Read Me/Disclaimer

Read Me/Disclaimer: This is a non-political/socio-political blog. It's a running tale of my Saudi Arabian adventure, great, good, bad, and ugly. It is uncensored, and I don't really care what you think of it, read it or don't. I don't care. I did not decide to do this as a means to an end, but rather to document the means with which I occupied my time while waiting for my end... All that being said, I'm an American Expat in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The opportunity to help build this system and the salary that accompanied it were to good to pass up.-Geoff

"The views presented here are just the views of some asshole named Geoff, they are not necessarily the views of my employer, my co-workers, my family or anybody else. First hand knowledge and second hand accounts were used to compile the information. These are not scientific facts and figures. These views are not necessarily supported, endorsed or even appreciated by the KSA the USA or any other country for that matter and the author makes absolutely no claim that they are."**

Thursday, December 29, 2011

No New Years Eve?

Ok, so in theory, booze is banned in the KSA.  (That doesn't stop Saudi's from getting it and partying all weekend, or driving over to Bahrain every weekend, or doing hash).  But for all intents and purposes, booze is "banned" in the Kingdom.  Fine, in my so far short period of observation, it doesn't look like they need it to have a good time.  So then if its not the booze that's the problem, what is it?  Why can't we celebrate New Years?  I know the calendar is different, I'm not that stoopid!  But it's not really a religious thing, and the KSA still uses the Gregorian calendar for all business purposes...but most importantly, I think all other developed nations celebrate it.  I'm sure North Korea and Iran don't, but nobody here supports those countries or political systems...It's hard to explain if you haven't been here, but the KSA is friendly to the US, sure we aren't best friends, but they're better friends to us than the French are...They really are our strongest ally in the Middle East, despite the fact that President Clinton was in the UAE and the 5th fleet is in Bahrain, the KSA is the "Strongest" US ally in the region.  More importantly, we hold certain things they need and want...Healthcare, engineering experience, consulting firms, infrastructure expertise (I know, I know its hard to believe that with the state of some of our cities and roads WERE the experts, but we are.  And, possibly most importantly, a worker who cannot be replaced in terms of intelligence, ability and work ethic. I keep trying to explain to friends in the US that the KSA does not dislike America or Americans, if anything, they're a little jealous that we can do more than they can even with all their money.  All of this is evidenced by the fact that rich Saudi's attend US Universities, their senior military officer corps is trained by the US Army, Pilots are taught by the US Navy, and fortunes are still made and money still invested in the NYSE, NY, New York.  So they don't want our religion or our policies towards women, don't want our booze but they still really like us...So what the heck is wrong with NEW YEARS! 

New Years Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays! You see, to me its undeniable proof that not only did I manage to make it another year in this crazy world, but more importantly that the world made it another year...I guess if you don't do the military or the security thing and don't travel that much, you may be oblivious to the fact that the nations of the world can kill each other a thousand times over in a span of 24 hours...Not to mention the fact that we use oil for everything synthetic that we make...everything...EVERYTHING!  And then throw it away and buy new whilst burying the old stuff in the ground like we won't eventually run out of space...and New Years to me means that we have managed to survive just one more year.  That we haven't quite killed ourselves yet...Why on Earth can't they see that here? 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The two forbidden L's

(Drafted, then continued...I am now permanently stationed in Dammam...Awesome!)

Short post tonight, I have a big day of travel again tomorrow, headed back to Dammam for a couple of weeks, maybe longer.  So I've heard a lot of uniquely Saudi things since I've been here, and its a steep learning curve because "you don't know Saudi, till you know Saudi".  You can read my blog, read other blogs and watch all the "youtube" you want, you can visit Dubai or Bahrain, but you "don't know Saudi till you've lived in Saudi", and for the most part you "don't know the real Middle East and the politics facing the region until you know Saudi".  Why?  Because this is where the religion is, this is where the money is, this is where the beauty, weirdness, money and Islam mesh together.  Dubai and Abu Dhabi is built on British engineering, money and luxury, Saudi's a little different... So the two forbidden L's of the KSA...This is what I learned tonight...

Love and Logic,

Tonight was the first time I've ever heard it put that way, but it makes a lot of sense.  Love does seem to be a fairly foreign concept here. 


