Friday, October 31, 2008

A dying giraffe is NOT funny!

When this comedy show was in Bahrain over EID, a month ago, I thought "Oh, that might be something fun to do." But then I came to my senses and realized that in order to see it we would need to be willing to sit for hours in order just to cross the Causeway to get to Bahrain, which is really only a little over a half an hour away from us, and that is not something we are willing to do. Now, after reading that one of the comedians of the show, Fahad Al-Butairi, thinks that a giraffe throwing up in a zoo in Utah and dying is funny I'm am especially thankful that we didn't bother to even try to go. He says, "It's a sad story, but if you think about it, it's funny. I mean, it must have taken him forever to throw up and die!" I fail to see any humor in that, whatsoever, and will make a mental note to never see you in your act no matter if you are playing at the park two blocks from me at a free venue. This is funny! [I knew, somehow, I'd find a way to get the story of a man buying a taser gun for his wife into my blog, I just wasn't sure how...]

The 14-year-old girl who was forced, by her father, to marry a pedophile man five times her age, has been granted a divorce. It is final. Supposedly, "the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with other government organizations will issue a decision before the end of the year that would prevent girls younger than 14 to be married. The decision was made after research showed marriages like this often end in divorce, create widows and cause psychological problems." [Really? Ya' think?!? Emphasis, mine.] Not to make light of the issue, in all seriousness, it is a really big "baby step" that is steering authorities, here, to even give the matter of children marrying men old enough to be their great-grandfathers consideration that will prevent the practice from continuing.

This blog is not about politics. It is one of several topics that I avoid even mentioning no matter how strongly I feel. Anyone who has been reading what I write for a while and knows what type of blogs I link to, could fairly easily ascertain which of the two candidates running for the office of President of the United States I support. In the two-plus decades I have been voting I cannot remember an election that has dragged on and on and on like the one that is about to be decided. I, no doubt along with millions of others, am glad that in five days it will be over and we can move forward. Unfortunately, with all that has happened in the political arena, this time around, I suspect we will not only have a repeat of the 2000 election that was not decided until a month or so after the actual election took place, but that the "repeat" will be on a magnitude unlike that of any in the entire history of the United States. It would appear as though the entire world wants for Barack Hussein Obama to become our next President. His campaign has been so wrought with scandal that, in my humble opinion, the man should be drawn and quartered and thrown in jail, but people refuse to see it. I equate it to lemmings being willing to jump off a cliff. Accusations that the mainstream media are in the tank for him are no longer just "accusations," but are now acknowledged as truth. And, as if that isn't enough, media on the other side of the world are "in the tank" for him, too! It is going to be interesting to see how long the decision takes to determine who has actually been elected President after November 4th, and more interesting to see how Obama supporters react it their "chosen one" is NOT the next President of the United States...

Enough for today. I started grooming The Baby yesterday and did not have enough time to finish. It is quite time consuming! [Admittedly, I did absolutely no research at all with regard to the ongoing grooming that Standard Poodles require when I made the decision that The Boy really, really needed a Standard Poodle for a Little Sister.] Yes, I could take The Baby to the groomer and have her done there, and as good of a job as they do, I know they are not nearly as gentle as I am with her. I'm off to go finish clipping her and then this afternoon both Kids will get baths [oh the fun we WILL have!]. I will try to post pictures of The Baby tomorrow when the transformation from Rastafarian Rockstar to Pretty Princess is complete! Awww, how precious is that...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bet this came as quite a shock!

A man has been sentenced to 50 lashes for smoking on a flight from Dammam to Riyadh. Truly, I bet he thought that nothing would happen to him for doing so. "No smoking" signs, here in the Sandbox, only mean that "it would be very much appreciated if you didn't light up but if you do then that is just fine because absolutely nothing will be done to enforce no smoking." I went to the Mall of Dhahran a week or so ago where there are "no smoking" signs posted all over and yet dozens and dozens of men were walking around with their lit cigarettes without a care in the world that those "no smoking" signs actually meant something. [There are no ashtrays anywhere except for in designated areas - Starbucks, for one - and the men just casually flicked their ashes on the floor and put their cigarettes out under their feet and kept walking. We have a force of a gazillion little guys from other countries that push the brooms around and clean up the cigarette butts. No need to dispose of your cigarette butts or trash in designated receptacles - by all means, just throw it on the floor!] The man deserves whatever punishment he gets if you ask me. The lashes should only be part of it. How about a hefty fine, too? Maybe even some jail time.

Smoking at the mall? No problem. Harass the women at the mall and if you get caught you'll get 75 lashes and 4 months of jail. Perhaps it does seem a bit harsh, but apparently this young man had been given "repeated warnings" for harassing women at the mall and signed a pledge not to do it again. He just wouldn't listen!

Interesting. There has been another fire in a girls' school. Am I the ONLY one to think it is just a bit odd that ONLY the girls' schools are involved in a "recent spate of fires?" Nothing to see here, folks. Move along...

On Sunday I blogged about the 40-year-old woman who had escaped from jail with only five months of her sentence left to serve. She was arrested yesterday after being caught in a "sting operation."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Deportation, Divorce and Dogs

No indication, but for one, of what these 400 Indian expats did that they are in jail awaiting deportation. In the single instance described, an unidentified man says that he ended up in the deportation center because his visa agent cheated him. [You don't honestly think that the visa agent is sitting in jail somewhere, for fraud or whatever he did to cheat someone out of a visa, do you?] Imagine the outcry that would be heard the world-over if there were 400 Saudis in jail awaiting deportation in the United States! There is the usual finger-pointing that it is the fault of Indian embassy authorities who say it is the fault of Saudi authorities. It is a never-ending vicious cycle. Another man, inmate Ramzan Ali, has been waiting to be repatriated since the beginning of the year - sitting in jail in a "constricted cell" for ten months... No, it is not called a jail or prison, it is called a Deportation Center, but the pretense is the same. You are locked up and you cannot leave. Call it whatever you want...

In yesterday's paper there is an article about the mess a non-Saudi woman is in now that her Saudi husband has divorced her. The woman who has five children - one a baby who is still nursing - has virtually NO standing, here, whatsoever, and she will very likely have to leave the Sandbox without them. Divorce laws, here, as I have been able to understand, are written with prejudice to ALL women. The woman doesn't receive alimony or child support - there is no need to receive child support since it is typically the man who gets custody of the children. A deportation order has been issued and as soon as her lawsuit to gain custody of at least three of her children - the baby and two youngest - is settled she will need to leave if she cannot find another sponsor to hold the paperwork that would allow her to stay in the country. The National Society of Human Rights is supporting her in her fight to gain custody of ALL of her children, "especially since her ex-husband's new wife is mistreating them." How many stories have we read about the horrific abuse children, here, suffer at the hands of their wicked stepmother's? Let's just hope that this woman is successful in her plight.

This is worrisome to me. Pets, in my opinion, should NEVER be fashion accessories and I see this as a "fad" which will be short-lived and then there will be dogs and cats and rabbits and birds released into the "wild," with no means of being able to fend for themselves. Truly I hope that I am proved very wrong about this, but I just don't think so... [Wait a minute! Weren't dogs as pets banned not too long ago because authorities, here, felt that too many people were trying to emulate Westerner's???]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Well, it's about damn time!

HB13 got his iqama yesterday. The document that allows him to work. I don't know how long he had been without it, but I know we got home from the States on September 3rd and when I called him shortly after our return, he was waiting to get his papers and said he would call me as soon as he got them. Finally, Inom [I called him Inam the whole time he worked for me - his uncle, Appuk is my gardener and set me straight on his name - habit forces me to call him Inam] called last night - while I was still sitting at the table with the women from my volunteer group arguing discussing the need for hiring an outside accountant to try to make sense of the books which are fubar'd.* Inom was willing to start work this morning, but I knew I had to work at our "volunteer" retail shop from 8:30 to noon, so I asked him to come Wednesday morning at 7 so we can discuss things, first.

