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."**

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Some days it just-don't-pay!

There are days in this life when it just doesn't pay to get out of bed in the morning and then there's Saudi Arabia where it pays very well to get out of bed in the morning, but it still might be one of those days.  Today definitely qualifies!  I couldn't sleep for anything last night, I had taken advantage of my weekend and slept in a bit too late anyway, so when I finally got up and got to work on some of the things I've been putting off, it was already noon.  Spent the day tooling around Khobar, pricing the uniform shirts that we're making for the students, discussing work and the Kingdom and life in general.  I missed the opportunity to talk to my wife due to the time change and went to bed late and thoroughly restless.  I tossed and turned for hours thinking about this mornings classes, any random work that I had yet to finish and how I could make this semester something really special, something so that if I go home next week because Iran takes a pot shot at the Lincoln cruising through the gulf, these students will say, "that guy cared", "that guy made a difference".  And really its the difference that matters, not that anybody noticed or didn't notice.  I could give a damn about that, in fact if someone would pay me to sit on a beach or a boat and drink a bucket of beer all day as long as I did random anonymous acts of kindness that made the world a little sunnier, well lets just say my feet would never hit the pavement again.  Unfortunately every time I apply for that position, they tell me they're not hiring.  So back to the point, I get up this morning after about 3 hours of sleep, and realize my body's fighting off something, and doing a nice job of it.  Good little fever, strike 1.  Got to school, got organized, got my classroom set up, sat there waiting and none of my level 6 students (which is all I had today) show up...Strike 2...Ah the Magic Kingdom.  So I had a pretty productive rest of the day, got a lot of typing done, a lot of things I've been working on in my spare time got solidified into documents and presentations and proposals, and I decided that since I was on a roll, I'd just stay at the office a couple of hours and keep right on going.  About 6, I packed up and headed home.  I almost got ran over twice on the way home, the first one was pretty damn close, but as we all know "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades" so no harm, no foul.  Finally got home, planned to fire up the computer and call the wonderful wife that I missed yesterday and the computer crashes...3 times...finally got it going and reverted to a save point from a week ago and it's still screwed.  Everything I had is gone, I mean Dunski's.  Called a co-worker who felt my pain and walked me through salvaging what I could of it, but all of tonight's documents are gone...wonderful...Strike 3  Stupidly enough I decided I still had to eat, so I ordered food, and after ordering from the same place 4 times or so, suddenly tonight they decide they have a minimum order, so I paid double and now have enough food for a family.  It'll go bad before I can eat even half of it, but hey, I guess its better than having no food...the batter is accidentally hit with the ball while walking back to the dugout after striking out!  To hell with this, I'm going to bed!  Wish me luck!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

What do you do with your time over there...

Truth be told, I read...A lot!  In the US I was always busy, I worked two and sometimes three jobs, I had a family, was a City Councilman, and was a MBA Candidate.  here I have one job, no family, no council.  I am still an MBA candidate, but a slow one.  So I took the opportunity to read the way I used to, the way most of us wish we could.  So here's the list in order (complete with Geoff's arbitary ratings!) at 2 months 12 days...This might make you Jealous.

Full dark, No stars-Stephen King ***

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-Steig Larson****

The Dome-Stephen King****

Twilight-Stephanie Meyer***

Girls of Riyadh-Rajaa Alsanea**** *

The Girl Who Played With Fire-Steig Larson****

As usual, King did his thing and had me sucked in to both in a heartbeat.  "Full dark" as I think one of the critics warns in the beginning is a little darker than he normally goes....Wow, that man has still got it.  He's such a great story teller that you forget that he can get downright nasty and terrifying.  I truly believe that he's one of the most under-appreciated novelists of our time.  "The Girl" series, well, its a real shame he's dead, Steig Larson had at least another 4 or 5 great novels in him before he turned to straight profiteering, love this series and "Hornets Nest" is sitting patiently on my nightstand.  Twilight, read this for my wife, she LOVES the series, and the movies are enjoyable, so I thought I'd give the book a shot, wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped I'd be, but felt that the author really found her groove towards the end, so I may read the rest of the series.  Girls of Riyadh was awesome and should be mandatory reading for expats in Saudi, if not everybody who works with kids fresh out of high school and starting their lives.  Awesome book, loved it.  It got an extra star just because it easily and enjoyably helped me understand some of the issues going on around me. 

I've also read a Mosby emergency medical "secrets" textbook (I love that series) and an EMT basic text cover to cover, but they don't really count.  So, aside from writing this, work, and exploring, plenty of movies and some exercise, that's what I've been doing with my time.  The good news is that the "Jarir Book Store" isn't going to run out of books anytime soon, the bad news is they're just as expensive as any bookstore in the states!

