Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hey, You With the Magic Marker! You Missed One!!!

Lucky is one of my favorite magazines. It is a virtual monthly smorgasbord of colored, slick glossy pages inundated with photo after photo of the newest shoe, bag and clothing styles. Unlike all the other fashion magazines on the newsstands, Lucky is specifically geared to whet the appetite and hone the senses of true shopalcoholics!

In a prior life, my old life, the one I had before we moved to The Sandbox, I knew I could depend on one day a month that I would leave the office after a long day, head home and be able to kick off my stilettos and curl up in a chair with a glass of wine and the newest monthly edition of Lucky. Truly this was one of life’s simple pleasures. Not anymore.

In my new life… I no longer spend my days at an office, can curl up in a chair anytime I want, sans glass of wine [yeah, right!], and peruse my monthly copy of Lucky at my leisure – or so one would think – but I am “lucky” if I receive my magazine on a monthly basis – heck, I’d be happy if I received it on a semi-monthly basis – quarterly, even! But I don’t, so at this point I have canceled my subscription. I am not going to pay the international cost of a periodical that I cannot receive regularly – instead, paying an astronomical amount to receive something that otherwise I would have no way of obtaining in The Sandbox, but ultimately paying for something that others are enjoying at my expense.

The entire frustration encompasses much more than my receiving only sporadic issues of a MONTHLY periodical – and I do not blame the publisher – as I would be willing to wager a bet that my subscription was being sent to me on a timely basis, and monthly, as well. The blame, as far as I am concerned, for my NOT receiving regular monthly delivery has to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Powers that Be [“TPTB”] here in The Sandbox who not only choose to keep every other or every two issues of Lucky but deface and destroy the occasional magazine they allow me to have.

Page after page after page has been laboriously colored with a dark blue magic marker by TPTB to ensure that the pureness of my mind and thoughts are not contaminated or titillated by any little amount of bare skin showing on the models on the pages of my magazine. Or perhaps, to ensure that my DH does not catch so much as a mere glimpse of cleavage or too much thigh if he walks behind me as I am flipping through the pages. [I am of the opinion that when the day comes that I find my DH standing over my shoulder as I slowly turn the pages of this fashion magazine I need to confront a problem much larger than the thought of him glancing at the models showing a bit of skin!]

Certainly if there appeared to be any amount of consistency, then I would know to expect that certain pages are going to be deemed to risqué for my eyes, but instead the “coloring” is obviously done at random: On one page the cleavage is colored – on the next it is not; on one page the
thigh is colored and on the next it isn’t. Is there something about the one knee of the model in this photo on the right, that it is not colored but her other leg is – as are both legs of the model next to her? And, is it really necessary to use a marker so dense then it has to bleed through the pages?!?

Worse, still, is when the pages are torn out of the magazine – and not even neatly so that this would go unnoticed! Not just a page, but a couple pages at a time, even… You can count on this happening with ALL of the magazines, here, not just a select few!

I have yet to purchase ANY magazine that pages have not been removed for some unknown reason – regardless of the genre – and as “Murphy’s Law” would have it, whatever article you have started reading – the one you most wanted to read – has been continued and is gone because it is on ONE OF THE PAGES THAT HAS BEEN REMOVED!!! – or you find a recipe in a food and decorating magazine – it looks delicious – the ingredients are all listed but when you turn to page umpteen the cooking instructions are NOT there because there was something that TPTB determined would be unacceptable for me to see and the entire page is missing.

On a whim, a couple months ago, I purchased a magazine published for local women here in Saudi, Arabia Woman. As I glanced through the pages, I thought to myself, “How odd. These models have black t-shirts on under all of these dresses, including Nicole Kidman and Miss Europe!” It was then that I realized that of course they are not wearing black t-shirts under their dresses and under these wedding gowns! Duh!!! Every photo in the magazine of a woman has her in an outfit WITH a black t-shirt which has been printed on before publishing so as to spare TPTB the work on singly and individually taking their colored magic marker to the pages.

With what is available on television through various outside means, it seems more than just a little ridiculous that somewhere in some cushy office a “local” has been charged with the responsibility of going through magazine after magazine after magazine to color the flesh of models WEARING various items of clothing… And, by my referring to a “local” having this position, my goodness! You can’t possibly think that an outsider could be entrusted with such responsibility! Oh, no. I would have to venture a guess that this is a coveted position and one of the twenty-two recently reserved that MUST be filled by only a “local” to effectuate the eventuality of Saudization. Umm, yeah. Just a guess…

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

It’s cold, dreary and rainy in The Sandbox. Yes, it is! Unbelievable as it may sound. And this household has been extremely busy for the past couple of weeks and will likely continue to be – although there will be a lull between now and Christmas – when I am hopeful that I will have been able to get the entire Visa situation completed and that my parents will be here to visit us for three weeks!!! They currently live in upstate New York – the snow belt – where it’s been cold and snowing since before Halloween – so when I complain about how cold it is here in The Sandbox at 68 or 70 degrees – my parents have almost NO sympathy for me – none whatsoever as a matter of fact…

And perhaps 68 or 70 degrees doesn’t sound particularly cold but consider that it is about 120 degrees here almost every day for six months of the year – for it to be 50 degrees cooler is quite drastic and feels cold! Although I’m guessing that my parents will be comfortable in shorts and tee-shirts at 70 degrees when they are currently experiencing temperatures in the teens, twenties and thirties. [It was a little warmer there – in upstate New York – this past week from what I understand so it’s not quite as dreadful as they would like for us to believe it is.]

I did do a big Thanksgiving dinner here and invited quite a few people [read: men] that are here alone without their families. DH won a turkey at a golf tournament and it just seemed appropriate that we should cook it for Thanksgiving – and so I did – along with all the fixings and a six-pound prime rib! [I won’t eat any poultry – beef, pork, seafood, yes, but NO poultry!] It was nice. A lot of work. But then everyone knows how much work Thanksgiving dinner is!!! Definitely worth it. I know my efforts were sincerely appreciated by several that would not have had a Thanksgiving dinner to go to otherwise.

Another houseboy has come to try to clean and do so knowing that I have almost impossibly high expectations. He is doing okay so far. Slow. He is very, very slow. But, then I’m not paying him very much at all and I don’t think I’d work very fast for that paltry sum of money. The houseboy prior? The one who couldn’t follow simple
bathroom cleaning instructions? Gone. You get three weeks to show me whether or not you can do the job. After that, time’s up. Either you can do it or you can’t. Yes, my expectations are high, but I believe with a bit of effort they can be met, and so far so good. DH is not putting any money on this one – he believes the poor man “is toast.”

There is a lot going on here in The Sandbox. We’ve had quite a few executions – well, beheadings – whatever you want to call the form of death penalty here – lately. There are quite a few more mistreated workers and there is a woman from another country that married a local and has since escaped with her children and returned home. We have had a terrible sentence handed down to a couple of rapists AND the victim – yes, the victim has been punished!!! Amazing. Just amazing. So, there is quite a bit to “blog” on and I will get going tomorrow as soon as the houseboy shows up and start putting entries together to get back into my “Stilettos.” Trust me, lately I’ve had sneakers on. Doing all that I’ve been doing around here, are you kidding? There’s no way I could have had Stilettos on!!! “Sneakers in The Sand” just doesn’t quite portray the flavor I want perceived, though. Yes. Time to put the Stilettos back on!!!

In the meantime, hopefully I’ll be able to get a full night’s sleep tonight – we had thunder and lightening all last night – and it poured. I mean poured!!! We had a pool in our front court yard this morning where we usually send the kids out to do their business. It has never, ever rained so hard for so long in the entire time we have been here. The trees were all bright green today for the first time that I can recall in a long time – they were cleaned of the gray, brown dust they are normally covered with. We, no doubt, needed the good heavy, thorough soaking we got last night.