A houseboy again! Yey!!! I won't have to spend time cleaning bathrooms, and scrubbing floors and dusting or vacuuming. Happy, happy, happy. And I'm sure Inom is happy, too. I doubt very much he is happy about having to come back to work for one of the most difficult women on this compound to work for, but happy at the prospect of once again having the ability to earn an income. Especially since he has been sitting in his room since at least the first week in September waiting to get papers that he didn't get until yesterday - October 27th - it took at least eight weeks. Trust me - he hasn't left his room. If he would have gotten caught out on the street "walking without papers" he'd have been thrown in jail until he could come up with his fine [some astronomical amount he would never be able to come up with] and then he would have been deported. That is how it works, here.

Inom has had absolutely no ability to earn any money during the time he has been sitting in his room which was a situation totally out of his control. Does it really take some "official" eight weeks to produce the documentation to give some man who has come from another third world country to work? No. It doesn't. [My DH has to get his iqama renewed every year and it takes all of 24 to 48 hours!] Inom has had to cancel his vacation - and will not see his family for at least another year. He cannot afford to travel home. He is not the only one who has gone without money - his family, who depends on him to send his meager monthly remittances home has likely not seen any money for at least two months, either. Unfortunately he is not going to get rich off of me - I hope that the other families he was working for prior to his needing to get his iqama renewed have kept his job open for him. Inom and I have a difficult time communicating as he speaks limited English. He told me, when I called him back last night, that he will work for me first for whatever hours I want and whatever days I want. I am happy to have the choice of what hours he is going to work for me. Originally I thought he was going to have to work in the afternoons - which was okay, but since I "work" [sit next to the pool] in the afternoon I wasn't thrilled. Now, I have the option of choosing his hours and I am going to have him come from 7A to 10A or 11A, four mornings a week. Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday and Wednesday. This house is going to shine! It will be so clean you will, literally, be able to eat off the floors. Although, I must say, I've actually done a very good job keeping it that way on my own, but there are a lot of things I haven't done... Do not look up when you walk down the hall - no one has vacuumed the air conditioning vent in a very long time!

The reason I let Inom go originally had nothing to do with the fact that he wasn't doing a good job. He does, in fact, do an excellent job. But I made the mistake of paying him hourly so he had no incentive to move any quicker than a snail in a coma. Not this time. Salary. I know what I expect to get done every day. He can get it done in three hours - or four. His choice. He will not get paid any more if it takes him five hours! Yes. I do expect him to move. I can clean an entire bathroom - and I have some pretty exacting specifications - in forty-five minutes. There is no reason whatsoever it should take an hour and a half. Unless you are getting paid hourly. I will not make that mistake. And, it is not just inside housework that I want him to do. The patio furniture needs cleaned regularly. The windows have not been done in several months - oh sure, I've taken Windex and a paper towel to them to get rid of the Kids' slobber marks - but they have not been done on the outside since I eliminated HB15. More importantly is the issue with the Kids. I realize that not everyone is a four-legged Kid lover like I am. I am not asking Inom to "love" my Kids. I am, however, insisting that he tolerate them. He does not have to pet them and hug them. I don't expect anyone but me - or DH - to give them actual physical attention and affection. But, he has had some issues in the past with the Kids and that will be cause for instant termination. I will make that very, very clear tomorrow morning.

I am just happy that I finally have a houseboy again! This past two months without one has made me realize how much I really, really need want one and I just don't know how anyone can exist without one...

*fubar - fucked up beyond all recognition

Monday, October 27, 2008


There is a "Move to ban underage marriages" here, in the Sandbox. The voice of sanity may just prevail... Certainly we cannot expect that any law in this respect will be readily accepted as the societal norms which are embedded in the culture are not likely to be surrendered without struggle. That the issue is even on the proverbial table is a start, though. Baby steps...

Perhaps this man was simply looking for a wife. The girls were in high-school, so even if a new law is passed making the minimum age fourteen, if you are in high-school you are probably old enough.

Are adolescent boys' voices so high-pitched that they can pose as women in telephone conversations? Apparently they are.

You can either pull a "Casey Anthony," or you can set your toddler down by the side of the road. At some point, the result is going to be the same no matter which option you choose. See a "snapshot," here.

A 40-year-old woman has escaped from jail. The report in today's Arab News indicates that "The escape was well planned... the woman might have been assisted by a prison guard." This is something I have not given any thought at all to, here, but are there MEN guarding WOMEN in jails? And, if there are men guarding women in jails, here, wouldn't that be just slightly contradictory to all that is practiced in keeping the sexes separated? The article also says, "The woman, who was sent to jail on a conviction relating to drugs, had only five months left to serve. She had previously escaped from a juvenile home in Riyadh." How long was her jail sentence? Assume that she was sent to the "juvenile home" when she was 18 [and that, in my opinion, is pushing the age to the max for a "juvenile"]. She is 40 now. Has she been in jail for 22 years and completely thrown freedom to the wayside when her sentence would be complete with just another five months left to serve? Did she want to remain in jail for the rest of her life? Why else would anyone try to escape after 22 years in jail with only five months of their sentence remaining???

On a much more serious note, in this article, Dr. Ahmed A. Audhali says that "delays in deciding labor cases in the Kingdom concerning monetary claims and restoration of rights of foreign workers is creating a bad image for the country. [Ya think?!?] It is disgraceful seeing many labor cases filed by expatriate workers getting dragged for months because of bureaucratic red tape and delays in decisions. Workers with labor cases filed in labor courts are being thrown on the street [or in jail!], becoming liabilities instead of being productive. In a number of instances, claimants for renumeration die before they even get the fruit of their toils." [Emphasis, mine.] Where are the like-attitudes of this man?!?

Dr. Audhali isn't already worthy of applause for those statements, he goes on: "The judges who sit in labor courts decide on the weight of the evidences presented by both sides - that of the employer and the worker. In the process the employers get the upper hand in convincing the judges to render judgment in their favor because the poor workers are not properly represented. Oftentimes labor disputes drag on for months because employers put up conditions and excuses just to delay the cases. Workers suffer much because of the delays in rendering judgment, and this is precisely one of the critical issues why the image of the country before the eyes of labor exporting countries is not that positive."

Dr. Ahmed A. Audhali, you are deserving of more than just applause. You are worthy of repeated standing ovations!!!

Volunteering: Not worth what you are paid!

I posted a week or so ago that I was involved in a volunteer organization on our compound that exists primarily to offer a service to others - mainly women, but surprisingly, quite a few men - on our compound in that if you live here you can come to our shop and purchase items which you would otherwise have to leave the compound to obtain. That, of course, means throwing your black bag on and getting a driver [or husband] to take you downtown because it would be just too damn simple to get in your own vehicle and drive yourself... The service we offer gives families here the opportunity to beautify their surroundings, both inside and out. I enjoy the volunteer aspect of it. I am forced to leave my house two mornings a week and interact with other adults thus allowing me to give to the community, here, by volunteering, and to enjoy the company of friends.

If it wasn't for the volunteering that I do, I would be pretty much a home-body. Oh, sure, I leave the house first thing in the morning for two walks - yep, still doing two walks and taking each Kid separately - due to the "mother fall" which did do some damage to my right shoulder that was getting better until two days ago when I was, again, loosely holding The Boy's leash and a "K I T T Y" ran directly in front of us! I didn't get pulled through any bushes or dragged across any asphalt, but I did get jerked pretty severely and the pain that is radiating through my shoulder and down my arm is pretty significant. I digress... I leave the house for walks. I wear my "walking uniform," and then come home and shower and put my "house uniform" on. They are basically the same thing. If I leave the house, then I actually have to get dressed - I cannot do my errands on the compound in bike shorts and a tank top. Volunteering has forced me to leave the house - dressed!

Truly I do not mind the physical labor that one morning a week of my volunteering requires. Although I didn't participate yesterday due to an aching shoulder and limited range of motion with my right arm. I knew I'd be about useless with the work that is involved. The other morning of volunteering involves "retail" type work - the only "retail" work I have ever done in my life, I might add. Most of the time is it actually fun and I enjoy it.

