Sunday, February 27, 2011

Louie's Go-To Packables

Louie loves his blue and gray striped "el-fant." This is new within the last month. He lost his woobie in the markets of Jamaica. We didn't talk about it. He hasn't mention it. We moved on. drama.
Since coming to Saudi, he has attached to this stuffed elephant that's been around since he was born. He hauls that little guy everywhere. When you ask what is his name? He looks at you like you are a fool because clearly it's an "el-fant" It's adorable!
Lately, he's into packing things around with him. His go-to packables are: "el-fant," "ma-qeen" (Lightning McQueen car), Abby Ca-Dabby, and the nearest truck before leaving out the door. The packables go to night-night with him but only "el-fant" can go into stores. This is such a cute stage with the bonus of his vocabulary exploding!

Long Live the King!

The Saudi King was out for surgery in the US and returned this past weekend. In celebration of his return, he gave all of his government employees a 15% raise, created interest free loans to buy houses and declared Saturday (which is our "Monday" here) a holiday. Long live the King!
So we took advantage of our extra day off and went to the Persian Gulf referred to as the Arabian Gulf if you live in Saudi Arabia. Dora and Rich (my aunt and uncle) took us to the Aramco community on the beach in Ras Tanura. Unbelievable. Houses backing right onto the beach. Gorgeous sandy beaches with clear water and it walks out shallow for yards and yards...or meters and meters as they would say here. Between the houses and the beach is a bricked walking path for runners and bikes. Within walking distance was a pool, snack bar, theatre and bowling alley. Cody and I were looking at each other and thought what do we have to do to live here?! No need. Of course, Aramco has a bus for everything. They have buses that go to RT every hour of the day and return every half hour. What's not to love about that?! I think this will definitely be in the plans for many weekends to come! Anyone want to come and visit?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shopping in Saudi: Who knew?

Hermes, Cartier, Marks and Spencer, Bebe, ZARA, Locitanne, Banana Republic, H&M and Gap kids to name a few. The shopping here is insane. But no Nordy's. The jewelry stores have large 10k stones in rings and necklaces on display in the windows. These are emeralds in the picture. Rolex watches are a huge status symbol here. Gorgeous, expensive formal dress shops in every direction. These are worn at home for family parties.There are tons of baby equipment, clothes, toys and furniture stores - big families here.
I didn't get to even the smallest fraction of the Dhahran mall. It is literally so big that it is probably the size of two malls. And for them, that is one mall. Then there is another mall a mile away with the more high end stores. It is insanely fun to shop here ...but "just looking" as I tell Louie and myself. The prices are very expensive...must hit the sales at just the right time.
In the mornings, the malls are empty. Due to the heat, the Saudi's are nocturnal. They come out about lunch time and then back in for prayer. The malls are packed in the evenings and stay open until 11 p.m. or midnight. Men aren't allowed to go to the malls by themselves but should go with their wives, families or friends.
Most of the store clerks are men - think back to the 1950s. Even in the lingerie stores, there are only men to help you. It seems to be a serious career here. Very interesting.
Women aren't allowed to try on clothes in the stores. You buy the clothes, try them on in the women's bathroom and if you don't like the fit then return them 10 minutes later. Few stores have a return policy; mainly an exchange policy.
I can't find my Asics or New Balance running shoes here. The Saudis are HUGE into soccer and have a zillion Addidas and Nike athletic shoes.
This is my favorite! Because the heat is so unbearable in the summers, the malls have amusement parks inside them. Usually they will take up one floor of the mall or one end of the mall with roller coasters, carnival rides and arcade games. Mall of America has nothing on these guys! Can't wait to take Louie. He doesn't know they exist yet for obvious reasons.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Our new sandbox

When we moved in, there wasn't one tree, bush or grassy yard. It was all sand-actually one big sandbox. In prepping the houses Aramco wants everyone to start out the SAME. So they remove all the grass, flowers and bushes. This allows the new owner to order the plants they want from "gardening." Interesting thought, but our yard was completely barren - not even a tree!
We were allowed three small trees (12 inches high) and a few starter plants and grass starts. I really had to bargain for that third tree. No concept of sod here and the starter plants are truly starter plants at 6 inches high. The secret is to find someone who is leaving and to transplant their plants, bushes and trees before Aramco comes in and cleans it out. It's the oddest thing but everyone does it before the hired gardeners get to it. The gardeners in turn sell it to the families they work for here in the community.
Basically, we started from scratch. One family leaving told us we could have anything in their yard. We transplanted 4 bushes in the dark cover of night - seemed very odd to be doing this! I joined the gardening club here and had to learn what grows in SAND. After a few trips to the nurseries around here, I was able to fill in around our 4 leafy plants and add flowers and filler.
We finally finished this afternoon. Louie was a big help with the flowers. He would bring me one at a time. I would point where I wanted it to go. He would smile at me and then put it where he thought it should go! Such a character. He loves to garden with me - because basically we are playing in a big sandbox!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


We have been looking for furniture for the past couple of weeks - the furniture is huge and gaudy! I call it "Saudi-gaudy!" Not only is it gaudy, it's tacky and expensive. Saudi homes have huge rooms for their huge families. So it's common for them to have a couple of couches, love seats and chairs in one room. They love a vibrant mix of colors and fabrics. Who can blame them when they live in the desert?!
Every now and then, we find a couch or sectional that might look like the US but such cheap quality. Also, I found it quite humorous that the only way to buy a couch was in a set--the way you would see it in the catalog; couch and two love seats or couch, love seat and two chairs. The same applies to buying a pitcher; one must buy the matching glasses in the set.
Well, that's not quite our style. So it has been a little challenging to furnish our living room. However, I did learn it is quite inexpensive to reupholster furniture. So I bought a couch off the company craigs-list for $200. It's from Hickory Hill in North Carolina and actually matches the over stuffed chair I have at home from Hickory Hill -- what are the chances? So I'll try to ship out my chair and recover both of them. Done!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Louie's new friend, Owen

The second day we were here, Louie met a new friend named Owen. He lives two blocks down the road. Their birthdays are 6 weeks apart and squeal when they see each other! They love to play choo-choos and ride bikes together. I've never seen two boys just laugh and laugh. They like to hold hands when crossing the street to their preschool. It's the cutest thing!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Louie starts preschool

There is an adorable little preschool here for just 2 year-olds. It is run out of someone's home where a little classroom is set up and has little tykes jungle gyms in the backyard. Their curriculum is to not hit, bite, or push. They learn to play together, share and line up. Louie LOVES it. He has a little "Lightening McQueen" backpack ("pack-pack" as he says it) full of diapers and wipes rather than books and pencils. His teachers' names are Mrs. Ana and Mrs. Laurie. He goes for a couple of mornings a week. I LOVE it too.