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."**

Sunday, July 29, 2012

24 Hours

In 24 hours, my happy ass will be getting on a plane.  I'm scheduled to come back the first week of September, but just in case something happens and you never see me again I  wanted to say a few words about this little trip I took. 

November was my introduction to the Kingdom and Riyadh, The end of December settled me in Dammam.  I think it was April that I managed to get lucky in the right place at the right time and meet some connections that have helped add a little Western influence to my life in the Kingdom.  July brought the heat and humidity.  I've been in and on planes trains and automobiles.  I've fasted at Ramadhan, and broke that fast with some great friends.  I've run along the beaches, walked along the streets.  I've been on EMS calls and seen some of the craziest trauma I could ever imagine.  I can write the multiplication table in Arabic, I can speak a few phrases, I often eat while sitting on the floor and use my hand to do so.  I managed to lose 15 lbs of fat that needed to go and lost another 150 lbs or so that I guess needed to go her own way. 

Its been a hell of a ride, and tonight's the last night I might ever go to sleep in the Kingdom.  I'd like to make sure that anybody who reads this knows that I've seen some crazy stuff here, met some strange people and I wasn't crazy about every moment that I spent here.  But if I had to rate the trip overall, I'd say that it was pretty worthwhile.  I guess the main thing I'd like to say is thanks to all the people that made this trip bearable.  For the most part those people were either born here or have been here for a long time, so while it may seem strange to them to know how much they helped they did.  I've seen expats go running for the exits before they even made their 90 day probation period.  I've seen alcoholism, severe depression, even heard of suicide...but for the grace of God, who knows I maybe could've been one of them suffering from any of those things.  The only thing that makes me any different from anyone else was the amount of help and support I had from students, other instructors, and the staff here in Dammam.  Thanks Guys...I mean it.

So the blog will continue, especially if I make it back here, it might take a slightly different direction, but who knows.  In the next 30 days though I doubt I'll post much other than a picture of something cool I see, somewhere cool that I am, something stupid that I'm doing or something I drank too much of...maybe a few words here and there.

So, all my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...WAIT JUST A DAMN MINUTE!, Eike went out of the Kingdom on Iggy Pop's Lust for Life with one hell of a monologue by Ewan McGregor, I'll be dammed if I'm going out on something as weak as John Denver...hmm...How about this instead...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Persian Bazaar

Depending on who you are, you're probably not going to like this post nor the comparrison I'm about to make...Regardless of what the real Persian Bazaar's looked like or how they were ran, the term "Persian Bazaar" in the West means a dirty place of disorderly, and dishonest conduct.  A place where the price changes 3 times before you get close to sealing a deal and you're just as likely to have all your money stolen...I might be in Arabia, but it feels a hell of a lot more like a Persian Bazaar. 

There have been a couple of constant irritants in my life since I've been in Saudi, but one of the most unfortunate is money and the problems associated with it. 

Considering I'm an American and I make a pretty decent salary this may seem like needless bitching, but the fact is that my contract is written in Black and White (well blue and white actually) and states that I agreed to come here for X amount of time for Y amount of SAR and would be paid on the 1st of every month.  Saudi Labor Law is pretty black and white on the issue as well.

The problem lies in the fact that it seems that because we are foreigners, with little to no knowledge of Arabic and little ability to go to the court, we are taken advantage of.  Saudi labor law clearly states that the Iqama fee's and associated costs such as Healthcare licensing will be paid by the employer and yet I and my co-workers had these fees deducted from our salary illegally.  Salaries have been paid late with no compensation three times.  Housing allowances have been cut in half, if paid at all.  And the men in charge who were often educated in America or England suddenly "Don't Speak English" when you need to discuss these issues or when you ask them point blank "who is stealing from my salary and therefore stealing from my family?".  Blank looks are all you get if your lucky, if you're unlucky you get a lot of backsliding BS and excuses. 

So potential expats beware, you might be in an Arab country, but when it comes to money, they'll steal from you even during Ramadan.  After all, you're not Muslim, you're not Saudi, your just a worker.  Its a damn shame some people line their own pockets and make the rest of their countrymen look like...well...look like thieves I guess. 