Every week or so, you'll meet with your boss, and he'll ask you how you like it here, how everything is going, you might one day mention that you miss your wife, to which if he hasn't spent a great deal of time in the west will make him raise his eyebrows and say "oh, you need cooking?"  or worse "ahh, you need sex?".  To which what does an American reply?  "Of course I miss cooking and sex you idiot!, but no that's not what I'm talking about!  I love her you know?"  To which you get that sideways look a dog gives you when he's really confused...It's strange I know, but love is not the same here as it is in the Western world, its here, but its different and focused much more around needs, responsibility and religion and most of all appearance...kinda like ultra catholics...(That comparison MIGHT get me kicked out of the country, I hear there was once some bad blood there...don't know, a couple crusade thingies...).


If it makes sense, don't do it...Is that what I'm saying?  No absolutely not!  Oil be dammed, if this country wasn't filled with some of the smartest business men on the face of the planet it wouldn't be what it is.  It would be overrun with Texas oil tycoons and have titty bars and Cadillac dealerships on every corner, Movie theaters filled with booze and malls filled with debutantes in short skirts would dot the landscape.  Those things aren't here, well the malls and the dealerships are, but the rest is kept out, and you most importantly, you have to be a Saudi to sign business doc's and contracts.  Hence the whole country isn't sold piecemeal  to the highest foreign bidder...What I mean by Logic being forbidden is that when a problem is discovered, you can't bring it to the attention of your boss very often and hope to get anything done.  You have to convince a Saudi man that it was his realization, and that you will dutifully support him...It plays hell with the ego, but more importantly requires some negotiating skills that few Americans have, I'm thinking about starting a political boot-camp here in Saudi for aspiring American Diplomats and Politicians.  The first week will involve the recruit being dropped off in a Saudi city with 500 SAR and being told to live until further notice...

Mainly though my gripe stems from the fact that this is one of the richest first world countries in the world, they have the most state of the art desalination facilities within their borders, a modern army and navy, a modern police/fire/civil defense system...and yet they still drive 200 km/hr without seat belts, don't fasten kids into car seats, tell women to go to school, get degrees and do nothing with them, spend money like it disappeared every night while some people starve, let their kids stay up screaming until 2-3 am, consume plastics and other non bio-degradeables like they were....I don't even know what.  And here's the kicker, most people don't care!  The fact that when you're rich and really sick, you get on a plane and go to Maryland, DC,  New York etc...blows my mind!  Do you realize how pissed I would be if I couldn't get good medical care in my own country, do you know how much angrier I'd be if I couldn't get the care I needed despite my money!!!!  I would be so ashamed of my country, but here, they aren't, it's normal.  Where's the logic in that!!!!????Driving past an accident scene with dead kids, everybody says "oh how tragic", only maybe 1% say this is bullshit, I'm going to do something about it!  And they usually start something like were doing, but 5 years, 30 levels of greedy bureaucracy, and 10 corrupt bastards later no real changes have taken place. WTF????  Go Crazy Folks! GO Crazy!  Thinking about it wears me out...

The two forbidden L's what the hell did I get myself into...


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cranky no more!

No longer cranky!  Got through the 35th B-day and am flying high again!  Should be headed to our permanent accommodations either tonight or tomorrow night (only one month late).  New guy should be arriving in a couple of hours, if we like him we'll name him, otherwise he's just plain old new guy for a while. Kay and I already made it through our unofficial Christmas (we did it last night, no thanks to skype, which decided not to work!)  And while we still have the real night and day to get through which could prove a little tough, things are otherwise normalizing!  Finally done with the Saudi Health commission, licenses are on their way!  Iquama's should be headed our way soon after, sooner we get our Iquama's, the sooner we get entry/exit visas, the sooner I can slip over to Bahrain and have a beer! Or over to Egypt to see some pyramids, or to Jordan to  One of the really cool things about being on this side of the world is the history and the architecture.  When I think of US history it never occurs to me that everything is relatively new...I mean my minor's in history so of course I know it, it just doesn't really occur in a way that you think about it.  It's a form of Americanization, we are so large with so many different regions to the country, and so many things to occupy our time that we often don't even think to look beyond our own nose.  

