Sunday, August 27, 2006

Are you a Briefs or Boxers Type of Guy?

Or, maybe, you’re a “sirwal” type of guy… Yes. Oh well. Never mind, then.

Who knew that in The Sandbox a man CAN BE FIRED for not wearing the proper undergarment?!?

Many [and that is way, too many, thank you] of the thobes that men wear here are quite transparent – you CAN see right through them. I, personally, have not seen one single man in a thobe who did not have his sirwals on. The only comparison I can come up with to describe a pair of sirwals is pajama bottoms. Full-length pajama bottoms. I found a pair on-line: sirwals. [They are a real deal at $8.95 a pair!]

Brings to mind that little ditty that children sing:

I see London, I see France…
I see Mohammed’s underpants.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Okay, so "Saudis Prefer to Have Comfortable Jobs" has absolutely nothing to do with gentlemen prefer blondes... The titles are both rather catchy, and rhymey, don’t you think? And yeah, so, okay, “rhymey” isn’t really a word that you’ll find in a dictionary, but it happened to go quite nicely with “catchy” at the moment.

Nope, don’t think the article will come as some earth shattering revelation – it’s been a known fact for sometime on this side of the world. It certainly is not nearly as earth shattering as the fact that Pluto is no longer considered one of the nine planets. This is a bit disturbing. We all have our little way of remembering the nine – make that eight – planets. “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Use Nine Pickles” has now become “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nyquil.”

The fact that “locals” prefer “cushy” jobs was addressed earlier by one of my all time very favorite bloggers,
The Religious Policeman, on April 21, 2006. You may have to search his archives to find the article, but it IS well worth reading. Sadly, Alhamedi is no longer blogging, but it is because of him I realized I needed to start my blog, that would shed some light on issues, here, in The Sandbox.

. . . Alhamedi, I hope once in a while you’re stopping by to visit, and you smile, knowing that you were the inspiration for my site!

Old and Unpaid

Some things just don’t change. Not here, anyway. I read Ladislao Reyes story and just wanted to cry – with him – for him. For 18 year Mr. Reyes has been a truck driver for Al-Shark Transport [hey, what’s in a name?]. Some five months ago he filed a complaint with the Labor Department to get back wages, his end-of-service benefits, his vacation tickets, iqama and medical expenses. Since filing his claim, not only has Mr. Reyes NOT received his salary [oh, yeah, big surprise, here!], but he has been forced to vacate his home and is now living on hand-outs from friends and fellow Filipinos. Apparently a good hearted Saudi national has taken pity on him and has now given him a place to stay – it has no amenities [i.e., electricity] – but something is better than nothing.

Mr. Reyes worked for a meager salary and has achieved his goal of putting all five of his children through college, which explains why he has worked so long past the [mandatory, which is sixty, or so I thought] retirement age.

The trucking company claims that they owe Mr. Reyes nothing and that they have documentation to prove this. Interestingly, enough, however, they did offer a settlement to Mr. Reyes during earlier negotiations, first of 10,000 Riyals and then 20,000 Riyals, provided the claim with the Labor Department would be withdrawn. Mr. Reyes has refused the settlement – from a company that supposedly owes his nothing but was willing to give him something.

The story says that there was a hearing last Saturday [August 19th], but that “for the second time” the employer did not show up. Another hearing was scheduled for yesterday [August 26th]. It is all too common that these cases before the Labor Courts drag on and on and on. Apparently the employer is not “required” to appear, and when the employer – or the employer’s representative – doesn’t appear the case just gets rescheduled.

It could be years before this case gets resolved. Let’s hope not, for Mr. Reyes sake. Quite a contrast, I’d say, to this case, which was filed on May 7, 2006, was “looked at” on May 11, 2006, and almost immediately resolved. Surely it would be preposterous to think nationality plays any part in how the Labor Department determines and issues verdicts in their cases. Oh. My. Gosh. I didn’t just type that, here, did I?!?

Locking up The Kids!

I know this has been posted at a few other sites on the Web already, but not nearly as pertinent to someone writing in the States as it is to someone writing in The Sandbox!!!