What prompted this little rant you ask?  Well I spent about three Months in a hotel.  I asked for my housing allowance day two.  I was told not to worry, it would come.  When it finally did three months later, I was only allowed half of it and told that I would get the second half in six months.  When six months came I was ignored and now that I have finally managed to get someones attention, I've been told that I'll get it "soon", but that it will be cut in half due to the fact that I spent so long in a hotel...It seems I have to pay that portion as a fee for the pleasure of staying in a small hotel room for three months.  Did I mention that the original agreement was for a 2 story luxury Western style compound in Riyadh?  This whole situation with money and all the problems of late salaries has got me pretty annoyed.   This gentlemen is called Bullshit, and I've had almost as much of it as I can stand, its a damn good thing that I'm going on vacation in two days...

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Ramadan "oopses"

So anybody who knows me can attest that I am walking, talking proof that: "the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry".  I think that over the years this has contributed to my spontaneous nature.  I go to bed expecting nothing, wake up happily surprised and quickly, without thinking too much, devise a plan of action.  However, the world we live in doesn't exactly reward this kind of spontaneity.  Every now and then, you just have to formulate a plan.  Soooo a couple of days ago I decided that I would not only follow the rules of the Ramadan fast and only eat or drink or smoke in private from dusk till dawn, but I would go one step further...I decided that for 10 days, I would TRY it.  I figured "what the heck?"  "why not?""Muslims do it for 30 days, if they can do that, surely I can do it for my last 10 days before vacation".  Effectively what this means for yours truly is that: no morning coffee, no smoking, and no food or water until 6:30pm.  It also however has a spiritual component though, one that I discovered when I did some quick research.  It essentially boils down to: hear no evil, speak no evil and do no evil, think pure thoughts (I'll try), no sexual gratification (no problems there), and hold no ill will to others (I never do, at least not most of the time!).

So the Crescent moon was spotted late Thursday and Ramadan therefore started on Friday.  Friday morning I got up with a slight hangover from the party I'd been at the night before and lit a cigarette, walked into the kitchen and put the coffee on, took a shower and started my normal weekend routine of emails and news and blah, blah, blah.  About noon it occured to me that I've already blown my first day of Ramadan fasting with cigarettes and coffee-shit, now I've blown it with swearing, damn it! There I go again!--OK I'm just gonna try it fresh tomorrow. 

I woke up early Saturday and laid in bed wanting nothing more than a glass of water or a smoke, not for any real reason, but just because I couldn't!  The morning sun had already begun to shine through the curtains, so there was no trying to convince myself that maybe it wasn't dawn yet.  Still I mustered all of my strength and brow beat myself into the days mission.  Nothing by mouth until 6:30pm!  I got to work and found the building nearly empty, students have pretty much already completed everything and there is little for me to do other than prepare for the upcoming semester and grade some final assignments as they come in, none made it in today.  About noon, I made myself a deal-I'm not a Muslim, I'm just doing this to see what its like and get the experience, surely a small glass of water can't be bad...and with my water, maybe 1 cigarette, it has after all been at least 9 hours since I've had either...And there went my resolve, before I headed home at 3:30 I'd had 3 small glasses of water, and 2 cigarettes.

