Saturday, February 28, 2009

Riyadh's Recycling Program

While I don't claim to be a model Canadian citizen, I do recycle a good portion of my garbage. And if I so happen to intentionally place a can in the garbage in haste, I feel a twinge of guilt as that bag slides down the garbage chute while I try not to make eye contact with it. I've also recycled some of those evil plastic bags that I collect quietly while all the consciencious recyclers switch to cloth. (

Anyways, the first week I was back here in Riyadh I was getting rid of garbage and separated all the paper products, putting them on the side beside our bin, like I normally would. The next night some friends walking by our house with my husband noticed the garbage heap and they all started laughing at it. The hubby asked, "is that how you put out the garbage??" I began a tart reply explaining how the paper products were for recycling, but didn't finish because I suddenly remembered that there is no such thing as recycling here. No recycling you ask, aghast! But what about paper vs. plastic, the 3 R's, David Suzuki, blah blah blah!! I open my arms and say marhaban to the Saudi time warp - we're in the 60's right now for recycling, the 20's with prohibition, and...ha ha...we won't continue that line of thought or my mom will scold me for being careless.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Driving in Saudi

As many of you know, it’s illegal for women to drive here, and the natives take that very seriously. For example, say, hypothetically if you were out at a car dealership with your husband and decided to get into the driver’s seat of a show vehicle. You might find some unfriendly stares, and perhaps some children pointing at you, or the native Saudi who brought you to the dealership might suddenly disappear, or your husband might not say anything but get out of car with a funny look on his face. It could happen to you if you were silly enough to forget where you are, hypothetically speaking.

So to get around, every expat housewife has a driver, either one supplied by the compound they live on, their husband’s companies, or through some other reliable connection. Taxis are not really a safe option. You women might be outraged at the thought of not being able to drive, but I actually don’t mind it so much because the roads are so chaotic here that I would rather not risk my life on the roads to pick up spoons at the mall. I wish I could describe what goes on here, but I really can’t do it justice. Just think “Death Race 2000.” The trailer is on youtube, so check it out if you want to see the real Saudi Arabia.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

King and Queen of Dance

Lest you think I am prancing around the house without pants doing absolutely nothing in Saudi, I thought I'd give you a glimpse into our home, and prove to you that I am doing a modified form of nothing here. Last night the hubster popped in an instructional dance DVD and our living room became a private dance studio, where he learned a proper stance when holding a partner. After we came to the end of the stance segment (about 5 minutes), he announced that he had already learned so much; he looked like Columbus discovering the New World. I have to say, in between laughing fits, I was very very impressed with him. We learned the basic boxstep for waltzing. Then his interest waned and he moved onto other things. By the way, I am indeed pantless right now as I write this, and no one is here to make me put pants on. Hi mom!

embassy party

This past weekend the hubster and I went to a Canadian embassy party in the diplomatic quarter. Cameras were "haraam" so I have no pictures to post, but it was a fun. The dj played a wide array of music, ranging from icelandic sounding suicide music to hillbilly country at the end of the night. While making a request to the dj I made a general life observation that most dj's seem to be monumentally and unbelievably into themselves, no matter what nationality they are. I suppose I shouldn't complain, because they did play my song eventually ;D <-- yes it's an emoticon and I'm unashamed to use it in place of punctuation :) :)

I had my eye on the buffet stand all night waiting for it to open. When I went over to inquire about it the staff replied, "In about 15 minutes m'am, don't worry you'll be the first." I guffawed, but he was right, I was the first. And after proudly declaring this to the schwarma guy, I turned around and almost walked into a much older stern looking man, who said deadpan, "I am second." He then started laughing; and I was kind of embarrassed realizing that I had probably bragged too loudly to the schwarma man about being first. the food turned out to be great, and just the right amount, as I was able to come back for seconds. Yum!

We had a good time all in all - met some canadians and gawked at a gigantic poorly formed beaver statue. The hubster was more fun at this party than he normally is, which was a bonus. ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's Haraam

In the Kingdom many things are “forbidden” aka “haraam”…pork is an obvious one, but so are public displays of affection. No kisses, handholding, or any contact really between unmarried men and women in public is allowed. Married people in general don't do it either. When you greet people of the opposite sex, you're supposed to smile, nod, and say hello, but not much more. Haraam has become one of my favourite phrases, and I use it whenever I don’t want to do something. It has become my reason for not doing laundry, for not tasting something, for not answering the telephone, etc. etc. Appropriately used, this phrase is accompanied by both hands held up, just below the chin in the “stop” position. When you utter the phrase, it is most effective if you turn your head slightly, close your eyes, and raise your eyebrows, to complete the disdainful tone.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Return to the Kingdom

On my way back to Riyadh for the second time, I flew Emirates from Toronto to Dubai and then Dubai to Riyadh. During the first leg of the trip I observed Pearson’s own baby boom in the waiting area prior to boarding, and sure enough on the plane I was seated next to a mother and her baby. Surprisingly, the mother was a baby expert, whose son was astoundingly good natured, crying only a couple of times: once in the night when he slid onto the floor out of his mother’s lap, and once on landing - but we won’t count that because a chorus of baby wailing rocked the plane coming down.

I stayed at the Millenium Airport hotel in Dubai during a 23hr layover, expecting to do some shopping and hopefully see some camels. Did it happen? That’s a firm “nay.” Yours truly wound up conked out in that hotel room the entire trip. Before the big sleep, I did manage to find out that there is a sophisticated arm of this hotel that is open for regular business where they have live crooning heartbreak music and restaurants where staff wear cowboy hats. I, of the common folk, was relegated to the layover arm of the hotel, where I got chewed out for ignoring a large sign on the toaster that forbade people to put croissants in it.

In an act of God I was miraculously upgraded to first class on my way from Dubai to Riyadh. No reason was given, but when I became overdramatic at my good fortune, the flight attendant threatened to downgrade me back to economy. I got to board separately from all the commoners, had my coat hung, got a welcome drink, and would tell you more except I fell asleep again, which I didn’t mean to do. I missed the fancy meal.

Customs is a nightmare in Riyadh. They had only two booths open for an entire 777, and a third, the “GCC” booth for gulf citizens. With luck, I was ushered into the shortest possible line because I was a woman (irony!). After passing through, I collected my bags and placed them on the conveyer belt to be x-rayed by an inspector who was staring into space while my bags were being scanned. Suddenly he sat up and asked me where I was from. I knew this was the end of me!! I nervously answered, “ I’m from Canada.” And then he leaned in, and barked, “No no no – where are you *from*?” This is the world-wide euphemism for “What is your race?” After I told him, he spun his chair around proudly and yelled something at a colleague standing a few booths down. And that was the extent of my questioning at customs. Waved off, I was free to go. All in all it was a very good trip!