I'm not out of ideas by any means, but suggestions are always welcome, but if your going to suggest it though, tell me why I should read it!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things I've learned in Saudi

I've never been a "writer" per se, at least not a good one, but I've been writing since I was young, and I know this mood...It's that mood where I do either my most prolific or least important writing ever.  It's when 50 voices in my head speak at once, all trying to have their say, threatening my sanity as they demand to be let out.  Worse than the sanity issue which we all know was decided many years ago, the final product has the chance of coming out very disjointed and almost as bable.  Oh well, thats what spell check and delete are for I guess, here goes.  Probably likely to be vulgar...

Another Instructor and I were invited on an outing.  Finally!  A real Saudi outing!  Not one of those Americanized outings, but a real outing into the parts of the country its hard to get to by bus or taxi.  Needless to say, I was pumped!  I got little sleep imaging the things I was going to experience the next day, and when the hour finally came to get up, I was ready.  My "tour guide" was 2 hours late, but hey, that's just Saudi.  I had walked up to the school so that finding my hotel wouldn't be an issue for him.  Romes and I sat there talking and discussing our future plans, both inside and outside the kingdom.  We talked about our families, and interesting paradoxes present in Saudi Arabia (hypocrisy is a really harsh term).  Our host finally arrived and we were off!  We talked about many things, saw some great stuff, drove by Gulf Palace and Aramco.  Our plan was to head out to Half-Moon Beach and have a day at the shore, the guys were convinced that I should ride a camel at one of the tourist traps on the way out to the beach, I had no complaints, you can't leave Saudi without riding a camel can you?  I surely didn't think so.  It was way to early for the natives to be up, so we enjoyed relatively open roads on the way out to the beach.  Half moon is huge, and at first I just thought we were passing beaches and cabanas because they were so close, I thought maybe we had more to see before we got to where we were going, finally though I asked and discovered that these were for families, and that as a group of three men, we had to find a place out of the way of the families or risk angering them and possibly getting hauled off by the Muttawa. So, no biggie, but it did start me thinking that if young men can't go anywhere a family might be, how in God's name were they ever going to see the blessings of family life?...We'll come back to that one.  We approach the tourist trap camel rides, and the guys are insistent that its time for me to ride a camel.  Ok I say, lets do it.  We pull in and stop at the first camel, the guys are saying that this is one of the biggest camels they've seen here, I notice that its a male, and that it looks like the saddest most pathetic animal I've ever seen.  It's decorated like an American teenager, it's got a stupid hat strapped to its head, its painted with some kind of make up and has teddy bears for sale strapped all over its body.  It's got a muzzle on and some giant tacky "Arabian Nights" saddle thing on its back.  I took one look into this things eyes and saw something worse than emptiness.  I saw sadness and I swear to God I saw the look of wishing for death.  I suddenly wanted to vomit, I wanted to get out of the car, shoot the poor beast in the head and put it out of its misery.  The guys missed all of this, they thought this would be the best thing ever for me.  When I said "no", they looked shocked and mistook the look of despair and disgust on my face for fear.  They started laughing, promising me that it was safe, I just quietly said no, c'mon lets get going, I don't want to ride a camel anymore.  They laughed more and kept trying to goad me into it.  Finally, they came closer to interpreting the look on my face and just decided that I must be in a foul mood about something.  As we drove away, they fished for information, I finally got them to understand that the camel looked silly and that I felt bad for it, I'd rather see a wild camel in the desert with the Bedouins.  This actually worked as my guide is the son of a Bedouin. 

When we finally found a campground/cabana without families we stopped and started to unpack the car, I realized why our host had been two hours late, he had stopped on the way to get us to buy about 1000 SAR worth of food for our BBQ.  He had bought enough food to feed an army.  As we started to set up the chairs, he immediately set about making us trays of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Nothing would slow this guy down!  Food and the beautiful beach looking out into the Gulf started to erase the camel memory, and I couldn't help but thinking this is pretty darn good.  We ate, played soccer (futbol) drank juice and just kicked back by the ocean, something that is apparently universally enjoyable.  Conversation was the first thing to start to go awry, our host was trying to describe someone to me, and the name wasn't ringing a bell, so he says "the negro", and Romeo jumps in and says oh yes, "African", and our host looks at me and says "I think in US you call them niggers, not Negroes, yes?"  "NO!", we don't call them that at all, we don't use that word anymore, to which he asked innocently "oh, is it bad?"  "Yes!"  That's a very derogatory term, we don't use that anymore.  The poor guy is looking pretty confused and tells me that he's sorry, his brother is living in Texas and said that's what he told him.  (Great, way to go Texas!)  "But they were slaves in the US right, but not anymore because of Obama?"  FML, no seriously, FML.  "No, president Obama is Black, he is African American, but no Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation, not President Obama."  Then we had a 60 min conversation about the Civil War (I'm here to help, you believe that right?) 