The downside to that was the thunder and lightening. The kids absolutely hated it – The Baby especially! So we had The Boy between us – he’s about one hundred and twenty pounds – and The Baby – who’s weighing in at about fifty-seven pounds right now – thank goodness she’s almost full-grown! [She will likely not get much bigger than she is – she’ll be a year old next month.] The Baby went nuts barking and growling every time it thundered so no one slept much last night, including our neighbors. It would be good to wake up and feel refreshed tomorrow morning and get on with our routine which includes a good hour and a half walk first thing – and because of the weather lately – two days of rain!!! – we’ve been housebound, not walked and had no exercise but for chasing balls inside and playing tug with various ropes and squeaky fur toys.

So, I will plan on rising and shining [okay, maybe not exactly shining!] early, walking, getting breakfast out of the way, and as soon as the houseboy gets here will hit the computer keyboard and try to fill everyone in on the happening’s in The Sandbox of late…

A belated Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


It would be inappropriate to even consider asking, “Are you alright?” The answer, being blatantly apparent, is of course, “No.”

Fatima, just another poor woman who came to The Sandbox, probably lured under nothing less than false pretenses in an effort to provide for her family back home, has been “terribly beaten” by her employer. After not paying Fatima, who was hired as the family maid, for the two [horrific AND dreadful!] months she was in The Kingdom the employer [also known as “sponsor”] kindly dropped her off at the airport with a one-way ticket, so that she could return home to Indonesia.

Thankfully, alert officials at the King Khalad [sic] airport “knew something was amiss” and contacted authorities who were able to track down the employer and who, at the time
this article was written, was taken into police custody.

Whatever the kind of custody the employer was in was far too kind and lenient. Short of keeping the employer – no, make that EMPLOYERS! – in some sort of
torturous bilboes / pillory / stocks combination contraption – then these EMPLOYERS [the actual “employer” and his “young wife”] were being kept in a custodial situation quite a cry above that which “they” kept Fatima. We can surmise that certainly these two employers were given considerations they never fathomed giving their maid!

Only time will tell if the new and improved “
Super Maids” assuage any of the egregious acts of abuse all too commonly and routinely inflicted upon domestic help in The Sandbox. In no way, shape or form could I or would I condone any of the mistreatment employees experience whilst in the care, custody and control of their contracted and sponsoring employers. Suffice it to say however, at this stage in the game, with my first-hand comprehension as a mostly calm, rational, and reasonable woman saddled with a [very slight] perfectionist syndrome and perhaps some [very minor] “OCPD” symptoms, I could, with only the smallest, most minute provocation easily want to pummel the crap out of someone else with a broom or mop or floor cleaner. That that “someone” happened to be the domestic help who, for whatever reason, was seemingly not performing to expectations or standards as anticipated would only seem to make sense… [Just wait until you read my post about the paper delivery, the downtown grocery store and the local “Walmart.” Sadly, in my current life, Walmart is but just a fantasy…]

A few short days ago I grumbled in an e-mail to a dear friend [thanks, Marie!] that I have fired our most recent “houseboy” after giving him three [long – very, very long!] weeks of specific instruction as to what I want done and how I want it done. And, thankfully, she was all too understanding of the aforementioned “rage” that could take over one’s personality to make a “mostly calm, rational, and reasonable woman saddled with a [very slight]
perfectionist syndrome and perhaps some [very minor] “OCPD” symptoms” or for that matter, any person, regardless of whether or not they possess the many wondrous qualities that I have been blessed with, want to pummel the crap out of their “domestic help” with a broom or mop or floor cleaner.

Those three weeks with our most recent houseboy consisted of real “hands on” instruction; I literally cleaned one of our three bathrooms each of those three Saturday’s that he was here to show him EXACTLY what it was I wanted. This was not a situation where I simply handed the man a can of Lysol Tub and Tile Cleaner and a roll of paper towels and said, “Go at it.” No. I did the whole, entire bathroom from start to finish – top to bottom – like I want it done, with the products I want used – to show him! A “how to” video would be less specific and could not provide as much instruction as I did, starting with:

* Spraying – frosting – the entire outside of the commode with
Lysol Foaming Basin, Tub & Tile Cleaner and wiping it down with white, Scott paper towels [I’m sorry, Mom, but it really does take more than one and a half paper towels!**];

* Spraying – frosting – the entire inside of the commode – lid, seat, rim, etc., repeating the above step;

* Squirting
Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner into the commode bowl and letting that sit while continuing on; and

* Removing all personal use items [soap, shampoo, shaving cream, razor
, rubber duck, etc.] from the tub and shower area and spraying the tiled-walls with Lysol Foaming Basin, Tub & Tile Cleaner and cleaning the tile with an instrument that is a brush on one side and a “scrubbie” on the other to get all the soap scum off in between the tiles – and thoroughly rinsing the walls by throwing large plastic cups of water onto the tile starting at the top and working downward – quickly drying the tile with another dozen or so white, Scott paper towels – don’t throw these towels away – they can [and, yes, Mom, they will**] be reused; next

* Generously sprinkle
Comet Cleanser with Bleach in the [ceramic] tub and let it sit; while you

* Use a “lime scale” remover product such as
Cif – which used to be Jif – to spray and clean the tub and shower hardware [we have salt water – it leaves a nasty, hard residue on everything!]; and going back to the commode

* Take the toilet brush and scrub the inside of the toilet – this particular task on any “bathroom cleaning to do list” is now complete; continue on with

* Scrubbing any dirt / salt water residue off of and out of the tub with a hard sponge which is thoroughly rinsed by throwing large plastic cupfuls of water against the entire surface; and

* Then replace the personal items removed earlier, putting them into the EXACT places where they were originally located [i.e., the razor and soap go on the far corner of the tub because The Baby – who insists of keeping a very close eye on me at all times and especially as I dangerously stand in this confined “ceramic and tile area enclosed on one-side by an easily nudged aside cloth curtain and a mildew-proof plastic curtain” while hot water projects out on to me – could otherwise easily grab one of those items in her mouth!!!] – and, the rubber duck? That goes in my husband’s bathroom. It is purely for decorative purposes and thus gets replaced on the top soap shelf in the shower even though no other “built-in” soap dish is used for anything else, ever [and good grief, how many times must someone have all of this explained to them as well as shown to them before they begin to comprehend and understand and can do it right?!?];

* Take the saved, previously used to wipe the tub / shower tiles
white, Scott paper towels and wipe down the baseboards of the entire bathroom;

* Spray the sink, fixtures and countertop areas with
Lysol Foaming Basin, Tub & Tile Cleaner and wipe clean with additional white, Scott paper towels;

* Clean the mirrors and any other glass areas with
Windex and wipe with white, Scott paper towels;

* Clean the towel racks with
white, Scott paper towels onto which you spray Lysol Foaming Basin, Tub & Tile Cleaner – spraying the towel racks directly results in covering your walls with cleaning products [the walls, of course, should be cleaned seasonally – spring, summer, fall and winter – unless otherwise required depending on the amount of “Kid” slobber];

* Spray
white, Scott paper towels with Windex and clean the glass of any hanging pictures or framed prints, doing the same for decorative glass and/or plastic containers of hand cream and cosmetic containers;

* Noticeable finger-prints and hand marks on white painted doors and light switches should be wiped clean; and

* The bathroom is clean but for the floor which should first be swept and / or vacuumed; then

* Using clean rags and the “red” bucket filled with “sweet water” [the drinking tap water, not the salt water] and
Clorox wash the bathroom floor on your hands and knees [these areas are not large in this particular “townhouse,” if they were, then I would use the floor cleaner but it would be about impossible to try to maneuver around the toilet in this particular instance]; and finally

* Using the “white” bucket and a couple of clean rags, re-wash the floor with straight “sweet water” which fairly effectively rinses off the bleach so that if you are barefoot there is no “sticky” feeling if your feet are wet or damp as you walk across the tile floor…

Viola! The bathroom has now been cleaned, disinfected, sanitized, and shined… Simply repeat the same procedures with the other two bathrooms. Total cleaning time: approximately 45 to 50 minutes PER bathroom.