Unfortunately I am on the Board of Directors for the group I am involved in. That aspect of it I absolutely dread. I was a Board Member on the Board of Directors for a Homeowner's Association years ago when DH and I lived in New Hampshire before moving to North Carolina, so I do have some experience with Robert's Rules... It is all I can do to not write my resignation, again, to take myself off this Board because of the energy I feel I expend to try to make things go right. Just when I think things are "settling down" and everyone is on the same page and willing to work together - WHAM - someone's feeling are hurt! Or someone feels like their "opinion" isn't being taken seriously. Or something. Gimme a break!!! We are all supposed to be adults. Adolescent girls don't act as ridiculous as our group. In fact, if a group of adolescent girls took our group over it would probably run more smoothly. I can hang in two more months and then, that will be it for me. As soon as the term is up - December 31st - I am finished. All done. I will happily continue to two mornings a week doing labor and "retail," but I don't get paid enough to deal with the Board Member part. I don't get paid anything for the time and effort I have to put into this and the perpetual cattiness and back-stabbing and full-time grumbling is just not worth the amount of money I am not receiving!

Instead of making friends I am making enemies. Women, in my humble opinion, have a very difficult time separating emotions from "business interaction." If I disagree with a suggestion - then I become the "bad guy." No matter that what might seem like a terrific suggestion to someone will require a great deal of paperwork and new accounting to implement. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one who wants to operate using the "KISS" standard: Keep it simple, stupid! Last night I had a conversation with a woman I like very much on a personal level. Unfortunately, she cannot separate herself from "business" to "personal," and my disagreement with her over what should actually be some very simple "business" ended up with her getting all huffy and saying, "Okay. Fine. I'm dropping the box of paperwork off at your house and you take over." Slam! [As she hung up the phone.] Nope. The amount that I am being paid [absolutely nothing - not a single halala or riyal] to volunteer in this respect, as a Board Member, is just not worth it. There is no personal satisfaction in arguing over the phone on a weekly basis - or in person several days a week - over the most minute details of a service that is provided on a VOLUNTEER basis!

There. I am all done ranting for the time being. There is a Board Meeting this afternoon at my house. One, by the way, that I had nothing to do with scheduling. An e-mail got sent to the group of us - which was instigated by someone who is NOT even ON our Board of Directors! [Believe it or not, "Jane," not everyone feels the need to have a meeting over every single detail of a volunteer organization! This woman - the one that slammed the phone down on me last night - believes that our group should have Board of Director's meetings on a monthly basis - they are only required quarterly, and believes that the other Board "members" or heads of committees should meet regularly as well. She'd be happy if we had a meeting scheduled two or three times a week! Good grief! I just can't take it! We have to have a meeting to schedule a meeting!!!] To say that I am looking forward to it being over and done with would be an understatement. I just am sooo NOT looking forward to my afternoon... If anyone who reads this blog is having a root canal or a mammogram this afternoon, I would happily go for you if you attend our board meeting for me. Please?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sickening!!! Beyond Belief!!!

[Warning: If you are an animal lover of any species clicking on the link provided will be incredibly difficult to "stomach."]

Where the f^ck is PETA or ANY animal rights / protection agency when it comes to this? Anyone? I read this and just cried. I cannot even go back to comment on it. I can just think about it and wonder what kind of barbarians of any nationality or religion ANYWHERE in the world are so deranged, perverted and twisted that animal fighting - of any breed or species - is considered a sport. There is nothing nice to say about anyone that condones this. Nothing!!! I can only hope that ALL involved suffer from long drawn out absurdly horrid and excruciating painful demises. And, the sooner, the better! For all of mankind.

If anyone has any suggestions as to how such practices in countries can be stopped, by all means, please share...

Fire at Girls School. Coincidence?

I started reading blogs several years ago. Mostly political blogs, but in the process I found others that I read, as well. The man responsible for prompting me to start my own blog is Alhamedi at the now-defunct Religious Policeman. His blog was, then, my absolute favorite and the very first and last place I visited every day. When Alhamedi stopped blogging I took it up in an effort to try to continue what he had started - although there is absolutely no way I can or will ever hold a candle to his blogging bravado.

Alhamedi's dedication on his blog says, "In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter." There is more on this tragic incident here, here, here, here, and here and a whole page of search options here and here.

Fingers were pointed with the blame shifting from one entity to another and back and forth. There was, it seems, plenty of "blame" to go around. Regardless, the fire claimed the lives of many young girls and injured even more.

This article appeared in yesterday's Saudi Gazette. I didn't give it a whole lot of consideration when I read it. The article says, "Principals of girls' schools in the Eastern Province have been instructed not to call the Civil Defense to voice concerns over safety violations in their schools... There are many safety loopholes in the girls' schools threatening the lives of the little pupils. This is a legal negligence on the part of the Girls' Education Department in the Eastern Province... The Civil Defense authorities have not been allowed to examine safety checklist in the girls' schools to bring them into compliance with safety regulations..." Read the six paragraph article which was on the top of page 4 in a huge big bold "screaming" headline that said, "Girls' schools warned not to contact civil defense." [I cannot scan the article in; our printer/scanner/copier is broken!]

Today, on the bottom half of page 4 in a regular headline is this article, "Fire breaks out in girls' school in EP." Golly, gee. What a coincidence! Or, am I the only one that thinks this way? "At least 250 students were safely evacuated from a private girls' school in Hinakyah after fire broke out on Saturday morning, authorities said... A short electric circuit was believed to have caused the fire. Saturday's fire marked the sixth incident in girls schools in the Eastern Province since the beginning of the new academic year two weeks ago." [What?!? The SIXTH incident!!! Emphasis, mine.]

An official with the Civil Defense Department said "the girls schools in the province have shown gross neglect for the basic safety measures, putting the lives of young students on the edge. This is a legal negligence on the part of the Girls' Education Department. The Civil Defense authorities have not been allowed to examine safety checklist in the girls' schools to bring them into compliance with safety laws." Whoa! Somebody ought to be stepping in and doing something, if you ask me. And, why is it ONLY the girls' schools that are experiencing these "fires?" No mention of any of the boys' schools being in non-compliance with safety measures and absolutely no mention whatsoever of any boys' school having so much as a wisp of smoke.

This cannot possibly be a way of saying that "someone" does not want girls receiving an eduction...
I refuse to even let that thought stay in my mind! But, I cannot be the only one who is just wondering...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's Raining!

At a little after three o'clock this afternoon the sky turned very dark. It looked more like 5:30 than three o'clock. An hour ago it started to gently rain. Big drops, but more like the sprinkle of a shower than rain storm. Either way, IT'S RAINING!

Yes. Here, that IS something to get excited about. The rain washes off all the gray and tan and dirt and makes everything look "new" and green again.

Our first rain of the season - which is actually rather early for us - but it IS RAINING!!!

Absolute Total Shameless Self-Promotion

Today I am celebrating one of many anniversaries of my 29th Birthday.

All together, now... "Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday Dearest Sabra!!! Happy Birthday to you..."

[P.S. Dearest Son and Only Two-Legged Child of Mine: We have just gotten off the telephone and you forgot to wish your own Mother a Happy Birthday?!? The woman who spent three days painfully laboring to bring YOU into this world??? I better hear that Vonage phone ring again this morning or YOU will NEVER live this down!!!]

MYOB, Pedophiles, Car Chases and AIDS...

Am I aging myself by remembering, "Mind Your Own Beeswax!" Did anyone else say that as a child? Do kids say that anymore??? Nah. Probably not... It is quite apparent that some people here - in a society where privacy and secrecy is so highly valued - cannot seem to "mind their own business beeswax." This says that "Police arrested a Pakistani expatriate with the help of the local branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on the charge of illegal seclusion with an Asian nurse at an apartment. Commission members appeared on the scene in the early morning following a tip-off that the woman had gone to a house where only bachelors lived." So someone called to report this. Apparently someone has nothing better to do with him or herself than keep an eye on what the neighbors are doing. That someone needs to get their own life. And mind their own beeswax!

