Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mafi Mushkila

So I bring an arabic language book with me every day to my studentship at a local hospital. There, I have a variety of instructors who speak varying amounts of english to me, and during downtimes in the afternoon are more than willing to help me learn a few words here and there. Usually this degenerates into unintelligible babbling and laughter, but I must say having people laugh at you when you mispronounce things makes for good motivation to learn.

Do you want to learn some arabic?
Of course.

Here is how you say "Of course" -- "Tab-awn"
And here is how you say "tired" -- "Tab-awn"

My 'teachers' (i.e. the people sitting next to me that I was distracting from their work) were emphatically insisting that there is a variation in how you pronounce the words, but I just couldn't hear it! This must be similar to the whole "th - d" phenomenon in French. One of my colleagues also tried to demonstrate the difference between a hard "H" and a soft "h" and patiently repeated "ha - Ha - ha -Ha" to me...and well...it was a valiant effort. At the end of the 10 minutes, I felt like I did the last time someone tried to explain the difference between 4x4 and all-wheel-drive to me.

In my language book it gives you sample conversations and one of them was about food. I was reading the arabic parts and had someone else read the english parts until we got to couscous, at which point he was laughing too hard to continue and ran off to call his friend on the phone to talk about couscous. Later when I asked another person what it meant, she giggled, pulled me into an alcove and then suddenly poked me in the crotch; it wasn't a direct hit, but still, I was not expecting that. She of course became hysterical too when she saw the violated expression on my face. Who knew??? Couscous...I'll never see it the same way again.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A day in the life of a Saudi kid

I know we've already discussed my interest in mall indoor amusement parks for kids, but I couldn't resist posting a couple of more pictures of the kinds of things they have! Now I can't remember which mall this was because they all blend together after a while, but check out these giant mechanical animals that kids get to ride on. That blur behind the lion's butt beside the three men is an excited little girl swaying side to side, ready to pounce on that animal. Once they start up the animal, it walks on its own around in a big circlewhile the "trainers" hold the "leashes" and make sure the kids don't fall off it. And guess what - all the animals have built in radios so they project music during the ride! I know these animals are not real, but even if they are machines, I still feel a bit sorry for them.

Also, here is a kids-themed haircutting shop inside the mall. The floor is covered with a racetrack pattern with cars on it, and you can see Disney characters everywhere on the inside of the shop. I mean, if I was a kid and I knew haircuts would involve all those toys, I'd beg to get my haircut till I was shaved bald


Sorry I haven't written in a while - I have a backlog of things I want to post about, but one of the most interesting things that we have done here in KSA is hashing. This consists of a group of people going out into the desert and basically doing running or hiking and it usually involves some amount of juvenile singing at some point. Here is the website of an international group that has a chapter here in Riyadh: http://www.gthhh.com/

We did the long walk which was described as "difficult." Alternate words that came to mind during the walk were "dangerous" or "borderline insane." It was a LOT of fun. The terrain is actually nothing like I pictured, with an absence of sand and abundance of rocks. We were climbing up and down big hills that were full of loose, sharp rocks. It was a really great workout, but I couldn't stop to take any pictures on the hills because I was busy trying to keep up with everybody and focussed on not dying. It was a great workout, and even though I was huffing and puffing up the hills, the beauty of the scenery was not lost on me.

Here are some pics:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Letting off Steam - sorry no pics!

Last night we went with a friend to go car shopping. Actually, we are SUV shopping. Before you raise your voice in protest on behalf of the environment and everything green, let me assure you that we are not just going this route to satisfy a whim. The size of the vehicle has more to do with safety than the manliness of the car. The problem with Saudi driving is that it is not only chaotic, but it's chaotic at insanely high speeds. Truly, you must witness the madness in person to understand, so I will refrain from describing what we see on the roads here on a daily basis.

