I love to welcome myself back to the kingdom. It has been a nice week back on the compound and I've met a few new faces and said hello to some old ones. Each trip back gets a bit easier. I did a little bit of practice at the driving range at the Intercontinental this and managed to leave my abaya at home. Which is not the biggest deal, because you are allowed to be unsheathed on the golf course. But obviously I am still getting back into the swing of things here. Some people ask if you can get thrown in jail if you're not wearing an abaya in public spaces and the answer is no, but you *can* get harassed and stared at, which is every foreigner's dream come true. The good news is that they come in a variety of colours, ranging from jet black all the way to blue black, and all the black you can handle in between. You know what they say - "Black: it's the new rainbow."
I went to a maa salama party last night, which is basically a goodbye party. Riyadh is a transient place for many westerners and people come and go, quite often collecting on hardship postings and then returning home or jetting off to some other form of civilization. They are typically all-evening affairs and guests usually bring some kind of maa salama gift, often serving as a reminder of the person's time abroad. Or, if you are a guest like me and are suddenly informed of this custom in the car on the way to a maa salama, you bring a dolphin shaped balloon (that has nothing to do with anything) because that's all you could find at Riyadh Gallery, a mall that seems to sell women's clothing exclusively, and it would be even more (but not much more) ridiculous to bring women's clothing as a gift.
Anyhow, I thought it was interesting to begin my trip here with a goodbye. It was really kind of sad that it had to be that way because they were a very very nice couple, but at the same time everyone was happy for them to be moving on.
2 months ago