Tuesday, September 30, 2008
After we went to DH's office and he took care of a few things, I said I wanted to go see his new plane. I'd seen the last plane he flew. I actually got to fly home from Innsbruck a couple of years ago on the "private jet" as a passenger with DH flying. It was sweet! [I want my own plane. I've already got my own pilot!] The plane is very, very nice. All bright and shiny and brand-spanking new... Why should we have to fly back and forth to the States commercially when we could fly in DH's jet? [Yeah. Don't I wish!]
We walked into the hangar and the man at the security desk stood up to shake DH's hand when DH said hello to him. DH was introducing me to Mr. Security and I held out my right hand to shake his hand. Wrong thing to do. Mr. Security RELUCTANTLY took it, but he so so so did not want to! As DH and I were walking away, DH whispered to me, "Don't you know that they don't want to shake the hand of a strange woman during Ramadan?" Oh. Whatever. Get over yourself, already, Mr. Security.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Before we left the States I did our yearly packing of a shipment - that we send here - for items that either cannot be found in this part of the world, or just "stuff" I want... This year's shipment was smaller than those in the past and contained only 24 boxes. The shipment included various items - forty cartons of Kool Super Long cigarettes [can't get them, here], 160 pounds of dog food from The Honest Kitchen, four 2.65 gallon containers of Tide liquid detergent, new towels, shower curtains and bath mats, several pairs of new shoes, sewing supplies, books, golf "stuff" and "stuff" for DH's new golf cart [wheel covers, seat covers...], a case of canned potatoes and two cases of canned crab meat, shampoo and conditioner, a new crock pot, a new electric skillet, some specific cleaning supplies I use in the kitchen, toys for the Kids - lots of toys for the Kids! - and various other items. Our shipment weighed 526 pounds, total.
We have been quite lucky in the past in that all of the items we ship over in the big shipment have made it through Customs with virtually no damage - and no theft - only a pack or two of cigarettes have gone missing - but considering I ship over so many cartons, that someone has decided they needed to try a pack of my cigarettes is fine by me. Doing a big shipment is much less risky than just having a box of shoes sent over. The guys who do the mail customs inspection seem to have the mindset that it is okay for them to remove items that they either want or think that they need more than we need - and they have little regard, if any, to whether or not they are damaging items they inspect - and this irks me to no end. The guys that do the big shipments for customs inspection seem to be more concerned with just getting the job done - and not of the mindset that they want or need MY stuff.
Out shipment leaves the States via DHL and gets put on space available air freight. It only takes a few weeks for it to get here. Once it arrives, Namma Cargo contacts us to make arrangements for the shipment to be cleared through Customs and for payment. This year, the man that contacted me from Namma Cargo asked me if I wanted to be present for the Customs inspection. Huh? I didn't know I was allowed to be present. Heck, yah, I want to be there! I was afraid of what "they" were going to do to the food from The Honest Kitchen [it really does look like some illicit substance that one might smoke - or something - I don't really know...]. There is quite a bit of paperwork associated with the shipment on both ends - beginning in the States - and then, here. Paperwork that has to have certain "stamps" and "approvals." One of the documents we have to sign is a declaration that the goods being shipped are "for my own and family use and not for resale and that the goods do not include any items banned by Saudi Arabian law." I am blonde, but I am not stupid. I know what the penalties and punishments are for bringing in banned goods and I am NOT about to even try it!
It is Ramadan. Work hours are shortened for many - and with Ramadan coming to an end, immediately followed by Eid, a lot of people are not working at all - but are on "holiday." The man at Namma Cargo was quite concerned that he would not be able to get the completed paperwork to Customs in a way that he could coordinate my being present for our shipment's inspection. Whoa, whoa, whoa! You asked me last week if I wanted to be present - and I told you that I most certainly did want to be there - and now you are trying to tell me that you can't get it worked out. Not acceptable. You WILL make it happen. And, after several fairly "heated" conversations, he made it happen. So, DH and I headed to the airport to go for the customs inspection. I had my cell phone and the cell phone number of the man we were to contact once we arrived.
As soon as we got to the airport cargo/customs area I called Mr. F. and asked him where we needed to go. Mr. F. gave me directions and told me he would meet us out front. As we approached the massive warehouse there were a lot of men - a lot of men - milling about and as I had no idea what Mr. F. looked like I dialed his cell number to say that we were there - he happened to be outside and as he was talking to me on the phone he said, "I see you" and he held up his hand - we were pretty much right in front of him - and as I was the ONLY female anywhere within ten kilometers of the place it was not difficult for him to figure out it was us approaching him.
Mr. F. then proceeded to take us to the various windows [picture bank teller windows] to get the various signatures required for the shipment to be released to us [after the requisite inspection] and then took us into the warehouse - directly to where our pallet was in the midst of this massive hangar-converted-storage facility. There were a hundred men moving boxes and a couple very, very borderline dangerous fork-lift drivers who came way too close to the workers and to us - at breakneck speeds - just a bit discomforting! The two guys driving the fork-lifts drove them like they were race cars. I guess when you have a certain amount of freight that has to be moved from one area to the next then "safe" driving - or even "cautious" driving - is out. [I wonder how many feet these two drivers have run over in the past...] Mr. F. said that the Inspector was on his way. Hovering over our shrink-wrapped box laden pallet were two little "imported" workers with razor-cutter-openers. No one was allowed to touch ANYTHING until the Inspector was present. I asked if I could take a picture. OH NO, MADAM! MUST WAIT! Okay. Fine. I'll wait. So when the official Inspector finally came over I asked him if I could take a picture. He looked at me suspiciously and I explained that I would not take a picture of anything but our pallet and that I would not get anyone in the picture. He reluctantly allowed me to take a picture - and after I took the first one, he said, "You not want charge?" What? "No charge?" DH explained to me that he was asking me if I needed the flash for the picture - so I turned the flash on and took another picture.