The point [which was really not to explain as best as I possibly could how to clean a bathroom] is that I did all of the above and probably more each time that the last houseboy was here – according to schedule – during the three afternoons a week he was coming. And, there is a schedule – oh, trust me, someone with a [very slight]
perfectionist syndrome and perhaps some [very minor] “OCPD” issues has a schedule. The houseboy was coming three afternoons a week for three hours at a time and so I scheduled Saturday to do the three bathrooms, Monday to do the kitchen cleaning and Wednesday to do the kitchen / den / laundry room and entryway floor[s] – it’s all one big ugly gray and peach linoleum covered area divided by a couple walls and doorways – but for goodness sakes the floor cleaner basically does all of the work and the floor is ALWAYS done on Wednesdays!

After three weeks of my showing him how to do all of this – each afternoon that the new – now gone – houseboy was here we spent time together doing all of these things which in essence was me doing the cleaning while he observed my techniques for which I WAS PAYING HIM! And that picture? Umm... Oh, I know! Wrong. All wrong. Very. Wrong.

Which brings us back to how it is that a mostly calm, rational, and reasonable woman saddled with a [very slight]
perfectionist syndrome and perhaps some [very minor] “OCPD” symptoms, could, with only the slightest, most minute provocation easily want to pummel the crap out of someone else with a broom or mop or floor cleaner. Because if you can’t get the “how to’s” after three very patient weeks of my showing you how, then yes, I DO want to hurt you – be it emotionally or physically or both – I want to take my frustrations of your absolutely total ineptness out on you. But, because I am such a “calm, rational and reasonable woman” I will not beat you with some heavy, sure to cause bruising and pain object. Nope. Not me. I can not and will not condone any kind of mistreatment toward the domestic help. My solution: You’re fired.

So, now, again, I am back to doing the housework myself. It’s not so bad. I am not going to lie and say “Oh cleaning the bathroom is cathartic! I look forward to cleaning the bathrooms on Saturday. Once you start, you will probably find it quite relaxing.” Yeah. Bullshit. At least the stress of not having it done to my liking, to my satisfaction and standards, and in my timeframe, isn’t causing me further inner turmoil for the time being… That is, until the next houseboy comes along.

**When I was growing up, a roll of paper towels was treated more like a commodity than a disposable product. My Mother expected that a SINGLE – or better – less – make that a HALF of a SINGLE paper towel – would be used to clean the entire downstairs of our house… And if that wasn’t enough, we were expected to let the paper towel dry out and reuse it for several more weeks.

**As far as exclusively choosing
white, Scott paper towels is due to the fact that using colored paper towels might clog our septic system if we had one and we do not… [Whether this is true or not, I really am not sure – this is what we were told as children and it has stayed with me, and therefore do not use colored paper products. …] More specifically, when prints on paper towels run or bleed their color onto white surfaces cleaning efforts are doubled by now having to clean to remove “color” stains. “Scott” might want to consider giving me some sort of compensation for the promotional consideration I have extended. Or maybe not, as my first choice would be Bounty – which – naturally – cannot be found in The Sandbox; Scott is, in actuality, my second choice. The two aforementioned preferences are because sometimes when you use a lesser brand you end up with nothing more than a handful of soggy, goopy tissue… Feel the joy. My goodness, when has housekeeping – cleaning the bathroom – ever been such fun!?!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

9 Out of 10 = A Lot!

Almost everyone has one. I don’t have one. But then, I’m not a “local” and thus am not allowed to have one – non-locals, generally, are not allowed to sponsor “maids.” There are, of course, exceptions. Certain professions of non-locals [i.e., physicians] qualify and may apply to sponsor a maid. For the most part, non-locals must use “houseboys.”

Of the dozen or so households that I have been to where there is a full-time, live-in maid, I’ve not been overly impressed by the work that they do. Perhaps my standards are just that much higher, but I know that I do a better job of cleaning and “keeping house.” I suppose that if my DH’s position here for some reason were to be eliminated then I could become a maid – oh, sure, it is an option that we could fall back on… [Yeah. Right. Not in this lifetime!] If I had not seen so many victims who have been imported as household help and if they were treated with just a modicum of decency and respect – oh – and paid a decent wage… Nahh. I just don’t think I could do it…

The maid’s aren’t really the ones at “fault” as far as the quality of work. A friend put much of this in perspective for me when we were discussing it one morning and she was telling me how their maid had ruined another load of laundry. I suggested that perhaps she shouldn’t have the maid do any more laundry as several “loads” have now been ruined and she explained to me that it was partly her fault as she hadn’t given much consideration to the fact that this maid is from a country where there is NO SUCH THING as a washer and dryer and in that case how could she [the maid] possibly be expected to know how to use such equipment?

Still, in a country where, for the most part, the majority of women don’t work, the fact that
9/10ths of the households here have at least one maid certainly is telling.

The Philippines will soon make available for sending to The Sandbox a “
Supermaid.” I kid you not. The “Supermaid” is going to be highly trained and will be given language instruction so that they will speak whatever language the country to where they are going to be employed speaks. These maids, the new and improved version, will of course cost more and there is already some balking that “locals” are not going to want to have to pay the additional 50 or 100 Riyals it will cost for the upgrade.

This seemingly makes the “maid” a “thing” that can be upgraded with newer and better options, rather like leasing a car. You can get the bare-bones, stripped down version of a Hundai or Kia, or for a few Riyals more you can get a Lexus. Hmm... It will be interesting to follow to see how many “locals” are willing to pay the additional cost for the new, improved version – the upgraded model - the "Supermaid."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Butchering Baby Brother

There is a new movie coming out – or maybe it’s out – we don’t have movie theaters in The Sandbox so the movie won’t be playing here. [There are movie theaters an hour and a half away – across The Causeway – in Bahrain.] I recently saw a commentary on the news about the movie – Greg Boardman, who owns a movie theater in Illinois, has refused to show the movie – or “drivel” as he calls it – on the grounds that the type of person that is drawn to this genre is not the type of person he wants in his theater. The movie is Jackass Two. I never saw the first Jackass movie; and I’ve never seen the television show, Jackass.

From what little I cared to research about Jackass, the premise would appear to be basically a guy or a bunch of guys doing really stupid “someone could get hurt doing this and don’t try this at home” type of stunts. Whether the television show or either of the movies has any plot or story line at all… Who knows? Perhaps there is a Jackass fan that can enlighten me.

Unfortunately, the satellite dish, although technically illegal, has provided homes here, in The Sandbox, with unfettered access to “western” television programming. A variety of systems are available, as well as different tiers of service, depending on what it is you are willing to pay for – rather like in the States where you have “basic cable” and “premium cable” packages. Thus, Jackass may well be available on one of the satellite systems that are broadcast in The Sandbox; it certainly is not a program that this household is able to view on the very limited “basic” service we have.

How many lawsuits have been filed because some kid – a child – made an attempt at imitating some stunt that one of the Jackass’s did? I have no clue. I’m sure I remember hearing about one – and after a quick
Google search I found this:

"Though this is perhaps the most unique blast against the defunct MTV series (it ran through 2000 and 2001 before
Knoxville called it quits) and $60 million-making film, it is most certainly not the first. The show has been hit with other lawsuits and much criticism after teens around the country tried to replicate the dangerous stunts and bizarre practical jokes.

