Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Saudis at our house

Here's another old entry for ya!

So I'm still a bit surprised that we had a Saudi at our home last week, because it all happened so fast. A casual invitation turned into a serious one and a couple of Saudi men came over for a snack.

Ok, just a bit of background - Saudis and expats don't really mix socially very often - it happens, just it's not the most common thing. It's beyond a language barrier as many Saudis speak excellent English; it's a cultural divide. So, suffice it to say that I haven't really properly interacted with any Saudis here, especially not men. I was surprised to find myself fretting about the whole thing, and wondering the whole time what kinds of things would be rude to say, and what kinds of things would be halal. I worried about giving everyone a hearty handshake like I usually do in Canada. What kinds of cold cuts are on the platter? Would it be funny to say "mystery meat" to a Saudi?

I think the most interesting thing about this whole encounter was that the Saudis seemed a lot more comfortable with this visit than I did. It only took a few short months of zero contact with Saudi men to turn me into a bumbling jittery teenager around these men. It really makes me think about what it would be like to be born into this type of segregation. Does it make you think about it? Just think about it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Riding the schoolbus

This is an entry I wrote a couple months ago that I never posted:

Hello hello... no, I'm not taking the schoolbus to school, it's taking me shopping. Most compounds I know of provide this service for bored housewives. They take us to all the most popular malls and souks on a daily basis. My husband is reading over my shoulder right now and is correcting my spelling even though he is himself a notoriously bad typer. He also says it's important to have these buses because the women keep the house running. He said this in a machismo way, with his chest puffed out. How irritating to have this running commentary behind me. And he is still sitting here reading this. OK he just took a hint, got up, did something obscene, and left.

I can't imagine Riyadh without malls, though a guy from McDonalds told me that there were no malls when he showed up here in 2000. Riyadh without malls? That's like yin without yang...cowboys without chaps...John Travolta without disco... This morning, as I was about to hop on the bus, it occurred to me that the last time I was on a bus like this it was high school. If someone told me back then that the next schoolbus I would be riding was this one, my jaw would have dropped open. I also would have gotten up, done something obscene, and left.

Anyways, all this to say that the buses that take the ladies out of the compounds to the malls are a big part of compound life unless you have your own personal driver/ baby-sitter/dog walker/gardner. Blah blah blah, that's it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

where is mecca?

During a layover in Dubai I noticed a dirty mark on the ceiling and as I lay in bed, I thought it over. What kind of hooligan makes stains on a ceiling? I put two and two together and a furniture move later, I was soon examining this sticker, up close and personal. You can make out a picture of Mecca and an arrow - I thought this was indeed a super-cool thing to find in a hotel, and as any consummate tourist would do I had to take a picture and post it. It made me stop for a moment and reflect on the state of spirituality in Canada. That moment was over pretty quickly when I heard the theme song of Friends playing on the TV. Oh Chandler you goof!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I hear the call to prayer

I stay in a little apartment here in Toronto and I often leave the window open at night to let the air circulate. As such, I often hear the traffic in the streets below, the drunks yelling obscenities, and general random *bangs* in the night that I assume to be gunshots and hubster says are just mufflers going off. No, hubster, they are gunshots, I swear it by the hair of my chinny chin chin. Every once in a while as I am drifting off to sleep, I hear the call to prayer. Of course, it's not the real call to prayer - it's the bus station a block away announcing random stuff over the loudspeakers. But being in the blur of almost-sleep, I often find myself wondering in the midnight hours what country I am in! I wonder if this happens to all the expats when they go back to their homelands...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

no pets

One of the joys of taking a walk in Toronto, especially in the parks, is seeing people walking around with man's best friend. No, not a cellphone you senseless technophiles, it's called a "DOG". I've always wanted to own one myself, but these days I could never justify it, with all the travelling and living in small condos, it wouldn't be fair to the dog. I love seeing their wagging tails, their open mouths panting for a bit of bacon, their excitement at sniffing pools of urine...dogs are the BEST! But it's one thing you won't see on the streets in Riyadh. As of July of 2008 Riyadh banned dog walking and also the sale of cats and dogs in an effort to curb the scandalous flirtations between unmarried men and women that were occurring in pet shops and streets all over the city.

So, a tip for all you singles in Toronto out there - get a dog and join your local dog community - if it worked (so well that it became illegal) for Saudis, it can work for you!