Banning the sale of dogs and cats in Saudi Arabia is only going to make it MORE dangerous than it already is for four-legged Kids. I worry every day about The Baby getting loose and not making it home – because someone out there, a local, thinks that a “black dog is evil.” I don’t know what truth there is to that – whether black dogs are really considered “evil” here, or not, but I am just not willing to chance it. I worry every day that The Boy might get loose and that some “local” will think that because he is so big he would be perfect for a dog-fighting ring. The Boy doesn’t have a fighting bone in his entire body and just the mere thought... I cringe!!! It’s much more prevalent here than you would think. Yes, the sport of Dog Fighting. This is a sport?!? It. Is. Criminal. That’s what it is! No, I will just NOT think about that, today.

Amazing that one of the reasons that the sale of dogs and cats will be banned is because the powers that be here believe they “can be vectors” of diseases which “can dangerously affect newborn babies, the elderly or persons with immune system deficiencies.” Huh? I did a Google search to find out more about what diseases dogs [did not search cats, just dogs] carry that could harm newborn babies. There is very, very little out there, and in fact, but for allergies – oh, and rabies – one canine psychologist, Kathleen Martin, has this to say:

“… health risks are minimal. It should be fine as long as the dog has had its immunizations. We can’t catch doggy diseases anyway. The only thing we can get is worms – so make sure the dog is regularly wormed.”
Wikipedia had a short entry on the subject of “elderly and dogs.” I was hoping to find something that suggested that older people who had dogs lived longer, healther lives – I know that this is true – I just can’t find a link to back me up, here. Ahh, here’s one, and here’s another. There are many, many more. I just wasn’t typing the proper words into my earlier search.

Regardless that fact upon fact upon fact will confirm that having four-legged canine kids is NOT dangerous, I, for one, will be keeping an extra close eye on The Boy and The Baby from now on – it would not be too far fetched to think that their leashes will be wrapped around my waist while we sleep. Nope, I will not be letting The Boy or The Baby out of my sight, here, ever again. [Not that I ever did to begin with, mind you, but...]

Today’s Agenda

Not exciting, really. But I do have a list of things to do. It’s a “healthy” list!

1) Post on 2,996 project.

2) Put other posts that have been written – but are not up – on Stilettos.

3) Go to library – find book on “Blogging for Dummies.” Need to learn how to post side-bars, favorites, etc.

4) Find out where shipment is – it was supposed to be here between 7A and 10A this morning. It is past 11, now…

5) Unpack and get laundry started.

6) Go to post office to make sure there is no mail.

7) Go to Commissary; the Kids are out of “breakfast” dog food and there is no more coffee!

8) Make appointment for manicure and pedicure.

9) Cancel trip to London.

10) Start diet.

I can knock off number 1 on the list.

[For your information, I tried and tried and tried… to get photos to publish on the “Boxers or Briefs” article. They would not take. No matter how small I made them – they would not “upload.” All the more reason to get that “Blogging for Dummies book at the library, today!]

The 2,996 Project

Huge kudos to blogger, D.C. Roe, who has taken on an epic endeavor – slated for unveiling on September 11, 2006. On that date, it is anticipated that 2,996 different blogs will each pay tribute to a single victim – there were 2,996 individuals – who perished in the horrifying disaster that took place almost five years ago, on September 11, 2001.

I will be posting one and celebrating the life of Yvette Nicole Moreno, a much too young [she was only twenty-five!] woman who was working as a receptionist on that fateful day… Yvette had made it out of the North Tower building, was running away, and killed by falling debris. Tragic.

The website is
here. As of last night there were still 125 or so names to be assigned to bloggers.

Truly it would be wonderful to be just a bit more computer literate than I am! The library is a MUST today – to get a book along the lines of “Blogging for Dummies.” I need to learn how to post side-bars on my blog [every other blogger participating in the 2,996 project has a “link” on the side to click to show a photo of who they are writing a tribute to and how to get to the link to sign up to write a tribute – mine – nope – no clue how to do this – not a f’ing clue!], post photos in the middle of an article, and learn how to do a bunch of other “stuff” to make this blog a better blog…

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Off Again...