When I "researched" the issue of child-bride marriage, three months ago, I was shocked to find that several States allowed young girls to marry at the age of thirteen with parental and a judge's permission. Took the wind right out of the sail to find that out... And, while it is not the so-called norm, that it is even allowed gave me little leeway to say, "Oh, that only happens here, in the Sandbox and other Middle Eastern countries." It does appear to be much more socially acceptable on this side of the world, however. It is one thing for a fourteen-year-old girl to marry a seventeen-year-old boy, but quite another for a fourteen-year-old girl to marry someone FIVE times older than her! Thankfully SOME sanity exists: "The chief judge of the Qatif Shariah Court, Saeed Madlouh, nullified on Wednesday the marriage of a man aged more than 70 with a 14-year-old girl following the girl's complaint to the court. The girl went to the court with her divorced mother and told the judge to save her life as her father had forced her to marry a man who was older than her grandfather." [Yeah. Isn't that just what every little girl dreams of for a fairy-tale-come-true wedding...] Judge Madlouh deserves a huge round of applause and a great deal of respect for seeing the young girl's point of view and not allowing this preposterous union to take place.

More sanity evolving, here. In an attempt to rein in over zealous members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, field workers have been ordered "to give a written undertaking that they would not chase any car even if they suspect the inmates [huh?] are involved in foul play." The "presidency of the commission" has sent a circular to its offices that "field members have been directed to inform the police if they detect any such violation. The circular directed its 3,557 field members to inform the nearest police station instead of chasing any suspect vehicle." Talk about taking the wind out of someone's sail and raining on the parade! What will the commission members do with themselves if they cannot be the "first response" teams when they detect "moral violations?" They seem to pride themselves on being the first to admonish others for the "illegal mixing of men and women, harassment of women by men and immodest conduct by men and women." That is what they do! That is, after all, their whole purpose, isn't it? The entire article is worth reading. It will be interesting to see what further incidents, with regard to the conduct of the commission's members, get reported in our local newspapers and if there will, in fact, be a change as to how commission members handle responding to the violators of "moral conduct."

Now, throw the aforementioned sanity [and any semblance of logic] to the wayside! Honestly, I don't even know how to comment on this, "AIDS common in those marrying abroad, says study." Hello?!? What color is the sky in YOUR world, and how is Peter Pan these days??? The article says, "Deadly diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis have been found to be common in Saudis entering into wedlock abroad." Exactly what are you saying? That the Saudis are in perfect health and then somehow contact a "deadly disease" once they marry abroad? Because that is how I interpret it. A field study said a "random survey of 3,000 Saudis showed the low educational level and social standards of some of the foreign wives." So, then, are we to believe due to the lack of education and social standards of these "foreign wives" that they automatically give their Saudi husbands some "deadly disease?" You can't be serious! And, if you are, what does that say about the Saudi husbands? That they are even more lacking in education and social standards than the "foreign wives" they choose to marry! Audacity abounds!!! Outrageousness to the umteenth degree. Just read it and tell me with a straight face that you too are not just shaking your head in utter disbelief of such an inane diatribe...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quick Favor for a Blogging Friend

A blogger, who has become a friend of mine, has just installed Sitemeter at her place. Gill [pronounced like "Jill"] blogs out of Canada and has a large Canadian following. She's all excited about her Sitemeter showing statistics and all that, but she's mostly excited about dots on the "World Map" and would like to have some visitors show up from other countries. If you are so inclined and are looking for recipes on how to use celery or Brussels sprouts stop by and read what she has to say. And, even if you are not so inclined or looking for veggie recipes - she posts on other things as well - if you get a second, just click here and perhaps she'll find a few dots on her "World Map" that are from places outside of Canada. In her own words, "I know little things amuse little minds..." Hey. Whatever it takes... I'm sure she'll be appreciative of any and all dots!

This Infuriates Me!

And it has nothing to do with the Sandbox, or this side of the world! I saw it on the news - it was on Bill O'Reilly this morning - so it was last night's show. I must be the last one to know about it. La Shawn Barber blogged about it in August. I was in the States in August - in North Carolina - right outside of Durham - and didn't catch it!

Crystal Mangum is the "exotic" dancer and sometimes slut prostitute who tried, almost successfully, to ruin the lives of three young men - the Duke Lacrosse player's - by accusing them of rape. She did ruin the life of an over-zealous prosecutor, who, at the time was seeking re-election, but he contributed greatly to his own demise by not dismissing charges he knew to be all lies from the get go.

So now, the woman at the core of the whole debacle has written and released a book. I won't give her any benefit here by linking to it - you want to see it - it'll be in places I've already linked. What should have happened is that her sorry ass should have been thrown in jail for falsely accusing three young men of doing something they never did. Instead, she got off, virtually scott-free, and stands to benefit financially from her book. No. It is just wrong. She tore a city I worked in for many years apart and managed to create a horrendous amount of divisiveness and strife there amongst residents, law enforcement agencies and a well-known, highly respected university.

There is nothing good to say about this woman. A lot of people knew right off the bat that her story wasn't passing the "smell test." But Mike Nifong kept it alive and went along with it, more for the benefit of his being re-elected than for any good and just reason [and look where it got him!]. If the situation had had any truth to it and had this woman really experienced what she said she experienced then all of the men she accused would have deserved to be punished to the full extent of the law. The situation had NO truth to it and she NEVER experienced any of the things she said she did - except in her own mind - and now she is going to "get rich" off of this?!? No. This article says, "Published reports throughout 2006 and 2007 portrayed Crystal as a gold-digging hooker searching for a big payday or as an unstable, troubled young woman." Truly nothing more needs to be said. That explains it all!

Fridays are slow...

Not a lot happening in the Sandbox on Friday's. Friday, here, is the same as what Sunday is in the States. [Our weekends are Thursday and Friday.] Tomorrow starts another new week - back to the paint store - for the umteenth time... And I may have to go to the clinic and get an x-ray of my right shoulder. It has just NOT been right since the fall. Should it still hurt three weeks later? The Kids are still being walked separately. There is just NO WAY the right arm/shoulder can take the abuse of a 55-pound Standard Poodle pulling on it. The Boy, at 120-pounds is so much easier to walk than the Baby is! I dread the thought of spending an entire morning at the clinic to get an x-ray, and perhaps I should just give it another week, but the shoulder is not functioning like it should. Has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I am about to celebrate [tomorrow!] the 20th anniversary of my 29th birthday, I'm sure...

"Borrowed" this from one of my favorite blogger's: A Saudi Justice Ministry advisor "has issued a fatwa permitting a woman whose husband hits her to hit him back in order to protect herself, and even to kill him if he tries to kill her."

We will have another beheading here in a few days if Ali Al-Qahtani does not raise 3 million SR [$804,289.54] in blood money. "The blood money that would save his life goes back 11 years to a fight that ended in the death of a friend and Al-Qahtani's subsequent imprisonment. The family of the murdered man were convinced by good-will mediators to spare the life of Al-Qahtani on the condition that pays the sum of 3 million riyals."

I can appreciate that a medical committee for monitoring pharmacies would fine violators for selling expired medicines or for not renewing licenses, but to fine them for "failing to adhere to their professional code by not wearing the correct form of dress" is just a bit ridiculous, is it not?

Like I said, Friday's are slow...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is This Happier? Warm and Fuzzy???

This has to be shared. I know it isn't "my" Sandbox, but IT is right next door...

You just can't make this kind of stuff up!

The new session of Parliament in the Gulf state of Bahrain began this week with calls for a crackdown on gays.

Al Menbar MP Shaikh Mohammed Khalid Mohammed wants the government to begin a number of initiatives designed to rid the country of gay people.

"We have homosexual rates on the rise, with such people working in flower shops, massage parlours or barber's salons," he said.

"Sluts walk around residential neighbourhoods untouched."

In April Parliament demanded that the Interior Ministry stop granting any residence permits to foreign homosexuals.

Bahrain is known as one of the more tolerant Muslim nations in the Middle East, and has recently undergone a period of political liberalisation.

However, homosexuality remains a crime, and the government has periodically deported expatriates because of their sexual orientation.