Getting to work was hell today, getting home was even worse.  Their is a GCC conference to discuss the Syria situation and so the diplomatic quarter was full of diplomats (imagine that), police, secret service, military etc...I'm sure it was still faster than DC would have been had the same thing been going on. 

So again things are good, almost getting back to that day I'm so in love with...You know, Payday...We'll get through the non-existent Christmas and new Years Holidays and then start fresh in late January with a new semester of classes.  Looks like were going to be teaching for a while, it was only supposed to be a stop gap measure, but apparently were doing such a good job that our real boss and all of his bosses think we're just where we need to be.  Apparently we greatly impressed the ministry of education on their surprise visit the other day, enough that our department was given the overall high grade for the campus.  so yeah, were not going anywhere for a while, looks like these 6 day weeks serving two masters and being generally despised by the rest of the incompetent local teachers are going to continue for a while...Oh wait...did that make sense?  It didn't did it?  I haven't told you about our two masters yet have I...Hmm that's a long story and one deserving of it's own post.  I'll give you a teaser though, we were brought here to build a high performance EMS education program, we were hired at high salaries into the administration department of the college, we were competed for by multiple Universities all trying to do the same thing, when we got here, a lack of competent teachers and some recent firings left the department short handed, and men with Master's degrees and PhD's who felt teaching undergrad classes was below them, sneakily handed off their classes to us for a "short time" so that they could free up their schedules to goof around in their offices...I'm serious...All was going well until the other day when one of them asked me for some papers, to which I gave him a sideways look and said "no, why would I do that for you"?  Apparently somewhere in the hierarchy this moron with a MS (Phramacy...think CMT in the US), is technically one of my superiors...or something like it.  he doesn't know anything about what I do, doesn't help with what I do, didn't evaluate my resume/CV, didn't hire me, doesn't know anything about the way I conduct classes, but...yeah...huh?...what...You now understand it as much as I do.  Either way, I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not work for him, that I was not here to do his job but rather to build a program that could rival a western program and that I was only actually teaching a class out of the goodness of my heart, in other words...I was as "diplomatic" as ever.  We mentioned the whole thing to our real boss, who laughed, told us to be "diplomatic" (he meant it though), and play nice.  Then we impressed the ministry so much, that they didn't even mention fat old Mr. Pharmacy or his helpers, just us.  Yep,  they hate us alright.  I will continue this some day soon, and for all of you thinking about coming over, read it and understand it, for all of you who have tried to train people in the middle east before, stop laughing and remember the shock you had the first time you figured out that the guy who would be homeless in the states was the prince/emir/sheik/rich kid boss over here!  And stop laughing dammit!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

1 month down and cranky as hell

So I hit my one month anniversary the other day, I'm starting to get the hang of things.  I know plenty of people, Saudi, Egyptians, Jordanians, Indians, Brits and of course the scourge of the world...Americans.  I'm having a great time, I love it, I love the salary, I love the adventure, I love the salary, I love the new sights and the opportunity to better mankind...I love the salary.  BUT, I miss my fucking family.  There I said it.  At home, they're all always bugging do better, think deeper, drink less, save the world with whatever time I have left after two jobs and school.  I was ready for a vacation, some time off, a break.  But I'm done now, can I have them back?  I HATE the realities of life sometimes and I want nothing more than to hear my son ask me for some gas money, my daughter bitch that I'm overbearing, my wife tell me that its time for bed, my dogs jump up on that bed and try to push me off of it while they sleep.  The sounds of my wife snoring next to me would be like music to my ears tonight.  Travel and adventure might seem like James Bond, Jason Bourne stuff but the reality is that without Mrs Bond and Mrs Bourne it isn't really worth a shit.  I had a great evening with some Western friends tonight, it should have helped me relax and made me realize all the things that are great about this place, but it really just made me lonely.  Listening to children play, husbands laugh, wives utter disapproving grunts and families make Christmas plans was like watching the hot pokers of my captors enter my forced open eyes.  Life aint easy and, God help me, neither is domesticated life.  A few times in my domesticated life, I wondered whether it was all worth it.  Wondered if I'd been shackled somehow by the constraints of "family", held back from my true purpose...I can tell you today that the thought of such things is a bunch of bullshit.  I had it, it was what it was (which is good) and I left it for money, and I get what I deserve.  The guy who gave me a ride home tonight, my "driver", Indian guy named Thomas whose driven me before, started talking about life tonight, asked if I was married, asked about kids, and what I did for a living...I was honest and then I asked him the same questions, we shared some laughs, two immigrant wage slaves enjoying a good laugh with each other...Priceless...Fuck I hate being a whore sometimes, then I remember that in the US I was just a whore of a lower status and pay grade, and being used for my brain and abilities at triple salary isn't exactly slavery or street level prostitution, it's more like...high priced "escort-ery".  Oh well, done for the night I guess, at least I had a good time and its all more than I can say for being in the US right now, 1 hour till I'm officially middle aged.  Tough night, but the sleep, when it comes, will feel good.  Love you guys,