A New Mexico teen died in early December trying to copy a stunt in the film, and a Seattle teen suffered severe burns when imitating the TV show in November. And in 2001, several other kids were hospitalized for trying to pull off a Knoxvillian stunt, including one boy who was burned when his friends poured gas on his legs and set him on fire and two teenagers who tried
to outrun a moving car. Even one of Knoxville's own pranksters, model Stephanie Hodges, broke her back and fractured her pelvis in a TV stunt gone awry."

More than one lawsuit has been filed. You’d think “kids” would know better, but apparently not. Oh – and – remember the
twelve-year old boy in Florida imitating a professional wrestler that killed a six year old?

Which leads us to

"A 10-year-old child was about to kill his younger brother when he tried to imitate butchers slaughtering animals, Okaz reported Sunday.

He laid down his brother and pierced his jugular vein with a sharp knife. The scene of the blood pouring from his brother’s neck drove him crazy and he started screaming hysterically – which alerted his parents – who then rushed the younger brother to the King Abdul Aziz Specialist Hospital.

A team of surgeons in the hospital rushed the child into the operation to stop the bleeding by stitching the torn vein."

I am only going to partially lay blame at the feet of the parents – mother and/or father – I realize that most parents aren’t going to be watching a ten-year old child every single waking minute of that child’s day – and I think it would be unreasonable to expect that. The parents do need to shoulder part of the blame, however, for their negligence with regard to teaching their child that a knife is NOT a toy. Further, that the parents would allow an impressionable ten-year-old child to observe animals being slaughtered by the butcher is reprehensible.

I sincerely hope the younger brother is fine – or at least okay – how can you be “fine” when you’ve just had your jugular vein pierced?!? As for the older brother? I have some doubts. This child is going to need some very serious supervision! Somehow I picture this child continuing down a rather wayward path… I know if I was his neighbor I’d be keeping an extra close eye on my two four-legged “Kids” or any two-legged ones if I had them.

If this was the “West,” a lawyer would have already contacted the family. You know the type. The “ambulance chasing,” personal injury, pay nothing unless you get a settlement, dial 1-800-IAMHURT kind of attorney. A lawsuit would be filed on the grounds that the child would not have tried to “butcher his brother with a knife” if he hadn’t seen “Jackass” on television – or professional wrestling – or the butcher down the street.

After all, shouldn’t the butcher AND the knife manufacturer – or, in actuality, the insurance companies – take responsibility for this ten-year-old child’s actions by making a knife that is used to slaughter animals and for not slitting the animal’s throat behind closed doors? One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to deduce that butchering animals should not be done in front of a child who might glean the slightest iota of an idea that he too could do what the butcher does, and “doesn’t Mommy have a knife similar to that one at home?” Um-hmm. Immediate lawsuit.

Does this happen here, in The Sandbox? People filing [frivolous] lawsuits on a whim because they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and believe that whatever bad happens is the fault of someone or something else? To the best of my knowledge, it is just not done here on anything remotely close to the proportion it is done in the States. Having had the unparalleled privilege of working for far too many years at a “dial 1-800-IAMHURT” firm I believe can offer my opinion in this regard as an authority on the issue. Which, of course, is not to say that lawsuits are not filed here; they are. But with an entirely different type of justice system [
Sharia] coupled with the fact that insurance is a concept still in its infantile stage in The Sandbox, it is not likely that The Kingdom will be spouting billboards and television commercials touting the “1-800-IAMHURT” rationale anytime soon.

This scenario of a boy whose jugular vein has been pierced with a knife has ramifications that could have been much, much more grave if the young boy’s parents – parents as in two – Mom and Dad – were not home. Imagine for a moment what would have happened if this “let’s pretend I’m the butcher” game took place on a typical weekday: The boys are home from school and have gone off to play while Mom is sitting in front of the television watching the latest episode of her favorite soap opera. Dad is not home – he is still at work. Mom hears screaming and discovers to her horror that one of her children has blood gushing from his neck!

In ANY other country Mom simply grabs her pocketbook and the CAR KEYS and immediately rushes her child to the nearest Emergency Room. Only, here, in The Sandbox, is it haram* for Mom to drive! Uth-oh. Now what? Wait for the ambulance? Wait until DH can leave work and get home to get Mom and Boys to go to the Emergency Room? Hope one of the neighbor’s has a car and driver ready and available? And how much blood has this child now lost in the meantime?

Just food for thought… How many little children have to die before women are going to be allowed to drive in this Country? [Actually, the ten-year old son could have driven his brother to the hospital – believe it or not that would be more tolerable than letting Mom – or ANY woman – get behind the wheel.]

That there won’t be a lawsuit filed against Jackass or the World Wrestling Federation is a plus. And, unless I’m quite mistaken, there aren’t too many video games that involve butchering animals – so suing Nintendo or X-Box is out as well.

Haram – Arabic term for “that which is strictly and specifically forbade in such a way that doing it would bring punishment in the hereafter and possibly a penalty in this life as well.”

Friday, October 06, 2006

Where is PETA?

The opportunity, or, admittedly, the desire, to try camel’s milk has yet to present itself. If the time ever comes when someone offers it to me, I will probably at least give it a taste, just so that if I ever have to say, “I don’t like it” then I can do so knowingly, because, as all mother’s have said at some point in time, “How do you know you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it?” However, as the Food and Drug Administration highly recommends that cow’s milk should be pasteurized, I might be just a bit leery of drinking a glass of fresh, unpasteurized camel’s milk.

Considering that camel’s milk has been a staple and provided sustenance for a country of people for as long as it has been, then it can’t be all bad. I have yet to hear of anyone dying after drinking camel’s milk. People are
killed by camels, fairly frequently here, but not by consuming them.

There are other “camel” products here –
cheese – that are quite popular among local folks, and they eat camel meat – although I have heard – and do not know this to be fact – that the first time you eat camel meat you will get quite sick. [Make my camel burger well-done and I’ll have ketchup on that, please!]

It is the month of
Ramadan, here in The Sandbox, where people fast from sun-up to sun-down, when breaking their fast by eating “breakfast” or Iftar. An article in Arab News states that “for some, an Iftar without camel milk is no iftar.” There are ample opportunities for people to get their fresh camel milk prior to Iftar as one young explains.

Anyone who has read prior posts at this site knows that I am an animal lover; it is not a secret. I truly lose sleep at night worrying about homeless cats and kittens that I see on the streets in Al Khobar; I feed the stray cats around the compound and have actually been warned that I am not allowed or supposed to do so [but I just can’t help it!]. I have made full provisions for both The Boy and The Baby to be taken care of in the event something happens to me and DH. I have never seen The Lion King because I know that one of the Lion’s dies at the beginning of the movie leaving his son without a Dad…

So, what about the baby camel’s then, who are not getting the nourishment they so need as little cubs [I did not know that baby camel’s were called cubs until I read this article*]? Where is PETA? Would they approve of a camel’s teats being covered with fabric to prevent Mama Camel from nursing her little Baby Cub?

In the grand scheme of things – and knowing that in just a couple of short weeks we are going to be seeing sheep and goats hanging from trees as Muslim’s prepare for their Eid celebrations – that a little Baby Cub camel goes without a meal or two probably isn’t worth losing too much sleep over… I’m going to try not to. I just hope the little Baby Cub camel doesn’t have to go to bed hungry…

*Baby camels are not called cubs anywhere else but this article;
this site says female baby camels are “heifers,” and this site says “female camels are called cows,” “males are called bulls,” castrated males are called “bullocks,” and “baby camels are called calves.” I’m just going to call all the little ones baby camels.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Diluted Ketchup

As amusing as this is, it is NOT funny. I had to do a quick Google search to find out what a jerry can is. Why would you store ketchup in a jerry can? I’ve seen ketchup come in big industrial, gallon-size containers – like those big pickle jars you see in a deli – but never in a “jerry can.”