So were eating, I'm happy, things are good...until a family did pull up to a cabana a couple down from us.  They didn't worry about us at all, but they got our host pissed off pretty quick.  Two women, probably in their 20's (but who knows, they all dress like ninja's) ran down to the water while the man who had come with them set up his bbq.  They lifted their Abayas and went into the water allowing their legs to show, which sent our host though the roof and apologizing like crazy that we had to be in the presence of such "whores".  I actually called him on this one, "I think they're just having some fun in the water", and "we're the ones that are looking".  He said yes, but you don't understand, "they are doing this deliberately to tease us, they know we never see them, so they are showing us what we cannot have."  I shrugged that one off, mentioning that if they were indeed there to tease us, they sure were far away.  To which I got the answer "you can still see them can't you?"  I actually had to laugh at that one a little.  He further explained that girls "like that", "first they show you their leg, next they show you their ass!"  I parried this one by saying "really?  I wanna see some ass".  When he stopped laughing, he said matter of factly that if I wanted to see some ass, we could go over and tell them to show me...Ok this was getting weird, I tried to keep a real lighthearted opinion of things and just said that I think they might have something to say about that, and even if they didn't, the man they were with surely would, to which I learned that a "whores opinion does not matter", and that the person that was with them was not a man, because if he was, he would beat them for acting like this and force them to leave immediately.  hmm...were not getting anywhere and this is getting weird(er)

Why does everything have to come around to politics?  Why why WHY!  Were having a really nice, albeit really weird "sausage party" (which guys here seem to just love).  Why does it have to get dicked all to hell with politics.  Ok, here goes, so apparently Osama Bin Laden and the other terrorists were not really Saudi at all, they were Yemenese and American and the US CIA concocted their Saudi citizenship.  In fact apparently Osama Bin Laden has not even been to the Middle East since he was a child, he grew up and went to US public School in Beautiful Las Vegas Nevada.  Then he went to work for the CIA, which is where he grew his beard...Now take a second to fully appreciate where I am...I'm in Saudi Arabia at a beach, far as fuck (excuse my language) from help of any significant use...maybe I can swim home if this keeps getting weird...So I'm trying to take all this in, and there is no talking them out of this idea, Al-Jazeera told them this...CNN and the BBC lie (Thank God they can't see Fox news!).  So Osama is a US plant that we use every time we want to come around take from the Arab world, and we planned 9-11 with the help of US CIA agent Osama Bin laden...Is there an acronym stronger than FML?  I steered away from this conversation as though it were fire and I was gasoline.  Oh yeah, we went to Iraq to kill Arabs, to kill Sunni Muslims and put the Shia in power, and everybody here knows the only thing worse than the American war machine is Shites in power...Seriously...the next time I get a great idea, remind me to skip it. 

Long post huh...well consider this your intermission...we aint done riding this donkey folks...not by a long shot...

So were on the way home and we've had a pretty weird, but still pretty good day, I've gotten to see a lot of things, go to a really cool beach, and have what ranks as a really informative day, at least as far as insight into the thoughts of the average Saudi go.  Our host takes the causeway to Bahrain to show me where I'm going to need to go when I get my exit visa and I decide its high time for a beer (dude its two months past high time).  Unfortunately, I can't go over without an entry/exit visa...maybe next weekend...So we start talking about Bahrain, and all the fun I'm going to have over there, and damn it if it doesn't happen host says it will be a nice break for me, that anything I want can be found in Bahrain, Food, pork, alcohol, drugs, name it.  So I explain that, some pork would be nice, and a beer would be great, greater than great actually, but that I'm married and in America adults don't do drugs, at least not most of them, that's a kid thing (because what were talking about here are all night orgy-esque raves and dance clubs where the attendees are commonly taking lots and lots of "ecstasy").  so he concedes on the drug point, why would a 35 year old want to dance around all night, but on the married part, he again says, "but their whores", almost in question I take the moment to explain that prostitutes still count as cheating on your wife (not in the Saudi consciousness apparently) and that some of those girls if not the majority of them have been trafficked and exist as invisible human beings, slaves with no choices in the world at all.  To which he shrugs and tells me that they are all foreigners (because Arab women would not shame themselves this way), who agreed to do this work in order to leave their country.  He says, and I don't ask, (or ask how he knows) that the Pakistani and African girls cost about 150-200 SAR ($50) and the Russian girls are about 400-500 SAR ($135), but that their worth it, they are beautiful and really know how to #$^&$##@@*****%$##^&&***&%#.  I tell him all I really wanted was a beer, stare out the window and sink down in the seat like I've kinda gotten used to doing in this Country.  When we finally get back to the hotel, he tells me that if all I really wanted was a beer in Bahrain, he can get me some of that here, just please don't get caught with it.

