make your lives comfortable.

Only in Saudi Arabia will you find nobody but foreigners doing all such work. Go to England: You will find British road cleaners, sweepers, salesmen, nurses, truck drivers, waiters and even laborers working with other nationalities. If the Saudis don’t want to join them, at least they should appreciate their services and sacrifices.

Well said!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Same Story - Two Versions

A 30-year old man shot a woman in Jeddah on Monday. The Arab News version is here, and the Saudi Gazette version is here.

The Arab News headline, "Youth attempts suicide after killing woman" is misleading. A 30 year old man is not a "youth." The story is vague.

There are juicier details in the Saudi Gazette, which says: "The girl with her 24-year-old cousin had come to visit her aunt, who allegedly ran a brothel in her flat. After meeting their aunt the girls went to the flat of the Saudi man in the same building. They were with the man for about an hour when an altercation broke out between him and the girl's cousin." Sounds as if there was some sort of "love connection" involved because "the man suspected that the girl was having a relationship with someone else."

But... The "other version" of the story says that "the murdered girl stayed with her family in a rented apartment in the building for months. The suspected murderer rented an apartment a day before the crime." So, if there was a "love connection" this wasn't just a random crime, but premeditated?

It is all rather convoluted. No matter. The police will sort it out. "The girl and her aunt are in police custody. The aunt told the police that she did not know anything about the crime or the man or what kind of relationship they had." If - or when - further details are reported, I'll post them.

Walk Outside - Get Wet

The humidity is almost unbearable. The workers, outside, have GOT to be suffering in this. It is just plain nasty outside. It is bad. Really, really bad. I spent all of yesterday afternoon in the pool almost fully immersed. Even though the water temperature was 94° - it was still cooler than the air.

I tried to get The Baby in the pool with me. She's a Standard Poodle for goodness sake - a water dog - bred to swim! She wanted nothing to do with it and wrapped her front legs/paws around my neck and hind legs/paws around my waist and wasn't letting go for all the chicken "chewies" or tennis balls in the world. She wanted nothing to do with it. Instead she chose to run circles around the edge of the pool and bark at me. Too hot outside for that, Pretty Princess!

Today is stifling. Just stifling. No need to get in the pool to get wet. Just walk outside. Our morning "jaunt" in ten minutes is going to be miserable for all three of us! But it must take place. Why, oh why, oh why don't I live in San Francisco where it would be "acceptable" to go for a walk naked? Never mind. At least I don't have to wear my abeya when I walk around the compound with The Kids.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Girls, here, are bored. Yeah. I'd think so. There is - outside of life on a "compound," virtually nothing for young women to do except roam the malls. After all, who wants to go to the beach when it is over a hundred degrees AND humid outside covered head-to-toe in black? We see little girls riding their bikes at the parks and playing and I often think to myself, "Enjoy it while it while you can because in two years your life as you know it will be over! You won't be able to play outside and ride your bike in your abeya. Heck, you'll be lucky if you aren't having a marriage arranged for you!" [Nothing makes me more disgusted to see little girls in abeya's. I mean LITTLE GIRLS - that are five or six or seven. And, I see them all the time. It is both disgusting and very, very sad.]

Another "pimp" has been arrested. [No need to play "guess the nationality."] "Five Indonesian maids" were caught in "compromising positions with men." Who are these men? No names mentioned, and no nationality. Hmmm...

An Indian worker has been found strangled; a suspect has been arrested. A confession is expected in the short term. The police are always able to elicit one - a confession, that is. Anyone care to wonder how they do it?

Jeddah is kicking off their "third annual film festival." Interesting that there is a film festival, here, when there are no movie theaters [private compounds being exceptions]. This says that the film festival will be open to everyone. Men one night, women and families the next? There won't be any "mixed" company, will there? Can't have that...

Here we have another "blackmailer" that has been arrested. A young girl met a man via Bluetooth and sent him photographs of herself [not p0rn0graphic] and now that the man wants to go out on a "date" with her, she's had him arrested. When will these men ever learn...

