Friday, November 21, 2008

What I meant to do yesterday, but didn't...

Well, as nice as The Mall of Dhahran is getting to be, my days shopping there are done for at least another thirteen and a half months. I posted a short time ago that I was so thrilled that we now have a Gap and a Banana Republic - and for the occasional instance that I truly need something - it will be good to have them as choices, here. Four times I've been to The Mall of Dhahran this year. Plenty for 2008 and 2009, as well, I'd say.

The first time I went this year was when I needed silver shoes for a wedding we went to in February - and a wedding gift, which I never found there, but instead got in the States later that month when I was there, and hand-carried back to the Sandbox, after the wedding. The shoes were "rejects" which I bought at Aldo and paid way too much for to wear only once. They have already been given to our version of a "Goodwill" or second-hand store. I knew I would NEVER wear them again.

I went back to the Mall for the second time this year a month or so ago to buy black towels for DH's bathroom. Once again, I paid way too much for something - those towels - and DH can't stand them. The towels - which I think feel really nice - are soft and fluffy and have now been washed a half dozen times and still they leave little black fuzzies all over DH when he uses them. When I pulled the lint trap out of the dryer after washing and drying them the last time, DH was standing there as I emptied it [the lint trap], and said, "Whoa. Why don't you send that back to the company. I think they can probably make a couple of towels out of that!" When we go back to the States I'll get black towels there, and then get rid of the ones I bought here. Anyway, I mentioned in my post that the directory says that there is a Gap there and that a sign said "Banana Republic 2008" but I didn't know they were both open until a local blogger set the record straight for me. [Thanks, Nzingha!]

A couple of weeks ago, when I needed to go downtown for something - and a friend needed to go for something else - we shared a cab and went to do our errands - which we accomplished in an hour and a half and included my being able to run into both Banana Republic and Gap, making it the third time I've been to the Mall, this year. While at Gap, I bought a sweater. Nothing special to it, really, but it was the right color [a shade of purple] and it wasn't any more expensive than if I would have purchased it in the States.

I do not wear anything new without washing it first. Just one of those funny quirks of mine. The sweater sat in a bag in my closet until earlier this week when I decided that it is cool enough so that I can get away with wearing a sweater. It is actually cool enough so that I NEED a sweater! So I took the tags off the sweater, read the washing instructions and did exactly what they said - washed the sweater in a "bag," inside out, with cold water and Woolite. I dried it on a special flat "thingy" that I bought especially for drying sweaters that should not be hung. When I went to get the sweater to iron it, I picked it up, and realized there was a three-inch tear in a seam in the back. Whether I just didn't notice it before - I would think I would have noticed - I'm pretty fussy about "things," or whether it happened while it was being washed... Don't know. Doesn't matter. Not paying SR249 [$66.00] for a sweater that hasn't even been worn and can't take a gentle hand-washing without tearing. Crap. The sweater has to go back. I am past the seven days allowed to return something. Yes, I could sew it myself. That is not the point, however. What are we only getting the "seconds" from the Gap's in the States, here? [Probably!]

I decide I have to go back to the Mall and don't want to put it off much longer because they are NEVER going to take the sweater back - all I really wanted to do was just exchange it - if I don't go and take care of it, now. And, because I don't want to just go down to the Mall and hang out until the stores open if I take the bus, I arrange for a driver at ten o'clock. I am simply going to run in, and exchange the sweater. I know exactly which entrance I need to go to - so that I don't have to walk the entire Mall - and it is going to take me all of ten minutes. Right? Wrong!

My driver picks me up promptly at ten o'clock. I tell him I want to go to The Mall of Dhahran, Gate 9 [the entrance]. It takes all of ten minutes - if that - to get to the Mall. I tell the driver I am going to be ten or fifteen minutes and to wait for me.

The driver drops me off at the door, and I head straight for Gap. Unbelievable. The store is packed with shoppers [all dressed in head-to-toe black]. I head for the rack where the sweater I wanted to simply "exchange" is hanging - there are four "Large" and two "X-Large," but not a single "Medium" on the rack. Of course there isn't! Now what am I going to do? Are they going to give me my money back? It is way past the seven days... I head to the check-out / customer service counter. [Customer Service?!? Snort! That is a completely FOREIGN CONCEPT here!!!] There are three women in line ahead of me - and I am thankful I got in line at Gap when I did, because while I was waiting my turn in the "queue" another half dozen women were in line behind me. Don't you know, there is always that ONE woman who thinks that the "queue" doesn't apply to her and she stands to the side and tries to get the ONE man working as cashier to ring up her purchases while the rest of us are patiently waiting. Ut-uhh. Not happening. She sees that I have a return - and she thinks she is going to get him to ring up her "dress," or whatever it was she had, before the single, lone Gap worker assists me. Like I said. Not happening. Didn't happen. Well, yes, it kinda sorta did.

I show the man the sweater and the tear it has in it - and tell him that I just wanted to exchange it but that there are no more Medium's so now I want my money back. "Yes. Please wait." The man whips out his mobile and starts calling someone. He tells me that the Manager will be right with me. Okay. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Fifteen minutes. I'm still standing there. Sure, I could have been shopping, but I have no interest in shopping there, at this point, because I am now so frustrated that "this" is so "typical," here. No one works. The single, lone cashier is not "authorized" to take care of my return and has to get the manager's approval. But he store manager isn't even in the store! He's out in the Mall, somewhere... Probably having coffee. He certainly isn't working! I am doing my "standing here patiently waiting," which means I am shifting my weight from one foot to another, making a "glare" with my eyes which I hope says, "shooting dagger-looks," and "huffing" [the heavy sigh... that says, "You have got to be f'ng kidding me!"]. The poor guy working realizes that I am not happy. He calls the Manager, again.

The poor lone, single Gap "worker" [likely the ONLY one who actually "works" there!] is getting frustrated, too. I am not the only bitchy woman he is having to deal with; there were quite a few of us there yesterday morning. Since my Arabic is so basic, I have no idea what was being said in several different conversations, but could just tell by the "tone" that was being used that the conversation wasn't particularly happy. The woman who tried to cut in front of me attempted to make a purchase with not enough money and a credit card that wouldn't go through. Ha! [Almost comical. What, did she think she could "bargain" at Gap like you do at the souks downtown?!?] Then another woman tried to return two items - one of which she had the receipt for - and one which the man couldn't take back - for whatever reason - I'm guessing that she hadn't even bought it there - I didn't understand the conversation - just the tone of the voices and the hand, arm, body gestures... I felt sorry for the guy. I really did... It just was NOT pretty. The whole scene.

Forty minutes. Forty f'ng minutes. I got to the Mall at about ten past ten - it is now going on ten of eleven. Finally the "Manager" saunters in [using the term "Manager" in the loosest possible sense of the word!]. Naturally, I am not happy with having had to stand and wait for so long so that the asshole could finish his coffee or whatever the heck it was that he was doing that was so much more important that being in the Gap. I show him the sweater and my receipt and tell him I want my money back. He says, "No. Exchange only." I explain that I would exchange the sweater if there was one to exchange it for - but since there isn't - I need my money back. We "argued," for a few minutes and he realized that he can say "exchange" until the store closes at prayer time, but that I am not "exchanging," and want my money back. So he rattled off something in Arabic [he could have been saying, "Just give this crazy woman her money and get her out of my store and hopefully she will never return" and using curse words to describe me - I don't know - but he doesn't have to worry - I won't be returning to his store!] to the man who has been working the entire time who rings up my return. The man who had been "working" this entire time apologized for the inconvenience - which I thought was very nice of him - and he gave me back my SR249.

Done. Oh my gosh. What should have taken fifteen minutes - at the very most - has now taken almost an hour! An hour!!! I have never had much in the way of "patience" to begin with. At this point, I am completely void of any patience. None. I have none. I leave Gap and walk out the exit at Gate 9. Where is my driver? What the ? ? ? Where did he go??? He is GONE! I am furious. Yes, I know I said I would only be a few minutes - and I expected that I would actually ONLY be a few minutes. The driver was told to wait. Quite frankly, I don't care if I said "I'll be five minutes" and then don't return for hours. He was told, in no uncertain terms, to wait and he is gone. I walked up and down outside the entrance for another ten minutes and wandered through the parking lot to see if I could find him - the parking lot was relatively sparse with cars so he shouldn't have been too difficult to find. He is NOT there. I whip out my phone and dial the driver's company.