Here’s a visual image you will not want to retain: Just how does one pee in a jerry can? No. I just am not going to think about this.

I’ll Wear the Shorts

This just isn’t right. I don’t know if “Gym Attire Seen as Latest Attempt to Force Shari'a in US” is necessarily an attempt to force the United States to accept Shari’a law or not. I am not going to “debate” that aspect of the article. I am angry about the complete lack of any attempt whatsoever made for assimilation or integration of different cultures, Muslim and Islamic or any other culture and/or ethnic group, in the United States. Efforts to do so by any number of minorities appear to be totally, thoroughly null and void. Conversely, if an American makes a decision to move to another country, with the exception of some European countries, assimilation into that country’s culture is not only anticipated but expected and in some instances required.

In the country I currently reside, yes, certainly, by choice – well sort of – I am required to not only respect the culture and customs but to adopt many of the same norms and traditions that are an integral element of the lifestyle. Doing so is not an option. I do not get to make the decision based on what would be normal and customary ways of life for Americans in the United States. It is implicit that the code and manner of how one must conduct oneself will be governed by The Sandbox’s long-established beliefs and principles.

Why isn’t this something, then, that the United States requires? Apparently “assimilation” is one-sided. And that is my argument. I cannot wear
shorts, here, just to run and do a quick errand on the compound where we live without being scolded by Security. However, Americans in the United States are expected to bend over backwards to accommodate the wants of every other culture in the world regardless of the fact that other countries offer absolutely no compromise to Americans or others who may be guests.

What irks me even more is that, per the article, local middle and high schools are going to have their policies reviewed to make sure they are accommodating the religious needs of Muslim students during Ramadan and Eid and throughout the school year. No. Whoa. Hold up, right there! This needs to be further explained. There are laws that separate church from state and state, here, being PUBLIC schools.

What, exactly, is this going to entail? That a Muslim student, celebrating Ramadan, gets to start classes two hours later than everyone else because he or she has been up late partaking in festivities associated with this month-long holiday? Does this student get to take the month off from school? Do classes get stopped at certain times so that a Muslim student can pray? Are certain, special foods going to be served in the cafeteria?

If one particular religion is going to be acknowledged, contrary to laws already on the books, then ALL religions are going to have to be acknowledged. Thus, by making sure PUBLIC schools are accommodating students who happen to be practicing Islam the door isn’t just going to have to be opened – it is going to have to be taken off the hinges! No? Sure it will. Once you have accommodated the religious beliefs of one faith in the PUBLIC school system, all PUBLIC schools will have to open their doors for students practicing Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Scientology and Wicca – and every practicing faith in the world! What is outrageous about this is the fact that only one will be excluded. Yep. Only one… Christianity. You just watch and see…

Anna Nicole Smith Stern

This whole situation is just kinda odd. I am truly sorry that Anna Nicole has lost her son. Having a son, myself, I am sure it must just be devastating.

I was just looking at the headlines on MSN and there, again, on top, is Anna Nicole Smith – this time about the paternity of her new baby girl… I didn’t read it. Don’t care to. Have seen and heard more than enough already on the news.

Anna Nicole just recently married her long-time attorney / companion, Howard Stern – somewhere in the Bahamas or Jamaica – again, heard it on the news. Howard Stern says the baby is his. Now someone else has come forward to say that is false, that he is the father of the baby. Either way. The quickie wedding is what I’m questioning…

It has just occurred to me that the reason Anna and Howard Stern got married is so that they cannot testify against one another if, in the future, criminal charges are filed against one or the other or both, as a result of the still not all clear reason for the death of her son. Am I the only one that has given this any thought?

Ooohh. Shudder. Move along, folks. Nothing to see here.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Woman in the Driver's Seat

Okay, so, here in The Sandbox, women aren’t usually in the driver’s seat – it’s no secret that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive… It’s an issue which has been deliberated over and over and over amongst the powers that be – for longer than the four years I've been here – and one which seemingly never progresses beyond the “No Can Do” stage.

There is not another country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. [See my earlier post, Driving Ban for Saudi Men.] We are but a hop, skip and a jump from a neighboring country – a twenty-mile, hour plus, two customs-check jaunt across the Causeway – where women are allowed to drive – and, according to Bahrain's Traffic Chief, where “Saudi women are safe drivers.”

Somewhat worrisome is the aspect of women driving in this Country whilst covered in a full hijab that might ultimately hinder peripheral vision; and in that regard, an acceptable alternative which recognizes the importance of the social customs would be required. All minutiae details which no doubt can be ironed out in the next century or so…

Let’s forego all of those superfluous factors for the sake of time – my lifetime – pretend this will all fall into place, that women will be allowed to drive, and that they can even buy their own vehicle!

… she’ll proceed to the car dealership where she will choose the vehicle she wants…

And decide on some of the options she wants her Red BMW 745i to have…

[Where did that come from? I want a white BMW 745i!]

Like a speedometer…

And a GPS parking system…

Finally, she will head to the nearest “DMV” office to get her driver’s license. She will be exempt from having to parallel park – or park at all – for that matter – because everybody knows that women are so much better at parking a car than men are; thus it would be quite futile insisting that women must take the parking portion of any driver’s test. [Go ahead... You know you want to... Just “click” on parking. It is way too fun not to!]

Know what? Really I just wanted to have some fun tonight, show off my new “link and picture posting skills,” to create an opportunity to use a couple of photos that a friend sent me [thanks, Susan!], and to use the
parking thingy. And just because I hit a car within four seconds on this stupid parking thingy site, doesn’t mean that I can’t park a car! Au contraire! I can put our truck into the smallest of spaces quickly and professionally; a feat I am rather proud of and no less proud after having watched men, here, park.

True story: A couple of years ago, I was outside at the mall, waiting to catch the bus back to our compound, when a car full of shabaab* pulled up and the driver lamely attempted no less than a half dozen times to park his little Honda or Toyota in the bus pick up area. On the sixth or seventh, and last stab at doing so, the driver gave up and parked his car with the entire ass-end of it literally sticking out in to the traffic lane. Just as he was getting out of the car, I took a partial step – lunge – forward, as I was going to offer to show the poor lad how to park a car. It took only that brief second when I came to my senses, realizing where I was – ahh, no – I don’t think so… Um-hmm. A blonde moment there! Caught and preserved however, as I did not finish the “first step forward” and instead of saying anything, just chuckled under my breath that the parking space truly had enough room for three or four vehicles and he couldn’t get his car into the space with five minutes of trying. The bus came shortly this little performance of deft automotive skill and I’d be willing to wager a Riyal or two that no traffic officer placed a violation ticket for parking in a no parking spot on the windshield…

*shabaab - Arabic word for "young men"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You’ve Been Banned – This is MY Site

Comments and dialogue, here, at Stilettos in the Sand, have been welcomed and appreciated!!!

Up until now, I’ve let whoever wants to comment do so – and will continue to do so but for, to date, one exception: There is a man who has visited umpteen times who’s chosen to leave lengthy comments which turn into malicious, spiteful written assaults on me, or one of my regular visitors – a woman I communicated via e-mail with long before starting this site – whom I consider to be a personal friend. I am not posting this man’s “tag name,” or his site, as traffic it might generate by my doing so is wholly undeserved.

This lone, and now banned, commenter who instead of ranting on his own blog, wants to do so here, with pathetic lengthy diatribes that are, what I consider to be, incongruous, and are, at best, one-sided opinions rendering trivial, if any, value to my posts. But for only a time or two, most of the comments were not deemed worthy of being dignified with a response and I left them posted, regardless of their nature.

