Archive for November 2009

Moving Forward

November 25, 2009

We are moving forward – it’s hard, but doable. We need to forget about the handball and the seeming blindness of referees.  We need to get on with it. It’s disappointing though – we had high hopes of watching Ireland participate in the World Cup in 2010 – and this time in a part of the world that recognizes soccer as the game of games. However, ain’t gonna happen so might as well quit whingeing about it.

We got our ID Badges – finally, after much ‘toing and froing’. It’s amazing how much more comfortable I feel now that I’m officially official. Our temporary ID cards caused a sufficient number of raised eyebrows that it had begun to be an issue. Even making an appointment to have your hair cut requires a badge number. So I am very pleased to have one. Of course, now that I do, I have to carry it with me everywhere I go – one more thing to add to list of things that cannot be done without. Coming back from Jeddah last night, we were both amused to watch Noel present his ID badge at the various security checkpoints. He is definitely learning to adapt.

We were awoken in the wee hours to the sound of rain – lots of it – pounding on the balcony. By the time the storm had abated, a couple of inches of rain had fallen. We were lucky – just a few leaks and nothing that couldn’t be quickly mopped up. However, some people weren’t so lucky and had some major flooding and water damage. I was prepared for sand storms but an excess of rain is something I was not prepared to have to deal with in Saudi Arabia. The storm was quite beautiful to watch though, awesome even – the raindrops were big and fat and warm – not at all like what I am used to.



Settling In

November 21, 2009

We are, indeed, settling in. We have become accustomed to checking the prayer times when we go to the mall so we know when the stores will be opening/closing. We have figured out the layout of the Red Sea Mall and can now find the Starbucks with ease. Last night we were there and Noel requested that we go to a store called Tokyo Games. We looked at one another in total mystification. Did such a store exist, we wondered? Of course it did – and it was filled with the kind of stuff that Noel loves best. We hadn’t even noticed  the store even though we must have passed it  on previous visits to the mall. To each, his own, I suppose.

Thus far, I have encountered only kindness here. People make room for us at their table at the food court or beckon us over when they are about to leave. We haven’t, as yet, had to deal with parking at the mall. It will be interesting to see how that plays out here.  (It must sound like we spend all our time at the mall, but that’s where our lives intersect with the broader Saudi society. KAUST is a world unto itself – lots of intense people with very high IQs. It’s rare air and has a very similar vibe to what I recall from Caltech.)

Very soon, I will have been here for a month. I really don’t know where the time has gone. The weather is perfect here right now, warm but not too hot as long as you avoid midday. I could get used to this.

Starting to feel more like home.

November 11, 2009

The house is beginning to feel a little more like home – untidy is certainly a start. Noel’s stuff is beginning to take over the family room just like in our former home. You have to be careful, when you sit on the couch, to check for hidden objects lurking among the cushions – a PS3 remote control is not a comfortable thing to sit on. I cooked an actual dinner yesterday – was delicious. I may have to do this on a regular basis. The trick is to prepare stuff that can survive reheating.

The community is changing by the minute – the beauty salon opened yesterday – going for a mani/pedi today. Prices are comparable with Glencoe! However, it is local and accessible and I don’t have to hire a car/driver to get there. Next week, I will try them for a haircut – the real acid test. The community library opens today – gorgeous facility that overlooks the water, has a coffee bar downstairs, and lots of comfy chairs to sit in. Very chic but very user friendly. I can’t wait and I think Noel is going to love it. I’ve already spoken to the librarian there to alert her to Noel’s special needs. She was lovely and I think she – like every librarian we have ever met – will love him. You see, he doesn’t go into the library and request something the way most of us do, by paraphrasing the title and telling the poor, unfortunate individual behind the desk that the author was John something that  starts with S, I think. When Noel goes to the library to request something, he has the exact title, the correct author and, occasionally, even the publisher.

We are here two weeks now. It feels a lot more familiar than a place where I have only spent two weeks. Probably because it’s a universityand university campuses have a shared sense of purpose that transcends location.

More Jeddah Shopping

November 6, 2009

This time we hired a car and driver to take us to Jeddah and to ferry us about while we were there – very nice. We did a ton of shopping, mostly basic supplies and stuff for the house. I bought a teapot – I’ve already checked it out and it passed the dribble test with flying colors. The guys both got haircuts – really nice ones. I was allowed to wait in the shop while the hair was being cut – a haircut here is quite a different experience to the average haircut in the US or Ireland. It takes longer for one thing and they finish it off with a straight razor! All in all though, a very positive result and experience.

We found the Virgin Megastore much to Noel’s delight and our relief. We also went to Jarir, a sort of combination bookstore/computer store. We did a lot! I could get used to this way of shopping – dropped off at the door and picked up at the door, no worries about parking,  and an extra pair of hands to carry stuff.

We are over the worst of the jet lag but the last few hours are the hardest to get over, I think. I find myself going to sleep late even though I am up quite early. Still, we’ve only been here a week and these things take time.

A Week Already!

November 4, 2009

We are here a week now. It’s hard to believe that we are about to attend something for the second time that occurs weekly. Thus far, the time has flown by. I think Noel and I are still somewhat dazed by the transition. We had our first rodent encounter – Cyclone the wonder cat slept through the whole thing. Well, maybe he’s a little overwhelmed by the transition also. The clothes came out of the washing machine in a sorry state – I have managed to figure out that if I wash only with cold water that everything comes out ok. So cold water only, from now on. We have to slice the McVities Milk Choc Digestives like a  sliced pan – they just don’t survive the heat very well. Serious and critical stuff.

I am eager to start taking Arabic classes – I have bought a book and am trying to make headway with it but I find my concentration wavering after about ten minutes or so. I think face to face interaction is the best way to begin to pick up a language and in a class setting you have a combination of personal interaction and structure. I have tried basic phrases like hello and thank you when I am in a store and have been pleased with the response. People seem delighted that I made the effort even if my attempts at pronunciation are poor. So, I will keep trying. I hope at some point the script becomes comprehensible to me.

 Once Brian has his drivers license, we hope to buy/rent a car. That will be a great help as right now we are dependant on the shuttle buses which are fine for basic transportation but a bit incovenient when you are schlepping groceries. Other than that, all quiet on the Western front.