An American expat's stories and experiences while in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Author is an EMS consultant and Paramedic Instructor in the KSA. The blog discusses travel, day to day living, experiences with students and the adaptation to a new culture.
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, September 20, 2012
Um...yeah...not so much
The "Saudi Arabian National day" weekend is upon us. I knew it was coming but got so caught up with work and trying to teach since we were already 2 weeks behind in lesson plans (school should have started Sep. 1st, but no students appeared in classrooms until Sep. 15th) that I had forgotten all about it. I told students that I'd see them Saturday, and they promptly reminded me that Sunday was a holiday and that they wouldn't be in class Saturday either. King Abdullah made this official Tuesday night and declared it a 4 day weekend. So classes will start again on Monday...except that they won't because Monday is a come to school, eat and give speeches about National Day, day. So the only day I'll teach next week is Tuesday...if any students show up...I have my doubts.
Despite not wanting to be 3 weeks behind, I thought that this might actually be a cool experience. I imagined Saudi national Day to be something like the American Fourth of July. You know, food, fireworks, joyous crowds, everybody in a good mood etc...I made a comment or two regarding this and was quickly corrected. It seems this is a day for Saudi Nationals to celebrate being Saudi, Foreigners need not apply. In fact 3 years ago in the Eastern Province rocks were thrown through windows of "Western Businesses" like McDonalds (Saudi Owned http://www.mcdonaldsarabia.com/ksa-riyadh/en/the_truth/our_history/leadership.html ), walls were spray painted and cash stolen, all to to punish the "Western" businessmen for remaining open during the celebration. While not as severe as the incident 3 years ago, large crowds have caused damage, blocked traffic and committed acts of vandalism for the past 2 years as well. Businesses have been advised to close, foreigners advised to stay indoors, and the US State Department has warned that there is always the potential for violence and that while the crowds are normally jubilant, anything can happen when a large group is present and that American's in the Kingdom should minimize their profile and avoid large crowds. One of my students told me that while it is Saudi National day, the running Joke is that Saudi's like to go to Dubai to really party and celebrate...I can't for the life of me imagine why you would leave your own country, to celebrate your own country...oh yeah I can...booze and prostitutes! The student didn't say that, nor did he deny it, its just my opinion.
So here I sit, locked in the apartment, both of my closest Western friends out of the country for the weekend. One in Bahrain, the other in Qatar. My Dean actually advised me to take a couple of days and get out of the country, just side step the whole mess. He suggested I head over to Bahrain, Dubai or Abu Dhabi. except that he doesn't have the authority to issue an Exit Visa, and the big bosses at the company don't let workers have Visa's.
I thought about going out anyway, especially before Saturday and Sunday. But I'm not sure, with current events being what they are, acts of murder and violence aimed at US embassies, freedoms and diplomats, Female suicide bombers in Afghanistan killing 9 people because of a movie. France increasing the security at and closing embassies around the world...I think I might just stay in. It seems to me that there are enough people trying to destroy the world and start a War this week, I don't intend to accidentally get killed and become the next catalyst.
I did however go out to get coffee last night, and in front of the Starbucks here in the Corniche (Dammam) stood about 10 young Saudi teens. That alone is nothing unusual, the fact that some of them were wearing Guy Fawkes masks and that they were jumping on and laying on peoples cars was a little out of the ordinary. The fact that they found some glass bottles and while hooting and hollering threw them onto the sidewalk and broke glass everywhere people walk, was a little concerning. There was also the fact that they kept running into the woman's/family section of seating and doing I don't know what, but making the women yell at them none the less.
As a young boy, about 15 years old, walked by me in a mask after terrorizing the women and broke a bottle a little after he had passed me, I decided it was time to go....so here I sit, at the computer, on the 4 day, Saudi National Day weekend. Stuck inside, because it seems that this is not a celebration I'm welcome at.
If I change my mind and decide to be reckless, I'll let you know.
Oh, and just a strange little FYI...Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic...funny that angry Muslims around the world would pick his image...