Anyways, we began shopping at 9pm, because of the Ramadan hours. I think we ended up hitting 5 or 6 dealerships, but the GMC dealership was by far the most crowded with white thobes everywhere. We capped off the night by test driving a Hummer, which was quite fun. I don't think I'll ever visit another country where we are test driving cars at midnight - it seems surreal to experience such things. Aside from the outlandish appearance of the car, it was actually a very good ride. We are still deciding what type of car to get.

Switching gears here, we've been encountering a curious thing here in Riyadh, particularly retail type stores and restaurants. People go to such lengths not to offend you that they often give misleading information when they cannot understand you. The other day I called a bookstore to check their hours of operation and I asked what time they were open until. They mentioned 4:30pm. When I got to the store at 3:30pm, there were men standing outside the door. I stated that the store was open until 4:30 and they said, "yes ma'am" and so I began walking in. They seemed uncomfortable with this so, I asked again what time they were open till and they said 4:30pm. Suddenly one of them shouted, "closed!" This is when I realized that none of the staff understood the word "until", and that everyone had thought I had been asking when they opened and all of them refused to just say they did not understand my question....I threw my hands up in the air and returned to the car.

You might think this is a minor annoyance, but when it happens twice a week, every week, you develop an appreciation for the general honesty that occurs on a day to day basis back home. Let me add that this is beyond a language issue - it's a cultural preference for giving a positive answer, whether or not it's correct. It's not malicious or even a bad thing, it's just hard for westerners to deal with. Every expat living here has a story about how they were told "yes yes, fine fine" to a question and found out later that the answer should have actually been "no, no, you're out of your mind"

"Out of your mind" - they don't tell you this, but this is actually where you are sent after you arrive in Riyadh. It's a direct flight. Yesterday I found out there was some decent sushi here at a restaurant called Tokyo, and got very excited because sushi is my favourite food. This afternoon I instinctively called the restaurant just before we planned to leave for it, to go grab that glimmer of shining hope, only to find out that it has closed for the entire month of Ramadan.

Al Hamdu lillah!

(that's me being sarcastic in arabic)

Friday, September 12, 2008

golf and other random stuff

I wanted to show you guys some pictures from our weekend. Yesterday we went to the Hotel Intercontinental to play some golf. Though I should not mislead you - I went to the driving range, and the *other* people went to play golf on the green. It was still a great time though. I caught up with the rest of the group once the range closed and took a few pictures. During Ramadan the golf course is empty at night, and it's extremely peaceful. It's almost like an oasis in the middle of the city. You would forget that you're in the middle east, except for the constant religious chanting coming from mosques around the hotel.

We were so disappointed yesterday with our performance that we went to another range today to see whether we could improve.

These are pictures from the Arizona compound, which boasts a driving range, golf course, and a ranch with horses and goats. Lots of goats.

The horse's name is Pearl. Pearl and I would have gotten to know each other a bit better, except when I extended my hand to say hello and give her a little sniff, She got this hungry look in her eye and almost snapped my fingers off. The chickens were eyeing me too, so it was a very short barnyard visit.

And switching gears now, I just wanted to show you an example of some censorship on the sale of an item in a Canadian Tire type store here in Riyadh. You can see the blonde woman is probably wearing some kind of scandalous bathing suit under the black marker. Shame on the Sauna Belt for producing such a lewd ad.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I'm sure you all know that Riyadh is a very conservative city. One of the foreign concepts that is a little peculiar and difficult to grasp is the segregation between single men and women. Restaurants all have a means of creating a physical divide between the sexes. There is often some combination of sections for single men, single women, and families. For example, here's a picture of us entering the "family section" of Starbucks after being refused entry to the "singles" section. And in my prior blog about IKEA, you can see a picture of a typical family section in a restaurant.