I am very appreciative of the interest so many have shown in my blog… It’s been just over two very, very, very full weeks since I returned to The Sandbox. [Why? Why? Why? Did I fire my HouseBOY?!?] I have several items ready to post, but had to fight with “Blogger” over the weekend [our weekend is Thursday and Friday] and it would NOT let me “upload” pictures no matter what I did. Needless to say, those posts have to wait until I return.

Yes, I am off again. I am leaving in two hours to go to Vienna, Austria, for a week. I will be back in The Sandbox again next Saturday. It has been 110 degrees here – and incredibly humid – which is very odd for this time of year, for so long… It is only 72 degrees in Vienna. I have packed sweaters and my mittens! [Oh, and my umbrella – it is supposed to rain in Vienna for the next four days – sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Cold, wet…] Regardless, am planning on sight-seeing and being a “real” tourist rain or shine.

Look for new posts a week from Sunday. I’ll be back again, and posting on a daily basis.

In Shallah…*

*Means "God willing" in Arabic.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Abused Maid Paid $8,042.89

We have a winner!

“Rosie who survived seven months of torture at the hands of her sponsor and his wife” is going to be paid 30,000 Saudi Riyals [$8,042.89] in compensation. Rosie tells her story to The Saudi Gazette, and states that her “employers had subjected me to the harsh beating when I asked for my salary. The beating became a ritual and escalated when I asked the help of the mother of my woman employer.”

A [poor, or she would not have come here] young woman from the Philippines, Rosie came to Saudi this past February to work as a maid for 750 Saudi Riyals a month, or whopping $201.07 U.S. Dollars! This measly amount went unpaid, a saga all to familiar here in The Kingdom, for some six months. On August 8th Rosie received what was her last and “the worst” beating and the next day she “managed to escape and made it to the King Fahd Hospital” where her compatriots called the Philippine embassy to report her condition.

Philippine embassy welfare officer Danilo P. Flores said, “Her condition was heartbreaking. She had contusions on her head and had developed hematoma all over her body.” Flores reported the incident to Captain Fahd Saad Al-Dossari of the Udulliyah Police who investigated the case, summoned Rosie’s sponsor and “locked him up.” It is reported that Rosie’s sponsor “confessed to his crime before police and agreed to settle the case by paying Rosie seven months of unpaid salaries and other damages.”

It is in this regard that we have a winner… In the almost four years that I have been here in The Sandbox, not ONCE have I read that a sponsor has admitted to the crime of abusing domestic help. Not. Once. It goes without saying that NO ONE should have to suffer abuse at the hands of their employer, and it should go without saying that no one should go unpaid for any length of time, and certainly not for seven months.

“The embassy had initially asked for SR50,000.” “Rosie’s sponsor settled at the police station and agreed to pay SR30,000 after negotiations . . . That settlement includes SR18,000 representing 24 months worth of salaries, SR800 for the destruction of Rosie’s personal belongings, SR1,200 for air tickets back to the Philippines, and SR10,000 in blood money for the beatings.”

Broken down, the sums Rosie received for being abused by her sponsor, are:

SR50,000 – the initial amount requested – is $13,404.82 U.S. Dollars;

SR30,000 – the amount the sponsor agreed to pay – is $8,042.89 U.S. Dollars;

SR18,000 – representing two FULL years of salary – is $4,825.73 U.S. Dollars;

SR800 – for personal belongings – is $214.47 U.S. Dollars;

SR1200 – for airfare – is 321.71 U.S. Dollars; and

SR10,000 – payment of blood money – is $2,680.96 U.S. Dollars.

Colonel Al-Harbi states, “We would like to emphasize that such treatment – such abuse – will not and is not tolerated in our society. This is a warning to all employers to respect the rights of their workers.” This rhetoric has been the subject of diatribe for so long that there was never a resultant action came as no surprise. It is enlightening, to say the least, that we have come upon an official who truly means what he says. Let’s hope that someone, somewhere, seriously considers promoting Chief of Al-Ahsa Police, Colonel Ibrahim Muhammad Al-Harbi, to the head of whatever government agency oversees labor abuses and disputes!