MY PHONE IS OUT OF TIME! It is not working. Oh how I hate the Sawa cards or whatever it is the "pre-paid" cards are called here. I have plenty of money in the phone, but I am out of time. Let me explain how it works. You buy these "cards" that have numbers on them which you enter into your mobile and you have XXX-amount of money to use for your calls. However, regardless of how much money you have in your phone, the time for each card expires in ninety days. I have some SR500 left for money to use on my phone. I never use the phone so there is no way I am ever going to be able to spend all the money that is in it. But my time is up. I need another Sawa card. It used to be that the minimum amount you could put in your phone was SR100 and it was good for three months. Now, you can buy SR50 for the same three months. But, when that ninety days is up, doesn't matter how much money is there - you still can't use your phone.

No problem. Use a pay phone, right? Yeah. THERE ARE NO PAY PHONES IN THIS PART OF THE WORLD! I am fuming. I head to Ikea to see if I can find a phone to use. I walk up to a Security Guard and ask him where I can find a phone. He says, "No English." [Liar!] I go to up to a Filipino driver I see standing by his car and ask him if he has a mobile. He says he does but tells me he has no minutes left. [You can have some of mine!] Finally I see a "Western" looking man and walk up to him and ask him very nicely if he has a phone and if I could please use it to make a local call. He is very nice - British - and hands me his phone. Oh thank you! I call the driver's company and explain that I had booked a car and driver for a round-trip and that my driver has disappeared. The man that answered the phone at the company says he will call the driver and call me back. Ahh, no. You can't call me back. Just send a driver to Gate 9, RIGHT NOW! "Yes, Madam." After profusely thanking the man who let me use his phone, I walked back down to Gate 9.

Less than a minute later my driver appears and I hop in the car. As the driver pulls away, I very calmly and nicely explain that I have been standing outside for the last fifteen minutes looking for him and that I had told him to wait. "Yes, Madam, I was there." No. You were not. I walked through the parking lot and you were NO WHERE TO BE FOUND! "Yes, Madam, I have been waiting the whole time." "Well if you were in the parking lot where you say you were then you would have seen me walking back and forth looking for you!" You have got to be kidding me - you are going to argue with me about this?!? He's got the car radio turned up and it is playing techno-garbage-hip hop crap. I tell him to either turn the radio down or turn it off. I have a headache and it is his fault. Thankfully we have a very short drive back to the compound. As he pulls up to my door, he says, "I am very sorry about this Madam." Yeah. I bet you are. I am probably one of the best tippers to drivers that this part of the world has ever seen and I have a tip for you! "You need to pay better attention and keep an eye out for your passengers from now on. Especially if it is me." I jumped out of the car and slammed the door. He had better never be sent to be a driver for me, ever again.

Pain in the ass. Waste of an hour and a half. What should have been a half-hour trip. Part of it is the fault lays at the feet of Gap - does the corporate office at Gap - wherever they are - have ANY IDEA HOW THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE is handled on this side of the world? Newsflash: Gap on this side of the world is destroying your reputation! But if my driver would have been where he was supposed to be then I wouldn't have wasted time walking through the parking lot looking for him - and then having to search out a phone - because Sawa cards SUCK - to call and find him. Blah, blah, blah.

So, that is four trips to The Mall of Dhahran in 2008. As far as I am concerned, I've used up my "trips" for 2009, so it will be 2010 before I set foot in the Mall again. I can shop in the States when we go home - and enjoy a much, much, much more pleasant shopping experience. I can order from a few stores that ship internationally. Or, I can go to Bahrain where shopping is a whole lot more civilized and where one can actually count on "customer service."

In the meantime, I was at another blog yesterday morning where Slick Sumbich had a post up that he thought he could get 2,000 comments in one day. He also said he was going to personally respond to each and every comment. So, I commented at his site that I would mention on my blog that he was looking for 2,000 comments and if anyone who reads posts here felt like it they could stop by and comment at his place so he could reach his 2,000 comment goal. He didn't reach it. Doesn't matter at this point. He's closed the thread and has closed comments. Sorry, Slick. I meant to do it yesterday, but I just didn't...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On a Roll!

Oh my! Four posts today. Five including this one. [Although with the "time difference" it appears as though this one is really tomorrow.] Two or three in "drafts." I really need to consider getting a real life...

History Class

Because I want to share. I'm all about giving my blog a little pizzazz beyond the petty, mundane, day-in-day-out, "sosdd" that is my life. Oh, and for the record, no, I do not consider the following to be political. True-life history, yes. And, it is just funny...

It was the first day of school in the USA and a new Indian student named Chandrasekhar Subramanian entered the fourth grade.

The teacher said, "Let's begin by reviewing some American History. Who said, 'Give me Liberty, or give me Death?'"

She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Chandrasekhar, who had his hand up: 'Patrick Henry, 1775' he said.

'Very good!'

Who said, 'Government of the People, by the People, for the People, shall not perish from the Earth?'

Again, no response except from Chandraeskhar. 'Abraham Lincoln, 1863' said Chandrasekhar.

The teacher snapped at the class, 'Class you should be ashamed. Chandrasekhar, who is new to our Country, knows more about its history than you do.'

She heard a loud whisper: 'Sc*ew the Indians.'

'Who said that?' she demanded. Chandrasekhar put his hand up.

'General Custer, 1862.'

At that point, a student in the back said, 'I'm gonna puke.'

The teacher glares around and asks, 'All right! Now, who said that?'

Again, Chandrasekhar says, 'George Bush to the Japanese Prime Minister, 1991.'

Now furious, another student yells, 'Oh yeah? Su*k this!'

Chandrasekhar jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher, 'Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky, 1997!'

Now, with almost mob hysteria, someone said, "You little sh*t. If you say anything else, I'll kill you.'

Chandrasekhar frantically yelss at the top of his voice, 'Michael Jackson to the child witnesses testifying against him, 2004.'

The teacher fainted.

And, as the class gathered around the teacher on the floor, someone said, 'Oh sh*t, we're screwed!'

And, Chandrasekhar said quietly, 'I think it was the American people, November 5, 2008.'
Funny stuff. I share what I steal. And I stole it from Mostly Cajun. He is good for it - funny stuff - on a regular basis. You can also count on him for a daily history lesson. On Sunday's he plays a little thing he calls "The Name Game." I try not to miss it. Much more fun than football, if you ask me!

Weddings always make me cry...

Coming soon: A three-day folklore "Festival of Brides" in Jeddah. Sure to be the ultimate high-light of the winter bridal season. Yeah. Because nothing says P A R T Y and F U N like a big segregated wedding. I'd post more on marriages here in the Sandbox, but frankly, it would bore me to tears, right now. Just. Not. Interested.

This, however, screams wedding fun! Stop by Parkway Rest Stop and watch the video Jim posted for this couple's first dance at their wedding.
Jim says, "I'd like to have a couple cocktails with this couple." Dayum! Who wouldn't!!! You just KNOW they would be a hoot...

Interesting Double Standard

Is it only on Friday that you can get punished for not going to Prayer? Because I've seen hordes of people not attending Prayer on other days. I don't leave the compound on Friday's, so I cannot attest to how many don't go on that day. But on Saturday's and Sunday's, there are an awful lot of men and women skipping Prayer... Just stop by any one of the local malls, and you'll see what I mean.

If the same punishment was applied to everyone that missed Prayers, the Sandbox would be the cleanest country in the world! Of course, this would have quite an adverse effect on all the street cleaners that are imported...

[Borrowed Stolen from WZ's place.]

Lip service. My invitation? Lost in the mail.

Yeah. Imagine that. Who would have guessed I wouldn't be invited to speak at the conference where more than "350 security professionals from military, police, public security systems and in private sector [sic] and directors of petroleum and industrial companies, academics, students and various government departments will discuss the new traffic system" that will be held on November 25th. I could have saved everyone involved a whole lot of planning and time and expense if someone would have just asked me. No one ever does...

You want to eliminate road carnage and population control on the roads, streets and highways in the Sandbox? Quit talking about it and actually do something, then.

For starters, have the police - or traffic police - or whatever entity is charged with the responsibility of enforcing road rules - actually STOP the perpetrators. You know who they are - the perpetrators - we know who they are and they know who they are. Oh. And, by the way, they are NOT all expats! Issue tickets. Make the point system work. Institute a system of heavy fines. Throw the repeat offenders in jail and confiscate their cars. Trust me. By doing this you'll increase this country's revenues tenfold. Maybe you don't need the money now, but if oil ships continue to be hi-jacked and $10,000,000 ransoms are going to be paid, you're going to need the money eventually.

