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 again...my host says it will be a nice break for me, that anything I want can be found in Bahrain, Food, pork, alcohol, drugs, women...you 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 form...so 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.