I said "Thank You", for the day, and meant it.  I'm really hoping he doesn't seriously go looking for beer...  I headed up to my room, realizing as I walked through the hotel parking lot that the hotel was full tonight.  School is on semester break and it being the weekend, I know I'm in for a long couple of nights of listening to Saudi Men and Boys and Girls get drunk, watch music videos with scantily clad women from the other GCC countries, giggle, play in the elevator, run up and down the halls and shout until about 3 am.  I sure am glad that all the sins of the west haven't spilled over into this, the purest of all Islamic cultures. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I'm sure it goes without saying, but regardless I wanted to clarify some stuff from the last posting, I didn't want to edit it, just clarify. And I have far too much to tell you about today's adventure to actually write it now, so we'll do some clarifying instead, maybe tomorrow for the real post.   When I was 17 I DID know everything.  We all did right?  Well actually maybe we did, maybe we didn't, but I'm seeing a great deal of indecision out of the younger generation (I know that's what every generation says!...BUT)  It seems as though 17 year old's have really stopped knowing everything, and worse they don't even try and fake it, they just say "I dunno" with a sorry ass look on their face.  This is going to be the ruin of us folks, the only thing worse than the wrong decision, is no decision.  Think about it!

So back to me, of course I was wrong, my family, my mother especially, dedicated her entire life as a young woman to me, and what was best for me.  She wasn't always perfect, but closer than 99% of the rest of the world has ever come, only my wife ever reaches the same standard, (although my dogs always exceed my expectations of perfect company and love 100% of the time).  I didn't know shit at 17, I was wrong about most everything, the Marine Corps helped straighten me out on that subject, but still, it took years and years of wrong decisions to begin making the right ones.  I felt it worth noting that that the people who helped in those decisions were my Mother first and foremost, my grandparents Dave and Grace, my uncles Pete and Dave and many other non family members, great friends and inspirations.  I really did say the words "I don't want to be anything like you!".  One of those many wrong decisions, maybe one that makes me try and not hurt people in that way ever again.  I mean sure, if someones an asshole, I'll talk to them like that, but if they just don't understand what I'm trying to say, regardless of how right and based in fact I may actually be, I try and not unleash that hurtful arsenal of words and phrases.  Probably to my detriment sometimes, I keep those things inside.  If somebody is really a waste of space, but a good hearted waste of space, why send them home crying?  Sigh, smile and shake their hand.  Try again tomorrow. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Helps and Hurts, the making of an Expat

So the blog has evolved, just a short two months into its life it's become more like a journal than a tale of adventures...I think maybe that's because everything here is an adventure, just going to the bank can be the most rewarding experience or one of the most painful.  Frustration at work can mount so quickly that without a blog or some other outlet one could very easily go crazy or unload all of this onto some poor unsuspecting family member who will never again answer your skype call.  I thought today I might work through some of the things that prepared me for this position.  That way if anybody is trying to decide if they would fit into our organization, or Saudi EMS in general, they can see what about my past has helped and what has hurt.

Helpful Thing #1:
The Kastle

My mother was an English teacher and I've been reading all of my life, throughout school I was almost always ahead of my classmates and have read just about every genre of fiction and poetry known to man.  I also have a minor in History and therefore a real curiosity in the things that I am seeing, I often try and compare them to the history I've studied, and find most often that the two things don't match up...The older I get and the more time I spend out of my comfort zone, the more I feel like Orwell was writing 1984 based upon his true beliefs of what society would or already had started to become.  So the most helpful thing I've ever read in terms of preparing for Saudi was:  The Kastle-Franz Kafka If you can understand the Kastle, you can understand Bureaucracy, and Saudi has got some Bureaucracy.

Helpful Thing #2:  
The Marine Corps

At 17 I knew everything, no I'm serious I did, I knew that I wanted to be nothing like my family, I knew that I wanted a life that meant something, I knew that I wanted to fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves.  The Marine Corps found me, and I found them.  I left school, and 26 days after my 18th birthday, I set off to make that happen.  There were some stumbling points in my Marine Corps career (there always are), but in general the flexibility, patience and determination that they taught me have served me very well throughout the years.  To know yourself, test yourself and push past all known limits is a thing that many men will never dare to entertain, physical and mental exhaustion bring up a different you, maybe stronger, quite possibly weaker.  Ever seen a grown man in uniform laying on the side of a trail in the fetal position crying out of severe pain and exhaustion while his friends walk by and say "get up pussy"?  You see, we all hurt, were all starving, were all tired and frustrated, we all have blisters, we have all rubbed the skin on our inner thighs off after walking 20 miles today with 20 more to go, we all have a headache from the helmet, we all have dry mouth, were all hurting...what gives you the right to give up?  The answer is nothing.  Nothing gives you any right, you just decided to give up, to die.  That attitude is contagious and the men walking by don't want to catch it, we keep going because that's what we do, we always move, we never quit, we never die without permission.  When you earn the Eagle, Globe and Anchor that you will wear in some form or another for the rest of your life, you have learned something about yourself, you know who you really are.  What you'll do when the chips are down.  It may not be the prettiest picture, but its real and its a starting point.  Why are all Marines a band of brothers?  Because we know that the other man or Woman who calls themselves Marine has also been tested, and has passed and continues to pass those tests.  How tough are Marines?  Tough enough.  That's all you ever need to know.