Last night I received an e-mail asking what was in a comment I deleted. I had drafted this post previously, but wasn’t going to put it up. I now feel the necessity to do so, so that anyone who might question why I would ban someone from my site or delete comments will understand. Here is but a small sampling of the statements which were contained in the deleted comments – only a few lines of many, many written paragraphs:

So, if life here doesn’t suit your style then why are you still here? I know the answer to that, because a lot of you people are the greediest people I have come across. Your whole life revolves around materialistic objectives. So you are willing to give up any principles and values you have for the money that you are so overpaid with.

. . . it is really hard for me to accept criticism from westerners who work in this country . . . you know why, because they have no merit. See, this is your, and your likes, problem. You have no merit whatsoever in judging anything about this society.

I am quite ashamed to be associated with these Americans but if you are reading this blog you have found the cowboy-type that doesn’t like anyone else but themselves. An absolute disgrace!

I won't go on in an argument with a person who has a peanut for a brain.

You know what; you can read the book if you want to, or you can shove it where the sun won't bleach it and the rain won't soak it.

One of the causes is the absolute apathy that you, and your likes, show towards all the problems in this world. It’s the greed that many of your countrymen have that led to [sic] much of the misery in this world.

[Purportedly this man’s wife wrote an entry as well.] You are right; my husband is a xenophobe but only to arrogant and belligerent people like yourself.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion; that this man wants to blather inanely on and on is his choice to do so – in his own forum – but it is my choice – this being my site – to not allow him to do so, here. I don’t like the name calling, I don’t like the characterizations he uses to describe me and a friend of mine, and I don’t like his belligerent and cantankerous tone.

It is not as if there is such a plethora of comments that I will have to require registration, or have to establish some other more dogmatic method of monitoring comments. However, I have turned “comment moderator” on, and will now review all comments before they are posted to facilitate the banning of one person.

There is a saying, “One rotten apple spoils the barrel.” Because that one rotten apple visited my site and left comments that have, in essence, compelled me to make a decision that some may be offended by, is truly regrettable.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

No Vacation for the Maids

Well, it wouldn’t have really been a vacation, anyway, just the opportunity to travel. However, the Shura Council [or Shoura Council] is looking into “an alarming problem which surfaced lately, of maids traveling in the company of families.”

This is, no doubt, directly related to the Colorado case of
Homaidan Al-Turki who has recently been given a sentence of 27 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting an Indonesian housekeeper and keeping her as a virtual slave. The Saudi Gazette published an article on Friday, September 22, 2003, “Families Traveling with Maids,” which “Particularly [it] concerns those sponsoring families who travel to Western countries and the United States, in particular either on holiday or for educational purposes.” Abdullah Abulsamh writes:

“In those countries, regulations are totally different from those observed in ours. Therefore, it never occurred to a number of sponsors who were planning travel that detaining a maid’s passport is an offense which may lead to imprisonment.

Western countries consider this practice as an infringement upon a worker’s rights and freedom, etc.

A number of friends whose maids have decided to run away (or rather to cease working) have told me that the maids went to the police who then forced sponsors to hand them back their passports, regardless of the issues of sponsorship and liability.

Recently, the matter has become more serious in the United States, as a sponsor detaining a maid’s passport can be tried and imprisoned. The US Consulate is now rejecting applications for visas for maids, unless employment contracts are made in the American style, which means the number of working hours, livings conditions, etc. all indicated beforehand.

It is honestly shameful and sorrowful to watch Saudi families with several maids tagging behind watching the children while their mothers are sitting in cafes. Most of the time, maids remain standing on the sidewalk, at a distance, or sit on the edge of a chair, or run after the noisy, little “devils” who never settle in one place.

Maids can also be seen in the hotels’ hallways with the children while mothers are asleep after staying up at the malls the previous night.

It is the duty of the press to join the Shoura Council in calling for a ban on the travel of maids with families, whether for vacationing or scholastic purposes.

The alternative would be to contact employment agencies to provide local workers or baby sitters who are paid by the hour. This denigration of the Kingdom’s reputation must end.”

If there is a law that specifies “detaining a maid’s passport” could lead to imprisonment, I was unable to find it in a search of the United States government website for international visitors. “Detaining a maid” might, however, be construed as “false imprisonment” if confiscating [“detaining”] one’s passport were interpreted as confinement without legal authority; this is punishable by imprisonment.

Workers in “Western countries,” and specifically, the United States, are afforded a barrage of rights not necessarily bestowed upon employees in other countries, i.e., a minimum wage, maximum working hours, etc. I am not a legal authority but I’d venture to guess “detaining” a passport or person is not allowable and would be considered “an infringement” upon an employee/worker.

A U.S. citizen in Saudi Arabia is subject to that country's laws and regulations. Whether there is any kind of reciprocal relationship in regard to laws and regulations between one country and another is dictated by the host-country. Thus, perhaps it would behoove foreigners traveling with domestic help to ascertain – before journeying – what laws are applicable to specific issues of “sponsorship and liability” should a “maid” decide “to run away (or rather to cease working)” in the host country. That the US Consulate is rejecting applications for visas to be given to maids or other domestic help unless “employment contracts are made in the American style” protects all parties involved, eliminating any guess work as to what is or isn’t allowed.

Although Mr. Abulsamh’s observations may tinge a few raw nerves in his home Country, they will be viewed much more genially by the United States and other Western countries who undoubtedly will agree that it is indeed “shameful and sorrowful to watch Saudi families with several maids tagging behind...”

When I Grow Up

… I want to be a Public Relations Ambassador! Hardly the same as wanting to become a teacher or a nurse, but equally as important in today’s society.

Khaled Almaeena’s brilliant article of last Sunday is by-far one of the most appropriate and timely opinions that I have read in quite sometime. Mr. Almaeena and a friend of his, Ali Al-Shiddy, a writer, discussed establishing an association they would call “Friends of Expatriates,” and they both agree “that such an association would benefit all involved . . . that the need for such an association has never been greater than it is today.”

The commentary, which is too good to NOT read in full, states, in part:
“The fact is that we have millions of expatriates living among us. The sad truth is that we hardly know them and they hardly know us . . . Yes, they have come here to make a living and, in most cases, to do jobs that Saudis are either unable or unwilling to do. But let us not forget that we have asked them to come here; indeed, they could not have come to the Kingdom without our help and sponsorship.
. . . Expatriates have played a vital and pivotal role in the development of our country. Our country would not be where it is today without their talents, dedication and skills. We owe them our gratitude . . . Probably the first wave of expatriates who came to what is modern-day Saudi Arabia were the Americans who came with Aramco in the 1930s. They bore the heat, the lack of comfort and facilities and scoured our deserts for oil. They found it of course in quantities even they did not dream of, and with the oil was built the foundations of the Kingdom today and the life that we enjoy.
In the 1950s came professional people, many from Pakistan and India. Doctors, engineers and technicians . . . In our first economic boom and later on came workers from the Philippines, South Korea, India, Pakistan and many Arab countries . . . All were asked to come here in order to do something specific. Not to be forgotten are the thousands who have come here as simple workers; without them and their sweat, the plans and visions of engineers and builders would never have become a reality . . .

There is no doubt that many expatriates did very well in the Kingdom; most of them worked hard and deserved their success. Of course, there were troublemakers as well; however . . . Many of their educated people have set up welfare centers, help centers, medical aid centers . . . to help the needy and unfortunate in their own community. I look very closely at their attitude toward their less fortunate brethren and I see one which we should ourselves emulate.

The overwhelming number of expatriates here conduct themselves with dignity and take pride in what they do – despite their many problems. Unpaid salaries, bad treatment by employers, abuse and injustice. Very few of them have recourse to our legal system and this is a situation which urgently needs to be addressed.