Bahrain only held its first elections in 2002, and since then politicians have mainly addressed themselves to "moral" issues such as banning female mannequins from shop windows and tackling the widespread problem of "sorcery."

The bicameral parliament is dominated by Shia and Sunni Islamist parties.

Homosexuality has been considered illegal in Bahrain since 1956 when, as part of the British Empire, it was given the Indian Penal Code.

Homosexuals can be given up to 10 years in prison though this is rarely put into practice.

In 2002 the government deported 2,000 allegedly gay Filipino workers for homosexual activity and prostitution.

Stolen Borrowed from the guy that scours the bowels of the internet so you don't have to...

Think Happy Thoughts

Yesterday's post on beheadings and torture and rape was "dismal." Yeah. Guess it kinda sorta was. Today? Only "happy" things. Warm and fuzzy... Nah. If you are wanting warm and fuzzy, this probably is not the blog to be visiting.

There is some good news, though. Layla, the young teenager who was "allegedly" beaten and tortured by her father, is no longer in a coma. She is awake and talking. I am sure I am not the only one who didn't give her those odds. Why hasn't her father been thrown in jail?!? Why isn't someone torturing that POS??? "The case is still being investigated and the father has confessed that he is the one responsible for his daughter's injuries." What is left to investigate? Layla was in such a state that her kidneys had stopped functioning, she had gangrene in her legs and her wounds and scars, which are still healing, may require plastic and reconstructive surgery. Layla, I hope for your sake, that someone sees to it that you never, ever have to go back and live with that waste of humanity who called himself your father!

Another beheading. There were four or five last week. This makes three so far this week.

Waste of time. Must make someone feel better though, and appeases the "powers that be" that something is being done about keeping the population controlled the daily road carnage. I had a great driver the other day when I went downtown. He has been here, driving, for twenty-eight years. Twenty-eight years!!! He spoke almost flawless English. We had an interesting conversation. One of the things he said was that the traffic laws were "rules for expats only, not Saudis." He is right on the money with that statement. The authorities can implement all the rules they want, but nothing - absolutely NOTHING - is going to improve the situation until the traffic police or criminal police or whatever police are in charge start actually stopping and punishing ALL violators of the traffic laws - not just the expats!

That is as warm and fuzzy and "happy" as I can be this morning. Yeah. Pretty lame.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Beheadings and Torture and Rape, Oh My!

To the tune of "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!" Same as Locally...

And there is a lot going on, today!!!

Two beheadings yesterday: One in Jeddah and one in Qurayat. A Saudi man for beating his wife to death, and another man "for shooting dead a fellow Saudi." The same article also reports on two women's deaths at the hands of their then-husbands. One woman died after "her husband beat her with a stick." The other died after her husband assaulted her. "She arrived in hospital unconscious and died later after swallowing her tongue." Wife-beating is not uncommon. Apparently the men involved didn't get the memo that defines what is an acceptable beating.

A child rapist has been sentenced to eight years in prison and 2,000 lashes for "kidnapping and raping a juvenile, and filming him with a mobile phone."

Sadness, here. A man has brutally beat his five-year-old daughter to death! The report says that the little girl died "after allegedly being tortured by her father." Allegedly?!? The father is "suffering from psychological problems and he is also a drug addict." Lamest-ass excuses I have ever heard! This father POS won't be "executed" quickly enough, in my humble opinion. As an aside, "Bayan [the little five year old child] and her two siblings, an eight-year-old brother and a nine-year-old sister, lived with their father after he divorced their mother three years ago." Children typically live with their fathers in this part of the world - or at least in the Sandbox, they do - after a divorce. This just boggles the mind...

More on children remaining with their father after he divorces the mother, here. The four daughters this man sired have been prevented from going to school because "the eldest was a failure and the second a pervert who would stain his honor if he allowed her to go out." WHAT?!? Truly baffling!!! The father is currently in jail for "refusing to implement a court verdict which granted his divorced wife the right to see their daughters during the summer break." The woman has not seen her daughters in three years! The uncle - the man's brother - currently has custody of the four girls and he too has "refused to allow them to continue their education." According to the Mom, "the uncle started beating her daughters asking them to tell their mother to waive her complaint against their father so that he would be released from prison." You just can't make this stuff up...

Kudos to this woman who attempted to flee the Sandbox with her three-year-old daughter after leaving her husband. Unfortunately she was not quite successful and is now in jail. Is the daughter going to end up with the father? Most likely. But the article doesn't say...

Here is an article about a Sri Lankan maid that is laying comatose in a hospital. Supposedly, there "was a small fire in the house and the woman, who was working in the kitchen at the time, had inhaled smoke." Sure. It could have happened that way, but I have doubts... "Nurses present at the time of her admission ... said though the woman was in an almost vegetative state, she used to scream when hearing her employer's voice. This raised suspicion that the employer might have been responsible for his maid's condition." Ya think?!?

A few more little "blurbs" about the goings on in the Sandbox... 36 illegal maids have been arrested. Drug smuggling attempt foiled; and a couple HIV-positive cases have been detected. Finally, a father has killed his 20-year-old son in a "fit of rage." He [the son] had "been mixing with bad company and refused to stay away from them." The son won't be mixing with bad company any more. The father shot him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For Keith

Who wasn't overly impressed with the pictures I posted of the flowers in my backyard...

And NO ONE will be overly impressed by my picture taking skills [or, lack thereof!].

Baby Poop

Paint is a difficult thing, here. I mean, really, really difficult. Home Depot has NO idea of the market they are missing out on by NOT being here in the Sandbox. The new color for the hall, DH's bathroom, and the kitchen is the most hideous tan I could possibly have chosen. Thank goodness I try paint before making my decision. It is ugly, ugly, ugly! It has the appeal of a filled baby's diaper. It is that bad. So now, I need to go back downtown to try again. There have got to be some two dozen quart sized cans of paint on the shelf in the garage because I can't get it right. Between painting the living room / dining room, originally, then the bedroom, and now the hall, kitchen and DH's bathroom - and, of course, the living room / dining room, again... I am not going to Jotun's anymore. There is a paint store next to Jotun's and they are at least willing to try to mix colors for me that are not on the actual color charts. Tomorrow morning... I need three colors. Pain in the ass it what it is.

I can't find the fabric I want for the drapes. I have spent three mornings racing through fabric stores and upholstery stores [in Dammam there are many!] trying to find what I want. I was in and out of no less than thirty stores yesterday morning in a two and a half hour period. Probably closer to forty stores... Don't get me wrong, there are a LOT of NICE choices out there - along with many that I cannot imagine someone ever picking out - but, then, to each his own. Unfortunately, there is very little by way of "contemporary" in this part of the world. Lots and lots of "foo-foo," though. Brocades, velvets... Rich burgundies and navies. Gold. But no black and cream... I will have to find it in the States and that means that the living room / dining room redo project won't be finished until the Holidays. How I ever thought I'd be able to have it done by the last week in October is beyond me. What was I thinking?!? I feel like I spend half my weekly mornings at the paint store. Oh. Wait. I do!

So much easier to shop on-line for everything. Unfortunately I can't shop for paint that way... This rug could work fabulously! Horchow does ship internationally. I'm still kind of going back and forth on it, and may go with something just a little more neutral. But, doesn't it say "WOW!"? We'll see. Thank goodness I do not have a full-time job that requires me to be at an office for eight hours every day. My two-mornings a week volunteer work is plenty, thank you. And, of course, the hours I spend outside working on my tan... Tanning does not cut into shopping for paint and drapery fabric time at this point - nothing is open in the afternoon, here. Compound that with the fact that I can't just drive myself downtown... Is it any wonder that getting anything done takes forever in this part of the world? No. It is not...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Beautiful Fall Morning

The temperature is dropping. Seriously. It is cool enough outside to require a sweatshirt in the morning. It was 79° when I was out at 6:30!