Next, eliminate once and for all the system where if someone gets stopped then they call someone who can get them out of their predicament. What's it called? Wasta??? When someone is stopped for speeding or running a red-light or whatever their traffic offense might be, issue the ticket right then and there. If they want to call on someone else later on to get them out of the "alleged" offense, let it happen at the same time they appear in Court. Just a suggestion. But don't you think that if someone is calling someone to get out of something that that just proves and oozes guilt?

Give the traffic patrolmen vehicles equipped for their jobs. The traffic patrol cars are the only vehicles in the Sandbox that are twenty-something years old. Everyone - and I do mean almost everyone - else is driving a car that was manufactured in the last six months. Install video cameras in the traffic patrol cars. Give those officers the authority to actually do the job which they have been employed to do.

If you actually adhered to all of the rules and regulations and laws that are implemented, instead of spending time talking about them over tea, coffee and crumpets, the roads here would be much, much safer for ALL of us!

There. Wasn't that helpful? No need for a conference. You're welcome. All you had to do was ask me...

UPDATE: Angry in Oman has generously posted "Driving Lessons" at her site. Of course, her version applies only to Omani drivers. If you are going to be a "highway superstar" here in the Sandbox, you have to do everything she lists but do twice as recklessly and at least three times faster!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Way Too Funny!

I did not find a dying giraffe at all amusing. Nothing funny about it. Nope. Was not amused. Someone commented that he [she?] "really thought people in the Middle East are capable of finding humour [sic] in such jokes," about the dying giraffe, and said that it originally came from a comedian named Jeff Dunham. I crossed off both comedians as someone I wouldn't give the time of day to because they think a dying giraffe is funny and I do not. I can laugh with the best of them. I like comedy.

So, without further ado, I present, for the second time that I have posted YouTube videos, Ronnie Khalil. The man is absolutely hilarious!!! [Or maybe it is just my sense of humor...]

Part I:

Part II [Dearest Son and only two-legged child of mine... Aarick, Aarick, Aarick this one is for you. You and Dagny should be watching it together. Time to make babies!!! But... You know. No pressure or anything. Surprise wedding? How long have I been saying I'm going to do that for you?!?]:

Part III:

Part IV:


No Swimming!

I keep a very close eye on my Kids. It would be fair to say that I am just a bit over-protective of them. Yeah. Okay. That might be an understatement...

Newfie came over to play yesterday afternoon - a friend's Giant Schnauzer puppy [at nine months old she is a big puppy!]. We were all outside - me and the three Kids. The three of them were all romping and playing and jumping and snarling. I must be very easily amused, because I get a big kick out of just watching them all. I was on one side of the pool - at the end where our patio table is - and the Kids were all on the other side of the pool at the end where the chaise lounges are. I was watching as Newfie got into her "crouch and pounce" position ready to playfully "attack" The Boy, who, anticipating her "attack" backed up in one big jump and SPLASH! Into the pool he went.

Somehow The Boy was able to catch himself at the edge of the pool and was gripping and clinging with his two front legs to not end up fully submersed - and as I ran to "rescue" him I was yelling, "Honey! Come Help Me!!! The Boy is in the pool! DH came racing out of the house and pushed me out of the way and grabbed The Boy and pulled him out by his collar. Both girls - The Baby and Newfie were right there too, to "help" and had to be pushed out of the way so that DH could grab The Boy.

DH and I have discussed this before - what I need to do to get the Kids out of the pool if they fall in. It goes without saying that if I would have had to I would have been in the pool in an instant to get The Boy if DH wouldn't have been right there to help me. There is no way I'm going to be able to pull a [soaking wet] 120-pound Great Dane out of the pool. I will somehow have to get him to the steps so that he can get out on his own, which will likely mean that I will have to be IN the pool to get him to the steps. In June, July and August the water is quite warm. It is November though, and the water is NOT warm. It is cold.

This is the second time that The Boy has gone into the pool, backwards. He, apparently, just does not have a conception that the pool is there. The first time was this past February. DH was there - in fact, he was the reason The Boy backed up into the pool. DH had just come out of the garage with a rake [in The Boy's eyes rakes are very, very scary]. The Boy crouched and snarled and leaped back at the sight of the rake - straight into the pool. The Baby has gone into the pool once, accidentally as well, but she knows how to swim - and she is much smaller than The Boy so I am not quite as concerned about The Baby being in the pool as I am with The Boy. I think The Boy can probably swim - but since he is not overly fond of water, I'm not a hundred percent on that...

Any suggestions as to how to keep The Kids out of the pool, short of putting up a "No Swimming" sign? Putting up an orange safety net fence is an idea but there is no way to anchor it - DH is NOT going to let me pound stakes into the tile we had laid surrounding the pool - and I do worry that in that one split instant that I am not out there or watching from the kitchen windows that something could happen. Perhaps putting life-vests on them when they are outside playing is what I am going to have to do. We will be in the States for the Holidays and I may just go ahead and purchase a couple of them while we are there. I just don't know what I am going to do until then. I will have to make very clear to the babysitter who will be here with The Kids while we are gone that HE MUST AT ALL TIMES be outside with them when they are out. And, I need to find out if he can swim.

My goodness. Who knew that a pool could present such peril?!?

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Printer

I tried so hard to keep the old printer alive. It conked out about a month ago - started making a really funny tick-tick-tick-tick-tick - it was constant - and nothing would print. Couldn't copy, couldn't scan, and couldn't download pictures. NO! The printer can't die. We have twelve printer cartridges for it that I brought back from the States [they are a lot less expensive in the States than they are here]. Somehow I got it up and running again after "fiddling" with it for a couple hours. I unplugged and replugged cords. I took the back off and stuck my hand in it to see if something was loose [probably not my brightest idea - I should have at least unplugged it first]. I took the cartridges out and reloaded them. I pulled at some flat white cable inside it. To be quite honest I am not really sure what it was that I did that got it back up and running again. Thought for sure we were all set. That it would live at least long enough to use the ink cartridges we have. Nope. It was not to be. The printer died again and nothing I did could get it to work again. DH couldn't fix it. Nothing we did was going to make it work. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick.

This morning DH and I went downtown to our "electronics superstore." Both of us were skeptical that we'd be able to find a 110 volt printer in a country that is wired for 220 volt. Our compound was built by Westerners and thus we are probably the ONLY place over here in the Sandbox that uses 110 volt electrical outlets. I think was a good idea in some ways, but not such a great idea in other ways. You cannot find appliances - like vacuums or food processors with 110 volt cords, here, they all come with 220 volt cords. However, all of the appliances we had in the States, are usable, here, since it is wired for 110. So it is both a good and not so good thing.

We got to eXtra and the parking lot was packed. Good grief - what's going on here? A sale or something? I don't ever remember seeing the store so busy. We go in, go straight to the printers and took a quick look at our choices. I so wanted to find a printer that takes the ink cartridges that we already have! Nope. Not a single printer there took the same cartridges. But of course, right?!? We had to hunt for a salesman - there are plenty of them working there - but they are all busy. Finally find a guy to help us and ask him what the power cord is - and if it is like our TV, which we got there, and can use either the 110 volt cord or a 220 volt cord. Did the guy have a clue what we were talking about? Nope. His English was the most basic - we had a communication problem.
He had to go ask someone else. I am not faulting him for not being able to speak English. This is after all an Arabic-speaking country. I suspect that if so many people here did not speak English then we would be speaking fluent Arabic by now. When you are forced to communicate that way - by immersion - you have no choice but to learn the language. I've taken three Arabic classes and my Arabic is as basic as basic can get. The salesman says that the printers are all 220 volt cords. Great. A new printer waits until we go to the States and gets packed in a suitcase and brought back with us...

As we were about to leave, I looked at the side of a box. It says "This appliance is fitted with a 220V SASO Approved plug. The customer is entitled to a free SASO approved 127V plug from the local dealer." I ask DH what "127V" is. He tells me that there is no such thing as 127V. Oh, really? Then what does this mean, and I show him on the box where it says 127V. Hmm... So we find another salesman. And we got lucky. He knew how to speak English and he knew about the printers - almost ALL of them have interchangeable with 220 and 110 volt cords. Glad I didn't just leave after the first salesman said that they were all 220 volts...

So we finally have a new printer and I can print, copy, scan and most importantly, download pictures again!