I find this whole concept to be totally confusing, because in eating establishments and banks (for example), the segregation is present, but in grocery stores, malls, and shopping areas, it's impossible to enforce. So I often forget about the whole concept unless I'm confronted with a panicked employee when I go into the wrong sections. For instance, I was shopping in a souk the other day and got extremely thirsty. I spotted a takeout restaurant with an orange juice fountain and hurried into the shop only to be horribly shocked by half a dozen men yelling at me to leave. I was surprised (and a little insulted) by the commotion and accidentally backed into a man carrying a coffee who spilled it in a neat line down the entire front of his white thobe. After apologizing profusely, I realized that they had all been pointing to a window on the outside of the shop that women were supposed to order through.

The Saudi authorities take the whole thing seriously and take measures to enforce it that would seem bizarre in Canada. The latest rule that has been passed was a ban on the sale of dogs and cats, and on walking them in public, lest the younger generation use it as an excuse to get to know each other. No joke!!

My confusion has been exacerbated by reading the book "Girls of Riyadh" by Rajaa Alsanea. The book was published in 2005 and banned here when it first came out. It documents the story of 4 upper crust Saudi women looking for love. In the book, single men and women mingle and exchange phone numbers at malls, at certain schools, on the road (!)... and they have dates in restaurants and cafes, and even at each other's houses in certain situations. I suppose they pretend they are married when they go on such dates and hope they don't get caught. Much of the torrid love affairs are spent on the phone and through text messaging with little in-person contact, but from what the book says, it seems young lovers end up meeting each other one way or another, regardless of all the rules that have been imposed on the population. It is pretty clear from the novel that there are many young men and women who hope to meet their life partners on their own and do a form of dating before getting their families involved in a marriage, though the traditional arranged marriage is more common.

Here is a very interesting posting on how youth are using bluetooth to flirt with each other:

...and I thought it was hard to meet people in Toronto!!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Grocery shopping at the Danube

I know that I've already taken you guys grocery shopping with me, but I couldn't help but post a few more pictures. Every time I go to one of these enormous grocery stores, I feel like I am Gary Coleman walking through the aisles because I can't reach half of the things on the shelves.

Here is a wall of soap. I've never seen so much soap in one aisle in my life. The selection at these stores is not actually that large, it's just that they put 100 of everything they have right on the shelf for us poor sods to pick through.

And here is a wall of toothbrushes... I trust you see where I am going with this. You must wonder about how much time I spend in grocery stores. Let me explain. There are buses that take us to malls and grocery stores almost every day here at the compound, so if I don't go, then we are essentially paying for the bus drivers to drive *other* people to the malls. And we just can't have that, now, can we?

Here's another picture of the children's section in Hayat Mall. It's an ice rink! I wanted to go skating but my man told me that it was only for kids and gently refused my invitation, pressing us on for the groceries. I can only say this: I am in touch with my inner child; are you?

And along that vein, I am posting this picture for you children out there to snicker at. I found some biscuits:

I'm in touch with my inner Gayelord; are you? I realize this is only funny to a small segment of the adult population, but sadly, that segment includes myself.

Ok and all jokes aside, I want to share this last pic with you. It's not a reflection of Saudi culture in any way, it's just plain weird to find something like this in a grocery store in any part of the world:

Predator, Storm troopers, and Lobsters - watch out!

Well I promise you guys that haven't gotten too bored with all the domestic topics more exciting pictures in the future...eventually when it less hot, I will take you out into the beautiful desert.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sorry friend, come back when the lights are on

One of the downsides of living in Riyadh is that things can close unexpectedly, for unexpected periods of time. This is mainly due to the prayers 5 times per day. They usually occur somewhere around sunrise, at noon, at 3pm, 6pm, and 8pm. The times change on a daily basis, so these times are different every single day. 5 to 10 minutes prior to prayer time, supermarkets and shops and restaurants tend to close their doors and dim the lights. And they'll stay closed for anywhere from 20 minutes to half an hour. To be fair, I should mention that one of the perks of living here is that everything is open until late, because the locals like to do everything at night, and that includes shopping. So that extends shopping hours beyond what we are used to at home. Most malls are open till 10pm and some all the way till midnight. In Ramadan the hours change so that people can shop till they drop at 2am. It is a surreal and unique experience to be at a grocery store at 10pm, lost in a sea of black abayas and white thobes, clinging to your cart for safety.