[That is Mr. F. is in the photo, above. His left elbow and forearm...]
That done, the Inspector stood right next to the shipment and pointed to a couple of random boxes, which the two "imported" workers immediately sliced and opened so that Mr. Inspector could see the contents of the boxes. Of course one of the boxes - chosen randomly - was the dog food that I was so concerned about. Mr. Inspector didn't even ask to have it removed from the box - just casually glanced at it, glanced into the box that was opened containing clothing, and one box that was opened that contained cigarettes and various other innocuous items. That was it. Simple as that! Amazing. Mr. Inspector signed off on the paperwork that Mr. F. was holding and I thought, okay, now we just load this into our truck and off we go. Wrong. Even though Mr. Inspector had approved the shipment for release and "inspected" it, we needed to wait for Mr. Saudi Official to sign off on Mr. Inspector's signature. There are more signatures on the paperwork that is associated with out shipment than you can even possibly imagine. I have NO idea why so many are required or necessary, but obviously, like any government agency, much of it is just bureaucratic bullshit, no doubt, which does nothing but serves as a justifiable excuse to keep a lot of men employed in high-level desk jobs whose functions are questionably unnecessary. But, hey, what do I know about the Customs industry...
After standing and waiting for several minutes - it probably seemed like it was taking longer than it actually did - Mr. Saudi Official finally sauntered over - dressed in a thobe and gutra - and signed the paperwork Mr. Inspector was holding. And then Mr. F. said that we needed to get the gate pass so that we could drive away with our belongings. Back to the inside offices to another couple of windows for several more various signatures and a document written completely in Arabic which DH was required to sign. Neither of us have any clue what it said, but Mr. F. told DH to sign and showed him where - and then Mr. F. said that DH could go get our truck and that he would go and get the invoice for payment. Fine. I stood outside - in front of the warehouse - waiting for DH to get the truck and for Mr. F. to get the invoice. DH drove the truck to the designated "bay," and we waited for Mr. F. who was still in the maze of offices and "windows" getting our invoice.
Finally, Mr. F. reappeared and said, "You owe 6631." What? I don't think so. I have my copy of the invoice that Namma Cargo provided - and you are right - it does say 6631, but that also includes 543 of insurance from the "airport to our house," and a 290 delivery fee. Well, we don't need the 543 of insurance - we taking the shipment ourselves - and I am not paying the 290 delivery fee since we're not having Namma deliver it. "Oh, no, Madam. You owe 6631." "No. I do not." So, poor Mr. F. ended up in the middle of Namma Cargo's representative and me - going back and forth on our cell phones - for a good fifteen or twenty minutes. The man at Namma Cargo was not all to happy about us taking some of the money off the invoice - but there was no way I was going to pay for services that I, obviously, was not needing or requiring. It was an interesting exchange - between the three of us - and I was still trying to maintain being "sweeter than punch" for the benefit of Mr. F. because we will need his services for our next shipment - and there is NO WAY I could possibly ever figure out the bureaucratic red tape of "required signatures" but I was getting increasingly frustrated with Mr. Namma Cargo representative and was not being "sweet as punch" at all. We did finally get everything sorted out - and I suspect Mr. F. will not forget me. Neither will Mr. Namma Cargo Representative.
One of dangerous fork-lift drivers "raced" our pallet out to our truck and three other "imported" workers set to freeing the boxes from the shrink-wrap and quickly unloading everything into the back of our Tahoe [yes, I refer to it as a truck, even though it is not really a truck]. I grabbed a bunch of 10 Riyal bills out of my wallet and tipped the guys that were unloading the boxes. As I was standing there, the fork-lift driver got off his "race car" and came over to me and put his hand out and said, "different company." Huh? You mean that wad of bills I just gave to the unloaders is not going to be shared with you? Apparently not. So, I opened my wallet and grabbed some more money and tipped Speed Racer, too. And, of course, Mr. F. got tipped handsomely for getting us through the entire process. Start to finish: 50 minutes! Amazingly and incredibly easy!!! Yes. There were a gazillion signatures and stamps needed - but the whole process was so much simpler than I ever anticipated - and the inspection went so smooth I couldn't possibly imagine that I had such doubts about what I was sure was going to be a living nightmare.
I'm pretty sure that by our attending the actual inspection - even though Mr. Saudi Official was not all to pleased with "my" presence [the look on his face said it all!] - Mr. Inspector must have accurately presumed that whatever the contents of our shipment contained that there was no "contraband" or items that are not allowed, because after all, why would we place ourselves in the position of being immediately hauled off to jail somewhere by knowingly sending something into this country that is not allowed? Exactly. And, by our being there, the inspection was much more "gentle" in that the box of clothing did not get emptied on the floor and the razor knife did not slash open the box of dog food. I wish I knew all the ins and outs of the procedures for obtaining the necessary signatures and stamps, daunting as it may be, so that I could just handle everything. No matter. I've got Mr. F.'s mobile number now, and I can contact him directly to take care of our shipment next year!