Bahrain Mulls Giving Maids a Day Off

In many ways, Bahrain is an "easy" country... It is easier to be a "Westerner" there than it is in Saudi Arabia. You do not have to don a full-length, shapeless black bag when you leave your house [or compound]. There is no forced segregation of the sexes - an entrance for men and an entrance for women. Malls and shops do not all close for prayer times [except during Ramadan] - and they certainly do not close for the entire afternoon like they do here. Clothing stores have fitting rooms... Women can drive in Bahrain. But then, women can drive in almost every other country in the world, but here! You can go out to eat at a nice restaurant and order a glass of wine with your meal - or a beer - or whatever it is that you want to drink [except, of course, during Ramadan]. You can go to a movie theater... For a short while, when DH was a contractor here in the Sandbox and I was not allowed to accompany him, we considered getting an apartment in Bahrain - where I would have been allowed. [Yes. Of course we were married - but until DH was a full-time employee at the company he works for, as a contractor he was "single" as far as the powers that be, here, were concerned, and I was not allowed to come with him.]

Bahrain is ahead of the curve insofar as being a civilized country. In yesterday's paper there was an article that says that a special committee has been formed "to work on the rights of domestic workers" which will mandate that the maids have a "compulsory weekly day off." I am hopeful, for the maids' that this will be made a law and that they will receive a day off. It would be great if the practice was adopted throughout the entire Gulf...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Burning Bras

Way, way back... I wasn't even wearing a bra when women were burning them. I was a child. When did that all take place? The sixties? The seventies? I know it was before cable television. According to Snopes, a single bra was thrown into a "freedom trash can," but there was no actual fire... So these women didn't actually burn their bras. But they made an impact and statement in another way. They DROVE CARS. In Riyadh. Forty-seven of them piled into cars and drove for an hour before being arrested. It happened eighteen years ago. And nothing has changed, since. Women still are not allowed to drive in the Sandbox. Is it the ONLY country in the entire world where women are not allowed to drive? Does it make an iota of sense that they cannot? No! It does not...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Feather Pillows, Physicians and Queues

We are in desperate need of new pillows. I "pluff" up our pillows every day when I make the bed. Doesn't seem to make any difference. Bedtime rolls around and I put my head on the pillows and they go flat. What are the manufacturer's recommended replacement age for pillows? Not that I would adhere to any manufacturer's recommendation, because they are, after all, in the business to sell more pillows, so they probably would recommend replacing them at ridiculously short increments - say, every six months. Yeah. RIght. I'm not paying $50. for a pillow that is going to be replaced in six months. I paid $50. for each of the king-sized feather pillows on our bed. I remember purchasing them at home store in Raleigh when we first moved there, and that was in 1998. And, when I paid $100. for two pillows, I recall saying to myself, "They are really nice pillows. At this price, they better last forever!" The pillows are ten years old. I guess I could say we got our $100. worth out of them. But now, they are in dire need of being replaced with new ones.

My dilemma is whether I will find nice feather pillows on this side of the world. I haven't looked yet, so I am not going to say that I won't find them. I just don't know where to begin looking. Marks & Spencer? [DH hates the black towels I got there, for his bathroom, and I paid a small fortune for them!] Marks & Spencer seems to be on the pricey side, to me. There is a mattress factory downtown. I wonder if they sell feather pillows? We'll be going home for the Holidays so the pillows could actually wait - if they had to - but I want to fill my suitcase with other things that I want to bring back and pillows, especially two king-sized ones, are going to take up an awful lot of room. J.C. Penney ships world-wide. I could find them there and have them sent here. A pillow is something you need to touch and feel before you buy it. I'd be hesitant to get on-line and order pillows without being able to touch and hold them and squish and squeeze them.

I must say that The Mall of Dhahran is outdoing itself to cater to Westerners! I have been to The Gap and to Banana Republic. The prices are no different at those stores here than they are in the States. Life would be almost perfect if they had "fitting rooms," but that is never going to happen in this part of the world, and frankly, it just can't. There are some very valid reasons that there are no fitting rooms. [Use your imagination...] During my trip downtown the other day - I did go to the Mall - and found a perfect pair of jeans for DH at Banana Republic. Best part? They were on sale. SR105 for a pair of jeans!!! [$28.15] The return policy for "sale" items is a pain in the butt - you have one day to return whatever you buy if it is on sale and it doesn't fit. Not exactly convenient. I got lucky, though, and the jeans fit great. While racing down the mall "hall" I noticed a linen store - the name of which escapes me - but I bet if I check it out, I can find feather pillows...

I have blogged several times, now, about the Egyptian physicians that are in jail, here, that each received sentences of 15 years and 1500 lashes, for "addicting" a patient to painkillers. [Apparently, the "addicted" patient, in this particular instance, is absolved of any personal responsibility.] The matter is simply not going to be swept under the proverbial rug; Egypt has now banned medical professionals from working in the Sandbox. "The Egyptian Ministry of Manpower said in a statement that it would not approve Saudi contracts to hire Egyptian doctors 'until further notice.' Last month a Saudi Islamic court sentenced Egyptian doctors Raouf Al Arabi and Shawki Abd Rabuh... The sentencing has drawn angry reaction from Egypt's human rights groups and media, who have accused Saudi authorities of unfairly treating Egyptians working there. Protesting the punishment, relatives of the two convicts and rights advocates on Wednesday gathered outside the Press Syndicate in Cairo raising placards reading: 'The 1,500 lash judgment is unprecedented in Islamic history.'" For certain, we have not seen the end of the matter.

Chuckle, chuckle. Snort, snort. "Goodbye to long airport queues." Only if you are a man! A new service is going to "facilitate travel of citizens as they would not be in need of standing in long queues at the immigration [sic] to get their passports stamped. The new service is currently available for Saudi men traveling... It will be introduced for Saudi women and expatriate travelers at a later stage." [Probably about the same time women get driver's licenses...] Pluheeze! We all KNOW that no one queues in this country - it is a completely foreign norm and beyond the realm of comprehension. It will be comical to watch the men all push and shove to use the new technology, which involves swiping their passport or some kind of card through a scanner, and NOT "queue" to go through the process. Not that officials should not be given some praise for making the effort to smooth the process, but... The only way to eliminate a fuster cluck here will be to issue a piece of the equipment - whatever it is called - to each and every individual "male" passenger. Pictures will be unobtainable - not even a possibility of getting a photo of something like that. Notwithstanding the fact that I choose to go across the Causeway and fly out of Bahrain where there is the pretense and at least some semblance of civility that "queuing" is adhered to. [But, hey, that is just my opinion!]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm Going to be Thinner AND Smarter!

Two morning walks every day. One with each Kid. No more walks together - the three of us - me and The Boy and The Baby. Not since I got pulled through the bushes and dragged over the asphalt. Separate walks. The Boy goes first - and I leave The Baby home, crying madly, as The Boy and I head out. Then after a half-hour or so walk with The Boy, I take The Baby out and we walk for a good forty-five minutes or an hour. The Baby just has that much more energy. She could walk much longer... After I go for two walks then I get on the treadmill for at least two miles - and I try to do three or three and a half. [All depends on what is on TV or what I am reading...] So, at a minimum I'm walking for four miles a day, and probably closer to five. The pounds are not dropping, yet, but I know it takes a good six weeks to notice the difference, right? They'll drop. And, if they don't? The treadmill goes!

How is getting thinner going to make me smarter? According to this, which I borrowed swiped from James Burnett, a team of researchers have come upon some findings that suggest that reducing fat benefits the brain. Although, actually, the study was conducted on patients who had had gastric bypass surgery, and I'm beginning to think that that would be a whole lot easier than trying to shed a few pounds by walking and walking and walking... Perhaps I can get Dr. M. to tell the insurance company that I am putting too much weight on my bad knee and that I would be a good candidate for that surgery instead of the total knee replacement. Hey, it's worth a try!

No Response to Yesterday's Outrage

Apparently that a school is forcing little 8, 9 and 10-year old girls to wear abeyas so as to "prevent the more attractive girls from being harassed by men," didn't draw the ire from women here that I had expected it to. No a peep from a single person in today's Letters to the Editor. Nary a one. Nope, instead half of the letter writers are still fixated on the "hopechange" that took place over a week ago.