How tough do you have to be to make the best out of Saudi Arabia?  While work is frustrating, your wife and kids are in the US and you're not very good with the language?  You have little to do one day and a months worth of work the next day.  Hell you can't even get drunk once in a while while you watch the game, so how tough do you have to be to keep on going?  "Tough enough son, we'll let you know when its over".  Thank you to the United States Marine Corps for teaching me who I am when the chips are down.  OOHRAH Marine Corps.  Semper Fi and maybe more importantly here in Saudi, Semper Gumby!

**(I'm feeling generous today and will allow POG's to be included in this definition, especially since in today's world,  every man is a rifleman, even if he's not a very accurate one!)

Helpful Thing #3:
Being a Firefighter

6 years Volunteer and 3 years Professional taught me that being a firefighter can often be as physically demanding as the Marine Corps, the emergent and unexpected nature of the job improves a persons ability to think on their feet, abandon current strategy and start all over again 3 or 4 times an incident.  It also helps teach patience while waiting for something to happen.

Helpful Thing #4
Being a Paramedic

Quite possibly one of the most mentally taxing professions in existence.  2 years of school is supposed to prepare you for dealing with life and death, and it probably would, if it weren't for that whole "unpredictable world outside of the hospital" thing.  Paramedics deal with shit, bullshit and holy shit! most every shift or rotation that they work, best of all they deal with it in that unpredictable environment called "the field".  Will you work in a roadway today?  Maybe in a muddy field, maybe in a luxurious house, maybe in a dilapidated trailer.  Your patient may be sick, may have been shot, may have fallen two flights of stairs, may have died in their sleep, may have had a heart attack in front of their children, or may be simply without a ride to the hospital.  They may require little pre-hospital care, they may also require the whole kit and caboodle.  Your brain will be required to perform calculations on the fly, early in the morning, late at night, you will be forced to recall drug dosages and rules of EKG rhythm interpretation.  You must perform thorough assessments and make treatment decisions based on conditions detected, medical history, prescribed medicines and protocols.  In short you must think on your feet and the only consequence of error, is harm and death to your biggie!  10 years or so as a medic has taught me to think on the fly, hope for the best, prepare for the worst and settle for the mediocre, these are all invaluable traits in Saudi. 

Hurtful #1:
Spending most of my life in a 1st world country

Saudi's first world, but its new first world, less than 50 years ago, the area I'm currently in was sparsely populated desert.  There are some backwards ass things here, or at least they seem so to me.  Truth is, those of us in a first world country are so used to being babied that were damn near helpless.  Hungry?  Pick up the phone!  Hurt? Pick up the Phone!  Somebody breaking in? pick up the phone!  BUT, what if the phone didn't work?  What if the cops were busy?  what if the ratio of paramedics to population was 6:6,000,000.  Thinking like that in America gets you called a survivalist, or worse a gun nut, but it might do us all a little good to think about how to take care of ourselves if the cops, ambulance and pizza guy weren't on standby 24/7.  I can easily get overwhelmed here with the magnitude of our project...Its like building a service from scratch, and the people don't even know they need the service!

Hurtful #2:
A Business Education

My BA is in Business Administration with a minor in History, my MBA focus is Sustainable Business.  All of my formal college training has been directed towards rejecting the status quo and pushing boundaries of performance.  It has been geared towards results, chain of command, delegation of authority, and efficient business practice...yeah none of those words exist here.  Sometimes it seems the only two ranks are King and Prince, or Owner and Manager. Ask any kid here what he wants to be when he grows up and he'll tell you "director or manager".  If you ask the kid what those people do, he'll tell you that they drive nice cars, have lots of money and tell people what to do...I wish I was kidding but I'm not.  Everybody else seems to be jockeying for the position of laziest paid employee and next in line when the manager dies, a business environment such as this is difficult to work in.  The guy with the biggest hat must be in charge!