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Same the world over...

I've tried to express in these pages that I believe human society to be the same the world over.  This is also a view I've tried to spread and support over the years and especially since 9-11.  Dividing the world into us and them is possibly the silliest and most dangerous concept ever introduced.  Mainly because I don't know who "we" are, let alone who "they" are!  Funny thing though, it's done here as much as it is at home, which brings me to the inspiration for this post; government bureaucracy. Government bureaucracy and government employees are the same in Saudi, as they are in the states, and I'm quite sure the world over.   There are great ones, OK ones, and then the majority of them...the bastards!  We ran into one of these today while trying to get some official stuff done, his attitude was one of unbridled contempt and his facial expression said it all: "stupid foreigners".  A wrong side of middle age man, he sat behind his glass window and dealt out loud and vicious Arabic smattering's, refusing to speak English.  He took all of about 5 minutes to declare to our boss in Arabic that we could not have licenses because our paperwork wasn't in order.  We'll try again tomorrow, maybe he'll be sick...When we first walked away from his window, I could feel my face doing that red thing it does, you know the one when I try and impersonate a tomato? Kay's statement that if I ever get angry about something, I might as well spit it out because it's already visible on my face came rushing to the forefront of my mind.  I thought about turning around, walking up to his window, hitting the glass and saying something nasty, something along the profane lines of "hey don't want me here?  Good, put me on a plane and send me home!"  Oh and by the way, after you escort me to the airport and put me on the plane in handcuffs, I'd be sure to drive safe if I were you because guess what jackass?  Your Police force, fire department, and military might be in tip top shape, but your ambulance?  It's an f-ing joke, you currently have 6 paramedics on duty in this city of nearly 6 million, and they're all from western countries...Yeah that's what I'm doing here, trying to fix that problem, the same thing that other American's, Australians and Brits have been trying to do since the early 90's"!!!!And the whole reason it hasn't worked yet is because of bastards like you!"  But really folks, whats the point? if this guy knew anything interesting that we didn't know in the US, and he was hired to come over and try and share it with us, I'm quite sure he wouldn't make it past the airport before he hated us.  Some fat-ass TSA worker would probably shove a baton up his ass, pose for a picture and at best offer the apology "sorry Osama, can't be to careful after the old 911 ya know".  Then again, I think the TSA would probably do this to 99% of airline passengers regardless of race and without the sarcastic apology if they were left to their own devices (security at Heathrow was nicer than security in St. Louis!)

I don't know if tomorrow will go better or not, I do know that I support more than ever my belief that the world keeps getting smaller, and less and less different.  I remember a conversation I had with an acquaintance who despite having no education past a GED felt the need to share his expert opinion and beliefs about Islam before I departed for Saudi Arabia.  "They're all crazy over their Geoff, they don't even get along with each other, they all believe different sh%&, and think they're gonna get 1000 virgins or something if they kill you, you just watch, you'll see, only good ones a dead one, that's what I think"  I offered the feeble resistance that as far as Religion went, Christianity was pretty fractured as well, you know with the Catholics and all their denominations, the 1st Baptists, 2nd Baptists, Freewill Baptists, Southern Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, 1st Presbyterians, new Presbyterians, Mormons, Jehovas, and I'm not even going to touch all the strip mall churches that have popped up or the mega church televangelists that rob old ladies of their social security checks every month.  I thought I had more to say, but the conversation pretty much ended here.  I registered the look of disgust on his face, and realized I'd lost another facebook friend.  he told me to be safe over here and walked away.