On the way home, I was happy to see that the grocery store was actually open, I popped in to get the can of tomatoes I needed for the chili I was making (yes even in this heat!) and decided to get some fresh bread and fruit to go with my "Break Fast" meal.  I thought, I'll head home, get the chilli simmering go to the Gym and by the time I get back I'll be all set for a well deserved "break fast" meal!  Except that apparently most of the people in the store didn't get the spiritual fasting memo, in fact I think they got a memo that said be the biggest ass you can be, Go Crazy!  The pushing and bumping and Queue jumping was ridiculous, it was at least double what it normally is.  Needless to say I was secretly wishing ill will on people. Finally though, after fighting my way through the line and having only 1 person jump the cashiers queue in front of me I was ready to head home...except that I didn't actually bring much money, apparently I had forgotten the bulk of my money when I left home and only had the usual loose bills.  I owed 40 SAR, I had a total of 36 SAR, I tried to tell the cashier to just take the milk off the bill but he didn't understand.  The bagger, who actually spoke some pretty good English decided that the problem must be that I was retarded and deaf.  He started by coming very close, less than 10 inches from my face and saying very loudly and slowly "YOU PAY 40 RIYALS".  To which I immediately replied, "yes I know that you f-ing idiot", "I can't, I forgot it I only have 36 Riyals!".  Then I realized what I had said, and how angry I'd become and that I was missing the whole point of this thing.  I calmly (forced) said "move the groceries to the cart, I will go to the ATM machine".  As I walked away, I glanced back and saw the still shocked expressions on the faces of the other patrons...great.

Of course the first ATM was broken, why wouldn't it be? It accepts the card, but immediately it asks if I want more time, when I say yes, it tells me that I've exceeded my time limit and to please try again.  I stand there getting angrier and angrier, completely blowing my "spiritual fast" out of the water and ended up trying this thing 3 times before I just said to hell with it and decided to go find a different ATM.  Easier said than done.

This was my day folks...try do something good, and look what happens.  I did finally find a working ATM and I did go back and buy my tomatoes and bread and other assorted goods.  I did finally make it home as well, (not before 2 cars almost ran me over), but I did make it home.  When I reached the safety and comfort of apartment and more importantly its air conditioning, I had my 3rd cigarette.  Then I made my chilli and headed to the Gym, where although a little tired from no lunch, I managed to perform acceptably without killing myself. All I can say about today is that Steinbeck knew what he was talking about.  I'm better behaved when I'm not trying to be good!...Maybe I'll give it another shot tomorrow, then again....maybe not.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Whose Reading

Checked my weekly blog stats this morning, looks like the United States is in the lead!  Followed very closely by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan!  I saw a few hits from Russia (I used to know a really beautiful woman from Russia...wonder if she's still mad at me...)  I haven't yet managed to penetrate Australia, Africa or South America...gonna have to work on that.  So thanks for reading guys, and for those of you who comment, keep it coming!  If you like what you read, spread it even farther, share it on facebook, tell a friend.

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
United States
Saudi Arabia
United Kingdom

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Extra! Extra!