Women's Shelters

Monday’s Arab News puts “the spotlight once again on the increasing number of incidents involving abused women.” Perhaps it is true that the number of such incidents is increasing, but I am more inclined to think that the abuse has always existed and is only now coming out of the proverbial closet. Kudos and thanks go to Rania Al-Baz, a former announcer at a Saudi television station, who suffered a brutal attack at the hands of her husband – an attack and beating so horrendous Miss Al-Baz was unrecognizable. Raina Al-Baz’s story was followed by Arab News, in a heretofore unprecedented public milieu, from the beginning to the end.

Purportedly over the weekend a woman escaped from a Riyadh hospital and made her way to a shelter in Jeddah. According to the
article, had she not made it to the shelter she was afraid the police would return her to her abusive family, which is not an uncommon dilemma for abused women. The article says, “Even after they have escaped, the usual “option” presented to them [abused women] is to return to their abusers.” [If this is the “usual” option, it really rather negates the point of escaping.]

“Thinking that their ordeal will be over once they are in the shelter, these women are subjected to further insults and neglect.” [This is ONE of the options? Not the “usual” option, outlined above.] “Their problems are not solved and they are more often pressured to return to the place they escaped from,” a social worker pointed out. [The “usual” option, above.]

“The shelter should be able to provide women with psychological treatment, social support and empowerment programs…” The supervising charitable organization consulted an expert who suggested help in this regard but the government entity chose instead to implement “its own plans that are bureaucratic, unsympathetic and not supportive of women.” Due to the “unyielding and inflexible procedures, many women who came to the shelter were eventually returned to the very places where they had been abused.” Amazingly, a case is cited where a “woman who had been sexually assaulted by her brother and then escaped . . . was then returned to the care of her brother for lack of evidence.”

According to the director of the women’s department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Nora Al-Asheikh, “if there are no obvious signs of physical or psychological abuse, the woman is returned to her family because some of these women are falsely accusing their family of abuse to escape strict rules.” Fortunately, despite the many shortcomings these shelters have, “If there is evidence of abuse, the woman is cared for.”

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Home: Heat, Humidity, Flooding, Rat Turds

Oh, yeah… It’s soooo good to be home!

Savannah was nice. Savannah is actually very nice. It is a beautiful old city with plenty to do and I thoroughly enjoyed myself every day of the seven I was there. My husband was there for some company business three weeks prior to my joining him, and continued working the entire time I was there. So I amused myself and found plenty to do. Even the one afternoon it rained I sat in the hotel bar met lots of nice people, including an employee named Elena from Russia who I have decided would make a wonderful wife for my son if it should happen to not work out with the young lady he is currently involved with [who he loved dearly until I told him that I actually liked her!]. I shopped; I explored the old tree and moss lined streets with the beautiful stately homes [mansions!]. I ate – way too much – but all the good things I’ve missed while here in The Sandbox – the very first night – baby back ribs! They were absolutely fabulous. And I drank. There are probably a few bottles of Sterling Cabernet left in Savannah in some of the more remote stores and restaurants, but when we left there was none left in the immediate “downtown” vicinity. Savannah’s weather was absolutely perfect [but for the one rainy afternoon – and it didn’t even start to rain until I put my bathing suit on to head to the pool – but of course…], in the upper-80’s, low-90’s every day, some humidity, but not unbearable.

After my husband was done with company business we headed to Buffalo where my parents are. They are actually outside of Buffalo, in the very western part of the state in a teeny, tiny little town which is only on the map during the summer, right on Lake Chautauqua. It is a summer “resort” area and come Labor Day, the sidewalks are all rolled up and put away until the following Memorial Day. How my parents have lived there year-round for so many years amazes me. Upstate New York in the winter – which lasts for a full seven months – is utterly dreadful. Cold, gray, dreary. Depressing. It snows every single day. It is called “lake effect” snow. Call it whatever you want; it still needs shoveled – plowed – and it’s still cold. Very cold! So, we had a perfect five days there and took advantage of the beautiful summer weather. I laid on the dock and worked on my tan and my husband worked on the golf course chasing a little white ball around [no, I don’t play – I tried – it takes “hand-eye” coordination and I have zero]. We visited with other family members; played catch-up with an aunt and a cousin I’ve not seen in almost twenty years. We spent a glorious day at Niagra Falls on the Canadian side, and really, this should be included in one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it isn’t.