So I have to decide what to do with the Hamour. It needs a little more flavor than just broiling it and squeezing lemon on it - which wouldn't have mattered, anyway, since I didn't have any lemons. Duh! What was I thinking. Plan to have fish for dinner and forget to get lemons?!? I got on-line and found one recipe that sounded really good, but I only had a couple of the ingredients - and I was NOT going to the Commissary again - and I had already been to Panda and back so that was out of the question. I did a little more searching and found this recipe. I doubled the recipe for the sauce - quadrupling the amount of minced onions [oh, and I had only the RealLemon bottled juice - I did not use fresh squeezed]. It was delicious! Served it with Uncle Ben's Rice Pilau and green beans. Diner was quick and easy and tasted great! From refrigerator / cupboard to table in about 45 minutes - during which time - as the Hamour was baking, I posted about my trip to the Panda Hypermarket for bleach, so the total preparation time was in the area of ten minutes - tops. DH says that the Hamour recipe is a keeper - he asked for seconds! I'm all for the quick and easy and if it is pleasing as well? Oh my gosh. I'm all set...
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Late this afternoon DH and I went downtown. I know, I know, I know... Absolutely detest going down at such a late hour, but really I do NEED bleach. I also need file folders. Thought I could kill two birds with one stone. Of course, that didn't happen. We have a new Jarir Mall that is only about a quarter open. They have a huge new Panda Hypermarket there. I've already blogged about going there once before. Like I said - wanted file folders which Jarir carries - only the new Jarir is not even open yet - and wanted bleach and took my chances that the Panda Hypermarket would have some.
As we were driving downtown, DH pointed out a dog running along a fence in the distance - a fence which surrounds one of the Saudi Armed Forces base's. I wish DH wouldn't have even said anything, because I will spend the rest of the night just thinking about that poor hungry dog. Don't you know, we pull into Jarir Mall which is still under construction, and I see ANOTHER dog! I cannot remember seeing stray dogs - I've seen none - downtown, ever. In the desert we've seen many - but not downtown. So, now I've got to worry about two starving dogs tonight. [It isn't enough that I have got to feed all the stray cats...]
Anyway, we go racing into Panda - the mall is about to close for prayer - the 5:30 prayer - and the security guys are telling everyone to go quickly - no problem. Need bleach. Just bleach. THERE IS BLEACH! [Have you EVER known ANYONE to get so excited over bleach?!? Probably not.] I grab two gallons - one in each hand - pass one of to DH - and head for the checkout - which is lined up back through the aisles as everyone is trying to get out of Panda and get home to prepare their Iftar dinners. DH and I are standing in line and he says, "I'll be right back." Fine. No problem. He hands me the gallon of bleach he was holding and he disappears. A man [obviously Saudi, dressed in a thobe and sandals - his head covered in a guthra] with his cart laden with food stuff and three humongous bags of rice gets in line behind me. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see him rearranging his cart. I don't give it much thought. A second or two later he taps me on the shoulder and invites me to set my bleach in his cart so that I do not have to stand in line forever holding onto a gallon of bleach at the end of each arm.
There. That is my "good." [More tomorrow! Just YOU wait!!!] But I really just think that that simple act of kindness spoke volumes and I so appreciate that he made such a gesture. Thank you, Mr. Saudi, whoever you were, standing behind me in line at Panda early this evening, for making room in your cart so that I could set my bleach down. It was kind of you and just very, very sweet!
[No. It does not count that several minutes later, after DH reappeared, Mr. Saudi accidentally ran into DH's ankles with his cart - it only happened because nice Mr. Saudi was trying to maneuver his cart out of the way of someone else who was trying to get to another line with one of those "car-kid-carts" that take up far too much room! Mr. Saudi lightly tapped DH on the shoulder as if he was trying to say he was sorry for the ankle-nudge but didn't quite know how to say it in English. We forgive you for that, Mr. Saudi. We know you did not mean to do it and we will not hold that against you.]
How much is 619 grams? There are 1000 grams in a kilogram, right? 619 grams is more than half of a kilogram. And someone was hiding 619 grams of heroin in his shoes? Wouldn't that mean you'd need a pretty big pair of shoes? I know nothing about heroin - have never seen it except for in movies and on t.v. Maybe I am wrong and it would be fairly easy to conceal 310 grams of heroin in a shoe, but... And, are you an absolutely crazy man that likes to take chances with your life? Did you honestly think you could get away with this stunt? Yeah. I guess so. Or you wouldn't have tried it.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
I thought the drug penalties in Dubai were much more strict than just four years in jail... I was unable to find a whole lot on the Internet in this regard, but found this. Geez. Who would have guessed that poppy seeds were illegal?
[Courts in the U.S. could learn valuable lessons from Courts in the Middle East. No more coddling criminals and giving the victims no rights. Find criminals guilty of their crimes - and we all know most of them are guilty - and then sentence them. Make the punishment fit the crime. You'd see crime statistics plunge. I just know it.]
Friday, September 26, 2008
A picture of The Boy on my Mom's lap when she and Dad visited us in The Sandbox a couple of years ago:
["Yes, thank you Gramma, I am quite comfortable!"]
And, of course The Baby HAD to be in the picture, too! She is, of course, incredibly photogenic!
["But what about ME?!? Don't You WANT to hold ME, too? After all, I am The Pretty Princess!"]
P.S./Update: I'm pretty sure my Mom is NOT going to be happy about the one picture - she was squinting her eyes - and muttering something like UUGGGHHH! - but that is ONLY because 120 pounds just landed on top of her - and my Mom doesn't weigh that much soaking wet!!! [Sorry, Mom. You knew He was headed toward you and you should have been prepared. I can't take the blame...]
LLW [Lowly Little Worker]: We have inspected and tested the contents of the Clorox bottles.
POO [Pompous Overpaid Official]: Good. And, you are absolutely positively sure that each and every Clorox bottle contains the bleach as stated on the label, and not alcohol?
LLW: Yes. We have taste-tested each and every bottle and got first degree mouth and throat burns but did not get drunk.
LLW: Can we release the Clorox to go to the grocery stores?
POO: Have we determined who it is that wants the Clorox?
POO: Who is it?
