About a month or so ago Jim and I met "Bad Deutsch". At the time he was just Eike "the German". He didn't earn the title "Bad Deutsch" for about another month and that's a whole 'nother story. Eike's a really cool guy, and for the most part he tolerated our Nazi jokes and our butchery of his name, everything from IKOR, to Ikea. I finally just fixed it in my head as I-KA and it seemed to work pretty well. For the most part we'd spend the night talking, laughing and figuring out just how the hell we had gotten to Saudi Arabia and how we had all survived on our own as long as we had.
I know it may seem strange to the reader, but what each of us had done was take a job that did not provide "on compound" housing, and in an effort to save money, had rented hotels or apartments "out in town" or "off compound". This just isn't done by Westerners, not the first year at least and rarely by themselves at all. Consequently, we all had lots to talk about.
Eike and I found that we could sit and discuss books, movies, travel and best of all politics and religion. Those last two topics are really pretty off limits here, so me being me, I think I miss them more than women and pork and alcohol. We often would give each other a call or a Skype message and arrange to meet for mid week coffee to play "who had the stupider work situation" or "worse day in the Kingdom". Then we'd discuss German and American politics, the evils of capitalism the failures of socialism. He'd say that America should ban guns, and I'd reply that if we did, somebody might be able to herd us onto trains and into camps one day. He'd be silent. I'd say the Germans paid way to much in taxes, and he'd remind me of the benefit every citizen gets from those taxes and that he can go home for 6 months without having to pay them. I'd be silent.
Eventually, we'd discuss women and life and what the hell we wanted out of it. Inevitably we'd discuss why we're here in the Kingdom. It's usually for one of a couple of pretty simple reasons. Money, experience, Ideology/theology, or not really welcome at home anymore. I hit in both the money and experience category, they pay me well, I'm learning a new culture and trying to learn a new language, and surviving here for a year proves to multinational and international corporations that I can do just about anything they ask of me...a lot quicker than my MBA would have (and I'm a little idealistic about helping out the world).
Eike however is an odd duck, his reasons were none of the above. He didn't make a whole ton of money, he wasn't really getting any experience that would benefit him in the future, he had no plans of converting to Islam, and he was already well traveled and had been successful in his career. Basically, somebody asked him one day if he wanted to go to Saudi, and he thought for a second and said "Sure, why not!" The problems lies therein, this is not a culture that one can easily adapt to just for kicks, its not a culture you can even have a sense of permanent belonging in, you can't date, go to church, go to the bar, and maybe most importantly, can't become a citizen of. What you can do here is read, exercise, blog, facebook, skype, plan trips to Bahrain, dive, drive around, explore the desert and of course eat and shop. Its not exactly like a prison, in fact its nothing like a prison, it is however something like the old catholic definition of purgatory...You're doing your time, trying to move up, and waiting until you can get somewhere better. What makes that bearable for most of us is the truckloads of the things we came here for. Money, experience, or ideology/theology. Eike didn't have those things. Therefore when an opportunity came up to take a short little break and have some frank discussions about his future with the folks back home, he rightly and smartly took it. He may or may not return, that depends on what he finds when he gets some German soil under his feet and also on the answers he receives about his future. He knew I'd miss him, and so he assured me that he would give it serious thought and quite possibly be back in a couple of weeks or so. To that I laughed and told him that I imagined he'd be eyeball deep in good German beer and knee deep in good German women by the end of the week, as to a job, who knows? maybe the German equivalent of "Taco Bell" was hiring. We had a good laugh, got together at Jim's for a great going away meal and then met the next two nights for coffee. I'll miss him, he was a good friend and a great sounding board and conversationalist. Who knows, maybe he'll return.--In'shallah
One of our favorite things to discuss on a couple of different occasions was all the great quotes that came out of the movie "Trainspotting". So my "Ode to Eike" ends with Ewan McGregor's opening monologue from "trainspotting", written by John Hodge with one simple word change at the very end...
There are no reasons.
Who needs reasons when you've got Saudi Arabia?
You can follow Eike (in Deutsch) at http://eike-in-arabien.de/