A follow-up to yesterday's post on the little nine-year-old girl that was tortured by her father and wicked stepmother is here. The article in yesterday's paper omitted that the stepmother would be receiving 1000 lashes along with a sentence of five years in jail. Is the stepmother going to be given 70 lashes a week until all 1000 have been meted out? The real, biological mother of the little girl believes that the stepmother "was equally culpable in the act for goading him [the father] into using violence... and threatening to leave him if he did not abandon his daughter, as revealed by the father in court." The mother isn't satisfied with the verdict and has instructed her lawyers to appeal it as she "would like to see the stepmother be given the death penalty" as well.

In a recent post about the Egyptian doctor who has been sentenced to 1500 lashes and 15 years in jail for "causing a Saudi patient [a Princess] to become addicted to morphine," it turns out that TWO Egyptian doctors have both received the same sentence for the same "crime." Dr. Raouf Amin [also known as Rauof Al Arabi] AND Dr. Shawki Abd Rabuh have both "drawn angry reaction from Egypt's human rights advocates... who accused the Saudi authorities of unfairly treating Egyptians working there." I questioned whether Dr. Amin [also known as Dr. Arabi] would ever survive the punishment of having 1500 lashes doled out 70 at a time, weekly, and his wife, Tahia, says that his "health is too frail to withstand flogging and jailing." The sister of Dr. Abd Rahub says that her "bother was coerced into making false confessions" and claims "that the Saudi authorities have threatened her brother saying they would imprison his wife who is also working in the kingdom."

A gang of "party girls" have been busted. "Party girls." No. Who knew the Sandbox was such a "hot spot" for "party girls?" Read the article. The group of 21 "Ethiopian illegal aliens" were "working as organizers and entertainers for private parties" who "sang, performed and provided hospitality services."

Another maid has been injured. "An Indonesian made in trying to escape her sponsor jumped from his fifth floor house... The maid made an improvised rope from various pieces of cloth but it was unable to support her weight and snapped, sending her careering [sic] to the ground. The woman had been trying to escape to a nearby relative's [sic] house after being promised work for a higher salary." Her condition "was reported to be serious." I'd be willing to bet there is more to this story than is being reported... The case is being investigated.

There was a story in yesterday's paper about a bus driver "driving erratically" who "slammed head-on into a white Toyota Corolla, killing all three passengers in that vehicle instantly." While I didn't post on it, it has to be mentioned because of the article in today's paper that provides a photograph of the bus driver and gives details... [The photograph, which is blurred, depicts massive "purple discoloration" to his face which, no doubt, are bruises he sustained during his erratic driving episode.] Why is it, once again, that when the perpetrator of a crime - any crime - is not a "local" that his name, nationality AND a photograph can be published in the newspaper? Part of the answer to that question can be found in this article. And by "part of the answer," I mean that in the most minimal sense possible.

Sadly, there is a report of another expatriate worker who has hung himself. I posted on the maid who hung herself the day before... Can someone - anyone - come up with some solution to putting an end to this practice? It has been suggested in the past that perhaps psychological evaluations should be given to workers coming here to make sure that they are mentally - as well as physically - sound and able to handle the experience of being in a strange country without family or friends. Surely such an evaluation could cull out some workers that might be at risk for not being able to deal with a major lifestyle change???

This little blurb says that a fire "that broke out in a wooden farmhouse... revealed the existence of a liquor distillery." I have never seen a wooden house, here. I don't doubt that there are a few - but there are not many, at least not in the Eastern Province, where this fire took place. "When firefighters extinguished the blaze and officials began inspecting the scene, they were surprised to find 14 1,000-gallon tanks full of liquor." I bet they were! Are they sure that those 1,000-gallon tanks weren't gas tanks? How big is a 1,000-gallon tank, anyway?

There has been another beheading. That would make 83 so far this year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thank-You Websense for Protecting us from Viewing Hormel Pork Products

We are going home for the Holidays. I have asked my Mom to get ribs for my DH - the precooked ribs - that you simply open out of the package and put on the grill for a few minutes. [I won't eat them - not because I don't or won't eat pork, but because I don't eat meat. Period.] Pretty much, but for a few cans of sudsy ale beverages, that is all my Dear Husband has asked for. Seems so simple. My Mother asked me where she should get them and who makes them. Hormel makes them. Get them at Sam's Club. I tried to send her an e-mail this morning with a picture of what they will look like in the meat department at Sam's. The website is blocked! It says that the reason is because it is a "Phishing and Other Frauds" site. Gimme a fn'g break!

Extra Outrage, Today!

Man-oh-man I don't even know where to start. Outrage abounds!

This will upset many - it has upset the mothers and that is a good start. Is there any good reason why an eight-year-old girl has to go to school fully covered in head-to-toe black? Don't most of the schoolgirls already wear uniforms? And, since the schools are fully segregated - girls go to girls' schools and boys go to boys' schools - why would it even be necessary for little girls to wear abaya's with full head and face coverings?

While shopping at the Commissary yesterday, I saw a little girl - probably about ten years old, maybe a little younger, in a long [very, very long!] gray jumper. She was skipping down the aisle in a happy-go-lucky manner with her arms at her side and her little hands clenching the long fabric of her uniform - under which she had brand-spanking new bright white sneakers on. The skirt of her jumper was so long that she had to hold it up to do her skipping or she surely would have tripped on the fabric and fallen to the floor flat on her face. It was one of those sights that I had to stop and watch - and I did. Part of me was smiling with her that she could so nonchalantly be skipping in the aisle - as though she had not a single care in the world [um-hmm, sure - she is a little girl here, a child - and she, no doubt, is clueless that her carefree life in just a few short years will be over!]. The other part of me, realizing that the little thing had a skirt so long it was dragging around her and thus the reason she was clenching fabric at her sides, wondered what kind of childhood little girls here in the Sandbox have that is dictated by such strict societal constraints that they cannot even run and play freely without worry of being tripped up by fabric. As much as I smiled with her, I was also sad for her.

These are children - these little eight and nine and ten-year old girls - and they should be outside playing tag and riding their bicycles or skipping rope. Normal "kid" things. And those normal "kid" things are about impossible to do in skirts that drag on the ground. What about recess at school? Do little girls have recess at school, here? Exactly HOW are they going to be allowed to play - anything - if they are covered from head-to-toe in black. Somehow I just can't picture a class of little girls outside playing tag in their abayas and head-coverings. It certainly would take the challenge out of the game, though, that's for sure. You simply run up behind a classmate and grab hold of a handful of black fabric and "tag, you're it!" How do you play kickball if you are dressed like that? You don't.

Some of the mothers are standing up to the authorities and questioning the new rule for the little girls at the school in Asir and want to know why their daughters are being ordered "to dress in ways that go far beyond the demands of Islam." Good for them, I say! School authorities, however, "justified their stand by saying that the practice would help develop the culture of Islamic dress at a very early age in girls. A school principal, speaking on [the] condition of anonymity, said young girls who wear [a] full abaya and veil throughout the year are awarded prizes as encouragement to other girls." The little girls are obeying the order of wearing the full covering "because they [are] afraid of punishment."

Interestingly enough, one school officials says "that the practice was not an obligation from a religious perspective. Instead, that "the new dress code was an effort to make girls get accustomed to the idea of wearing the complete veil in advance of the time it was actually required." Kind of like playing dress-up then, I guess. [Hmmph. If that is how "dress-up" is played, here, then it is played a whole lot differently than it was from the side of the world which I grew up on!]

The article is here. Read the whole thing. But even if you don't read the whole thing, let your blood boil on this statement, "The school official added that this would prevent the more attractive girls from being harassed by men." [Emphasis, mine.] WTF?!? What kind of man harasses an eight or ten-year old little girl??? I'm not even going to go there...

A young Saudi male nurse who attempted to rape a woman patient by posing as a doctor has been arrested. This is just scary, on two levels. Scary on one level that the Saudi nurse attempted to rape a woman. Scary on a second level because the woman was so gullible. The article says that the "male nurse, an employee at the hospital, told the woman, a teacher, that he was a specialist doctor and needed to carry out a detailed examination to diagnose whether she had an abdominal disease. The nurse asked the woman to come for an examination the next day and to come alone and send her driver away as he would drop her off at home." Hello! Didn't red flags go up all over?!? And, bells and whistles and sirens, too? Are there women "out there" that are so sheltered by life that their naivety knows no bounds? Apparently there are.