Whether we like it or not, many expatriates will be here for a long time . . . we should try to make them happy and comfortable which in turn will make them work more productively. Let us not look down our noses at them for they can be a very strong and vocal political and social force when they return to their countries. They have lived her and they know what life here is like. They can be ambassadors for us . . .

We should not deceive ourselves . . . while we spend millions of dollars to improve our image, we could save a lot of money by creating a congenial and pleasant atmosphere here. Much could be done along these lines by interacting with existing expatriate communities, focusing on history, culture, music and other traditions. I believe one of the best ways to do this would be through an association such as Ali Al-Shiddi and I discussed. We ought to take great care to use the expatriates in our midst as our fist line of information defense. It has not been done before but its time is certainly now.

Oh. My. Gosh. How powerful Khaled Almaeena’s statements are! I am ready now, today, to put my name on the sign-up roster. We can hold the first gathering of this association at my house and I’ll bake brownies! When the “Friends of Expatriates” group becomes a reality, it would be a privilege to participate. And an honor, at some point in the future, to return home to the United States as a Public Relations Ambassador for Saudi Arabia!!!

May-December Romances

A 90 year old man shows up for a physical. He tells the doctor he is about to marry a 20 year old girl. "Really?" said the doctor. "You're healthy enough, I suppose, but take my advice. If you want a happy marriage, you should take in a boarder. Do you know what I mean?" The old man says, "Okay, Doc. I'll think about it." Six months later, the doctor sees the old man on the street. He asks him how his new marriage is working out. "Great, Doc! In fact, my wife is pregnant." The doctor nods knowingly and says, "So you took my advice and took in a boarder?" The old man winked and said, "Yep. And she's pregnant too!"

Just how or when did this phrase, “May-December Romance” come to mean an older man in a relationship with a [much] younger woman or vice versa?

An age difference of a few years, maybe even ten years, wouldn’t seem to be such a big deal. But 62 years?

This is not a phenomenon specific to Saudi Arabia. It happens in the United States as well: Rupert Murdoch and Wendy Deng got married when he was 68 and she was 32, and perhaps more famously known are Vickie Lynn Hogan and J. Howard Marshall who married in 1994 when she was 26 and he was 89!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Birthday Yvette Nicole Moreno!

Yvette Nicole Moreno would be thirty years old on October 4th, this year – for most of us, one of those “milestone birthdays,” not taken lightly. Yvette was incredibly close to her family – her Mom, Ivy, and her brother, Roland. If Ivy and Roland could have pulled it off, maybe they would have had a surprise birthday party for her. Or quite possibly, Yvette, as busy as she was, would have planned her own celebration in honor of turning “3 0.”

Ms. Moreno grew up in the Bronx, attending Catholic schools until her senior year, where she graduated at the top of her class from Adlai Stevenson High School. Yvette then enrolled at Hunter College, where she made the Dean’s List, majoring in sociology and psychology.

Life was moving along at a fairly quick pace for this beautiful twenty-four year old woman. Yvette had just purchased her first car, and had just enrolled at Lehman College to continue working toward an advanced degree in psychology and sociology, with the hope of someday becoming a guidance worker or a school social worker. Yvette was a full-time student, and was working full-time as well, but still always found time for her family and her many, many friends. This young “go getter,” enjoyed going out dancing with friends when she could, or just going out to lunch with her Mom and going shopping.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Yvette, like so many other Americans, had gotten up and gone about her day – heading off to her place of employment, at the brokerage firm of Carr Futures. Ms. Moreno had been working at Carr Futures for almost two years – as a temporary employee for the first year or so – before being hired as a permanent staff member that January.

It was after leaving Carr Futures, in Tower One, that Yvette called her brother Roland to tell him that she was okay, and for him to tell their mother that she should not try to go to work. Yvette’s Mom, Ivy, believes that Yvette saved her life that fateful day.

Tragically, although believing Yvette was safe and on her way home, this was the last time Yvette ever spoke with her brother. It was several weeks later – just several days after what would have been Yvette’s twenty-fifth birthday – when her remains were discovered and it is believed that most likely she was hit with falling debris from one of the collapsing buildings.

“She was beautiful. Inside and out.” And, “She was always happy,” says Yvette’s Mom, Ivy. This is how she and Yvette’s brother, Roland, will always remember this beautiful young lady. Seeing photographs of her daughter displayed on a large collage at her wake, from when she was a baby to the more recent pictures, Yvette’s Mom said, “She wore a big, beautiful smile in every single one of them.” More than 750 people attended Yvette’s funeral, from all over the United States – all who were fortunate enough to be touched in some way by the tremendous spirit of a beautiful soul who departed from this world much, much, much too soon.

Today, I will look at this photograph of Yvette Nicole Moreno, and I will smile. One can’t help but to do so – smile that is – when just a mere photograph of Yvette’s infectious smile lights up a room!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Can You Say Reciprocate?

Wonder just how many of these 15,000 students will be going to Harvard? No doubt that most of these students will all pay “out-of-state” tuition rates, thus putting substantial cash into the coffers of many colleges and universities. This is all well and good.

The issue I, personally, have with this is that there is no reciprocation on the part of Saudi Arabia to allow United States students to come to schools here to study. Okay. So maybe there isn’t a demand for this – that students from the U.S. want to come to The Sandbox for higher education – and I can assure you that you will not find a list of Saudi’s top ten “
party schools” if that criteria determines how U.S. students contemplate which institute of higher education they are going to attend – but certainly, it would seem, that in order for the United States to be willing to accept that many students, that there should be some sort of mutual exchange.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Plenty? I Don’t Think So

An article in Arab News says, “Employers who don’t abuse or maltreat their domestic help do exist, and there are plenty of them out there.” If there are plenty, we certainly are not made aware of them – employers who treat their domestic help as wonderfully as this one!

Reem Bajnaid was six years old when Lucena Benigno Agsao arrived from the Philippines. Twenty-seven years later, Ms. Agsao has returned to her home. Although she had no plans to retire at this time, illness has “cut short her plans,” as she has been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.

Members of Reem Bajnaid’s family personally assured Ms. Agsao that they would shoulder “all of her expenses” if she wished to remain in The Kingdom to be treated at a hospital in Jeddah. Ms. Agsao, instead, has returned to the Philippines to see treatment so that she will be near family and friends.

An official who was monitoring the case, said:

"We very much appreciate and commend the efforts of [the maid’s sponsor] family for providing all the medical requirements of their maid. The sponsors’ overwhelming concern for the wellbeing of their helper is more of a gesture of love. It is a love like that for a mother, a mother who has always been there for them these past 27 years."

A nurse accompanied Ms. Agsao on the Saudia Airlines flight home in a business class seat, paid for by her sponsor’s family.

The bar has now been set. And it is much, much higher than it was in the past. Reem Bajnaid’s family is truly a shining example of outstanding employers!

Speaking of Dish Towels…

I had to do the “big” grocery shopping thing. I’ve been gone for much of the past three months, and DH has been gone most of the past four months. DH is coming home and he will be looking to be fed… When DH isn’t here, I don’t and won’t cook for myself. Cooking is not something that I enjoy. It makes a mess – that has to be cleaned up [there is no more houseboy to do it!], and it takes up valuable time – when I could be at the computer, instead. I am quite content with just coffee for breakfast, perhaps something to snack on later in the day – so long as it involves zero preparation – and a bowl of cereal or soup for dinner. DH is satisfied with nothing less than two real meals a day. At this point, having been gone, we are out of everything. The cupboards really are bare! As well, it is time to restock the freezer with food for the “Kids.” [Yes, I will admit that I will cook for the “Kids” but not for myself. DH would say that I will cook for them before I cook for him, but that really isn’t true…]

Living on a compound that is a little city within a city does have advantages – one of which is that so many services are offered to us without leaving our gates – giving Westerner’s here, and “locals,” as well, much more freedom than we have outside the confines of our gilded cage. Thankfully, I can drive myself to our grocery store, something taken for granted the world over, which is, but for certain “restricted areas,” haram,* here in The Sandbox. However, I am still expected to “get dressed” just to go to the grocery store [see post of June 18, 2006,
"Attitude in Shorts"], so I procrastinate and put off going until it is absolutely necessary.