Anyways, back to the closing times...someone asked me before I left whether they have signs on the doors to tell you when they will reopen after prayers. Wouldn't it make sense if they had those signs with the little plastic clocks with the movable hands on them? This is the part where the expats laugh hysterically at your question. What do they need signs for when they have lights they can turn off and blinds they can close? And when that fails, there is always the classic man peeking out from behind the curtains and waving you away like a fly.

Ramadan has also added to the confusion, with most stores completely closed during the morning and opening in the afternoon. The schedules have shifted but it seems we are still in the dark about when exactly things are open for business. It becomes a kind of horribly twisted guessing game for us expats, especially the newly arrived. This means that getting more than one errand done in a day is a sugary fantasy dream that involves the cosmic fortunes smiling down on you that day, such that traffic, queues, and prayer times would all be working in your favour. Ha! Fat chance!

Anyways, the frustration melts away with a night swim in the compound swimming pool. It's not so bad, really ;)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Our Weekend in Riyadh

So I'm not sure how many of you know this, but the weekend here in Saudi is Thursday and Friday rather than Saturday and Sunday. It takes some getting used to. Anyhow, we had a pretty interesting weekend. On Thursday morning my man and I went out to the pool to relax where we ate a big breakfast cooked by yours truly. We saw a familiar face by the pool and my man went into complaint mode with our new friend about his hair and teeth, while I swam in the baby section of the pool...we must seem a little batty. Thursday evening we had our first party at our house, which ended up being fairly well attended mainly due to some very friendly Americans, and we had all sorts of interesting people show up.

The next day, we ate leftovers and vegetated in front of the television in various states of sleep. By the time the late afternoon rolled around it was beginning to look like a pretty uneventful day until our Aussie friend a block away talked us into visiting a textile souk with him. We were shocked to find ourselves in an area of town teeming with south asians with virtually no arabs in sight. It reminded me of the massive blackout in the summer of 2003 in Toronto that caused utter chaos on the roads - everyone spilled into the streets downtown, milling around in confusion. At the souk, people were bartering for fresh fruits and vegetables, and frying peanuts. It was great! We went into a couple of suit shops - here is our friend's driver, modelling some fabric for us. He takes modelling very seriously:

In the evening, we went out for a fantastic steak dinner at a restaurant called Entrecote at the top of Faisaliah. Here is a photo of the mall section of Faisaliah. You are not mistaken, that is indeed a giant bee in the lower right hand corner. This is the kid's section of the mall, and what do kids love more than giant bees?

The Entrecote restaurant has a lot of atmosphere - it's like Panorama in Toronto, except a million times better with steak and no alcohol. And family sections. And plush leather menus. And security screenings with machine-gun toting guards. You know, it's really not like Panorama at all. Anyways, have a look at this beautiful view from the balcony:

While waiting for our driver to show up after dinner, I took a picture of Starbucks - It was 11:45pm and the Starbucks was still open. You can see some saudi men in traditional thobes.

Oh, and these are a couple of random pics I keep meaning to post. Here is a picture of the kids section in one of the malls - every single mall I have been to has one of these sections in it. Some have roller coasters inside. I just wanted to show you how elaborate these children's areas are because we generally don't have anything like it in Canadian malls. Because in Canada I guess we don't care if the kids are bored at the mall - that is their lot in life. We are adults, hear us roar.

And this is a touchscreen electronic map of the Hyatt mall, complete with a Saudi lady avatar that speaks to you. Nifty! Though I still got lost.....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shopping in the Kingdom

Last week, my man and I took a trip to IKEA and grabbed dinner there. IKEA food is the same around the world, though not every IKEA has family sections set up like this:

All malls have family sections organized in a similar way to IKEA where tables are sectioned off with screens so that families can eat in privacy and women can take off their head coverings. At one mall last week the food court was full at dinner time and there were not enough screens, so I watched a saudi woman eat her meal with her veil on and it was awkward to say the least.

