Archive for October 2009

Shopping in Jeddah

October 30, 2009

Last night, we took the campus bus to Jeddah, to the Red Sea Mall. (The motto of the Mall of America in Minneapolis is that it’s a mall like Australia is an island. The Red Sea Mall could give it a run for its money.) It was truly amazing to see a shopping mall thronged with people at 11pm. It’s a different way of living here. One thing that I loved was that there’s a grocery store attached to the mall – no big whoop in Ireland, but almost unheard of in the US. Danube is a huge place that stocks everything from groceries to clothing – Dunnes Stores on steroids. I am looking forward to going back there when I am not on a mission to buy particular items and can poke about and buy stuff that I must have but totally don’t need.

Even in the two nights that we have been here, I have acquired a level of comfort here. Right now, I am sitting in the office and attempting to time the shuttle buses as they go by – trying to get a feel for when/how frequently they run. Cyclone is sitting on the window sill making sure nothing untoward goes on. (I think he has found his “spot” in the house, or one of them anyhow.) Noel is still in bed although I heard him stirring a little while ago. The night before last, we went to an open air screening of G-Force and ate Burger King al fresco. Noel was totally charmed and so were we. It was a lovely, gentle, introduction to downtown KAUST for Noel and me.

So far, so good.

We Made It!

October 27, 2009

We are here – finally all of us together in the one place, including Cyclone the wonder cat. (By the way, Jeddah Vets rock – couldn’t have done it without Sayeed.) Our new house is very large and has a beautiful view – could also do with a good cleaning. Sigh. Still, all in all, we are very pleased with how we managed the transition. No one had a meltdown, and most of the time we managed to stay smiling. The trip was uneventful which is exactly how I like my trips to be – no surprises.

It’s going to take us a while to get acclimatized to the time change but all in good time. In the meantime, there is much to be delighted about and lots to learn about our new home.

Our house in Glencoe sold today – I hope the new buyers will be as happy there as we were.

One more cup of tea and then off to bed.

Tick-tock, tick-tock

October 13, 2009

The time is just flying by now. The movers were here today and boxed up crates of toys and books and clothes, topped up with a few pieces of wedding gift crystal, and a couple of sets of golf clubs. Also several boxes of empty DVD cases – the actual DVDs are coming with us on the plane as they are vital to Noel’s continued comfort and wellbeing. We wonder what the customs people will think if they open our shipment and find all those empty cases. The rest of our stuff is waiting to be sold at the house sale on Sunday. One of the movers actually offered to buy my dining room set before the sale but I’ve made an agreement with the house sale guy that he gets a percentage of the sale proceeds, and the dining room set is one of the “marquee” big ticket items, so I declined. (It’s amazing the impact technology has had on how we transact business – he took pictures of the table and chairs with his phone and sent them to his wife for approval. Having got the all clear from her, he made the offer to me.) I am fairly unsentimental about it all. I thought I would be sad but I just want to get it done. I am getting tired of the extended separation and I want my family back together again.

Really chilly here today – temperatures below freezing this morning. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a fine day on Sunday – the rain, not to mention the afternoon football game on tv, would keep people home and those who came out would track muddy footprints all over my house. Noel continues to surprise and delight us. He grouses occasionally about the inconvenience of the move but he told me today that he is excited about moving to SA, as he calls Saudi Arabia. This, from a kid who told us point blank a year ago that he wasn’t coming – he would live in a hotel, he told us, like Zach and Cody. His alternative plan was to move to Ireland to live with his grandparents. So, all in all, we are very, very pleased with how he is doing and how he is handling what is, for us all, a very stressful time.

Brian will arrive on Sunday. While we have things scheduled for next week – a business trip to Washington, DC for Brian and signing of papers for sale of house for us both, in addition to clearing out what’s left in the house – we hope to be able to take some time and just enjoy our last few days on Chicago’s North Shore, maybe go to Starbucks or go look at the waves on Lake Michigan. That’s the plan anyway.