LLW: It is that wicked woman from the West who lives in the
POO: Do not release the Clorox.
LLW: But, Sir?
POO: La la la la la! We must never release the bleach! We must never release any of the products that the wicked Western woman wants or needs. I order that the wicked Western woman must never get her wish to have products she desires.
LLW: Sir, there are others that are desirous of having this powerful liquid. Must everyone be punished because of one wicked Western woman? After all, the Clorox can be used for numerous cleaning applications, as well as to sanitize and clean vegetables used in restaurants which will prevent masses of our people from contaminants, and -
POO: You will follow orders or you will be beheaded!
...and the Lowly Little Worker quickly shuffles off to put the Clorox bottles into the black hole storage facility where no one ever gets to see or use bleach again.
Why?!? Why??? Isn't it enough that we have to wash our clothes in salt water? And, now, we can't even attempt to get the "gray" out of the water to try to get our whites white?!? I can substitute ammonia for many of the cleaning purposes that I would prefer to use bleach for, but I really, really need bleach for the laundry.
And there is none!
[If any Bahrain readers read this post, please let me know if you have bleach on your grocery store shelves. We'll make the trip across the causeway to get bleach if we have to. Thanks!]
La = Arabic for "no."
Nam = Arabic for "yes."
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Tuesday was a holiday, Saudi National Day, and many had the day off - many took yesterday off - and today, Thursday, is our "Saturday" - the weekend. There is no way I'd even contemplate venturing downtown! Apparently EVERYONE is shopping, preparing for Eid. I can only imagine that it compares to being in a mall in the States the weekend before Christmas. Hordes of people. With everyone using their ATM cards, it has, apparently, put quite a strain on the banks. I don't need the frustration and will happily stay home.
DH and I will amuse ourselves today by watching the last DVD of the third season of Lost. I cannot believe how addictive the show really is. I know it was all the rage when it first started - but I hadn't seen it, yet, and really just didn't think it would be something I was going to like. Man-oh-man, was I wrong on that one! We will have to wait until December 9th to see season four - it will not be available until then. Timed perfectly to coincide with our trip to the States.
We have a couple of kittens. Well, they aren't actually ours. They are just two of the many, many stray cats that roam our compound. Last week, as I was coming in the front door, I heard a very loud and desperate kitten's
We also have a lizard. He [she?] has been living under one of the refrigerators for a while now. He/she came in as an infant - it is still just a baby. Twice we've caught it and put it outside and each time it returns to the doorway so that when the door is opened, it scurries back in. I always thought the little geckos liked sun, but apparently this one likes the dark. The Boy - as is his habit - needs to be let out to do business sometime around four or four-thirty in the morning. When I brought him back in the other day - he headed for his water bowl and I grabbed his collar. The little lizard was sitting on the far corner of the windowsill next to the Kids' tables. I know The Boy will go bonkers to get the lizard - he is, after all, the Great Tan Lizard Hunter! - and I don't want him to be able to do that. I quickly steered The Boy back to the bedroom - the lizard is so small The Boy wouldn't even taste it if he did get it. Then I grabbed the camera. The pictures didn't come out too bad, considering I did it so quickly - and had to use the flash.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Well, so much for figuring I can go downtown on October 7th. Nope. That won't be happening. The Eid break, which was supposed to end on October 6th has been extended and will continue through October 8th, which is followed by the weekend - Thursday and Friday - so it will finally end on October 10th. I will wait until October 12th to go downtown to try to get some lampshades and cornices made and get my paint samples then. Well, this has been a wasted month - in that regard - although since I've been home, I've been able to accomplish some of the tasks here, that I've put off for far too long, that have been taunting me.
Our Commissary made a couple of changes while we were in the States - above and beyond removing items from shelves that I regularly purchased - and above and beyond not being able to be prepared for Ramadan or the Eid holidays. There are new carts, or "trolleys" [above]. Ooohh. Exciting. Not! The new carts have a mind of their own - they are about impossible to steer - they want to go sideways instead of forward. [You know, actually, somehow this is not a surprise.] And, the many Saudi girls that were employed there are mostly gone. I can't say "the many Saudi girls that were working there are mostly gone," because the Saudi girls didn't work! The imported guys that used to work the checkout lines and were removed from those positions to become stockers are now pulling double duty - stocking at night - and working the cash registers during the day. At least they know what they are doing - and you can get through the check out line quickly. It is good for us, but unfortunate for them. One of them said to me the other day that he has not had a day off in a month and he is working sixteen hour shifts. I asked if the girls were fired, and his response was, "Oh, I don't know, Madam." Yes, you do know, but you don't want to risk getting in trouble by telling me. I understand that. And the look on his face and his lengthy lapse in responding said it all. Now, if someone would just fire whoever is in charge of the ordering and put the man who was doing it before him - who knew what he was doing - who ordered canned potatoes and crab meat and stocked Delta bread and bleach - then things would be back to normal, there. I won't envision that happening anytime soon!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Our shipment should arrive at that point - I believe it is in the Sandbox, but I'm doubting we will see it until after the holidays. Customs will need to inspect it - and that might involve work. I am dreading what "they" are going to do to 120 pounds of food for my Kids from The Honest Kitchen, after what "they" did to the last food I shipped in. And, I only hope that as "they" slash my twenty-four boxes open that they don't shred my new towels or puncture the industrial-size containers of Tide. I'm guessing that the two cases of canned crab meat are going to make it through, along with a case of canned potatoes - although there must be some sort of ban on those products as they've not been seen on any grocery store's shelves in a year. Who knows why... With the many cartons of cigarettes that I have had shipped over in the last six years, only a few packs have gone "missing." The men in customs must not like menthol... And, any books in my shipment are fairly innocuous - questionable titles get hand-carried back - so the books should make it through customs without a problem. I always remove the dust-covers - no need drawing any attention to my books. Customs will be surprised to find a box of empty CD and DVD cases. I know better than to ship the actual discs - they would all be confiscated so that they could be "reviewed." I hand carry the discs back and put the cases in the shipment, empty. I doubt "they" would actually keep season three of Monk, but the music CD's might be deemed "offensive," especially Tim Buckley...