Every time I read the newspaper or watch online news (usually about twice a day), I remind myself to do two things in the morning when I get up.  First of all, I tell myself not to turn the news on ever again, as it is simply proof that this world has gone or has always been insane.  Secondly, I tell myself that when I get up, I should pack the truck, sell the house and move to the woods.  Apparently the nights rest somehow erases both of these excellent ideas and in the morning, I get up, turn the coffee on, shower and read first my emails, second my facebook and third the news... and then the cycle repeats.  Some of the more vile and ludicrous things I've seen this week are that:  
  • There was an attack on Saudi Security Forces here in the Eastern province about 30k from me.  
    • Some US news sources claim that its Iran backed and not home grown, either way its most likely sectarian violence resulting from other recent Sunni-Shia violence.  
  • The Free Syrian Army is stepping up its resistance/aggression and is now actually targeting the Capital Damascus itself rather than the outlying areas.  
    • Government helicopters have now been firing into the streets.  Baghdad has ordered all Iraqis out of Syria, Syrian defectors have reported that Assad is ready to use chemical weapons, Russia continues to demand that everybody not look in Syria's windows and is blaming Western nations for the increase in violence.  Its gonna get uglier.
  • The USNS Rappahanock fired on a small boat that came within 90 meters of its hull killing a man.  
    • The men claim that they were fired upon without warning and that they were simply coming back from fishing.  I don't buy that personally, but its what they say.  I thought everybody knew that you don't approach an Oil vessel in the Persian/Arabian Gulf off the coast of Dubai in your fast boat...Guess not.  The ship is navy owned, civilian crewed.
  • A UN doctor and his driver were shot and wounded in Karachi, Pakistan.  
    • They were working on a 3 day program with the WHO to vaccinate against polio.
    • While the gunmen are unidentified, the Taliban has recently banned immunizations as undercover intelligence operations as that was the cover for the doctor who reported Osama Bin Laden's position (that Pakistani doctor still remains in prison BTW)
  • Saudi Police are seeking a man and his son in connection with the rape and torture of their Fillipina housekeeper.  
    • The two are on the run, the woman is safe and being cared for by her embassy.  
    • One study reports that as many as 70% of Filipino domestic workers will suffer physical and psychological violence.   (Philippine Committee on Overseas Worker welfare).  They should have nowhere to hide.  Men who rape and torture women (or other men) should have no friends, no allies, no hiding places. 
  •  American Olympic Team uniforms were made in China
    • Just like almost all other American clothes!
  • Gang Violence rages in Chicago Homicides are up 39%and there have been 1200 shootings so far this year.   
    • No surprise there, it is Chicago after all.  New York Homicides are down 17% however.  So congratulations Chicago, you're officially the scummiest place to live!
  • A fugitive murder suspect stole a jet and killed himself.
    • Says a lot about airport and aircraft security
  • Banks have a new policy of not only foreclosing, but of throwing your belongings out with the trash.
    • Want a real revolution in this country (the US)?  This is how you're going to cause it.  If people keep working and paying and believing in the fairy tale, everything will be fine.  However if you start taking away housing en masse, the fairy tale bubble bursts and the result is going to be a whole lot of really pissed off people with nothing to lose. 
    • Called "Lockout-Trashout" its apparently the newest disgusting tactic in the US housing crisis. 
OK, I had more, but seriously I can't stand to write them.  These were some of the ones that really got my attention, but rest assured that there is plenty more murder, mayhem, terrorism, greed, corruption and disgusting example of human behavior where they came from.  Seriously folks, one day I may just disappear.  If I do, just leave me and my dogs alone, were fine, were just in the woods waiting for the worlds worst to kill themselves off.  In the meantime, I guess I'll just keep trying to make my little corner of the world a little nicer, it would be nice if some others would do the same! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Adventures in online dating...Part 1

**First of all, let me say this will be written in the old
"as I talk" fashion, second of all it might have its moments of vulgarity, but they are designed to be humerus, not hurtful or ugly and definitely not hostile.  All that being said, after just a few hours of playing in the online dating swimming pool, all I have to say is ROFLMFAO!, oh and "I peed in your pool" (metaphorically)**

I don't even know where to begin...I used a major US service that I won't mention here.  It actually cost money, I figured if it costs money, it must be good right?...yeah...not so much.  Apparently it matches based pretty much on looks and what your "looking" for alone.  I'm not so self abusive that I deliberately pick ugly girls, so the first batch of "matches" that it sent me were some pretty attractive women...that I HAD NOTHING IN COMMON WITH! and even specifically said they weren't looking for people like me!  Apparently though the system is "intelligent" so after sorting through about 100 of the prettiest over-ripened fruit or damaged cans out there, it finally started getting realistic.  So lets start at the beginning I guess:

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies:

The entire headline and intro paragraphs are some of the most creative lies I've ever read.  "Career oriented" instead of "works too hard for shit money".  "Driven" Vs. "obsessive and aggressive bitch that nobody likes".  "Goal oriented" rather than "I'm still chasing something that's just out of my reach, and I haven't gotten anywhere near a happy equilibrium in my life"...So lets put it all together  what I read was "I am a career oriented woman driven to reach her goals."  what I heard was "I'm a 30 something, who works a shit job, has no idea what I want, but push everybody out of the way to get it, because I know that if I can just get more money and a better job life will be perfect!"  The problem with this is that the world changed while you weren't looking sweetheart, probably while you were still in college (the first time) doing a keg stand at your boyfriends frat house (I know, I was there!).  Working harder to buy more stuff will fail you, if you are one of the few who do get that'll discover the same thing I'll find yourself sitting and asking, while munching on your carrot...what the hell was I working so damn hard for??? This??? WTF???  