The Saudi nurse "told the woman that she was suffering from a rare and serious disease, and that he had the correct medicine for her but that it was at home. He then asked the woman to come to his apartment where he tried to rape her." Thankfully, he wasn't successful, but not for lack of trying on his part, and lack of brains - or something - on her part. After the failed attempt to rape the woman, the Saudi nurse "then contacted the woman and tried to blackmail her into starting an illicit relationship." Unbelievable. Well, no, it isn't. But, still... "The woman then contacted the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice and explained her situation. Commission members asked the woman to arrange to meet the man at an apartment. As soon as the woman entered the apartment, commission members entered and arrested the nurse." Yes, entrapment at the very least, but probably more than worth it to get the man out of the medical profession and save the rest of the women out there from falling prey to his advances no matter how flimsy.

I want to know why it is that the names and nationalities - along with photos - of rape victims can be printed in the newspapers, here [and no, I cannot find the specific example I was looking for] but that the name and photo of a Saudi man who has been arrested for rape is not being published? Why is it that some people - men and women, alike - are afforded the shroud of secrecy, but others are not? Double standard, perhaps? Glaring!

Justice does prevail in this matter. Some justice... A father who tortured his nine-year-old daughter, along with his wife, the child's step-mother, has been sentenced to death. I thought I had blogged on the story - and I still think I did - but I can't find it. No matter. A father - and the term "father" should be used in the very loosest sense of the word as a real "father" doesn't do this - has been convicted of torturing his nine-year-old daughter to death; the man was sentenced to death by a court yesterday. The little girl's stepmother was sentenced to five years in jail for taking part in the murder. The little girl's real mother is appealing the five year jail sentence - which does seem rather minimal under the circumstances. The nine-year old died last year. "Officials from the Red Crescent Society discovered her body outside her home and, suspecting she had been tortured, informed police." Kudos to the officials from the Red Crescent Society for being so keen and aware! The father and stepmother were arrested and later confessed to torturing the girl to death and said that they had beaten her and pressed a hot iron on different parts of her body. Why?!? What could the little girl possibly have done to deserve such horrific torture? I will never understand. [Child abuse is rampant, worldwide. It knows no boundaries...] The "couple confessed to throwing the little girl from an upper-floor window of their home. It was suspected that the girl was already dead at the time."

The father originally denied torturing his daughter and said she "had committed suicide by jumping from the building." WHAT NINE-YEAR OLD CHILD COMMITS SUICIDE!?!? The police, as well, deserve commendation for not allowing the father and this wicked stepmother to explain away with a snow-job and excuses the "signs of torture" found on this little girl's body and for interrogating the couple in whatever manner and method they deemed appropriate in getting the couple to admit that they "had tried to hide the cause of death." The "Police say they recovered items used to torture the girl, including hoses, a heavy stick and spoons that were heated over a fire."

Now that the father has been sentenced to death, we can only hope that this little girl's real mother is successful in appealing the trivial five-year sentence which was handed to the wicked stepmother who deserves nothing less than twenty years in jail with a lifetime of suffering to follow.

I'd say that is enough outrage for one day...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beheadings this year, so far

According to Fox News there have been 82 beheadings this year. Last year there were 137. In 2006 there were only 38. [JWF had this first.]

Another maid has hung herself. It is just sad.

The National Society for Human Rights has appealed to the Labor Ministry to look into the plight of 400 workers who are being abused. The workers are pulling twelve-hour shifts with no overtime, their iqamas have been taken from them, and they not being given cool drinking water, amongst other complaints.

It was a glorious sunny day here in the Sandbox. I'd be happier if it was a good ten degrees or so warmer - but it was perfect for sitting outside and reading while the Kids and their friend, Newfie, played and played and played.

I am trying to get a car to go downtown tomorrow to see if I can find a new printer with the proper voltage [it may be about impossible to find one - and we may have to wait until our next trip to the States to get a printer - that will not make me happy, but what can you do...]. I also want to go to Sears - yes there is a Sears, here - to see about getting a larger freezer. Our Sears is a small one - but it does carry some appliances that have the "proper" voltage. We can find vacuum bags and belts, there, and some other "basics" as well. A big, proper Sears, here, would be wonderful! [If we had a Home Depot and a Sears here life would be almost normal. Almost.]

Monday, November 10, 2008

Badness, Madness and Sadness Worldwide

Is "badness" the right word? Probably not. It will suffice. "Sadness" isn't quite right, either. Madness, however, fits well, I think...

Does anyone remember watching beauty pageants when the contestants would say, "I wish for world peace?" I think Bob Barker was still the host and emcee then. [I am dating myself - it seems like such a long time ago...]

No mention of yesterday's "car slams into the back of a flatbed semi-truck" in the news today.

[Unless you want to read about the differences in how a matter is resolved by the labor court here in the two versions each printed in today's paper, scroll down. Way, way down.]

"A crowd of over 200 workers who have accused their employer of not paying their wages, not issuing their work/residency permits [iqamas] and harsh treatment descended upon the labor court on Saturday to expedite their case." Cheers to these workers for being bold enough to take matters in their own hands! Kudos also to the judges who decided the case in the workers favor, and to Arab News for finally publishing an employing company's name! It is a first. The company, Al-Hasana Contracting Company, has been ordered by a three-member panel of judges, unanimously, to start paying the workers immediately and to renew the workers iqamas. A victory for the workers! Yeah!!!

Today's Saudi Gazette has the story, as well but the events are reported differently. Commentating the Arab News version, first:

The death of one of the worker's added fuel to the fire. Mohammed Muzammil, a 38-year old Indian worker, "lost his life because of a lack of food and medicine." Mr. Muzammil's body remains at a hospital while the embassy tries to settle his dues and repatriate his body back to India.

A company spokesman has, of course, denied any wrongdoing. [Big surprise.] It the company has done nothing wrong then why weren't the workers paid, and why is it that "The company has agreed to pay all arrears, including salaries of the workers, on a weekly basis (every Tuesday) until all dues are cleared." The company has also agreed that iqamas would be issued and renewed for all workers... The company will also consider applications of those employees who wish to go home... Does this mean that the workers may have been held, by the company, against their will? Sure sounds like it to me. The workers gained a final victory when "It was also agreed that the employees could approach the court again if the company violates the terms of the agreement." It would appear that that victory was short-lived. Two workers, Ashrafuddin Mitru and Abdul Nasser, said "there was no change in the company's attitude." They claim that the company management "has now 'dumped' them at a building... in old Riyadh. The building has no water supply. We are still in trouble."

Perhaps the three-member panel of judges will see the light and throw Al-Hasana Contract Company's owner and management in jail until the company can see fit to treat its workers fairly and humanely. That the judges unanimously decided this case in the favor of the workers is a good first step, though. Baby steps...

And, now, commenting on the Saudi Gazette's version:

"Going against the norm, a Labor Court here passed a verdict, Saturday, in record time to the relief of nearly 300 Asian expatriate workers... over salary delay and 'untold sufferings...' The labor court... took just three weeks to deliver the verdict." The difference in the two versions, so far, are the number of workers and that the Arab News version omits that it took the Labor court three weeks to deliver the verdict. Record time! Sure. Okay. [Emphasis, mine.] The Saudi Gazette version delineates and breakdown in numbers the different nationalities involved.

Moving along... "Hundreds of workers across Saudi Arabia are locked in legal disputes over delay or non-payment of salary. Such cases generally drag on for months or years, mainly because of lengthy legal proceedings and employers not showing up for hearings. Under such circumstances, it is not uncommon for the foreign workers involved to give up and return to their home countries..." Oh, my. Three weeks IS record time, isn't it! Why aren't authorities doing anything about the way the cases are allowed to "drag on" when by simply issuing a warrant for the employer to show up - or throwing him in jail if he does not - matters could be resolved in a more fair and certainly more expedient manner?

Saudi Gazette's version says, "On Saturday the labor court ruled that the employer (name of the company withheld) pay accumulated salaries..." Why is the name of the company withheld? A bit of embarrassment and humiliation might just go a long way, if you ask me. The company, AL-HASANA CONTRACTING COMPANY [Arab News did report it!] delayed salaries of its 300 workers for between 5 to 10 months and did not provide the mandatory health coverage! I have no idea who AL-HASANA CONTRACTING COMPANY's principals are, but they should be utterly ashamed for NOT paying their workers for between 5 to 10 months. [If I was one of the three judges who heard this case all of the company's principals would be in jail - for at least 5 to 10 months! Oh, and they'd be heavily fined, too.]

