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."**

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

13 Months and Fight Club...

13 months ago I got here.  A couple days later I started a blog.  Whatever the blog has become, it started as a record of the things I saw and experienced here.  Partly for my family, partly for me to be able to look back and reflect on when I went home in a year, and also because getting realistic information on Saudi wasn't that easy for me when I tried in the months before coming.  So in the spirit of those things, lets look at this from a "what have I done, how have I changed perspective"...and "why am I still here at 13 months?  Wasn't I already supposed to be home?"

I love the movie Fight Club, always thought it was ahead of its time and that maybe it wasn't bigger than it was because the world wasn't ready for it.

Looking back, I realize that I wasn't ready for it.  I think I always thought it was about-fighting.  Now, I say that a little jokingly.  I'm not an idiot, not a complete idiot at least.  I knew the movie was much deeper than that, and I appreciated it for its depth, its twists and its turns...not just the idea of fighting, but if I'd understood it then, as I understand the concept may have been much different.

"You are not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world."

Does the above quote make any sense to you?  Don't feel bad if it doesn't, it took a while to mean more than a cool sounding bit of monologue to me to.  And depending on how happy you think you are, you might be better off if it continued to mean nothing to you.  What you need to understand though is that being here, being this far from family and the things I thought were important, and learning to live again after it all...these are the things that made it make sense to me.  If you aren't prepared to do that, DO NOT GET ON THAT AIRPLANE!  If you would rather NOT see the truth, would rather not find out that you wasted a good number of years chasing a golden ring you weren't ever going to get...stay home, seriously, stay home and be proud of your decision.  

Once your eyes are open, they're hard to close again.

Learning to start conversations with phrases other than "my wife and I" and learning that not everybody embraces or even has access to the "American Way" of life on credit was a good majority of the change and that could have happened anywhere.  It was an accelerated process here, but it could have happened anywhere away from home and lots of solitude.  

But a lot of it was being here.  Realizing that I knew so little about so much of the world even after traveling quite a bit. Having lots of time to read, meeting people so completely different than me and yet so very similar.  My pitiful attempts to try and fast at Ramadan, seeing the desert and riding a camel with an old bedouin guide who didn't speak any English, learning to look forward to a weekend with friends and some steaks and wine.  Months on my own and having Muslim co-workers and students befriend me, reach out when I was in trouble, sad and lonely...and wanting nothing in return-oh don't get me wrong, more than a few have tried to convert me, but that's another story in and of itself and its not nefarious in any way.**

A lot of it was really living here.  Rather than a compound, I live in an apartment.  I follow the rules of Saudi (for the most part), I don't live around other Americans and see girls at the pool.  I wear long sleeve's and long pants. I walk to work and have learned essential Arabic to get around.  I shop at local stores.  I haggle with cabbies.  

Sometimes I feel like a total outsider here, other times when some new American is staying at the Sheraton down the street, and wanders out to test the waters at "Starbucks". Or when I meet somebody at a party whose never really been "off camp" or "off Compound" and we spend the first 30 minutes of our meeting talking about how I've survived out in "the jungle".  I realize just how much I've blended, how different I am than I was 13 months ago.  I'm still an outsider, but not as outside as I once was.   

Why am I still here then, I'm the last of us.  Four Americans came, one is still here.  Why?  Well first of all don't worry, I'll be home in another 8 months.  Mainly though, I'm still here because I live here.  It's not mine, and I wouldn't want it forever anyway...but for now, its where I live and where I learned to live again.  

I'll go home soon enough, but I don't think it'll be to the same people and the same friends.  Maybe not even to the same job or profession...At 35 I finally learned a lesson that has been eluding me my entire life.  I am not my job, I am not my car and I am certainly not my fucking khaki's.  If you think I'm going to go back to working two dead end jobs to buy shit that I don't need anyway-well, I guess we'll see.  I think when I go back I'll sell or give away a lot of junk, buy a nice motorcycle, get a new tattoo, get an old truck and take my dogs to the river.  My door will always be open to friends, couch always available.  I'm thinking about not even buying a cell phone, but suppose I can't get away with that.  Some will wonder what happened to the ambitious, over worked, stubborn ass they knew.  Some will wonder why I don't move someplace nicer now that I'm single and well funded from Saudi.  Some will assume that I couldn't pay my bills and had to get rid of my nice pretty cars and trucks.  Many will wonder what the point of Saudi was, can't I use it to get an even higher responsibility, higher paid, higher pressure job...Credit companies will weep.  

I think I'll be smiling though.  As imperfect as I am, and as much as I'll probably buy something I don't need, I have finally figured out that I'm not my job, car or khaki's.  That's the cost and the benefit of 13 months away. 

**If you're well liked, people will try and convert you.  Its that simple.  Don't be offended, its a compliment.  Muslims, devout ones especially, who care for you, want you to be saved, they want you to go to they'll eventually broach the topic of accepting Islam.  I just gently and politely say that I'm happy as a Christian and go on.  Not really a whole lot different than all of the real Baptists I know!


  1. Dancing and singing and being with friends are all free. I like the old Geoff (or I wouldn't be reading this) Can't wait to get to know the new Geoff 2.0. Merry Christmas

    1. I was already going through some of those changes when you knew me. However I never really did dance or sing. I was always under the impression that I had more important things to do. The things I've gone through have been significant, the changes deep. It will be interesting to see which ones stick and which ones go once I get back home. Can't wait to see some good friends, you included Bill, and also make some new ones. I'll never support that damn totalitarian smoking ban though!