There are not enough details about this car crash. A man crashed into a police car at a traffic light. Did the man run the light? Because that would be so out of the realm of probability, here... The man that crashed into the police car has died; the police officer was injured.

It All Comes Down to Money

These practices are not going to end no matter what steps the government, here, puts in place to replace the sponsorship system. There is too much money at stake. Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi himself said so, "Many Saudi companies and individuals have been involved in the lucrative visa trade for many years." You think these Saudi companies and men are going to willingly slaughter their own cash cow? No. Not going to happen. The government can go ahead and issue a new law that will cancel the sponsorship program, and the next day, the men who have benefited from the illegal visa practice and trade will come up with a method to get around it.

One way to look at this is from the government's stand point - they are upset that there are companies and men who are profiting in this "illegal" trade. They will play an active role in abolishing it, so that the companies and men involved will be forced to share the bounty. Oh, don't for a skinny second think that bribes and kick-backs are limited to only politicians and government officials in the States. Corruption knows no boundaries - it is world wide. The only ones that will be hurt by the new law are going to be the "illegals" or "overstayers" who will now pay double what they have been paying to get a visa.

Another Maid - Brutally Raped!

Just sickening. That is all that can be said. And no arrests have been made? Didn't anyone see anything - the maid being abducted? a license plate? This poor maid was taking out the garbage when she was overpowered and abducted and brutally raped until she was bleeding and unconscious by seven men. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know - it was probably her fault for not being covered head-to-toe in her abeya and veil, right?

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Great Tan Lizard Hunter!

I let The Boy out to do business this afternoon - as soon as he gets out the door he starts barking and going absolutely bezerk - I go out to check and see what the problem is. This is it:

These are his nemesis. He sooo sooo wants to get another little gecko. He has gotten only one - in his entire five-plus years here - and managed to "de-tail" the poor little thing. Did the gecko leave and go find another yard to hang out in? No. The gecko continued to live his tail-less life in our back yard taunting The Boy any chance it could - which was often. I couldn't get any shots of The Boy lunging UP and AT the wall to try to get this little gecko, I tried, but the camera just doesn't "shoot" fast enough.

Done! For the Time Being...

The bedroom and my closet are finally coming together. Of course, Rev was supposed to be here at ten o'clock on Sunday to finish the "construction" part of the work - new closet door needed a door handle put on - Rev never showed up [who'd of guessed he'd be a no show?!?] - and wouldn't answer my calls until today. I had to get a couple pieces of 1 X 2 cut to hang the Roman shades - which didn't come out quite as well as I would have liked them to... [I had them hung with one nail - the one on the left didn't hold up - need DH to use some screws and the drill for me to get these to stay.] I still need to get downtown to get a few pillow forms - not going to use the old ones and recover them - they are too tired, flat and floppy at this point. Time for them to go out to the side of the road. I need cord to string through the Roman shades to open and close them... Too hot and humid today to put my abeya on and head out. Maybe tomorrow. I also want to go to the library to get the book on window treatments that I saw several months ago. Will do something with the dark purple fabric for the sides of the windows so that you don't see the gaps where the Roman shades are and to make them more finished and polished looking... Something that drapes down both sides and need the boxes to go over the top. Want for DH to take the papyrus painting that is in the dining room and move it to over the bed - which I would have done but I know I need to locate a stud and put some strong support thingy in to hold the picture - it is big - but the colors are perfect for the bedroom. Then it will be absolutely perfect. I am very pleased with my work. I made the bedspread, bed-skirt, pillow shams and covers, and of course, the Roman shades. Kids now need new pillow covers in their crates to match the new bedspread, as well. But I really need to retire my trusty little Singer machine for a week or two. You can only sew so much... The bedspread was a major, major, major project and one I will never ever attempt again. All in all I am quite pleased with my work - and Rev's guys did a good job on the wall and closet even if it did take me a three weeks to get him to get the work done! The "old" bedroom and closet are here. And, TA DA! I present the new bedroom:

The new closet - the old louver doors which I absolutely couldn't stand are gone and I can actually get to everything in my closet for the first time since I had the initial work done last October:

What post of a redecorating job would be complete without The Kids... The Boy in his favorite place:

And, The Baby a/k/a The Pretty Princess [who is in dire need of a good grooming!]:


It was hot and sunny yesterday; it will be hot and sunny, today and tomorrow. I like "hot and sunny." Yesterday, though, the humidity moved in. We get a few weeks of it during July and August, every year. The humidity makes it almost unbearable to be outside. My "working hours" will be seriously cut back. The air is heavy and wet and oppressive. The pool temperature is in the mid 90's - not refreshing, at all. The Kids need their walk in the morning - it is good for all of us. Not in this - the humidity - though. I was soaking wet by the time we got home yesterday. It feels much, much "wetter" today. Good hair days? Out of the question. Too humid. I don't even want my hair touching me - has to be up, from hereon out - until the humidity wanes - which won't be for a month and a half or so. Yuck. Just yuck.

There Are Plenty of Jobs

How is it that a country that imports some six or eight million men and women to work - in whatever capacity - doesn't have enough jobs for its own citizens? There are plenty of jobs available if one wants to actually work - and that is what it comes down to. Youths in Saudi Arabia are not forced to take up smuggling as this article suggests. They choose to take up smuggling. Smuggling or doing something illegal will always be more lucrative and easier than actually working. Why get up at six in the morning for a shift of eight hours sweeping streets or working as a gardener for a measly 400 to 700 riyals a month when you could smuggle drugs or weapons once a month or twice and make six or eight times the salary? "Official statistics released by the Ministry of Economy and Planning said the unemployed constitute 11 percent of the workforce, equaling half a million young Saudis." If 500,000 visas for companies that import workers were denied, the "half a million young Saudis" could take those jobs. They won't.

"Al-Watan interviewed several unemployed Saudis between the ages of 15 and 35 years old. Several admitted to having been involved in smuggling operations... A 20-year-old said he 'tried to join the Frontier Guard but was denied because he did not have a high school diploma. So instead he smuggled qat. Why should I stop? How much will [I] be paid if I take a normal job? SR3000, SR4000 ... SR10,000. If I risk my life one night I can make a year's salary.' With the money he made from smuggling qat he was able to buy a new Jeep." SR3000, SR4000 or SR10,000 - is that monthly - because imported laborers are not paid nearly that much?

"A 32-year-old Saudi man said he used to work as a security guard at a school... for SR1200 a month. He paid SR600 for his rent and SR200 for fuel. The remaining SR400 was not enough to provide for his family. He was later arrested for smuggling hashish." Who is providing for his family now? He is in jail, right, because drug smugglers / dealers, here, go to jail and are executed. [They do and are if they are ex-pats; do "locals" get different treatment? Never mind.] How is it that the imported street cleaners and gardeners who are paid SR400 to SR700 a month can manage to survive on their salaries, and a security guard making SR1200 as month can't?

Nope. Calling bullshit on this. If someone wants to work - there are jobs available. Youths are not being forced to do anything - they choose not to work and to do something illegal. The article says that "many Saudis are left with no eduction, which means they cannot meet the minimum requirement for government jobs." Who is forcing them to drop out of high school? And, why does every Saudi expect that a government job will be available to them? Young Saudis need to learn that they must start at the bottom and work their way up to that cushy desk job making several thousand riyals a month. It is a concept that seems to be completely missed, here...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ten Year Old Will Be Fifteen When Marriage Is Consummated

Her husband will be sixty-nine. Lucky, lucky girl. Not! Honestly I cannot even fathom not having a choice about who you marry or having a father that basically sells you. Just too much for me... The man, "who has already paid a SR100,000 dowry to the father of the girl and signed the marriage contract now says he would wait until the girl is 15 to complete the marriage."