No final word yet on whether our kitty will be able to come with us or not. I am hoping to hear tomorrow. Not too much demand for an eleven year old – albeit still handsome and sweet tempered – cat so I am really hoping that we can bring him with us. Fingers crossed.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start

October 9, 2009

The movers will arrive here early on Tuesday morning. I am supposed to have lists of things prepared. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. I am a list maker and a planner. I come from a long line of list makers and planners. It’s in our DNA. We enjoy making lists and checking things off the way other people enjoy fine wines. On this occasion, though, it’s just one more item on the master list of things-to-do.  The relocation counselor assured me that I wouldn’t have to list every Power Ranger and action figure separately. I hope she’s right. Otherwise, Tuesday will be a very long day.

Once the packing starts, I suspect it will begin to feel like a thrill ride – terrifying and exciting all at once. Brian will be here for a few days – inshallah – and will accompany us back to Saudi Arabia and our ultimate destination, KAUST. The day he is due to arrive here is the day of the house sale – should be interesting. I want to sell as much as I can while still keeping enough to enable us to live in the house for the last few days – beds, linens, and the electric kettle. Those are my must-haves for in-house camping, which is essentially what we will be doing for those last few days.

I am reading the KAUST blogs as if I am studying for an exam. I am trying to prepare myself for the move. I know – based on my experience with other moves in the past – that no matter how much preparation you do, it’s still a shock to the system. No matter how excited and thrilled you are to be where you are, it still takes getting used to. When I first moved to Chicago, I thought I would never get used to it. We moved from Southern California and we didn’t even have coats. I thought I was going to die of the cold. Now, I am as comfortable here as where I grew up – maybe even more so. Without even realizing I was doing it, I settled in. I put down roots and made friends. I still don’t like shoveling snow – but still, I have grown to love it here. So, I hope in twenty years to be able to say the same about KAUST.

Let the wild rumpus start. (With apologies to Maurice Sendak.)

Some Whine and Cheese, Perhaps?

October 6, 2009

I am sad and irritated at the same time. I think I am not going to be able to bring my cat with me to KAUST. I didn’t know until just now that I need to get a health certificate authenticated by the Dept of Agriculture,  by the State Dept in Washington, by the Saudi Embassy and, in addition, get some kind of import permit available only in Saudi Arabia. I think the logistics of this may be such that it will not be possible to bring him with us, not at least with any confidence that he would make it through the various checkpoints along the way. Who knew it would be so complicated to bring the puddy? I am annoyed – mostly with myself – that I didn’t press the matter earlier. Now, the trick will be to find as good a home for Cyclone as we found for Bailey, (our 100 lb Golden Retriever who believed he was a lap dog and behaved accordingly.)

Okay, whine over. The relo counselor was here yesterday and the packers will be here next week. Our car – the Camry – is sold. For a song, but at least the deal is done. It is definitely October here in Chicago – heat on, fire lit, all that good stuff. I am hoping the weather doesn’t get too cold before we leave as I threw out my heavy coat and I really don’t want to buy a new one. I can always layer, I suppose.

I am beginning to feel mildly panicked that I should be doing more than I am doing to get ready for our departure. I just don’t know what that is. We have to live here until we leave here so I can’t pack/sell/get rid of everything too soon. This move is traumatic enough for Noel as it is without making the last few weeks here complete torture for him, which is what it would be if we removed his toys/game/favorite things.

In the meantime, I am continuing to play bad bridge. I have lovely partners who want to spend time with me before I leave and so are willing to put up with my lapses in concentration. I appreciate their patience and kindness.

At this point, I am eager to get the move underway. It has been a long separation, way longer than either of us anticipated when we embarked on this adventure. So, fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly, or at least, that those things that don’t go smoothly are unimportant and easily gotten around.