R. Murleedharan, president of the Federation of Kerala Associates in Saudi Arabia [FOKASA], a social organization which helps Indian workers in distress, says: "This court verdict in record time not only alleviates the sufferings of the workers but also serves as an example to those who shy away from seeking justice in Saudi labor courts." We can only hope so, Mr. Murleedharan. Apparently, some Saudi businessmen have expressed concern over the lengthy procedures and the delays in rulings on cases because it "could discourage foreign workers from coming to work in the Kingdom." Gee. Ya' think?

Quoting directly from the Saudi Gazette:

Despite the court verdict, the workers are not quite jumping for joy. Nearly all of them do not carry a valid Iqama, which is mandatory for foreign workers, and without which they risk jail and deportation if picked up by the police or the Passports and Immigration authorities. [Damn, but if the United States couldn't learn some things from the way eliminating illegals is done in the Sandbox!]

Muhammad Zahoor, an air-conditioning technician, said that following the court verdict, when they went to the work site on Sunday, all those whose Iqamas had expired, were denied entry. "The major task now ahead is to get the verdict implemented," Zahoor said, adding that 75 percent of the workers would want rather [to] collect their end-of-service dues and go home - "largely because of their bitter experience with the company."

No one can blame them, that's for sure.

Baby steps are needed here, as well. And someone tell me just why it is that Saudi workers cannot be trained and employed as laborers?!? "Cheap labor" [bingo!] will always be required.

Is this case being reported in the Canadian papers?

Another 12-year old child has been married.

The headline for this is "Mobile maniac arrested." In yesterday's paper another "mobile maniac" [although he was not described that way] was arrested.

Every year during Haj, pictures of the event wherein thousands and thousands of sheep are slaughtered are printed in our two newpapers. Provided our printer is working - or if it is not working - we get it replaced - I will scan them and post them. You will never, ever be able to convince me that the halal way is in any way, shape or form humane. Not that any other way of slaughtering and killing animals for meat is any better, but I think this is just utterly and reprehensibly barbaric!

A Saudi man has been beheaded.

Police have arrested a murder; he is currently being investigated. He will confess in due time.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I didn't actually see it, but...

This morning I went off our compound to a gathering of women, downtown. A "coffee social" kind of thing. I've been invited to attend with this particular group before but have not gone. If you are into the "coffee social" kind of thing, they are nice, but I'm not really into the "coffee social" kind of thing. This one was a bit different than ones I been to in the past as it was a gathering of women from a couple of other compounds, instead of just women from my compound. An opportunity to meet other women is always a good thing. It was very nice and just for the record, the treats that were served were delicious! Much too delicious - whoever made the date cookies with the almonds and honey... Oh. My. Gosh. And, I don't even like dates! [Thank goodness we have that new treadmill in our living room... My hour yesterday now counts for nothing and I'll have to do at least two - if not three - hours today to burn off all the little yummies date cookies I consumed.]

When we first moved here I made friends with a group of women who had "coffee socials" every week. The first time I went - I'd been here all of a month! - and I wore jeans and a black tee-shirt with flat, black sandals. [No, I will never forget what I had on that day.] Whoops! My mistake. The other six or seven women were all dressed up like they were going somewhere special. Not dressy dressed, but skirts and heels. We sat around for two hours and just chatted and enjoyed coffee and baked goods. The woman that hosted this particular "coffee social" had made scones and muffins and little apple-pie tarts - all before nine o'clock that morning - and then someone else brought banana bread and someone else brought croissants and someone else brought whatever. Eight women, total. Enough food for forty. Okay. Fine... I am a pretty fast learner and the next time I was invited I put on black slacks and heels - my wearing jeans that first time was so faux pas. Oh, and I also took little miniature blueberry muffins. Why we all had to bake and bring something for just a small handful of us is still beyond me, but protocol is protocol. I was only an invitee to these little "coffee socials" for five or six times. Probably because I didn't host one - and that, too, is part of the protocol. I just am not a "let's get together for coffee" kind of gal. I remain friends with several of these women, but I am no longer on the "invite list" for the "coffee socials." Which is fine by me...

As I was getting ready for my morning out - standing in my closet, contemplating what I wanted to wear - it became obvious to me that I was going to have only one choice. Why? Because I couldn't quite get myself in a pair of slacks - not the khakis, or the brown ones. Literally. I could not. Arrghh! [That one hour on the treadmill is not only now, after the treats this morning, all for naught, but apparently it did absolutely nothing for me yesterday!]. So, I had no choice but to settle for a pair of jeans which I dressed up with really cute boots and a nice button down shirt - I even did my hair - the whole nine yards, so that at least I could look like I purposely got dressed this way instead of just putting jeans on and heading out of the house. I carried my abeya - I was, after all, leaving our compound and you just never know if you are going to need it. I didn't wear it. The woman that invited me and arranged for our driver picked me up and what did she have on? A skirt with a dressy tunic top and heels. I didn't say a word. Why call attention to myself that way. No matter.

We got to where we were going and all of the women were doing what women at these little soirees do - milling in little groups, chatting, mixing and gathering. It was all very nice. I will go back again - I not only met several women that do not live on our compound, but met a few that do live on our compound that I've seen at other functions or while working at my former volunteer stint - and now I know their names! Only two or three other women there had jeans on. Most were more dressed - as in dressed, dressed. There is actually a reason for this. It is easy to live in jeans - or in my case, bike shorts or capri leggings and a tank top or t-shirt. What is the point of really "getting dressed" if you don't have anywhere to go? Getting out and gathering in a group like we did this morning is a reason to get dressed - you are going somewhere. And, like I said, my intention was to wear a pair of slacks - and when I lose ten pounds from using the treadmill - I WILL wear those slacks!

One of the other women there that had jeans on had a long sleeved t-shirt on, and over her long sleeve t-shirt she had a "political" t-shirt on - the layered look. Call me whatever you want [nicely, though - I am still moderating comments], but I found myself actually wanting to - successfully, I might add - avoid whatever little group of women she mingled and chatted with. Avoided. Her. Totally. It would have been more than I could have taken to have to "chit chat" with her and I would have had to bite my tongue [hard!] not to say the things I really would have wanted or liked to have said to her. No point in she and I even conversing. Not even about the weather. Obviously, just from her apparel, we have absolutely NOTHING in common! No. I didn't even bother to get to know her name. No clue who she is. [I'll remember her hair, though, so if she lives here I'll be able to recall...]

Not to be catty or anything - well, okay, maybe just a little bit catty - but it is over. More importantly the shirt was totally out of place and inappropriate. Let me assure you that I think it would be just as out of place and inappropriate to wear a "Palin 2012" t-shirt. So I'm not just ragging on the shirt she was wearing because I happen to vehemently dislike the man whose name was printed across the front of it. I cannot go into more detail about the who's, whats, whens and wheres as far as what I mean by totally out of place and inappropriate. If she was at a friend's house - with just her circle of friends - it would have been fine. And if she was at a friend's house - with just her circle of friends - I probably wouldn't have been invited to begin with. Like-minded people tend to socialize together - no matter what walk of life... And I can assure you that I would not choose to [and don't] associate with a group that was that like-minded.

We left the "coffee social" and were in the car on our way back to our compound and the traffic was the worst it has ever been at eleven o'clock in the morning. I don't recall traffic ever being so backed up and busy at that time in all my years of going downtown. Then we heard the sirens. Ut-ohh. That's why there is so much traffic and we're so backed up. Accident. The sirens became much more frequent and you could tell that there were all sorts of emergency vehicles converging at some point in the distance. As a police car was making its way through the gnarled mess of traffic to get to where he needed to get - the poor man had to inch along - what should have been three lanes of traffic with a break down lane on each side for him to traverse through - wasn't. [Breakdown lanes in the Sandbox mean extra passing lanes! Those lines painted on the road - solid yellow lines - they mean absolutely nothing, here.] So there were at least five, and probably six lanes of traffic that the police car had to maze through to get to the "action." It took us a good half hour, if not longer, to get to where the "action" had taken place.