The point?  If today's new friend and my old acquaintance could somehow correspond through a neutral medium, one in which they didn't know where the other was located, and they didn't have any insight into the others skin tone, language or religion, these two simple minded jackasses would be best buddies.  It is a "small world after all" (very notably in the Magic Kingdom) and it's time for intelligent people to stop getting out of the way.  Please make a mental note to stand up to one of the bastards in your life and just kindly tell them to give it a rest.  I don't guarantee results, I'm willing to speculate that they outnumber us 2-1, but it's worth a shot. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Viva! Dammam

We stepped off the train and my nostrils were suddenly confronted with this not entirely unpleasant odd smell, I tried for almost 5 minutes to place it when the answer suddenly came to me-Fresh Air...I'd apparently already forgotten what that smelled like.  I've mentioned before that Riyadh is fairly comparable to New York, Tokyo, London and any other big city I've ever set foot in, and it goes without saying that those cities are overcrowded, over hurried, obnoxious and full of pollution.  Riyadh throws the extra ingredients of dust and sand into the mix, making for a real witches brew of funk that lingers over the city. The funny part is, when its your first time in said big city you adapt very quickly and don't even think about it for more than a day or two.  So consequently when you take a trip 3 weeks later, and find yourself in a relaxed seaside city, the thought of "where the hell am I currently living", "and why" demands your attention.

The driving in Dammam is comparable to an American city in a hurry while Riyadh is something more akin to a bunch of drunken rednecks who just won the lottery driving racecars around.    So I enjoyed my time in Dammam to say the least, Wow, what a city.  Absolutely beautiful, stayed at a hotel by the beach, went for a 2 mile walk along a well maintained and clean waterfront.  Watched families fishing in the evening, even prayer was done by the sea.  Everybody I talked to in Dammam had nothing but great things to say about it and really went out of their way to help us.  The city has a reputation of being quite a bit more liberal than Riyadh, and I could clearly see it.  Our hotel was only 60 km from Bahrain (and therefore a night life, beer and a movie theater), 20km from the Saudi Aramco facility and golf course...All that and a bag of chips if you ask me, whats not to love?

Staff and Students were good, I was wrong to be apprehensive, they have an extremely high level of competence and while they may not have had all the hands on experience and training that I would like to have seen, their theoretical knowledge base was excellent and their English was very good.  I look forward to visiting that campus again, and if I get the the opportunity, would take an assignment their in a heartbeat!  It helps that the Dean put is in an incredible hotel and took us to dinner our final night at a seafood restaurant that surpassed even my most hopeful expectations for luxury.  We tried to figure up the price, and we guess he paid between 500-750 USD for the 5 of us.  What am I going to do, how the hell am I expected to go back to being treated like some schmo on an ambulance when I get back to the states.

I told Kay that maybe I could get assigned to Dammam, or after this contract look for a job in Dammam and when she finishes school she could come sit by the beach with me and study for the bar with beautiful weather and no hassles for a couple of months...that conversation went quite well, and I'm dead serious when I tell you that the thought of becoming a permanent Expat has done more than just cross my mind at a jog once or twice...It's running marathons.  So who knows.  I do know this though, if you're thinking of working here and your employer gives you Dammam as an option, you would be smart to grab it up. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I directed a friend of mine to the blog, he enjoyed reading it, but commented that even though It's not a political blog as I clearly state in the beginning, it is of course a political blog due to the fact that I'm a political person…He reminded me that I may once again want to run for public office, whether local or higher, that I have considered Law School (although I think I'd get my butt kicked) and  am still technically an MBA Candidate.  He thought I ought to avoid electronically and permanently publishing statements that classify an entire race or culture by my independent, random and limited interactions.  At first I rushed to the defensive and thought "what's he talking about", you see, I've been very gentle in my assessment of the country, mainly because I like it and don't want to give the impression that I don't, and because defaming the Kingdom is grounds for expulsion from said Kingdom.  So after my huffy little protest,  I took the time to read back through the blog and e-mails that I had sent.  Wow, the words Pakistani, Brits, the French, Saudi's, Filipinos' the entire document.  So I started thinking what on earth possessed me to suddenly start grouping an entire culture into one or two word titles…I really did think about this for a couple of days.  And here's what I've come up with.  The culture here is very class based, and even worse almost caste based.  Each nationality has an unofficial place ranking, as an American, I am very near the top and as such have the chance to see this behavior from others.  When you speak with a native, he'll classify not only your culture into a one word statement, but also every culture presently represented in the Kingdom.  So this brings me to Autonomy, I'm going to have to do some research, but I'm beginning to think that personal autonomy or individuality is a very much American concept, (probably more likely a democratic concept, which I'm sure the French will again take credit for).  I know that it's not a concept embraced in most Kingdom's, or in Communism, or even in Socialism.  Those systems are more concerned (right or wrong) with the representation of the state.  This explains why many Muslims become angry when they ask me if Muslims in the US properly represent Islam  and I reply that we probably shouldn't discuss such a thing…Then they ask if I've seen them drink and consort with women like westerners do and I sheepishly reply that "sometimes, maybe" …which is a lie.  Of course I've seen such things, I've actually seen them act like depraved frat boys on PCP.   Grabbing and touching every woman in sight, drunk driving a Mercedes down the street at double the speed limit.  