A picture is worth a thousand words

So while everybody lies in the "about me" section they for the most part seem to tell the truth in their pictures...Holy Hell people!  First a word of advice, take your camera and a few outfits and have a friend take some pictures of you specifically for this purpose.  No more "bathroom mirror smart phone shots", and God help you if you do, please clean the bathroom first!  Hmm...lets see, Hot girl, downward angle photo, looking good so far...oh wait is that a turd in the toilet?  Seriously?  Did she take a shit before her little homemade photo shoot?  Or even funnier, the underwear and bra laying on the floor, nothing like saying hi the first time knowing that she's got "hello kitty" on underneath.  The underwear is supposed to be a big surprise for further on down the road. 

My other favorites were the ex-boyfriend crop out photo, or the one with the girl in the middle of a group of about 5-10 guys with the caption (they're just friends!).  OK even IF that's true, it's not a good thing.  It says a lot about you, it says that either you must be nuts, you must stink, or maybe they're friends now, but once..., it says either one of those things, or it says you're an attention whore that nobody wanted to date, who doesn't care if she tramples all over another woman's place, because at least one or two of those guys had a girlfriend or wife that you disregarded enough to take a picture squeezed up next to her're lucky their girlfriends are pussy's.  The girls I grew up with and have dated would have shanked your skinny ass for that!

The lady doth protest too much, me thinks

"I'm not some kind of skank", "I want a real Gentleman, not some jerk who doesn't open my doors", "I don't need you, I can take care of me and my 3 kids all by myself!".  I'm independent, and I'm in school, I expect to meet an independent man who knows what he wants, makes good money owns his own house and doesn't plan on living off of me!".  OK this last one, seriously?  I don't even know where to begin.   If your so independent, who cares what I do for a living or how much money I make, and why do I need my own house?  and what kind of guys are you dating that try and live off of you?  And no, actually you're not independent, you're a student.  You're independent after you graduate and get a job (a real one, not the sports bar).  Then give it 2-3 years of hard knocks.  Still standing?  NOW you're independent princess.  Don't worry though you've got a pretty good rack, I'm sure by then you'll have been married, had 2 kids and won't still be on  At least not until you're divorced, living on Alimony because you never did finish that education or get a job, then you'll be back, but it'll be a whole new set of craziness and deceptions by then!

I'm recently divorced and have 4 kids, were a package deal.  

No shit?  You mean we can't just leave the kids on the side of the road?  I thought we could at least maybe send them off to boarding Siberia!  Of course you're a package deal honey.  Everybody knows that.  Nobody is surprised at all.  I sure as hell don't need you telling me that if we do really like each other, I'm gonna end up paying for the kids until their 25.  Their dad's a deadbeat with a temper...yeah I know.  He doesn't have a regular job with insurance...yeah, yeah I know, he'll always be late on child support...yeah I know...He's still their dad though...yeah I know,  I'm just their friend....yeah I know.  (click!  skip and see next match)  Now the funny, obnoxious, rude and uncaring part aside, let me say this.  What the hell is wrong with the world that a couple can decide to have 2-5 kids (that's what I saw today), and then while the kids are still in early grade school say "ah to hell with it, I'm gonna wipe the slate clean!  Oops!  This isn't what I wanted!  Seriously?  Are you guys on crack?  Are you really that selfish?  WTF.  I'm sorry to be so judgmental, but I'm in the Middle East right now and they accuse us in the West of having no family values...well no shit, it looks like their right!  Your parents lied, you can't have it all, you can't be an Astronaut, you won't be the President.  Those things required planning and dedication at a much earlier age then your thirties!  It is now too late, You're 33, and you're a spoiled brat with the most unrealistic of expectations, 4 kids?  No dear, you have 5 or I will if I'm stupid enough to send you a message!

**Stay tuned for more interesting updates from the land of I came to Saudi a husband and father and am leaving divorced and playing the online dating game...F-ing embarrassing!**

**Oh and if you're looking for me online, just look under the profile name "Gorgeous George" "6'5 gorgeous muscle bound brilliant, superman genius who is independently wealthy seeks hot chick...FML**