Speaking of offensive... If this isn't offensive, I don't know what is. How many eight-year olds are going to have to be married and divorced before someone puts their foot down and says, "no more." There was an article in one of the papers last week that said something about how both parties would have to consent to marriage before it could be deemed legal. There is NO eight or nine or ten or eleven or fifteen year-old girl capable of making that kind of life-altering decision! Just stop it. You are portraying yourselves in an incredibly negative light with this kind of insanity.*
Insanity... Just par for the course. I mean why else would two young men sneak into a mosque to watch women praying?*
*Thanks to WZ who "scours the bowels of the internet" so I don't have to...
Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Embassy of the United States of America
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
September 20, 2008
The Embassy requests that wardens pass the following message in its entirety to members of the American Community:
American citizens are reminded that the security threat level in the Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia, remains very high following the events in Yemen on September 17 and the subsequent public claims of responsibility and continuing calls for further attacks. The Department of State remains concerned about possible attacks by extremist individuals or groups against American citizens, facilities, living quarters, businesses, and perceived interests.
Those Americans who choose to visit Saudi Arabia are strongly urged to avoid staying in hotels or housing compounds that do not apply stringent security measures and are also advised to maintain good situational awareness when visiting commercial establishments frequented by Westerners. All Americans are advised to keep a low profile; vary travel times and routes; exercise caution while driving, entering, or exiting vehicles; and ensure that travel documents and visas are current and valid.You don't have to tell me twice to keep a low profile... We, have had, and continue to have, in my opinion, excellent security services provided for our compound. Not that it couldn't be violated - but nothing is 100% fool proof, is it? And, once again, I'll be doing my directives for The Kids. Just in case. You can never be too cautious. But what I always wonder, when we get these, is if someone knows something that they just aren't telling us.
Not too long ago, DH had to go to Islamabad for work. I was NOT happy about it and made him promise me that he wouldn't leave his hotel. To go or not wasn't an option - his job requires him to go where he is instructed to - and he does. He likes his job. He likes his co-workers and his bosses. DH has a good job - one that has allowed him to travel all over the world. I've been with him to quite a few destinations and I too, have had incredible opportunities to travel and have gone to places and seen things that I never dreamed I'd be able to experience. DH can hardly say, "Sorry. Can't go to Islamabad. My wife doesn't want me to because she doesn't think it is safe." Thankfully he was only there for a few days and returned home.
DH stayed at the Marriott. Yes. That one. The one that was targeted in the most recent bombing in Pakistan. A photo of the hotel, post-bombing, was on the front page of one of our two local English-language papers, and DH was able to point out the area where his room was located - on the second floor, overlooking the entry way. I am so incredibly thankful that DH was NOT there yesterday! DH is not nearly as outspoken about "issues" as I am - any issues - he is very, very level-headed and no matter what remains calm, cool and collected. We are complete opposites in that regard. He rarely speaks ill of others - no matter what they do - or who they are. I, on the other hand, have a very difficult time holding my tongue and not very verbally calling a spade a spade when I see one. It is just not a part of DH's nature; it is a part of mine.
This morning, when DH was having his coffee and reading the paper, he did have something to say... When I asked him if Pakistan - more specifically, Islamabad, was a "nice" country or whether it was a third-world cesspool, his only comment was, "The infrastructure is not good, if that's what you mean, but the mountains are beautiful." Beautiful as they may be, I know that it is a place that I will NEVER visit in my lifetime, that's for sure!
My heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to the families whose loved ones have been taken from them in yet another tragic attack on innocent victims.
Religion is a topic I tend to avoid. I just don't want to go there. It is one of those topics you are not supposed to discuss at a dinner party or in social groups... Like politics, finances, death and taxes. Those are personal issues and no one else's business.
But I cannot agree with this. It is one thing to ask that we, as non-Muslims, be respectful of beliefs and customs that are near and dear to Muslims. It is quite another to want to force us to observe something that is not one of our beliefs or customs. And that is all I'm gonna say about the matter.
This is wrong, too. And I do feel sorry for this Australian woman. But, come on. You had to know that by coming here you were taking some risks. I do not understand, though, if both the man and woman in this instance are Australian citizens how it is that the husband can file for custody of the children in a Saudi court. Well - actually I do understand the "how." Did these two get married, here, or in Australia? That piece of information is missing from the article and I don't know if it would make any difference or not. She's facing the possibility of being arrested for showing her face. [Put your damn veil on then, for goodness sake! Why call attention to yourself?] And, she faces the possibility of arrest for not having her residency papers. She is not going to be allowed to leave because she can't get permission from her husband to travel and she is without her passport. Lady, you are so SOL. What's that saying about being in a canoe with only one paddle? Hmmph. This woman is up the creek without either paddle and her canoe has a cannon-ball sized hole in it!
A kind of happy ending to a disgusting and pathetic story - the one of the young child in Yemen being forced to marry a man three times her age - which drew worldwide attention. Little Nujood Ali was granted a divorce from the pedophile she was given to by her father, and she has gone back in [grade] school - where, hopefully, she can be a child again and go on to fulfill her dreams of studying and becoming a lawyer. One of her teachers is "worried whether Nujood would disturb other students by talking about her sexual experiences." You've got to be kidding, right? I'm guessing this poor little child is going to do everything in her power to repress some pretty horrific "childhood memories." Let's all hope that Nujood is able to do just that.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The soccer field from which one of the "little guys" working sprinted across to shut the valves off to the sprinklers so the Kids and I wouldn't get soaked if we walked through the grass...