So this might be an ongoing topic, for now though, it sheds some light on some of the bad behavior perpetrated by American corporations and execs while overseas…It's apparently very easy to "follow the crowd" when you're the stranger in town.  I'll try and remember that it is at best difficult to group an entire nationality together, and at worst is pure and ugly racism.  My sincere apologies. 

(And for the French I'll say this:  I dated a French girl once (1st gen American actually).  Her mother was a real snobby witch, her father ***I edited that***and she only cheated a couple of times while I was overseas, she only lied about it a couple of times too…I knew a guy in High School we called "Frenchie", rich kid, druggie shithead who hid out in the US to avoid his mandatory military service in France.  But other than that, I guess I have no proof of them being bad as a whole.  I think they should have listened to de Gaulle in WWII, and not moved the bulk of their army to the front lines leaving Paris in the hands of a reserve regiment, but whatever, guess it all worked out.  They did kind of help us out in the 7 years war and that whole 1776 thing…So to France and all you Frenchies out there I apologize for my nasty comment.   I have been told that Turkish Air through Istanbul is better than Air France through Paris, been told to avoid that route at all costs…wonder what that’s all about...

Midnight Train To Georgia (well an early evening train to Dammam actually)

I usually write all my blogs after the fact, but have a rare opportunity for live chronicle today.  I'm writing this while were on a train from Riyadh to Dammam, looks like it's going to be about a 4 and a half hour ride, right now were headed out of the city through some of the parts of Riyadh that I've never seen before (which isn't surprising considering "Riyadh proper" occupies some  600 sq miles and houses more than 5 million people.  We just left the first class lounge and are now sitting in some of the nicest seats in first class.  When they scanned my ticket and passport at security, the guard said "oh American, Welcome!"  He then yelled for a porter who told us to follow him and he whisked us through security without even a stop at the metal detector.  The X-ray machine looked like it was from the 1970's and was being repaired anyway, it didn't scare me nearly as much as the Fire Hydrant anyway, 2: 1 1/2 's and 1: 2 1/2.  That is hardly adequate to supply a truck fighting a fire in a building of this size...(I know, I know, I'm a nerd).   Officially were headed out to one of the other campuses to give a "seminar", but were actually going to ensure that the students have been taught properly by their current instructors, and to recap a little of what they already know, and then examine their practical skills…After what my class put me through today, I'm not all that optimistic. 

We just came out of Riyadh and are now in the real desert.  Red sand as far as the eye can see, dotted with scrub brushes,   and small trees.  Mesa's and plateaus in the distance, small foothills that shelter small family farms and villages in our foreground.  The scenery looks remarkably like every movie about humans and Mars made in the last 20 years.  Something about this feels very much like a Arabian desert themed rollercoaster ride through an alternate universe, Disneyland in the "SaudiZone" maybe.  If 29 palms had railroad tracks running through it, out by dry lake or any of those training areas it might look like this, NTC at Ft Irwin too.  What may be the strangest through is the occasional infrastructure way out here, wadi's are culvert-ed and their bridges paved, roads appear to be maintained even though they aren't paved.  It's kinda cool, but kinda creepy out here. 