Yesterday I was taken on a shopping trip by my new asian friend. We visited the Kingdom mall, which is supposed to be one of the ritziest malls here in Riyadh, with Tiffany's, Dolce & Gabbana, LV, etc. etc. inside. August is a great time to be shopping here as everything is on sale, and though I thought I couldn't afford anything in this mall, I was soon proven wrong. I should have known that asians all over the world are the same: we are all looking for those $10 pants.

For the record, these pants were $7

Well enough bragging - onto other issues, like where to get camel meat for dinner. Yum yum! No problem - your local grocery store has some in stock:

And it comes ground as well for camelburgers:

Oh by the way, they do indeed have ketchup chips here, and basil as well, as well as 110v kettles. Someone said to me the other day that you can find anything you need here in the Kingdom, you just have to know where to look for it. I am discovering every day that Riyadh is totally livable.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Snacking Riyadh style

So they have some chip flavours here that we don't have back home. As you can see "Vine Leaves" is a popular flavour and I must say that the chips do indeed taste like the middle eastern dish. I was so curious that I opened them up in the grocery store at the cash register. I offered some to the baggers but they declined with smiles, probably because they saw the hungry look in my eye...you know - that look that says, "I'm offering this to you because I recognize you are working a hard job for pennies, but I fully intend to eat this entire bag before we hit the parking lot."

This second snack - the Yoki rice crackers I have just started munching on - taste like a stick version of rice crispies with salt on it. I couldn't find Canada's famous ketchup chips but this was supposed to be a substitute of sorts...it didn't quite work for me.

I'm going to show you our backyard. Here it is - I know you are falling off your chair in amazement right now but please try to contain yourself, it is only a backyard:

While I was taking a picture of my beautiful backyard to show you, I found something else in my backyard:

Did you fall out of your chair yet? I almost screamed, but I didn't; those mystery legs were literally a meter away from me. Anyways, I assume the legs have gone with their owner back to work because I just had another look and they're not there anymore.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life in Riyadh

I like it here. I have a vision of myself in early retirement.

Let me show you the compound where I am living. The compound is a ghost town with only staff members populating the public buildings, and a few cats around. What's with these cats???

Here is our bowling alley (I don't bowl, but I could):

And here is our gym (I don't work out, but I could):

Here is the pool in the middle of the compound - very nice at night:

And here are some stores that I have seen at the mall. You might recognize some of these shops. There's a saudi woman in my shot who would probably not have liked being in a picture but I had my flash off so neener neener! you're in my picture and you didn't even notice!

These are the people who yelled at me from across the food court. At first I thought I had been caught unknowingly doing something illegal and was preparing to apologize and feign helplessness. But then I realized they only wanted me to take a picture of them. Actually the asians didn't want to be in the picture - but the guy in the red shirt was very enthusiastic about the photo-op and pulled Mr. Yellow shirt into the picture before he could run away. That's why he has that unamused look on his face:

These are a part of the Doritos section of the grocery store, Carrefour, where we did our grocery shopping. It's like a warehouse inside and reminds me of Walmart. It has most of the things we have back home, though of course, no pork products. And though they had an enormous selection of spices set up in a kind of a souk, I couldn't find Basil. We hope to find Montreal Steak Spice soon. The beef was all shipped in from Brazil at this grocery store. And the chicken tastes different - it's a little tougher and more stringy than back home.

And finally a picture of my man walking through the DQ of Riyadh at night. That's DQ for "Diplomatic Quarter" not "Dairy Queen". You have to be careful here not to get too excited when someone mentions DQ because they are usually (sadly) not referring to ice cream. Baskin Robbins is thriving here in the Middle East, but so far I haven't seen a Dairy Queen at all. No Peanut Buster Parfaits for me for a while! We were at a party last night at the U.S. Embassy, so that's what we were doing wandering around there at night and I would have posted pictures except they took our phones and cameras at the door!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Touring Dubai

We rode a double decker bus to explore Dubai. We had a great time seeing the sights, though the humidity in the air was a bit of a damper on our trip.