The valve shut off box...
Are these poison boxes the reason so many birds die, here? They eat the flies that have ingested the poison - I got pretty close to this one to take the pictures - and the smell is beyond nasty. Actually, along with the poison that is put in these boxes, there was either a dead fish tail or a dead bird tail. I'm not quite tall enough to see what was in the white containers - but there was some sort of liquid - with what looked like a fish tail sticking out of it - I tried to hold the camera up to get a shot of it - but that didn't quite work out for me..
If it isn't the poisonous flies that the birds are eating that kills them - what it is - why was this little bird - a young bird - not full grown - just sitting in the grass like this - it moved its head when I walked up to it to get this picture, but it didn't fly away. And, no, I did nothing about it. Survival of the fittest in the "wild." Yes, I am an animal lover - all animals and living things - but I am not prepared to take care of a bird... It was there when The Kids and I walked by - and I was surprised that it was still there an hour and a half later when I went to take pictures of the "reclaimed water" sign and the poison boxes...
Look closely at this picture - or click on it to enlarge it to full size. One of the many, many "little guys" dressed in his coveralls that work on our compound keeping it clean and green...
I get so angry when I read stories like this. Imagine if the "shoe was on the other foot," and if Saudis were treated like they treat expats who have come to work in this country. The outrage would never end. These "little guys" are the workers that grease the wheels of this country to make it run smoothly and they are mistreated on a daily basis. Authorities have the muscle to force companies to pay their workers and provide accommodations and food, per the terms of the workers' contracts and yet, nothing happens - to the companies - it is the workers who must suffer. The owner of the company who contracted these workers from India needs to be thrown in jail. For a long time. Merely giving warnings in the form of written notice is pretty much the equivalent of doing nothing. Why bother...
And, it isn't just the "little guys" that are getting the short end of the stick. Doctors are not getting their due, either. Why on earth would anyone - professionals or street cleaners - want to come to a country to work when their worth has virtually no value? It is not a deep, dark secret why we have all come here to work. There is only one reason we are here. And this country will see an exodus of professionals who have more choices than the "little guys," if they are not given the worth and value they deserve. When that happens, expect to see a lot more reports of babies being turned away at hospitals because there are no medical personnel to provide care...
Friday, September 19, 2008
A bunch of students who were sent abroad on scholarships to go to college have been called back to the Sandbox to join the unemployment line. 512 students have been "ejected" from "the King's Scholarship Program due to poor performances and frequent absences." To prevent the same from happening to others, orientation courses are being organized that students will have to attend before going to universities abroad. Probably not a bad idea. Students leaving the Sandbox to go to school in other countries have got to be stymied by the vast differences from what they were accustomed to. For starters, classes will be mixed. There will be male and female genders in the same classrooms, together - unless, of course, you're planning on going to an all-men or an all-women college. Another difference is that there probably isn't going to a Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice lurking in the shadows to keep you in line and to prevent you from succumbing to the wicked ways of the West - whatever they may be. It is too bad, really, that the 512 that have been ejected from the program couldn't find it in themselves to take advantage of such a fabulous and fantastic opportunity. How many countries actually PAY for one's education AND include a stipend so that one needn't to be bothered with a trivial little thing like having a job to support oneself? Yeah. Go ahead and complain about the stipend not being "enough." I'm guessing that you probably aren't going to get a lot of sympathy from your college classmates on that...
Interesting that this morning, at five o'clock when I was on-line perusing articles in the Arab News, one of the headlines was something like "45 AIDS cases found in pre-marital tests." So, this afternoon, when I finally have time to be at the computer, I come back and click on Arab News to get the article to post a link - and it is gone. No longer on the on-line version of the paper - I went back through my "history," to try to get to it, and when I click on it, this is what comes up - nothing. The article has gone "poof" and off to the internet circular file, somewhere. [Someone must know how to retrieve a "cached" page - is that what it's called - that shows that something actually once existed on the internet, even after it has been removed? I have no clue how to try to find something like that...] No matter. Today's Saudi Gazette has the article as well, although not quite as "in depth" as Arab New's was. The testing is done to "protect future generations from serious hereditary diseases and fatal viruses." So, what I want to know is, if the premarital test comes back positive with something - AIDS, hepatitis, or some other fatal or infectious disease - are the couples still allowed to get married? Just curious...
And finally, just because I found a comment that was so amusing... One of the blogs I regularly read is Ace of Spades HQ, however, I don't often read many of the comments. I got sucked into one of Ace's posts this morning, though, and once I started reading, I couldn't stop. Ace is onto some big story and before he actually gives it to us to read, he is looking for an "election lawyer." I started reading the comments and there were quite a few people who have stepped up to the plate to volunteer their services, legal and otherwise. The comment that cracked me up was No. 58: "Just wait until Ace needs a mildly retarded slacker who drinks and smokes too much... See who shines then bitches!" Okay. Don't ask me why. But I just found that hysterical after reading the 57 comments before that one. Must just be my warped sense of humor... I commented, too, saying that I was going to spend time thinking about how to use the comment that I thought was sooo damn funny. And now I can go about the rest of the day. My work, here, is done...
Thursday, September 18, 2008
So who wants my autograph, now that I am just about a teeny tiny little bit almost famous?!?
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Yep. There's nothing like being on the same page...
DH likes to use his "winter" vacation, which is usually sometime in January or February to go someplace different. Three years ago we went to Sharm el-Sheikh, two years ago we went to Mauritius, and last year we went to Petra and Amman, Jordan.