After putting jeans on [it is way too hot AND humid for jeans!], and going to the bank, I headed into the grocery store, list in hand, and proceeded to fill my “trolley” [we call it a “cart” in the States]. Going early – first thing in the morning – the store is usually fairly quiet – but NOT this morning. Today, the entire store was cursed with a gang of children wrecking havoc as they raced up and down the aisles in carts, knocking things off of shelves, literally running into the few of us that were shopping and ramming our trolleys with theirs. This is NOT the first time this has happened – that a gang of unruly children is terrorizing shoppers and store employees. At one point I was able to block their “fun” as they were racing – yes – three wide – their trolleys down the dairy aisle – I had my mine parked so that the entire “lane” was blocked – and nothing would have given me greater satisfaction than personally scolding the little monsters if they would have run into me. [I remember a time in 1995 when I spanked a neighbor’s child when she was climbing on my car and wouldn’t get off when told to do so no less than three times! Hee hee hee.]

At one point, as an acquaintance and I were exchanging greetings, and the kids charged past us, I asked, not quietly, either, one of the store clerk’s, “Who do these obnoxious children belong to?” The poor clerk just shrugged his shoulders. There is nothing the clerks or store managers can do about such menaces. [Many of the clerks and most of the managers are not “locals” and with good reason they are fearful of repercussions, knowing that confronting the parent or parents would likely threaten the livelihood they so depend on to support their families in other countries.]

For the time that I remained in the store, there was not one adult that appeared to be associated with caring for this particular group of children – and there were seven or eight of them , probably between the ages of eight and twelve, certainly old enough to know that their behavior was not appropriate. Not that having a parent or parents in their presence would have made any difference – as I stated, I’ve seen this behavior in the store more than once – and I’ve seen the parents – just carry on – totally oblivious to their children’s behavior! Disciplining one’s children, or requiring them to behave, more often than not, would seemingly be a foreign concept, here.

Even as I was checking out – I’d been in the store for probably forty or forty-five minutes – these kids continued “playing” as if, because it’s too hot to play outside [and it is], they’d decided that the store would be the perfect place to go instead. It is time for a new rule to be instituted – a sign that clearly states – in English AND in Arabic – that NO unaccompanied children under twelve are permitted. Barring that, the store managers and clerks should be given the green light to confront these unruly brats to be able to tell them to stop their shenanigans without worry or risk to their job security.

Not all of our store’s employees have been imported from other countries. The drive for Saudization, although unlikely to ever eliminate all of the outside, imported, work force, is making strides to provide employment for “locals” and in some professions residents must fill certain positions. Over the course of the past year, many of the former cashiers, men from other countries, have been terminated; a small handful remained to work the night and weekend shifts, and a few were allowed to continue as baggers or shelf stockers. Thus, when and where it is feasible [i.e., during the normal, customary, work days and hours, or 7:00A.M. to 4:00P.M., Saturday through Wednesday] cashier positions are now staffed by "locals," men and women. Admirably, this country, like any other, wants to provide for the welfare of its nationals to the best of its ability. And it is certainly understandable with an astronomical unemployment rate that the Kingdom will endeavor to restructure its work force [see August 27, 2006,
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"].

However, I find it a little more than slightly ironic that a person could or would be given a position as a cashier – involving money – when they are not able to calculate simple addition sums WITH the aide of an electronic, computerized cash register! It wasn’t enough that for the containers of pre-packaged [uniform price – each 5.50 SAR] chicken [there were twenty] the clerk chose to ring up each package individually even though I clearly said I had twenty of these, and did so again with the containers of pre-packaged [uniform price – each 6.25 SAR] beef [there were twenty]; ditto for the four rolls of paper towels [each 7.95 SAR]. I know that it is possible to put in the number of an item – the quantity – and then scan it for the price – so that each package does not have to be individually scanned – the former cashiers saved themselves time and effort in this manner. The possibility exists that perhaps the cashier just didn’t believe me when I said I had twenty packages of chicken and twenty packages of beef, and to insure that I wasn’t getting any freebies felt it necessary to scan each and every one of the items individually. Even then, a quick and simple count would have verified this. As for the paper towels, a mere glance would have confirmed there were, in fact, four rolls of an identical brand. Apart from the time involved for the cashier to pick up and scan each of the individual, identical items, a great deal more effort was required as well.

The “icing on the cake” was when the cashier finally pressed whatever key it is that gives the sum of money that is due for the purchases, that being 1092.77 SAR. Here the amount to the left of the decimal is a “Riyal,” what would be the “Dollar” in the States, and the amount to the right of the decimal is a “Halala” – in the States it is “cents.” Halalas are almost not worth having in small amounts – it is change – they just aren’t worth much [375 Halalas equals 100 cents, or $1.00]. Grocery bills are often rounded up or rounded down, eliminating the small amounts of currency altogether. In this particular instance, my grocery bill was rounded down to 1092.75 and I handed the cashier 1200.00 – two 500 SAR bills and one 200 SAR bill and she “froze.” I kid you not, she was unable to add the sum of the three bills that I handed her to be able to enter that number so that the cash register could immediately calculate the amount of change she needed to give back to me. After all, it’s not like I was counting on her to actually determine the amount of change I had coming back – that’s
WHAT the cash register is for, isn’t it?!?

It was almost comical watching her transfer each of the three bills from one hand to the next, eyes downward, concentrating on the paper money in her hands so intently. She was counting – I could see her lips moving – I assume she was counting – but after the two five hundred bills – or 1000 Riyals – she was NOT ABLE to determine what to do with the 200 Riyal bill. Apparently, this was just one too many zeros for her to handle, even with my telling her that it was 1200 and saying it out “one – two – zero – zero.” [She must have thought that once again I was trying to get over on her in some way – because, after all – when I said I had twenty packages of chicken, I really had twenty packages of chicken.] Probably it wasn’t much longer than a minute before she realized that she would have to call the manager to come and help her, but it certainly seemed like longer than that to me. The cashier acted quite surprised when the manager told her to press the keys “one – two – zero – zero.” I’m convinced that either this poor woman was either never taught to count past 999 or she was not taught how to “carry” sums in addition problems.

Convinced, but not surprised… Try giving a clerk at any convenience store in the States payment over and above what the total is. Say your total is $4.68. Hand the clerk a five dollar bill, a dime, a nickel and three pennies. He or she will look at you like you’ve got two heads – and tell you that your total is only $4.68. That’s right I gave you $5.18 for a purchase that totals $4.68. [Perhaps you’ve missed YOUR calling and you should have been a rocket scientist!] The reason I’m giving you the eighteen cents is so that you will give me two quarters back – fifty cents – instead of thirty-two cents – I don’t want that extra nickel and those two worthless pennies – I’m trying to get rid of all the worthless pennies I’m carrying in my wallet by giving you $5.18. At this point you have totally, thoroughly confused the clerk and you’ll probably end up with extra money. You have a choice – you could be so honest that you can’t even keep the extra quarter he or she might give you because you’ve confused them so. Or you can keep it. I say keep it. Unfortunately he or she will probably have to make up the difference at the end of the shift if their “cash drawer” doesn’t balance properly. But then, anyone this obtuse probably shouldn’t be working in a job that requires handling money to begin with.

*haram: Arabic word meaning "not allowed"
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