We skipped out on the Heritage Village and the Bastakia Quarter, which were deserted. I was content to snap pictures from the air conditioned bus. We stopped by the famous gold souk where we spotted a shirt made of gold. Very classy.

We did manage to step out onto the Jumeirah beach for about 60 seconds to see the famous 7 star hotel Burj Al Arab. For a city that is supposed to be part of the desert, there is a lot of water and greenery around. Apparently Dubai has one of the highest water consumption rates in the world. We stopped by the Mall of the Emirates to have a look at the indoor ski slope. It's actually quite big and you can only see the bottom of the slope from the windows inside the mall. For anyone who thinks this business venture sounds a little insane, I encourage you to count how many people have paid to go in and frolic in the snow:

We also purchased an abaya from the Saudi section of the mall. You would think that since this is a garment that is being worn by half the citizens of the country next door - many of whom end up flooding into Dubai for vacations - that it would be relatively easy to find this item in Dubai. But then you would be wrroooooong!! We managed to get a hold of one eventually. Trying on abayas was as fun as dropping acid in your eyes....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

shopping in dubai

I visited the BurJaman mall today. It was breathtaking and everything inside was brutally expensive except for the schwarma. Which by the way was very good.

I went to the Emirates Towers and got my hair cut at Toni and Guy. The muslim woman who sat down beside me asked for a screen to be put up around her for privacy as she took off her head covering and abaya. I think my staring might have been a little obvious because the staff moved me to another chair shortly afterwards.

The temperature here is 41 degrees celsius today. The heat is actually not that bad - it's the humidity that's a killer. For this reason, the streets are totally deserted during the day. The only living things I could find on the street were these guys, and they seem to be having a fight:

Sorry it's a little blurry - I took the picture from a car window because I didn't want to get eaten.

Arrival in Dubai

I'm digesting a late night hamburger in my hotel room right now. The flight was great, as forecasted. The Emirates airplane had the most extensive movie selection and the most overhead storage I have ever seen on an airplane. This is also the first time I have received little extras like toiletries and wet towels in economy. On top of that the food was surprisingly good and above par for airplane grub. The pilot listed about 10 languages spoken by the staff on the airplane as we were taking off, including some languages I have never heard of.

The Dubai airport is enormous. It also contains a flying saucer as decoration inside. I was walking for a good 15-20 minutes at a good clip just to get to customs. The lady who checked my passport asked about the purpose of my journey and when I mentioned I have an extended stopover in Dubai before completing my trip to Riyadh, she shot me a look of disapproval mixed with pity and advised, "Take a nice vacation here before you go there." She also told me to go shopping with my man's credit card.

This is my first taste of censorship while surfing the web tonight. I was trying to view some Sesame Street pastry heads. Elmo and Big Bird heads, to be exact.

It's 2am here and 6:45pm Toronto time. My circadian rhythms are all confused by the time difference. I'm going to try to get back to sleep now =)

Monday, August 11, 2008

leaving T.O.

Today is my flight! I am flying Emirates into Dubai, with an extended layover where I will be meeting up with my man, and then together we fly into Riyadh in a few days after playing tourist in Dubai.