Long Coat and Scarf Required

Does anyone really think about some of the rules here? This is just devoid of any logic and will serve no purpose but to encumber nurses. The "Ministry of Health released a directive obligating nurses to wear new long coats covering their bodies, full sleeves and white scarves to cover their hair." Nursing is not an easy profession. Why make it more difficult? Some "nurses are complaining stating it is a decision that infringes on their personal freedom." Life in the Sandbox.

Abdulrahamn Al-Sahafi, public relations manager for Jeddah Health Affairs, said "Most of the nurses are wearing clothes for a long time that do not infringe on Islamic rules; but we still want to ensure that they wear the coat." A Saudi nurse said "Such decisions are good but people need to know that these coats are like abaya's allowing women to work freely without being concerned with exposing their bodies." Yeah. Nothing says comfort and freedom like an abeya.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Laborers, Here, This Morning...

Every morning the Kids and I head out early for our "leash aerobics workout." Actually, they are quite good on leashes - so it isn't nearly as much of an aerobic workout as it was when The Baby first got here. [Those were Kodak/YouTube escapades!] The Kids know what the routine is. I get up and do a couple of "morning things" like unload the dishwasher, start a load of laundry, go outside and scoop any poop that is in the yard and take the trash out while the coffee is brewing. Then I hit the computer with my breakfast [coffee and a cigarette] before I get dressed and ready to take them for their morning jaunt through the neighborhoods and parks, here. I cannot deviate at all from this; if I so much as open a drawer or brush my teeth both Kids immediately spring into high-gear alert "WE'RE GOING FOR A WALK" mode and assist me in the bathroom - it is small - there is NOT enough room for me, a Great Dane and a Standard Poodle - and then assist as I struggle to get dressed - just try putting shoes with a Great Dane AND a Standard Poodle hovering ON TOP of you...

We headed out this morning - it is another
beautiful day in the Sandbox. Weather today? Same as yesterday, same as the day before, and same as tomorrow. Hot and sunny. The climate, here, is one that perfectly suits me. I will, at some point, if and when we ever leave, truly miss hot and sunny days! Yes. Really. I will. [I've acclimated. If it is not 80 or 90° out, I need a sweatshirt!] There are "routes" that we walk, but I try to add variety to this and go down different alleys and walkways, or go to different parks - there ARE a lot of "smells" out there that have to be "read." [Sniffing and smelling are a four-legged Kid's way of reading a newspaper...] As The Boy is watering the cement corner of this privacy wall:

The Baby is pulling and tugging - which is a "no no," but she is bound [ha! no pun intended] and determined to get beyond the six feet of leash I have her attached to get to this:

Yuck! Don't you know that Pretty Princesses DO NOT eat mangled dead birds?!? Good grief, I make food for you, I spend a small fortune having food from The Honest Kitchen shipped here and you want dead pigeons [doves?], instead? What happened to these two birds is a mystery. Did one of the bazillion stray cats get to them? I doubt it, there is far too much remaining, it looks more like they got into an accident with a lawnmower, but birds don't sit still for lawnmowers, do they? Actually, we see a LOT of dead birds on our daily walks. Bird flu? Or is it that the poison boxes - I'll find a photo to post of these red boxes that are cage-like structures placed throughout the compound - that have the white skull and crossbones on them and say "P O I S O N." The red boxes contain some deadly substance and are for the purpose of controlling the flies. Are birds eating the poisoned flies and then dying? A mystery...

We've also seen a lot of dung beet
les lately - a lot. These are HUGE beetles - no clue what their scientific name is - that CRUNCH if they get stepped on. I avoid them - not sure what purpose they serve in the food chain, but if they somehow get flipped over on their backs then they can't right themselves and they lay there and die a slow painful death as the little teeny tiny ants devour them.