Gobsmacked in the Windy City

October 2, 2009

Devastated. Stunned. In total shock. That’s what we are here in the Windy City. This morning we were eliminated, IN THE FIRST ROUND of the selection process for the 2016 Olympics. How did this happen? We were expecting it to come down to the wire between us and Rio. But we were out in THE FIRST ROUND. I still can’t quite get my head around it. Mayor Daleyand Michelle Obama went to present our case. President Obama went to Copenhagen to add his voice to the Chicago choir. Oprah was there. The IOC turned a deaf ear to Oprah! We are all so disappointed. I remind myself that I won’t be here in 2016. It doesn’t matter. I am still upset for Chicago. It’s a great city and it would have been a wonderful host to the Olympics, both the athletes and the spectators.

Colleagues from work took me out to lunch today. In the real estate business, agents come and go – and in this market, they are going more than coming – so I was very touched that they wanted to mark my imminent departure in some way. We have promised to stay in touch. I very much hope we do. Facebook makes it easy. Being able to maintain contact really eases the pain of saying goodbye.

People have begun to ask me how my packing is progressing. Er, I haven’t even begun. Somehow, I have this notion that people are supposed to come and pack up the stuff we are bringing with us. I hope I am right in this assumption. If not, I am in deep doodoo. Fingers crossed that the packing genies actually materialize.

I understand that classes are well underway at KAUST now, that the university is beginning to emerge. It is truly amazing. I have been reading on the blogs about plumbing problems and unwelcome four legged guests. As a child, I spent two weeks every summer with my grandfather – no running water, no indoor plumbing. As an adult, I have come to like my creature comforts but I think I’ll manage ok at KAUST.

Rainy Nights in Glencoe

October 1, 2009

Last night we had thunder and lightning, tonight it’s just constant rain. This morning, when I got up there was that unmistakeable nip in the air that announces fall. I was up early as someone was coming to look at our car – his daughter is in college and needs transportation. It’s a good car although certainly not glamorous or fancy – a Toyota Camry, solid and dependable. They’re thinking it over – it’s more than they want to spend but they’re aware it’s a good deal nonetheless. People have begun to tell me that I should enjoy these chilly days, that I will miss them when I move. They are right. I will. The weather isn’t the only thing I will miss.

We ordered pizza for dinner tonight – it’s that kind of evening, the kind where you want to eat chocolate and watch the X Factor. The cat is sleeping on the rug behind me, probably stalking and pouncing on some little creature in his dreams. We get lots of evenings like that here in Chicago. I wonder what the equivalent kind of evening will be like in Saudi Arabia and whether we will achieve that level of familiar comfort there. It’s okay if we don’t. It will be nice if we do.

The most momentous thing about today is that it’s October. We have reached the month in which we move. We have a departure date and it seems like the sale of our house is solid. I am delighted, although there is a tiny voice in my head saying it would have been nice to have kept the house, that now we are truly nomads, without a bolt hole or safe place. Oh well, I used to say I could be happy in a tent in the desert as long as we were all together. Now, I get my chance to test that theory.

I have been reading everything I can about KAUST and Saudi Arabia. I surf the net constantly, looking for tidbits of information, yet another perspective. I read the blogs written by the students and the spouses of faculty. The faculty themselves are absent from the blogosphere. I suspect it’s because they are busier than they ever believed it possible to be. (I know this is true of my own husband.) I have learned the names of some of the spouses and some of the children. The internet has made this move to the other side of the world less like stepping off a cliff. Brian has acute bronchitis but he assures me he has been to the doctor. Yet another of the wonders of Skype – seven thousand miles apart and I can still nag him to take care of himself.

We are pretty much in a holding pattern right now. The relo person is coming next week to look at the stuff we want to bring with us. I have FedExed the parcel of materials off to the lady who handles the visa applications. I worry about not having my passport at hand – it’s an uncomfortable feeling knowing that I can’t leave the country if I need to. I will miss my friends here and the life that I lead here. I am looking forward though to the new life ahead, to making new friends and forming new relationships, while still treasuring the old.