The flowering bushes and vines in the back yard are luvin' it! The jacquemontia is in full bloom [I think the mealy bugs are under control at this point]:

The bougainvillea is finally taking off:

And the camel's foot, which was planted directly in the dirt with cuttings from another plant [don't think that I didn't shake my head in utter disbelief that anything would ever grow like that - but it did!], is going absolutely wild at this point:

We need to put up a trellis - or string - or wire - or something - to get the vines to start climbing and covering the walls like they are supposed to.

Get Rich Quick!

If you are an impoverished TCN [Third Country National] all you need to do to get rich quick is find a recruiter who will make it possible for you to toil your life away in the Sandbox. You will be promised "financial freedom" but in actuality you will never come anywhere close to receiving that! You will likely be told that your skills are needed but once you get here you will find that you will have the opportunity to hone them in a completely different and totally unrelated profession. If you are one of the chosen you may even find that you will benefit greatly by being given the opportunity to work outside in the steaming hot fresh air. Many will not be chosen and they will, instead, work indoors...

One of our former gardener's was from Bangladesh. He was a plumber there. Somehow he ended up being one of the chosen ones to work outside. I did not let him go because of the work that he did - his work was okay - he worked very, very hard. I let him go because when we moved eight blocks from the townhouse to the house it was about impossible for him to be able to work for us. He would turn the sprinkler's on, out front, when the bus dropped him off and then run - literally - to the area he was assigned to work. On his lunch hour, he would race back to our house to do the other gardening work and then race back to his assigned area forty or forty-five minutes later. He did this for four or five weeks and then he offered me a replacement - a friend of his - who actually worked in our area. The deal was that he wanted me to pay him and that he would pay his friend. Got to give him credit for being such an entrepreneur. I did hire his friend for a short time. His friend spoke NO English whatsoever and we had no way of communicating. Shortly thereafter I called the service and requested both a gardener and houseboy. The gardener they sent me had, obviously, never been a gardener a day in his life, and that he wore a shirt that said "Gardener" didn't make him one. That is when I hired Appuk who does a most excellent job and hopefully he will be with us until we leave here.

I digress...

In today's Saudi Gazette there is a short article about 30 female workers who have "stopped work in protest at their pay and alleged exploitation by their contracting company." [Yeah. Imagine that. A contracting company exploiting their workers!] The women have accused their contracting company of cutting their monthly pay by 75 riyals to pay for their Iqamas. There is a law - somewhere - that says that the employing company is supposed to pay for workers documents, so the contracting company is in violation but from what we have ALL seen in the past, the company will never have to worry about being charged for violating the law. That just doesn't happen, here. 75 riyals is not much money. To most of us. To the workers who are only being paid 400 riyals a month - that is almost a quarter of their income and it is a lot! 75 riyals is $20.10. 400 riyals - their monthly pay - is $107.23. "The women are demanding a raise in their salaries from SR400 to SR600 per month, plus the opportunity to receive paid overtime." If they are successful and get their pay raised to 600 riyals a month, they will be making $160.85. The Filipinia supervisor said that "they were seeking a rise in pay as their current salaries did not even cover their living expenses, adding that they were only given shifts of six hours, leading them to look for additional work, something which their contracting firm has forbidden."

For the sake of argument, assume that the shifts of these cleaners are six hours and only five days a week [although it is probably six days a week - few "imported" workers get two days off per week - very, very few]. At a minimum these women are working 30 hours a week at a current pay rate of $107.23 per month. Their yearly income amounts to $1,286.76 - their weekly income would be $24.74 and that would make their hourly wage .82 [EIGHTY-TWO CENTS!!!]. If the women are successful and get a 200 riyal monthly raise, their yearly income increases to $1,930.29 and their weekly income will go up to $37.12 for an hourly wage of $1.23.

Honestly, I do not know how anyone can survive on such measly wages. The street cleaners and gardeners who work eight-hours, six days a week are paid wages that are about the same - 400 to 600 riyals a month. That makes their hourly wage .51 to .77. Yes. Fifty-one cents to seventy-seven cents an hour for working outside in miserably hot conditions either pushing a broom and picking up trash or raking leaves and trimming hedges. If you think for one skinny second that a "local" would EVER consider working under the conditions that so many of these imported workers do, and for the meager wages they are paid, you would be very, very wrong.

It is so sad, and makes me very, very blessed to have been born in the United States where I was able to have choices. Choices that allowed me to go to school and get a good job and make decent wages. Ditto for my DH. Yes, we have chosen to come here to live and work but we are treated completely differently than the imported workers are, and we are paid significantly more than the poor little workers are. I am going to try to keep this in mind when I complain about my life being so difficult - that I cannot drive, that shops are closed for the entire afternoon and I can't get anything done, that I must don a black bag before leaving the confines of our compound... All those "little" things are really so trivial compared to what so many others here must endure. And, for that, I truly am thankful!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What is Wrong with People?!?

Not just here. Everywhere! In the States there is Casey Anthony who has finally been charged with the murder of her two year old daughter, Caylee. Why did she murder her little girl? No one will ever know because no one will ever be able to get a straight and honest answer out of Casey. Was it premeditated? The authorities seem to think so. And whether it was premeditated or not, the result is the same. A child is dead.

Here, there is a family that didn't kill their little girl - although they may as well have - it probably would have been less traumatizing for the child if they would have. What did they do instead? They abandoned her. Not just once. Twice! In less than two months. The first time they left her at the Corniche. Then, two weeks ago they left her in the airport! I saw the story in the paper the other day - a short, two paragraph blurb about security finding a child in the lounge, alone and crying.

In today's paper there is a much lengthier article about the little four year old that says that the "family had lost the child on Oct. 4." No. They didn't lose her. You lose your glasses. You lose your keys. You don't lose a child! The family left her there!!! "The girl's family refused to receive her from the hospital where she was admitted for treatment. This proves that her case is complicated." Ahh, no. Not really. All it proves is that the adults in this situation are two more poster parents for forced sterilization.

The director general of the Social Affairs Ministry's office in Makkah, Ali Al-Hanaki, "emphasized the need to find out the reasons for the girl's parents abandoning her for a second time in less than two months." It is really pretty simple. Let me help you with that one, Mr. Al-Hanaki: They didn't lose her well enough the first time. According to Mr. Al-Hanaki, "The girl should not be handed over to the family EXCEPT after necessary investigations." [Emphasis, mine.] WTF?!? You're going to investigate and then give the child back to the parents so that they can lose her again??? "A number of social and legal experts agreed with Al-Hanaki on the need to investigate the girl's family for negligence of responsibility." Unless you want to be investigating the girl's family for murder - when they are finally able to "lose" her for good - then I would suggest that the child NOT be returned to the family under ANY circumstances!

Little Hanouf is actually quite lucky. She is not dead. And, she is not laying in the hospital in a coma like the young teenage girl I blogged about last week. Yeah. Lucky...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lost Dog, Smuggled Children, Fornication on the Beach, and Another Head

Same as "Locally..."

This caught my attention - of course it would - and it makes me both angry and sad. Angry because some foolish sap did not take care of his "pedigreed" dog that he brought from the United States. And, no, I will not accept that it was the maid's doing by leaving a gate open or something. Yes, that does happen. But I'd be willing to bet that the man who bought the dog did it on a whim and then realized, "Oh my gosh. Having a dog is more work than I thought it would be." So, he put the responsibility on the maid. You have no idea how many maids I see walking someone's dogs, here. [And, they do not scoop poop!] Why did you get a dog if YOU didn't want to take care of it?!?

I am sad because I know how dogs are treated here by "locals." No. Not all. But the majority. And now there is some lost dog wandering the streets of Riyadh because of an irresponsible Saudi. There might be some hope for the poor dog, though, because its owner did "hit upon a novel method to search for his pet." He has printed and distributed some 3,000 flyers and has promised a reward of $2,000 to anyone who finds his dog. The cash alone will be incentive for someone to recover the poor little pet. The quick little blurb says, "The flyer, a novelty in itself in the Kingdom, carried the picture of the dog..." But the most laughable sentence is this: "Many people said they had not seen anything like this except in American movies where mostly children print out posters to search for their lost pets." Yeah. Mostly children...