These are "dung b
eetles," and I've set my keys next to one just to give you an idea of how big they really are:

This "dung beetle" is [was?] live - crawling down the trunk of a tree - and hadn't yet plunged head-first onto her back to meet her demise:

We see the little workers as they are getting off the buses that transport them from wherever it is they live to our compound in the morning - early... The Kids and I are friendly and say, "Hello. How are you?" Or, "Good morning." And other greetings to all of the workers we see. Many faces we see are familiar ones - day in and day out - and all respond in kind, to us. They see me scooping the Kids' poop, and know that we are not culprits who leave crap on common areas for them to take care of [there are a lot of guilty four-legged kid parents, here!] and it is a pleasant, mutual sort of respect we have for each other - me and The Kids - and the little workers in their yellow and brown and blue coverall suits. So, this morning, we see a young man that I didn't recognize, but that doesn't mean we've not greeted him before, and I said, "Good morning." And, he gave a big smile, and said, "Good morning, Madam, how you are?" Kind of like he is practicing his English with me, and he was proud to be able to use it. It was sweet. I told him "I'm doing very well, thank you. How are you?" And he said, "I am fine. Thank you." Big, big happy face. Like he knew he had just aced the response, even if he did as me, "How you are?" instead of "How are you?" I didn't even think to correct him, and wouldn't have. I give these guys a great deal of credit to come here from some other country where they do not speak either English or Arabic and they learn to communicate with all of us - much more so, than I have done!

The Plight of Workers...

Here is a most excellent example of a worker being taken advantage of with absolutely no recourse whatsoever. Tariq Al-Maeena has a big pair of "brass ones." On a fairly regular basis Mr. Al-Maeena publishes articles that shed light on issues in this country that need to be addressed. [It is too bad that Mr. Al-Maeena is not in charge of overseeing this country's traffic laws! I do believe he has what it takes, i.e., big brass ones, to make AND enforce changes.] I digress...

Today, Mr. Al-Maeena writes of the plight of Ahmed, a Bangladeshi who is currently working at a delicatessen whom he has conversed with and "learned a few things about the labor practices followed by some very ruthless Saudis." The short version of Ahmed's story is that he was working at a hotel when a Saudi businessman offered him a position at a much higher salary. The Saudi businessman had 100 labor visas [it all goes back to money - see, I told you] and convinced Ahmed to go through the proverbial hoop-jumping required, here, to leave his hotel employer and work for him.

Ahmed, who has a family to support, accepted the Saudi businessman's offer and went to work for him. For the first two days Ahmed worked in the office of his Saudi employer, but was then told he was needed to "work around the house" [red flags! red flags! red flags!] where he would be paid the same amount he was originally promised.

For the next six months Ahmed worked as a domestic helper for the Saudi, driving him and his family, cleaning the house, gardening and acting as a guard; he was not given a single dime - or halala - of his salary. [More red flags!] Ahmed's father passed away and his family was "in dire financial straits" so he asked his Saudi employer for his wages. His employer told him "that he would [pay him] as soon as he returned from Switzerland where he would be vacationing with his family" for two weeks. The employer and his family were gone for SIX weeks and not the two weeks he had said they would be gone, for. Ahmed was fed and provided with accommodation but received no money. Did the Saudi employer pay him upon his return from Switzerland? Of course not. Why? He couldn't. He "had spent a lot of money during his trip. Europe is very expensive, you know." When Ahmed complained his employer told him that if he was "unhappy and wanted to transfer to another sponsor" he would have to "pay him ten thousand riyals!" [$2,680.96] The employer threatened that if Ahmed couldn't come up with the money that he would turn Ahmed's passport over to the Passport Department for deportation.

Ahmed's plight worsens, because he "ran away" from his Saudi employer - leaving his passport behind - and is now working illegally at the delicatessen anticipating every day with fear that he will caught; he has learned that the Saudi man did in fact turn over his passport.

Mr. Al-Maeena asked Ahmed why he has not gone to the authorities, or Labor Court and Ahmed said, "I am just a poor Bangladeshi and he is a well-connected Saudi. The authorities would immediately arrest me and put me on the next available flight home." Ahmed is, of course, correct, that is exactly what would happen. Will he ever be able to collect his due wages from the Saudi man who managed to "openly flaunt labor laws and exploit" Ahmed "and get away with it?" What do you think? [The answer is no.]
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