Hurtful #3
An American Public School Education

It doesn't matter if you believe in the deliberate dumbing down of America or whether you just finally opened your eyes to the truth.  The American public school system is a joke of the least entertaining type.  Its a system run by idiots who make 6 figure salary's and are governed by their most senior colleagues...American students know more about making a box of hamburger helper than they do about math or science, let alone foreign language and culture.  How many American students that you know can speak decently with a native speaker of a different country?  None that I've ever met, maybe a phrase here or there but that's about it.  So how come some of my worst students here can understand English, speaking and reading with basic writing skills?  Some of my best speak German and French as well.  If for no better reason than to study the ways of an adversary, American students should be learning foreign languages the correct way.  Think about this...most Filipinos here speak their native language, along with some decent Arabic and excellent English...hmm, 3 languages, great work ethic, willing to work for 1/4 of American workers...looks like we got some competition for hardiest workforce.  In today's global economy, it will become an issue.  My lack of knowledge of the Arab world started me out here on 0.  I have a lot of catching up to do.  Luckily, my mother did teach me to read, so I'm getting there.

So in conclusion, if any of you want to think about trying a crazy new life, don't rule out the Middle East, they're on an "all things Western" kick, and you might just get your eyes opened to a world you didn't know was here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What to do, what to do

The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 

For generations, this poem has welcomed visitors to the United States, have we forgotten it?  Have we fallen victim to the insanely articulate arguments of the scientist with his gumball demonstrations on late night television?  I only ask because this is something that I've always loved about the United States, our ability to excel not despite being a nation of immigrants, but because of it.  A great melting pot of skills and strengths from all over the world, the Africans, the Germans, the Jews, the Italians, the Irish, the Scottish, the Cubans, the Haitians, the Dominicans, The Japanese, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the...everything's.  "Weren't born into royalty?  Don't worry about that here."  I'm afraid this will end soon, I think the sentiment maybe already has. I'm afraid we should just allow the gang-bangers to tag over this poem, because I don't think mainstream America believes it anymore.  I'm afraid of this latest political process in the US, I doubt the president can hold, the economy is too bad.  Americans who thought they could live in comfort and wealth without education are suddenly finding themselves the but of a financiers joke.  Yes we can has become a joke and has been replaced with "oops we didn't".  

Damn you Bob, I guess you're right, I am a political person, and I am going to run again, I guess I had better start doing some image management and start watching what I say in blogs and on facebook.  Or I could just tell the truth and go from the cradle to the grave with a clear conscience, them again that would probably just result in a lack of accomplishments...Damn!

So what got me started tonight...hmm...well, I decided to revel in my capitalist ways and go support corporate coffee while I read a book.  Nice night out there, Saudi weekend  and all, it was pretty cool, lots of people, lots of laughing, lots of cars, bikes and racing going on.  I was having a pretty good time until a beggar came by.  now this is something I have tried to figure out since I got here.  Saudi's a Kingdom, a monarchy ya know?  They don't have taxes, don't have a really high unemployment rate, money flows pretty darn well, gas is about 60 cents a gallon USD.  A good welfare system is in place for citizens who are elderly, disabled, why are there beggars here that so many of the Saudi's I know just absolutely despise...Well the best I can figure, poverty exists in every culture, here it is generally characterized by Bengali and Filipino workers who are brought here to build, but its relative poverty...regardless of what Amnesty International says about them being wage slaves (welcome to the world), its undeniable that they're making enough in one year to feed their family for 2-5...(The conversion is good for US workers and Europeans, but its not that good.)  But these aren't the people I'm talking about, I'm talking about the guys and children who look Saudi or at least Arab, are usually dressed in an old dirty second hand thobe and are obviously malnourished.  Most appear to be mentally ill or very young and unable or unwilling to separate from their families.  When I saw the man tonight, my stomach turned and the words of the poem above came to my mind.  Most of the people at the coffee shop ignored him, one Saudi man gave him money, so did I, but I'm still struck by the thought of..."isn't there something long term we can do?".  I was often struck with this thought in the US, but its easier to ignore there where beggars and bums have often been associated with crime.  A father in the US would never give his son or daughter 5 dollars and say "run this to the man on the corner", here he could if he were so inclined, they aren't violent in the least, they're just pitiful.  Which brings me to the question...what on earth do we as a civilized species do about such a problem.  Yeah you heard me, as a species...this isn't a US problem, its not a Saudi problem, its a worldwide humanity problem.  One that can't be solved by the Islamic Youth Organization, anymore than it can be solved by the North-South baptist church alone.  Were going to have to think a bit grander as a species if we ever want to solve this problem, and if we fail to solve it, or even worse fail to give it its due attention, is any of us arrogant enough to think we'll meet God's expectation of us on earth? 

Tonight, somebody starves...not oppressed by some war lord with big guns, not sold into slavery by eastern European gangsters that you can't approach, not hidden in a tent in the mountains, not drunk and lazy and not in some far away corner that you need an Aircraft Carrier to approach safely...Tonight somebody starves in your neighborhood, in your hometown while you you sleep...


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I've got work to do...