I know we will be back in the States in December for two weeks, but have no idea where we will plan to go in February... Somewhere "hot and sunny," where DH can play golf and I can sit by the beach and have someone serve me frosty cold beverages that have pineapple chunks and maraschino cherries in them - and little umbrellas! Somewhere in Thailand, perhaps...
This disturbs me. It is not a "local" problem, per se. I've been drinking water out of plastic bottles for years - but much, much more of it since I've been here in the Sandbox. I don't leave the house without my bottle of water. I usually have a couple of them opened and scattered about during the day while I am IN the house. At night - if I haven't grabbed a bottle of water before I crawl under the covers - I get up out of bed to go and get one. Everyone - and I mean everyone - here drinks bottled water. You cannot drink the water that comes out of the tap - the regular tap. On our compound there are two taps at the kitchen sink - just the kitchen - not in the bathrooms - one is the regular, tap water - which is NOT safe to drink, and the other is a "sweet water" tap, which is safe to drink. Although I don't drink the "sweet water," I do make coffee with it, use it for cooking, and to brush my teeth. Supposedly our dishwashers are hooked up to the sweet water so plates, silverware, cups and glasses are not being cleaned in water that isn't safe to drink. And, when I wash pots and pans, I use the regular tap water and then rinse them in the sweet water. Back to the bottled water... I know I drink a lot of bottled water. The "little guys" out there working carry their bottles of water around with them. Most of us, here, are drinking bottled water. So, what else could water be put in, other than plastic, so that the risk of heart disease and diabetes would be lessened? Glass? No. I do NOT want to see water put in glass bottles until people can be responsible enough to properly dispose of the bottles - and they just aren't - here. There is more than enough broken glass that my Kids and I must watch out for and maneuver around as we do our daily jaunts. Glass containers would be an absolute disaster, here! So, then, cans? Why doesn't water come in cans? Is it more expensive to put a beverage in a can than in plastic? Probably. Although I don't know that for a fact. Would the water taste like aluminum? Maybe. But I think I'd rather have water that tastes funny than heart disease or diabetes. I'm doomed. This is going to bother me. My lifestyle is already unhealthy enough, and now I have to worry about plastic bottles...
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Spoiled food has been seized. No need to guess the nationality of those involved; it is reported.
Authorities have prevented 10,000 "narcotic pills" from being smuggled. Anyone up for a quick game of "Guess the Nationality?"
No mention of the nationality of these two hashish dealers, either.
Here's another lesson the States could learn from Saudi: Rounding up illegals is NOT difficult. Saudi does it on a very, very regular basis. The States? Not so much. Keeping borders secure is not nearly as much of a priority there as it is here...
A sorcerer has been arrested. Nationality, noted. On the same subject... A cleric, here, believes that "TV 'sorcerers' should be given the death penalty." I have never seen horoscope broadcast on TV, but I do remember years ago there were late-night infomercials for psychic hot-lines. Are they still being broadcast in the States? Wasn't Michael Jackson's sister - not Janet, the other one - involved with one?
That is all I have for today. I'm going to go downtown to do some shopping this morning. No doubt, my trip will be fodder for a post. Unfortunately I need to go - we need food, again. I want to get a paint sample or two at Jotun's even though I swore I'd never go back there... And I need a new "dust mop" head. Houseboys, here, do not quite seem to get the concept of a "dry" dust mop - even though I've shown them how to use one and explained what it is for. "You do not get it wet." Preet, the man who babysat and house sat for us while we were in the States used my new dust mop as a wet-mop and ruined it. I am not upset with him. He did a great job. I just don't understand why it is so difficult to believe that someone doesn't own a real mop. I hate mops. They serve no other purpose than to push dirty water around on a floor. That is why I have my floor machine... The concept is too much for household workers, here. But, then, I suspect if you live in a hut or a tent in some other country with a dirt floor it is highly unlikely that one would find a dust mop in the broom closet.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I frequently refer to all of the men out working on our compound as the "little guys." Not all of them are actually "little," but it would be accurate to say that the majority of them really are not very big - they do not carry large bodies and do not have large frames. Not that that should come as a surprise to anyone, because, after all they are doing physical labor, day in and day out, toiling in the heat and fierce sun. I suspect I'd be a lot thinner than I am if I were doing the same. My idea of "working outside" involves sitting either next to the pool or lounging on a float in the pool. Sure, I joke about it being hard work - and to a degree, it is - there are not too many people that can stand being outside in the sun for the hours that I am. I just happen to be a sun worshiper and the heat - unless it comes with humidity - doesn't bother me at all. However, my "working" hardly expends or burns the calories that the "little guys" out there do.
Yesterday morning, while walking with my Kids, we came to the corner where there is a large open field-like common area - one we routinely walk through as it is much cooler on my Kids' feet to walk in the grass than on the cement and concrete. The sprinklers were going full blast. Although I don't mind getting a little "damp" with reconstituted water - I am adverse to taking a shower in it. Just as we got to that particular spot, one of the "little guys" in a yellow jumpsuit came bolting across the soccer field and raced to the sprinkler "controls." He turned the sprinklers off - just so The Kids and I could walk through our grassy common area. Is that just not the sweetest thing? I was touched. I thanked him profusely as The Kids and I walked by him and through the grassy area. The "little guy" remained, crouched down by the sprinkler controls, waiting until we were far enough away to not be sprayed by the water before he turned the sprinklers back on.