Food:  I don't believe there is a dining car, but the food cart came around and we just paid 3 SAR for a Juice, a bottle of water and a coke (3 SAR /3.75 = 80 cents USD).  I was seriously contemplating a tuna and cheese sandwich, but good old American "foreign food cowardice" got the best of me, most of the tuna here is imported from Asia anyway and says on the label "In Heavy Oil" or in "Brine".  Yeah…gonna have to say a big old no to those. 

It's starting to go dark now,  which is to say it should be pitch black in a second.  I'm not sure why it gets dark so quickly here…Come to think of it, when I get an Internet connection back, I'm going to have to look that one up, were near the Tropic of Cancer if I'm not mistaken, maybe that has something to do with it…

90 minutes out of Dammam…Driver should meet us at the station.  They probably told him to hit his thumb with a hammer as hard as he can, when he see's the two guys who look similar…"well that’s them". 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"I'm a Civillian Explosives Expert"-Warning "slightly" explicit

"I'm a Civilian Explosives Expert!" and in the same breath "are you from the UK?  or USA?"  These statements definitely go down as the number one and two things you don't want to hear you Saudi cabbie say.  This debacle/goat roap/monkey fuck had started almost 2 hours earlier, let me go back and 'splain a bit...we had a pretty bad cab day...we needed a cab in an emergency and we asked the first cab if he knew where "xyz" was and he said "yesh, yesh, get in".  That was the last time the son of a bitch spoke English...So finally at the height of my frustration I said just stop here, to which he said "speak Arabic?"  "NO, NO!,  MAFI ARABI!"  "that's why I asked if you knew where it was!"  He just looked at me.  This guy was dumb in any f-ing language.  So we finally tell him the name of a mall near where were going and he lights up with understanding.  He pulls up at the mall, stops, we pay him and get out.  Now we still need a cab to the original location, but were closer now so it should be easy right???  The first guy we flag down doesn't really speak English, and he looks confused when I ask him if he knows where "xyz" is, so I say "no thanks" and we walk away, he sits there and honks at us 2-3 times and I come back towards him and he says "ah yes I know".  Stupid F-ing me thinks "ok he must have just remembered"  Yeah...that wasn't it.  We got about a block away, obviously going the wrong way and I'm trying to ask him if he knows where he's going when he turns completely around (mind you he's driving in heavy traffic) and says "Speak Arabic?"  Friends, that's when I just about lost my f-ing mind. ("friends it looks 'dem duke boys are in a pickle")  I had to pinch myself and force myself to calm down, because while I'm sure he really didn't speak English, he wasn't as dumb as the first guy and he knew damn well that the words coming out of my mouth weren't very friendly.  So Justin, who normally manages to completely save our collective asses either through friendliness or technology, see me calm down, and then starts in on the guy "why did you say you knew, if you didn't know!"  Cabbie's response: "huh?".  Justin couldn't get a good signal for the GPS, and so after dicking around with this idiot for an hour, we got a hold of our friends and found out that they were already at the hospital, so we had the driver take us back to the mall...Really, the mall?...I've been to more malls, more times in the past month than I have in the past 5 years in the states.  I began to prepare to smoke a much needed cigarette, when I realized I must have dropped my lighter in the cab...fml.  So then, I go searching through the mall for a store that might sell cigarettes and lighters, except even in a country that loves tobacco, I couldn't find one...On the Carrefour window there's a big sign that says "Because Carrefour cares for your health and the health of your family, we do not sell cigarettes" "#$%#^"...."*&^%#"....."@#^^%$". fml..twice! (Reason #592 that I hate the french: Carrefour and their stupid tobacco policy, I should have known the french were such lovers of life, its why they've never managed to fire their damn weapons at anything more menacing than a hay bale in modern history!  The last good thing they did was show a few American WWII era GI's a good time, and even those poor bastards were getting German sloppy seconds!"  Screw France...So to finally get to the point that inspired the title of this post...I found a smoker and got a light, it was now time for us to head over to a work meeting (9pm-nobody actually sleeps here, they rest. You can do anything at just about anytime except of course during prayer)  So we find ourselves an English speaking cab driver, who was actually Saudi by birth (rare, most are Indian, Egyptian or Pakistani) and who knew the city pretty well, sounds great right?  As were pulling away from the mall, he says "I'm a civilian explosives expert!"  and "are you from the UK or the USA?"  I think "FML!" for the final time that night and just kinda sink into the back seat and try and sleep...