Speaking of children. Does this happen in a civilized country?!? No. I think not. A recent study shows that the Sandbox is home to 83,000 street children. 83,000! Not a huge number in the total population, but still... The average age of the children is 7 years old. SEVEN YEARS OLD!!! I didn't let my son leave my sight at 7 years old. He was twelve or thirteen before I stopped getting an after school babysitter for him for goodness sake! Why kind of parents send their seven year olds out on to the streets to beg? [Only those that are poster-parents for forced sterilization, that's what kind.]

The study says, "Although a relatively recent phenomenon in the Kingdom, the presence of children living and working on the street has increased noticeably with the huge influx of illegally smuggled children from Asia and Africa, mostly through the southern border with Yemen." Umm... What is "recent?" There have been child beggars on the streets for as long as we've been here and that is going on six years. Someone please try to explain to me how it is that children are being smuggled in from Asia and Africa. Are the parents of those children selling their children to become child slaves? Is it not illegal to sell your children in those countries? And if you have having so many children that you cannot afford to take care of them and must sell them, then you, too, are "poster parents" for forced sterilization. Were those children abducted? If they were, then the abductors need to be severely punished. Life in jail with no chance of parole. Or better, a death sentence.

Disturbing statistics from another study found that "94 percent of beggar children deployed by gangs in the streets were born outside the Kingdom, with 54 percent being smuggled into the country." Quick math: 54 percent of 83,000 is 44,820 children that were SMUGGLED into the Sandbox for whatever reason. Are there not 44,820 sets of parents in Asia or Africa wondering what happened to their children??? "Foreign children who have been smuggled into the Kingdom to be sent out to the street are routinely arrested, taken to shelter houses and later deported." That is all well and good, but there is something much more sinister going on with this, in my opinion. "At the shelters, they receive the same medical treatment and psychological counseling as Saudi children. After all help has been given, foreign children are handed over to their respective embassies for deportation at the cost of each country in question." Well, well, well. There you have it. It is a for-profit business. That is what is going on here with all of these smuggled children!

What were these two thinking - oh, wait - they weren't... You do not EVER risk a "PDA" in the Middle East. Doesn't matter what country you are visiting. Go back to your hotel room. Consider yourselves lucky to have been visiting Dubai where you are only going to jail for three months and not here, in the Sandbox, where you would have been immediately arrested for "khulwa," sent to jail for years and given 1500 lashings on top of your jail sentences!

Finally, another beheading. This makes four or five this week.

Zapped Energy, Robert's Rules and Driving

Note: I started this post a few days ago and then just got busy...

Very strange weather. It has been very humid the past four or five days. Yesterday morning's TWO walks totally zapped any energy I might have had right out of me. I've been walking The Kids one at a time. Since the "Mother-Fall" happened ten days ago, I have only walked them together once - and that was painful. My boo-boos have pretty much healed, thankfully. But man-oh-man, was I sore for the first three days or so, and my right shoulder still isn't quite back to normal. Pair a bad right knee with a weakened right arm due to an injured right shoulder - and it just is not conducive to walking with a leash in both hands - 120 pounds on the end of the leash in my left hand and 55 pounds on the end of the leash in my right hand. Nope. Not happening.

So I take The Baby first and we do a good long, brisk walk. The Baby is still young - she'll be three at the end of December. She has more energy than any four-legged Kid we have ever had. And, she also believes that yes, the world really does revolve around her. If I take The Boy first, then The Baby barks bloody murder until we return and DH can not sleep. DH is not a morning person. He does not get up at 4:30 or 5 like I do. So, best to take The Baby first. Then I take The Boy. What was an hour or so of my morning walking the two of them is now a good two hours of my morning walking them one at a time. I am not complaining. I can use the exercise, that's for sure. But because the past four or five days have been so humid out, by the time I am done walking both of them, I am exhausted! And I am soaking wet, too! Energy is totally, thoroughly zapped.

My volunteer group has started back up and that is two mornings a week. There are a lot of volunteer groups here, on our compound, that offer a variety of services or "fun." We have a badmitton club, a running club [of which I'll never be able to be part of due to my bad knee!], chess clubs, book clubs, outting clubs - that plan trips and go places all over the world, a yachting club, a wood-working club, a quilting club, and slews of wide-ranging others. The variety of "clubs" available to the residents on this compound is astounding; and we are all very fortunate to have so many of them, offering so many choices. I am a part of one and serve as the Secretary on the Board of Directors, as well as "volunteer" two mornings a week. These are not just a "club" where a few people said, "Hey, let's get together once a week and have fun." They are fully organized and recognized clubs, some with a couple hundred members. The club I am a part of is one of the large ones. And it is a whole lot more work than I ever thought it would be when I signed up to volunteer a year or so ago.

I am so wanting to say, "Okay. I have had enough. I'm done." But will fulfill my duty as a Board Member until my term expires in December. Whether I continue to volunteer ONE morning a week after that remains to be seen. I do not mind the actual physical work that is involved - and there is actual physical, manual labor that is done. I do not mind the one morning a week three-hour shift I have running the shop for the service our club provides. I do not like the "organizational" aspect of it and not because I don't like the organization or organizing... That is the part where the "politics" of the group become overwhelming to me. Not "politics" in the "political - Republican versus Democrat" sense, but the "politics" of who likes who and who wants to do things this way or who shouldn't be allowed to do something. I don't have time for that kind of crap. Has there every been a club or group, run by a bunch of women [and we are not a women only gender specific group - men are certainly allowed and encouraged to join - they don't because they are working - so it is the wives of all the men working that are involved in the group that I am a part of], anywhere that doesn't end up being political? Oh my gosh. Enough is enough. Does it really matter what color pants Jane wore last week?!? No. IT DOESN'T!!! That kind of thing. My personality does not adapt well to such catty, trivial bullshit. Which is why I am not enjoying being a Board member. I want out of that part of this group. And I will never, ever let myself be involved in that regard, again. [In fairness to me, I was nominated for the position while I was home in the States and didn't even know I was a part of the Board until I saw it in a newsletter! Is that even allowed in Robert's Rules?]

Really, I would so much rather be taking trips back and forth downtown to the paint and fabric stores. All those decorating books I checked out of the library last week? As I was flipping through them, mumbling and grumbling about all the pictures being cut out and missing, I came across a paint sample strip wedged in one of the books that I do believe is the perfect color for our kitchen, the hallway, the study and DH's bathroom. But I can't get down to the paint store this week, now, until Thursday because I have responsibilities to my volunteer group. Sure I could go this afternoon - but am I going to be told, "No. I will not mix this paint for you. You must return in the evening." Isn't it enough I vowed never to go back to Jotun's for that very reason, and have now been there twice since then? I want to do that to myself again - get caught being there in the late afternoon when the shop's [imported] workers are at dinner - leaving only the shop's manager in the shop who either has no clue how to mix paint samples or who does not believe that he should have to do anything as laborious as opening a quart of white paint and adding two or three or four drops of color to it? No. I think not. Paint waits until Sunday. Saturday I am going to find the fabric for the new window treatments with my decorator. If I get the chance - I'll get the paint - but I think we are going to Damman and the paint store is in Khobar. Yes. There is a Jotun's in Damman, as well, so that may work out...

If, for one single solitary second, you think that it is not frustrating sometimes being a woman, here in the Sandbox, where you can't just jump in your car and drive to the paint store, you would be very wrong. Not only can you not just jump in your car and drive yourself anywhere, but you also must time all of your shopping and errands to coincide with prayer timings and shop closings. You have a couple of hours in the morning from when shops open until they close at 11:30 for prayer - earlier, even. Most shops do not open again, after prayer. Oh, no, that would be too easy. They open at three or four in the afternoon. Then they close again at five or five-thirty for prayer, again. It is a wonder than anything at all gets done, here. Royal pain in the ass is what is it. You'd think that after almost six years I would be used to this. And, it is not that I am not used to it, it is just that I do not have the patience to say, "Oh well. I guess I'll do that another day." We are all fighting for the same driver's availability - the driver's are limited - there are not enough to go around. We all have things we want to do that require leaving the compound to take care of. If you are a "local" you are allowed to recruit your own driver. If you are not a "local," then you are not. Fair? No. Not in the least. Who made that rule and determined that women from other countries are not allowed to recruit their own driver's?!? We are allowed to recruit houseboys, but for some asinine and inane reason we are not allowed to recruit drivers, even though we are no more allowed to drive than "local" women. We are also not allowed to recruit maids. Just houseboys. Why this is? I have absolutely no idea. Just thinking about this makes my blood boil!