From Buffalo we headed to Maryland where one of my sister’s and her family live. It was here that for the first time in sixteen years – yes, sixteen years – that my ENTIRE family – all nineteen of us – got together for a family picture. There have been many, many family gatherings in the past sixteen years, but someone has always been missing for some reason or another. I hope my parents aren’t too disappointed with us all – there are four of us – children – and along with our respective spouses we only produced nine grandchildren for them – and if my brother’s wife wouldn’t have had twins then there would be only eight. My Dad’s sister has twice that many, and his brother has twice that many plus some more. We aren’t a very big family…

After a few days in Maryland we finally headed to what we call “home,” even though we don’t have a home there anymore – Wake Forest, North Carolina. The almost two weeks we spent there flew by. Zoom. Whoosh. Vacation was over and it was time to pack up and head back to The Sandbox. However, while “home,” did attend to some of the straggling “loose ends” that never seem to end – dealing with the bank – we’ve been in Saudi for almost four years now, and even though we have filled out the appropriate documentation, sent letters and e-mails and made repeated, lengthy and costly telephone calls some of our “bank” mail goes to Sudan! – and it was during our last week in Savannah when we found out that one of our credit cards was cancelled because apparently some “bank data” was jeopardized so the bank sent new credit cards to everyone involved and our credit card was sent to Sudan and then returned – but we were actually paying for dinner one evening when we discovered the original card that we had in our possession had been cancelled – that makes for an interesting situation – and thankfully we have more than one credit card. We had to take care of our mail forwarding [mail goes to a “agent” who then forwards everything to us on a monthly basis], get the boat registered, and of course, as always while we are in the States get a shipment ready to send here. Hopefully sometime next week this shipment will be here – and this particular shipment consists of 484 pounds and will cost almost a Thousand Dollars. Four hundred pounds of this shipment is dry dog food. It’s just part of the cost of living in the Middle East. You pay what you have to pay.

It is a long trip home. A very long trip. On the day we left Raleigh, North Carolina, we checked into the airport at about one o’clock for a three o’clock flight to Detroit. We sat in Detroit for almost two hours. From Detroit we went to Amsterdam where we only had about an hour and a half before getting on the plane to Bahrain – but not before going to Abu Dhabi – which added some two and a half hours to our flying time – not because Abu Dhabi is so far – it’s only a fifty minute flight from Bahrain – but once in Abu Dhabi they had to service the plane and pick-up additional passengers. It was almost eleven o’clock when we finally, finally dragged our sorry selves through the front door – after a total travel time of twenty-seven hours.

We arrived to a very, very quite house. The “Kids” were at the kennel. This was the first time we’ve ever come home to such quiet, as in the past The Boy has been here with the House Assistant – the addition of The Baby only happened this past spring while I was in the States for most of February and all of March – so she has never stayed with him. I have no more House Assistant. I fired him on July 1st, six days before I left. He just wasn’t doing his job. Oh, sure, I could have “talked” to him again; we’ve had many conversations in the past where I’ve said “these are your responsibilities and this is what I expect.” And, for several weeks, things will go along just fine, and then we have to have “the talk” again. I’m done. No more talking. It’s detailed… On Wednesday, June 28th, I said “today is floor day,” and he actually gave ME a hard time about it. Wait a minute, here… This is my house. This is what I want done. You are my employee. And, you’re going to argue with me about washing the kitchen den hallway bathroom floor? Umm, no. It was an on-going issue – what needed to be done and what actually got done. My House Assistant’s schedule was that he worked for us seventeen hours a week – in the mornings – and this house should have been immaculate – and it just isn’t – wasn’t. I spent that Thursday and Friday just seething about the whole situation and decided that I just wasn’t going to have “it.” I started making a list of all the times we’ve “talked” and all things we “talked” about. It is three pages long. When the “cons” outweigh the “pros” by two and a half pages, it’s time to make a change. Well, firing the House Assistant, right before I left, probably wasn’t the most optimal way to handle this, and I had to put the Kids in Canine Camp for almost an entire month, but I knew that with the in the kennel – here on our compound – that I wouldn’t have to worry about how much time the House Assistant was spending with them, whether they were getting fed on time, and whether or not they were safe.