I am flying economy on a regular plane, so I'll be having none of that "shower spa" decadence of the airbuses. Apparently, the Saudis say that Emirates is the only way to fly in the middle east, so I am taking my cue from the natives.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Stress levels subsiding

Last night for the first time in a couple of weeks I got my first good night of rest. Perhaps it's because the packing is almost done, but I think it's more likely because I received my VISA for Saudi Arabia yesterday morning by courier. I have been worried that it would be rejected because it was actually missing some stuff, especially after reading in the Star about librarians from Africa scheduled to attend a conference in Toronto having their visas rejected. Apples and Oranges you say? Well I somehow managed to extract the essence of the story and turned it into another reason to lie awake at night thinking about my visa approval, among other things, like what kind of topics librarians discuss at international conferences. And whether it's possible to find abayas in turquoise instead of just black. And whether I could get arrested in Saudi for wearing a turquoise abaya if I had one made for me. Anyways, it felt like Christmas, opening that Purolator envelope up. What a treat! It's done and stamped, and if you ever want to see something funny I'll show you my visa picture.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why should I answer the phone?

I wonder if Saudi employees ask themselves this question when the phone rings. I spent my morning calling various companies and out of about 10 phone calls only 1 employee picked up. I wonder if they were all in prayers or something because I know they take prayers 5 times a day and everything shuts down for half an hour or so. So if you're grocery shopping and prayers happen you're stuck choosing yogurt for another hour until everyone comes back. Good thing you like yogurt! Anyways, they can't always be in prayers, can they? I've called a number of hospitals multiple times and they just don't answer the phone. Why do you have a phone number if you're not going to pick up the phone? Why can't you get an answering machine? Why do you tease me like this? These are good questions, but 9 out of 10 employees in Saudi are not going to be answering them because they are busy ignoring your call.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Napping at work

I'm pretty sure that whatever job you have, you're not allowed to nap at it. I don't think many people in my profession have found anything similar to the working conditions I have had the good luck to land on, as most of my colleagues routinely work through lunch. I've done my time at that type of work, so I know what it feels like to eat a whole Druxy's roast beef sandwich in under 2 minutes. Do you know what that feels like? It feels like you are an exhibit at the zoo, because usually people are staring at you while you do it, tapping their fingers on the counter, wondering why you are taking a break to stuff your face when you could be helping them find Q-tips.

But back to the whole napping thing...I think I have developed a 6th sense to wake up when work appears. You may not know this about me, but I am actually the female asian version of Rip Van Winkle. So when I fall asleep, there is always that fear I might not wake up again. But thankfully I've never had anyone shake me awake at work - I always magically appear when I'm needed! To me, I feel this is a special skill worth documenting. Somehow I don't think this skill will be all that valuable in Saudi. That's why I didn't put it on my resume.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Preparing for Saudi

My very first blog! I'm losing my blog virginity! My bloginity!!

To be fair - I'm not in Saudi yet, but I am feeling optimistic today. I'm so optimistic that I am starting this blog to keep my family and friends filled in on my life in Riyadh. I figured, why not start at the very beginning?

The beginning of this trip is the visa. Getting a Saudi residency visa is one big stinking migraine. Actually a more accurate comparison would be an extended scavenger hunt, where you end up at locations like photo shops, the doctor's office (2-5 times), the pharmacy, the police station, the medical lab, an embarrassing position in your bathroom, Ottawa, Fed Ex, the photocopy shop, notary public, the college of physicians of ontario.....the list goes on. Everything costs a little money here and there and then you realize you have spent hundreds of dollars accumulating a collection of official looking papers, some of them containing pictures of you resembling a terrorist. Part of you wants to cry to the heavens and burn them, especially the ones with the pictures. And the other part of you says, "try not to be insane, ok?" But then the first part of you asks the question, "do they really think I could have worms, cholera, a hernia, or worst of all - varicose veins?" The sane part of you assumes this is a rhetorical question and does not answer.

Anyways, while that's all getting sorted out, I'm also figuring out how to get a job in Saudi. Do women work in Saudi? Yes, apparently they do. If you are a nurse, you can get on a plane today and start working at a pristine hospital tomorrow, where they shower you with gold and candyyyy!! And if you have my job? Heh! no gold. no candy. Just long confused pauses on the telephone, or the ultimate in phone fun - an arabic greeting followed by a dialtone. I'll let you know how the cold calling works out.