We see these "little guys" every single morning. We see them as they are getting off the buses that bring them to our compound from wherever it is they live - probably in tents somewhere - or in some rundown squalor where they are housed eight and ten men to a room where they have slept on mats on a floor... They all wear one-piece coveralls in various colors - mostly tan and yellow - but quite a few wear a medium blue, some wear navy, and some reddish-orange, and more than a few wear dark brownl. When we first got here, I surmised that the different color coveralls had to do with what jobs were being done. That wasn't quite correct, and the different color coveralls actually define the different companies that these "little" guys work for. Not every company has a different color - there are a few companies that use the yellow coveralls, and quite a few companies that use the tan coveralls. The yellow is a good safety color - you can see it from a long way off and through the bushes. The tan is a good color insofar as hiding "dirt" and stains that one might muss their clothing with, outside, but it also "blends" in with everything on our compound - which is a tan-gray sand color. The guys in tan are the lucky ones - they are almost camouflaged - and can barely be seen - which would give them the perfect opportunity to "hide" if they were looking to slack off [I suspect there are very, very few slackers... with so many foremen keeping an eye on things.] Truly I feel sorry for the "little guys" that work for the companies which have chosen brown or navy coveralls as their company uniform. Yeah. You WANT to be outside with the sun beating down on you wearing brown or navy blue. Not! [Welcome to a woman's world, here, where they are forced to wear head-to-toe black!]
For all of the "little guys" out there, working, that my Kids and I come into contact with - although it may have been quite scary the first time we walked past you - the size of The Boy alone frightens many of them - we - the three of us - The Boy, The Baby and me - are a morning fixture at this point. You recognize us, and although I don't know any of these "little guys" by name, I recognize them - some by their faces, and some by the various colored scarfs they wear around their necks, or their heads, and on dusty days - their faces. We - The Kids and I - greet them all. "Good morning," or "Hello, how are you today?" And I smile. Doesn't matter if I am in a bad mood or not - it is nothing any of these "little guys" have done to me that would put me in such a mind frame. Others, here, yes, but not the "little guys" that are out there working so hard every single day - long shifts, six and seven days a week. Their lives are rough and tough enough. They do NOT need me snarling at them! More and more, every day, I notice that it is not ME making the initial morning gesture to greet these men anymore. Instead, they are the ones greeting me. No doubt, had I not have made the efforts in the past to encourage the greetings then we would silently walk by each other - but I have been saying "Good morning" to each and every one them that I see for years, now. I hope that I am not alone - and that the other "Kid walkers" out there do the same, or the women that are out walking in small groups, or jogging, or riding their bikes. Something tells me though, that the women on this compound that walk around the golf course trails and paths, or through the common area parks, covered in their head-to-toe black are for sure not acknowledging these "little guys." They barely acknowledge me - and that's if we are making direct eye contact!
The effort to say "Hello, how are you today?" or "Good morning" with a smile is so minimal, and yet, seems to have made quite an impact. I am greeted with smiles and hellos during the entire time I am out walking with The Kids. And, apparently that impact includes some concern, as well, with the one young man sprinting across a soccer field to turn off the sprinklers and wait until The Kids and I were past to turn it back on - preventing us from being soaked in reconstituted water - done the whole while with a smile on his face. He made me smile - too - on the inside; not just on the outside with a facial expression. And, as I type this, this morning, I am still smiling. Thanks "little guy" in the yellow coveralls! I sincerely appreciate that you wanted to make sure that The Kids and I didn't get wet as we made our rounds yesterday morning walking through the area where you were working...
Sunday, September 14, 2008
A lot of "pirated items" have been seized... Good that the authorities are out there hunting this "stuff" down. Not to make light of it, because pirating is a crime, but perhaps if the resources used to track down pirated items were put into traffic control there would be a whole lot less road carnage. Just a thought...
Hmm... Is this a single, isolated incident, or is there something more sinister going on? How is it that only one person has been poisoned? If the bottled water was really contaminated, would there not be many others that wound up being hospitalized?
A Saudi woman that allegedly killed her husband - eight years ago - has been sentenced to be beheaded...
And, this. I'm not going to dissect the entire article - just most of it!
"The presence of a housemaid in a Saudi house has become inevitable. If this inevitability is not because of her services, then it is because of the need to imitate others. This is a fact that everybody knows. The need for housemaids is connected to the ways Saudis live - women go to work, responsibilities for the social and educational welfare of children, men failing to help with house duties, few day-care facilities for children, large and spacious homes, extended families and increasing numbers of children."
[Wretching!!!] Let me just start with that... I'd be more willing than not to say that the need for housemaids has to do more with the "need to imitate others" than what services are actually needed. Everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses' - it is, to a degree, just part of human nature. At least there was some honesty in that statement. As far as the need being "connected to the ways Saudis live?" Just stop it. Get over yourself! Women all over the world live the exact same way and they don't need housemaids! Ut-uh. Calling B.S. on that. You've brought it upon yourselves...
"The net result is that the majority of families need to have housemaids. The truth of the matter is that some of us need more than one housemaid. The problem does not lie in hiring a housemaid, but the problems these housemaids possibly bring to the home." Gimme a f'ng break... No. The majority of families do not "need" housemaids, they "want" housemaids. Needing more than one? You have obviously stretched yourself beyond your means - and probably in more ways from one. Did Saudis in days long past, before oil dollars elevated the lifestyle and moved families from out of a tent and into a McMansion, require more than one maid? Yeah. Didn't think so.
"Some of these problems are difficult to deal with, especially when they relate to the murder or abuse of children. Some of these crimes, such as thefts and absconding maids, can be surpassed." Interesting that there is mention whatsoever of the abuse that many household maids and domestic help is forced to endure and suffer... None. Whatsoever.
Gosh. Imagine that. An article written in complete and utter copycat style of the New York Times. Totally ONE-SIDED!