Monday, January 17, 2011

Louie's Life in Saudi Arabia

The Saudi women in the community just LOVE Louie. They touch his light colored hair, want to pinch his little rosy cheeks and try to play with him. He just scowls. One woman just picked him up as we walked into the dining hall. That didn't go so well. I think it's the head scarves. One woman was trying to talk to him and he kept pointing to his head. She looked at me and asked if he had a headache. Funny. I think he was saying, "what is on your head!" The women who wear the full scarves with just the slit for eyes really freak him out. They look like the dementors from Harry Potter!

Well, we finally got a crib today from the furniture rental. I think it was built in the 1950s. But Louie is able to stretch out and sleep comfortably. His room is the only one with pictures up, actually cute bedding and a bookshelf. The kitchen is pretty well stocked with Diet Coke. But the rest of the house needs a little help! We will get there. I hired a driver to take us into town to get a few things at IKEA - this will be our fourth trip in a week!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

But I needed a microwave

After being in Saudi Arabia for a week, I realized how much I needed a microwave. The challenge was to find one without Arabic numbers and words and one with a 110 plug. Not as easy as it sounds. After searching several stores, I was ecstatic to find one for only $47.

I made my way to the line of taxis with this huge microwave, loaded it in the trunk and asked the driver to take me to IKEA. Very simple. Well, he didn't speak ANY ENGLISH nor did he recognize the shop name IKEA. Change of plans - told him to go to the Dhahran mall which was across the street. He understood and began to drive. At the first stop light, he looked over the seat and began to check me out up and down in an obvious sleazy way. Just as an FYI, the custom here is, if a man is attracted to you, cheats on his wife, or hits on you, then it's your fault. I was wearing the abaya and covered from top to toe. He begins to babble, possibly lecture, in Arabic and ends with the only word I recognized, "religion?" I told him Christian. He continues to lecture and asked again, "religion?" With a stern look on my face and in my best teacher voice I told him that I was here with Aramco and a Christian. Then I reminded him - Dhahran Mall please. After I mentioned Aramco, he quit hassling me.

It was the longest 15 minute ride to the mall. I happily paid him to get out of the cab and hauled my microwave to the closest Diet Coke on ice. No limes but it didn't matter. I was out of his cab and line of sight from his rear view mirror.

My uncle said that was unusual and I should have gotten out of his cab...but what about the microwave? I couldn't leave my new treasure. Some people asked if he was a "matawah" which is the self-appointed religious police here. These matawah feel it is their duty to reprimand women who aren't "covered." I wasn't wearing a head scarf but in full abeya. This is usually what the Westerners wear. I've had a few people comment it could have been my blond hair. Too bad... I'm keeping the blond hair!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The "Easy Life"

When we were going through the interviewing process with Aramco and learning about life in the Aramco community, we were told this was the "easy life!" You have housekeepers, gardeners, dog walkers and a nanny if you want one. Labor in Saudi Arabia is cheap. Therefore, it's the easy life.

With the community being relatively small, word of mouth travels quickly when a new family arrives. We arrived at our house at 1 a.m. Due to jet-lag, I stayed up to unpack through the night. By 6 a.m. (sun is barely coming up), I finally find the sheets to make a little bed on the couch so that I wouldn't wake up Cody or Louie. I wanted to get some sleep before Louie woke up. I am not kidding you, 20 minutes later, there is a knock at my door waking me up to see if I need a gardener?! What the freak?!!!! Clearly, my answer was no at that moment. An hour later, another knock woke me up to see if I needed a gardener. A couple of hours later, there was another knock at the door. Cody answered the door and the guy had raked our sand to show what a good gardener he would be and asked if we needed a gardener? I mean honestly! So I got a little tip from our neighbor to put a sticky note on the door that said NO. It worked like a charm - no more gardeners.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Transportation is the key to feel like "normal" here. Cody got a little impatient looking for car and came home one day with this tiny scooter I have nicknamed, "putt-putt." The engine is a quarter of the size of our lawn mower. It's a putt-putt.

Around here - only the gardeners drive scooters and are all Phillipino. So when they see this big white boy on a scooter, they are so confused. There is very much a class system here. You do NOT go beneath yourself. And driving a scooter is putting yourself with the gardener class. This is so Cody... thinks he going to change thousands of years of cultural norms because he wants a scooter. The upside is--it only costs 25 cents to fill it up each week.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Move to Saudi Arabia: First Impressions

So we get off the plane in Saudi, jet lagged from 24 hours of flying with a 2 year old and I swear my first thought was... is there possibly a fountain diet coke? No such thing...

Thankfully, all of our luggage, 11 boxes and our dog Murphy made it through customs and into 2 taxis to take us to our new home in the Aramco community.

As we drove into camp at 1 a.m., I felt like we were entering the Truman show! All of the houses were arranged perfectly in a row, lawns manicured and looked identical. We were pleasantly surprised to get a single family home on a corner with a great view of the sunsets, community, and palm trees. Your housing assignment is based on the number in your family. With three, we qualified for a two bedroom with a study. Our house has three bedrooms and a study!

The next day we took our first field trip to the commissary to buy groceries. It took forever, because I couldn't read the labels and was slow at the conversion. It is crazy expensive here. One box of teddy grahams - $10! One pkg of hotdogs - $10!

Afterwards, we drove around the community to get a "lay of the land." There is a tennis club, golf courses (one is a sand course), a couple of pools, equestrian center, tons of soccer fields and baseball fields, an art center, a business center with the PO boxes, a barber shop, a photo shop and the bank. I am curious to venture out of the community tonight or tomorrow to hit the IKEA. But I need to get an abeya first. Who knows where to shop for one of those?