But then, no one ever said life was going to be fair. The mentality of the "powers that be" that impose such restrictions and guidelines over who can and can't do certain things does have to make one wonder though. It will all provide plenty of fodder for the book I will write when I leave the Sandbox. Only then will I be able to fully and freely express my thoughts without fear of reprisal.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nothing Going On

Nope. Absolutely NOTHING exciting happening, here. It is the weekend. I have things I want to do and need to do but there is no way I'm going downtown to take care of doing them. Friday morning - tomorrow - would be the perfect day to go downtown and get pictures. Friday mornings are quiet! No one on the streets. If I can get a driver I may try to do that - go down to get pictures. Tonight, Thursday, is the equivalent of a Saturday night anywhere else in the world - except, of course, for the Middle East. Most parts of the Middle East have adopted Friday and Saturday as their weekend. Saudi Arabia is the last hold out and doesn't want to keep pace with the rest of the world [hmmph! imagine that!] and move their weekend. Somehow that would be adopting a practice of the West, and anything of the kind is met with much resistance.

DH just returned from London. He travels all over the world. Although that is coming to an end, and he will only be flying in Saudi Arabia beginning next month. He is looking forward to being home every night and not being gone a week or ten days at a time. I'm not looking forward to it because it will mean that I will have to make dinner every night. I guess I can deal with that though. Honestly, there are times when I just wish we could go out to eat. And, we could. But I refuse. There is NO point, whatsoever, in my mind in going out when I am forced to wear a black garbage bag to go somewhere to eat. Nope. Just not doing it. And, there is even less point in going out to eat when you could go to a fabulous Italian restaurant [and we do have them!] but cannot order a glass of wine with dinner. I'll stay home.

When DH got his suitcase out last week, it was sitting on the study floor, open, waiting to be packed. DH was sitting at the computer. The Baby walked into the study, sniffed his suitcase and circled it. [The Kids get very, very antsy when the suitcases come out.] And, then she coughed and tried to "throw up" into DH's suitcase. DH said she did it purposely. She wasn't doing the gagging, choking thing that four-legged Kids do before they are going to get sick. Nope. She just let it go - and NOT a real, "I don't feel well" episode, either. I got a big kick out of it. DH, not so much. Guess you had to be there. DH thinks she did it out of spite that since the suitcase [his] was out, that would mean we must be going somewhere and she wanted to show her displeasure in the situation. You'd think she'd be used to it at this point. DH has been traveling for his job the entire time she has been here since I brought her over here as a puppy two and a half years ago. Just because he is leaving doesn't mean I am leaving, too. Both Kids get very, very upset about me leaving...

Saturday starts a new week here, and I will go to Dammam with my decorator to get fabric for the living / dining room window treatments. And paint. Lots of paint. The house is going to be a completely different house by the end of October. Something to look forward to!

I'll try to get my post finished about the volunteer work I am doing here, up tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bus Trip to the Mall

Wasted morning. Why oh why oh why did I agree to a trip to the Mall?!? I probably could have taken a few pictures when we first got there, when it was "dead," but of course, didn't even think to take my camera. It would be close to impossible to take any pictures once the stores start opening and people start flocking in. I can only imagine the commotion it would cause - snapping pictures of throngs of people - the men all dressed in their long white dresses with their red-checkered head coverings would be easily identifiable and I am not going to risk posting photos of men's faces on my blog without their permission. That would only be inviting trouble. The women, however, would be a completely different story. No one would have a clue as to who they were. I'd say a good 85% of the women at the mall this morning were dressed head-to-toe in black with only slits in their face coverings so that they could see [even though they really only need one eye opening], I saw quite a few women who had no slit at all, but instead the "sheer" face covering that allows them to barely see and does not allow ANYONE to see them. [I am only assuming they were women. When someone is wearing a full - I mean FULL - covering of black like that it is impossible to know for sure what gender is beneath the black!]

We have lots of malls. Two big ones: Rashid Mall [worth clicking on to see the pictures!] and Mall of Dhahran [also worth clicking on for pictures]. I went to the Mall of Dhahran, this morning. It has two small department stores, Marks & Spencer being the larger of the two. [The directory says there is a Gap - and there is, "Baby Gap," there is NOT a Gap for "big people."] I was surprised to see two signs that said, "Banana Republic 2008." That will be the ONLY store worth going to at the Mall of Dhahran. I was looking for black towels and did find them. I should have gotten them in the States when I bought the cream colored towels, but I didn't know I wanted black towels at that time. I paid way too much for them. They will have to do for now. And they had better do for at least three years - or for however long it is that we remain in this house.

The decision to go to the mall with Nuffie's Mom was made spur of the moment when we were walking the "Girls." Nuffie is the Giant Schnauzer puppy that my Kids have been walking with for a couple of weeks now - although since I am doing two walks in the morning - the "Girls" go first - I take The Baby and then come back and take The Boy. So, Nuffie's Mom and I decide we'll go downtown - she wants to get a pair of capri's to wear to some party at the beach this weekend and I wanted to get a new dust-mop head, some file folders and paint. I called for a cab as soon as we were done walking and was told that there were no cabs available and to call back later. No problem. We'll take the bus. Mistake. We took the bus, which leaves at exactly 9:00 and got to the mall where NONE of the stores were even open yet! What is the purpose of having a bus that takes you down to the mall at 9:00 if nothing is open?!? Starbucks was open. I'm not a big Starbucks fan. We just kind of milled around until Marks & Spencer opened and then I got towels and Nuffie's Mom found some capri's - which she couldn't try on - as there are NO dressing rooms in the shops and stores, here, and of course they don't fit. [Nuffie's Mom went back to the mall on the 4:00 bus to exchange them - there was no way I was returning.] I've now been to the mall twice this year - once in February looking for shoes - which I bought and paid too much for to wear for a single occasion - they have been given to our version of the "Good Will" store. Unless Banana Republic opens before December 31st, I will have absolutely no reason to go to the mall again for 2008.

I was surprised that there is a women's smoking section at Starbucks. It was not there in February. The men could smoke in their area, but the women's area, designated for "families" was non-smoking. There were quite a few - no less than five, "local" looking women sitting there enjoying their coffee and smoking cigarettes along with a couple of other clearly Western women and Nuffie's Mom and me. The bus pick up time is 11:30 and as we were completely done shopping shortly after we arrived I didn't mind that we took the time to have coffee and chat. I would rather have had our own car and driver so I could get my other errands taken care of, but such was not the case.

Mid-morning prayer time is getting earlier an earlier every day. I think it must be at about 11:15 because we didn't leave to go for the bus until 11:21 [exactly] and the stores and shops in the mall were all putting their gates down to close before we left. As well, we were still sitting when the prayer call began. I do not know if there is a prayer room - rooms - one for the men and one for the women - they do not mix, you know - in the Mall of Dhahran. I know that there are prayer rooms in the Rashid Mall so it would be fair to presume there are prayer rooms at the Mall of Dhahran as well, although perhaps someone decided there was no need for them. There were an awful lot of people at the mall at 11:15 - all exiting out of the stores into the mall corridors - the "locals" far outnumbered us Westerner's - and if they were doing the prayer thing it certainly was NOT obvious! Why were there a couple hundred people hanging out waiting for prayer to be over in the open areas? This is just an observation on my part but it was clearly apparent that the mid-morning prayer is pretty much regarded as a smoking break at the Mall of Dhahran as that is exactly what ALL of the shop and store workers were doing, along with hordes of "local" men, with the "local" women accompanied by their entourage of children and maids taking advantage of the benches and sitting areas.
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