So I went for a run tonight by the seafront, (and found out that I'm 35!).  It was a good run, I was working hard, walked for a bit, got offered a bottle of water and some sheesha, gratefully accepted the water, turned down the sheesha.  I was headed back, headphones on, jammin' out, trying to keep up with the beat of the music when I suddenly heard the most horrific crash and deep resonating boom behind me.  The guys in front of me who were headed my way suddenly stopped, and the looks on their faces told me everything I needed to know.  We all went running into the roadway to try and get a look at it.  About half a mile back behind me, a dust and sand cloud had popped up, all I could see were taillights, but horns and panicked shouts were pretty apparent.  I looked at the other two guys and simply said "car accident?"  They nodded frantically.  I headed back at a run, got about halfway before I decided a jog would be more appropriate if I wanted to make it there alive.  Darted across traffic which is a lot like playing frogger here, did a quick scene size up and found myself with 30 or so bystanders, pretty much with no medical training, 3 patients and two badly damaged cars.  Decided to focus on this one kid, pretty young, maybe 16/17, front seat unrestrained passenger, obvious head injury from mechanism and the fact that he was laying supine in the roadway, was non-verbal and had BIG dilated pupils (still awake though).  His right leg was laid off to the side in a less than natural position and angle, so I took a guess that it was a femur fracture on that side.  After what seemed like a lifetime the ALS truck finally arrived on scene, and I looked up to see a kid about 5 years older than the patient, very calm and quiet, first thing he did was put the kid on a pulse ox and listen to lung sounds...I was all set to strangle him with that damn stethoscope when he started doing a true trauma assessment, care was substandard to say the least, in the states I would have put this kid on 02 and had 2 large bore IV's flowing before my partner got back with the trauma gear.  I also would have sized the c-collar before trying to fit one that obviously wasn't going to fit.  I would have beat my partners ass black and blue when I found out it took 10 minutes and 3 trips to the ambulance to prepare the traction splint, and I sure as hell wouldn't have just slid the guy on the board the way they did, fastened down with one strap and no head blocks, but what can you do.  Good run, good experience for me, bad luck for my students, apparently this is considered adequate....well its not...the bar just got raised again, I will not turn out students who do shit like that.  I'll fail every damn one of them and kicked out of the kingdom before I let that happen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

yeah! 100% pass rate...

Yeah right, in my wildest dreams could that happen...that doesn't even happen at the best or worst American schools.  In the last EMT-Basic course I taught, one in which 100% of students had books, 100% of the students spoke and comprehended English, and 98% had experience already...we had 5 dropouts, 2 failures, and of the rest that passed only 5 have tested...only 1 is now licensed...2 more are on the way...Despite these numbers, after the department head and other instructors "checked results for quality, and re-tested some students" we will report a 100% pass rate at the end of next week...WTF?  This is not what I was hired to do, everything about me, my resume, and my experience says that I was brought here to raise the bar, not lower it.

I've discovered the problem.  My MBA concentration is "sustainability", finding ways to make companies viable in perpetuity or if not in perpetuity, at least for the next 25 years or so...NOT the next five.  Instructors, dept heads and deans here from the other GCC countries are doing everything they can to not be sent home to an unstable country next year...they don't care if we produce a shit product, they don't care if the ministry of education shuts us down in 5 years, all they care about is keeping their jobs and feeding their families for the immediate future. 

Shit...That's almost understandable...

Problem Statement:  Instructors and other GCC locals will protect their jobs and salary at all costs including lying about student ability and tampering with grades...

  • Possibility #1 Give instructors longer contracts with more comparable pay...
    • Some ARE lazy and will then slack off even further
    • NO such thing as honest communication here
  • Possibility #2 Verify all results with a third party
    • I like this one, it holds instructors to an unseen standard and forces them to make the best use of their time...this needs more thought...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sprechen sie vous' englais?