Maybe I’ll go into detail on the House Assistant issue at a later time. I am still very, very angry over this whole issue. The bottom line is, however, that I hired someone – he’s been with us almost three years – treated him much better than a lot of household help here gets treated, paid him more than I should have, and I was taken advantage of, over and over and over. I will not have household help again for a while. I just don’t want to go through this again.

So, after just a few hours of sleep, I woke up before the sun, anxious to get to the kennel – which doesn’t open until seven o’clock – to collect my Kids. As I am about to leave the house – it’s 6:45 in the morning – I see this puddle of what looks like “yellow” water on the den floor, along the wall. I am questioning what it is I spilled – it’s not coffee and it’s not from one of the Kids [they aren’t here!] – and was it there last night? Hmmph. Okay, wipe it up with a couple of paper towels, run upstairs to grab my wallet and “put my lips on,” and when I get back downstairs, there is more yellow water. What is going on? Oh, my, the neighbors must be having some plumbing problems. I head out the door and ring the neighbor’s doorbell. No answer. Ring again. Oh well, no answer. Whatever. I jump in the truck [it’s a Land Rover – I call it a truck] to go to the kennel to get the Kids. They are THRILLED to see me – and I am THRILLED to see them! It was a very touching reunion. We get in the truck and come home. We walk in the door and the den and kitchen floors are soaked! Water is just running into my house from next door. I start throwing some old towels down to cover the floor. Uh-oh. The carpet in the dining room is wet, too! It is “squishing” when you walk over it. Great. Just great. I don’t have that many old towels and I really don’t want to use nice towels to clean up something I’m not even quite sure what it is. As I head out the door to go back to the neighbor’s – the Kids are racing through the house – racing through the water – and someone is going to get hurt! – the House Assistant from next door is running toward me – his arms waving wildly and telling me a pipe broke and he doesn’t know who to call. [There is no less than four inches of water on the floor of the townhouse next to ours – the Oriental carpets have got to be ruined – as well as some of the furniture! They have two little “yip-yip” dogs next door and the poor little things are swimming in the water. I make the call to “202” and tell them it is an emergency and they have to come right away. They do. They send plumbers, a truck that sucks water out of your house, a team of men to “squeegee” the house next door and rip up the little carpet they have there – it is mostly tile. Several hours later the same team heads to our house to do the same thing. It is just one big mess.

In the meantime, as I am trying to unpack and get semi-situated back at home, with the Kids, I notice some black pellet looking “droppings.” I think I must have a rat. Great. I’ve seen one rat here – thankfully it was not alive at the time – and it was not pretty. And, now I’ve got one? Oh no, this is NOT good. I call “202” again and they send “pest control.” They little man gets here and says, “Oh, Madam, you have a rat.” Yeah, like I said on the phone when I called. And, gee, thanks for confirming this for me. “We must send someone with a trap.” Yeah, like I said on the phone when I called. So, a little while later another man gets here and he takes one look at the little black pellet looking things and says, “it is a gecko.” Are you sure? Because the man that was just here said I have a rat. “Oh, no, Madam, it is a gecko.” And, to prove this he starts squishing the little black pellet looking things with his finger – on the floor! Eeeuww! “See, Madam, they are soft and contain bugs. It is a gecko. Rat droppings are very hard and you cannot squish them.” Yeah, well, okay then. Now what? “He will leave, Madam, he will not like the cold air [huh?] and wants to be outside.” Sure he does… Not to worry, The Boy will find him if he’s here, because he is after all, the World’s Best Lizard Chaser! The Boy won’t catch the lizard, but I’ll know when he finds the lizard because of the ruckus it will cause. The little black pellet looking things have been cleaned up and there have been no more, so if there was a gecko in this house he’s either hiding somewhere and making a mess elsewhere or he has decided he doesn’t like it here and he has left or I guess, he could be under the stove or one of the refrigerators and dead at this point. There’s no awful smell coming from under any of my appliances so I’m hoping that he has left, gone back outside to the almost unbearable heat and humidity we’re experiencing.

It’s soooo good to be home!
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