As much as it may sound like I make light of the "road carnage," here in the Sandbox, it is actually quite serious. I do satirize it - because I do not feel as though the authorities, who could put an end to it, do much of anything about it - and because the men here - yes, the men! - women aren't allowed to drive, remember? - use their vehicles as road weapons. They do... They go as fast as they want with no regard to speed limits. They pass wherever and whoever they want with no regard to whether they are in a "real" lane or not. They drive like maniacs. Yes, they really do. Many - and by many, I mean a majority - of the "local" drivers are the worst and rudest drivers I have ever encountered in my entire life. Before anyone wants to say, "Locals are not the only bad and rude drivers," let me state that I agree that they are not. The difference, however, is that the "local" drivers DO NOT get pulled over and ticketed for violating the traffic laws. Ever! Ex-pats? Oh, yeah. Especially the non-Western ex-pats. I know it and everybody here knows it! I have YET to see a Saudi driver get a ticket. And, in all the years that I have been here, I have only seen TWO of them getting pulled over - one of them downtown ended up playing kiss kiss with the traffic police - and I doubt very much he got a ticket. The other was on our compound - he did get a ticket - and yelling at our compound security and getting on his phone to call someone to get him out of it didn't help him one single bit. [Ha!] So, don't even bother with the "you are so biased why do you even live there crap." I don't want to hear it.

The accident we came upon - with the ambulance and three police cars... involved two vehicles. A flatbed semi-truck with an Indian-looking man that might have been the driver? I do not think he was hurt. He was walking [he was being "escorted"] with a policeman flanking him on each side. So, because he wasn't in the ambulance and was erect, on his own two feet, I think he was "physically" alright. Probably a bit shaken up by the whole experience - yeah - an understatement, that! It looked to me, as our car inched past the wreckage, that he was about to get arrested. I really hope I am wrong. The other vehicle? I didn't get a good enough look at the back-end of it to say whether it was a Toyota Camry or a BMW - I was too shocked and startled by what the front-end looked like to pay attention to the back-end. I cannot tell you anything about the man that was driving that car. [I know it was a man, though!] I can tell you that I'm pretty sure he is not alright. And, again, let me say, I really hope I am wrong. [It may or may not be in one of our newspapers tomorrow - if it is, I'll post the article.]

Have you ever seen what happens to the windshield [and front-end] of a vehicle that SLAMS into the back-end of a flatbed semi-truck? No? Yeah. I hadn't, either. Until this morning. It is not pretty. A car - and I don't care what kind of car you have - doesn't stand much of a chance against a flatbed semi-truck. Nope. It sure doesn't. The front end of the car was compacted and mangled so badly that you would never have guessed or known that it was even a car. And the windshield? What windshield! Part of the flatbed was in the car where there were, originally, two front seats and headrests. That the ambulance was sitting there says one of two things, to me. Either two ambulances [more? if there were passengers in the car] were sent to the scene - one for each vehicle or passenger - and that the ambulances for the injured party or parties had already raced off to seek medical care for their occupants. Or, that the man driving the car who hit the flat-bed semi truck was in the ambulance and that the ambulance had no reason to urgently get to an emergency room or medical facility. I find it highly unlikely that the man driving the car could have survived the accident. I would find it highly unlikely that any front-seat passenger in that car could have survived the accident.

How did the accident happen? No idea. I am not an vehicular accident forensics reconstruction expert. I am only guessing, but I doubt very much that the semi-truck was driving down the highway in reverse and collided with the man driving the car. More likely my guess would be that the semi-truck wasn't going fast enough - or something - and that the man driving the car decided to pass him and as he sped up to get by realized that there was a driver in the lane on his left and that he had no where to go and couldn't stop fast enough. Was the semi-truck just stopped on the highway - and the driver of the car plowed - and I do mean PLOWED! - into him? Honestly, I just do not know how it is that you could drive into the back-end of a flatbed semi-truck that way. The driver of the car had to be m o v i n g - and fast - in order for to do what he did to his car.

Why do I think that the man being escorted by the police was arrested? Because in this country if you rear-end someone you are not automatically at fault. In the States - or at least in certain states, New Hampshire being one of them, and I don't remember if North Carolina is one or not - if you rear-end someone, you are automatically at fault. Doesn't matter if the car [or flatbed semi-truck] stops abruptly directly in front of you and there is nothing you can do - you hit someone from behind - your fault. Here? Doesn't work like that. The police - or some authoritative figurehead - decides how much at fault you were in the accident. How much at fault was the man driving the truck? Well, that probably all just depends on who it was that was driving the car that collided with the flatbed semi-truck... Could the man who was driving the truck be thrown in jail for an accident that he may have had absolutely nothing to do with? Oh yeah, he could. You betcha!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Buried at the bottom of the page, and a whole lot more...

Unfortunately, with the round-up of links that I posted over the weekend for basic lack of news, this story was buried at the bottom of the pile. Burying it was not intentional. It is, in my opinion, worth reading. Sometime ago I saw photos which were posted that were quite graphic. I am not going to post them, here, but if you do a search for "Mamand Mamandy," you can find them on your own. I wonder how Dr. Amin will survive 70 lashings a week for 22 and a half weeks! At 52 years of age, although he is not old, he isn't young, either.

In other news...

At least one Gulf State is going to ban transporting its workers in open trucks and require that they have seats and seat belts. There is a photo which accompanies the story, here. Interesting, though, in the photo there is a "gate" that covers the back of the truck. I have yet to see a gate across the back of a truck transporting workers. Goats and sheep, yes. There is a gate. But usually not on the workers trucks. Just hard metal benches... Saudi Arabia doesn't seem to have as many open trucks transporting workers - there are some - I see more of them in Bahrain than in Saudi Arabia. I do not recall whether we saw them in Kuwait or in Dubai. We saw plenty of them in Egypt - not only were they in the back of the trucks - packed in like sardines - but men were standing on the tail-gate and bumpers of the vehicles holding on to the metal bars which support the canopy as the vehicles were traveling ON THE HIGHWAY! Note that the article states that the plan to ban driving workers in open trucks was drawn up in 2007 but that the ban was "postponed after the business community complained that taking workers by buses to their workplaces and back was not practical and that it would cause [a] huge financial burden for the businessmen." Yes, buses probably cost more than open trucks, but causing a "huge financial burden?" Pluheeez.

The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is blaming the media "for projecting negative impressions about commission members and their activities, saying that this would have a bad impact on Saudi society as a whole." The "media" is 24/7 in this day and age. You cannot turn on the news without being inundated. Ditto with the internet. The newspapers are all on-line. Is it not about impossible to keep anything - negative or positive - out of the media in this "digital" age?

Pre-marital tests have detected 49 HIV cases along with 2,550 cases of Hepatitis B and 651 of Hepatitis C. Most alarming is that "8,796 positive samples for sickle cell anemia" were detected. The highest rate of sickle cell anemia is found here, in the Eastern Province. I would be curious to know how many people were tested - the article doesn't say - that resulted in so many positive tests for sickle cell anemia.

More road carnage. The circumstances in this case, however, seem to be due to the dangerous conditions of the road versus the dangerous driving prevalently practiced by so many in the Sandbox. "The Ministry of Transport had earlier said ... that the road had been redesigned in line with international safety regulations to reduce the number of road accidents that take place there." Perhaps another "redesign" should be looked at.

This is too bad and an accident that never should have happened. I cannot be the only one questioning how two boys - one 12 years old and the other not a boy, but a young man, at 17 years old - could not know better than to PLAY with an "explosive device." Young children might play with an "explosive device" because they wouldn't know any better. But when you are 12 or - for goodness sake - 17! shouldn't you know better?!? Authorities are investigating "to determine the type and source of the explosive device bomb."

We are in for heavy rain. It has rained quite hard in other parts of the Sandbox, but we've gotten only a few drops and sprinkles, here. Rain is good. We look forward to it and relish it. A good rain cleanses everything and turns the trees green and lush - so much prettier than the tan and gray we are so used to and it controls the dust. If it is overcast all day today and we finally get some rain you will hear no complaining from me!

At 8:30 this morning we are having a treadmill delivered to our house. DH and I have vowed to ourselves and to each other that we ARE going to use it. It will become part of the living room / dining room furniture [it is a very small house - there is no other place to put it]. This is exactly why we have purchased one: "...piling on the pounds is very easy in the Kingdom. Sedentary lifestyles, calorie-rich food... are among the few [huh?] reasons which contribute to expatriates gaining weight almost immediately after they come to the Kingdom..." It didn't happen to me the first year I was here. It didn't happen to me the second year I was here. But BAM! It has happened to me in the past three years and I, personally, have gained FIVE KILOS for each of those THREE years!!! I plan to spend two hours on the treadmill today. No, not running on the treadmill, but walking. There are two biographies on The History Channel this afternoon and there is absolutely NO GOOD REASON why if I have a treadmill in my living room that I am NOT on it instead of on the couch. I'll let you know how that goes...

And, finally, another beheading.
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