"you're in America, speak American g'dammit!"  If I had a nickle for every time I've heard this said over the years,...well I'd probably have about a buck, maybe only 50 cents.  And it almost always comes from some inbred moron that the rest of us usually shun.  But still, I know that the sentiment exists in America, and I've been told many times that the fastest way to get ripped off or have bad service in Paris is to sit at a cafe and speak English...That being said, English is the international language of Business and Medicine, and according to the Saudi Ministry of Education, by decree of the King, all higher education should be taught in English.  Yeah...right...what happened is what happens in all bureaucracy, the workers got the memo, gave it a lot of lip service and then promptly went back to what they've always done.  Which is not English...its not even spanglish...its just Arabic.  So what happened today to bring on this tirade?  Well it started (Part 1) when I failed 75% of the students I tested, mostly for English ability and not lack of knowledge...That flew like a lead duck...its ok though, they know I "don't understand" "the culture".  So they will all "re-test" tomorrow and pass.  Their instructors will prompt them, give them hints, translate the English and then translate the Arabic into pictures they can understand...FML.  Really guys, really?  Why did you bring me here?  Why are you paying me as much as you are?  I could have found you a white guy who would have faked the funk for 1/4 of the money...Oh wait that wouldn't have worked...I forgot you need me because I can actually talk the talk and walk the brought me here as a pet monkey...something to show off when the smart Arabs come a callin'!  That's right, I'm a trophy program director to show off at official functions, and to shove to the front when the ministry comes to visit.  Really, don't worry, I'm not that proud, my feelings aren't hurt, but if this is what you wanted me to do, why make me go to work?  Just park my ass in a hotel with some of that illegal booze the Royal family uses, better yet, stick me in a palace that nobody's using and tell me that I can't leave the grounds but when you call.  I mean seriously, you have something in the neighborhood of 700 princes, I know they're not all at home!  hell one of them is going to be getting life in prison in the UK for the "non-sexually related" murder of his "bodyguard" that he liked to drug and club with and keep in the bedroom for "safety's sake"...Americans are not mushrooms, we do not like to be kept in the dark and fed shit (though you could argue that with the media in the US that's exactly what we are!)

So what else...well part 2 of today's SNAFU tour -KSA! (Hellloooo RIYADH!!!!  YEAH!  Are you ready to ROCK!!!)  My salary is still bouncing around Riyadh somewhere, while here I am stationed in Dammam...c'mon guys, you're killing me, were 4 days late, my bills are past due and all anybody keeps saying is "In'shallah, tomorrow"...Absolutely no disrespect to Allah or God, but to paraphrase another writers paraphrase of the prophet Mohammed (PBUH), "be wise and tie your camel, then trust in Allah"...get my drift?  Somebody in some office was facebooking instead of telling somebody in another office that "that Geoff guy got sent to Dammam", now their all passing the buck and blaming this on Allah, how the heck is this his fault?  You're the one that didn't do your job!  Allah did his job....the sun came up, humanity survived, what more do you want? 

Part 3 of this goat roap came when I was sitting in a photography studio after work, getting some additional pic's taken for my work Visa, (I think this makes 20 pictures submitted) and the Saudi Token "sitter arounder" guy, leaned over the counter and told us to shush.  Romes and I thought it was because their were other customers in the store so we hushed for a minute, the other customers left, and we resumed talking about work...this fat lazy sob leans back over the counter and starts yelling in Arabic to Romeo (he won't look at me) "don't you know Arabic?  Only speak Arabic in my store, speak Arabic or be silent!"  Oh hell no I think, I'm a blue passport holder you son a of a bitch, so I ask him what the problem is, he won't answer me, Romes says we are customers, and he should not speak to us in that manner, he makes the universal gesture for "pardon me sir, but I don't give a shit" and then walks into the back, no doubt to let his fat ass take another nap while the Indians who run his store, clean his store and take all the pictures sheepishly apologize to us...

Part 4:  Were wandering around during prayer, and Romes shows me the Gold and Diamond souks he's been telling me about, which are really cool and I'm finally starting to get over the photoshop idiot when the Muttawa and his pet cop walk by...and yell at us to move on (because looking in a window to buy something for your wife is against Allah or something)...funny thing is, that again the cop was a fat guy who couldn't chase down his own shadow without stopping for kapsa, the muttawa didn't say a word, and when I said/asked innocently "I'm sorry I don;t understand", they realized I was an American and quickly moved on with a look of disgust on the cops face...So Muttawa encounter #1!

Part 5:  5 saved the day, it's the one that deserves the most attention, when finally done with errands, I took a cab back to the hotel, the cabbie was a young Saudi guy who couldn't believe he got to try out his English on me, then he insisted on turning the radio to the Aramco station and blared Katy Perry and Trane or train or whatever their called the whole drive.  Icing on the cake, I accidentally gave him a five and a fifty rather than two fives, and he suddenly corrected me saying "no! no!"  "this is a fifty" while pointing at the bill.  It took me a minute to figure it out, but when I did I could've hugged the guy, considering I haven't gotten paid yet and I'm borrowing money, he did me a huge favor! I gave him a good tip which I almost never do with cabbies here and my view of the kingdom and the world suddenly improved...

Lessons learned?  Be patient, never assume payday means you're getting paid, learn a little more Arabic and most importantly Bureaucrats, Professors, Doctors, Business Owners, Important religious Zealots and Law Enforcement can destroy a country's feeling and represent it in a really crappy light, but we all have the chance to represent the true nature of our cultures.  I hope that I represent America in a positive light every day, I try, too hard sometimes, but if we want to live to see our grandchildren play without glowing, I think we should all try a little harder.

Glad I met that cabbie, he more than all the others today (including me) is probably in Allah's good graces.