November 7, 2005

Saudi 12

From Sandy:

November 1, 2005


I have now been here just over two months. For a lazy vacation, some fun things have happened.

Halloween for instance. It is celebrated in the compound – I had more trick-r-treaters last night than last year in Cloquet. The kids were from all over the world. The muslim kids participate, too. A good friend gave me a red nose that blinks as a going away present – something to cheer me up if I was down and, hey, I did my usual dress up to hand out candy. A clown I was, with a blinking nose and lines painted on my face. Giant bow tie made from a tarha and my new floppy hat. The kids were surprised to see me in costume and they were all either cute or terrifying (scream masks). No one was dressed up like a “bum” though one kid said – “ can you tell – I’m dead!”

After they all went to the recreation room for a halloween party with haunted house, I went to the New New Sawari on the bus. This brings up a wealth of information.

As I have said, Jeddah is growing like mad. I didn’t realize how fast or how much until yesterday when Mr. Dong (one of the compound managers) told me that five years ago there were one two malls besides Balad, Bawadi and the international market…. You would not believe the number of malls and superstores (called hyper markets) there are now.

This presents some interesting problems. Somewhere there is a Sawari mall. Then they built a new Sawari Mall, which is referred to al the New Sawari. Another, even newer Sawari mall has opened rather near the compound. So, that makes it the New New Sawari mall. You pass by the Roshan Mall, under construction, to get to the New New Sawari. And, not to far from all than is the new hyperGeant which is advertised to be the biggest mall in the Middle-east.

Anyway, we went to the New New Sawari last night. The whole mall was open – at last three floors and GET THIS: on the second floor there is an indoor ice-skating rink. Yup, so I sat there eating ice cream watch little arab kids trying to skate. An older girl, probably 11 was doing very well, skating about with her abaya flying in the wind. Another older girl had her abaya tucked into her pants. A young guy, the scating instructor, helped a couple of the little kids. At one point he picked up this little guy who must have been 3 1/2 or 4 and took him for a spin around the rink. Little kid was in hog heaven and you could see the caring in the young man’s eyes.

The third floor of this mall is ENTIRELY and amusement park with merry-go-round, little bumper cars and a small ferris wheel where the little kids sit inside camels, portrayed as if laying down. Did see laser tag, but I was looking for it.

This country is truly heavenly for kids. There are water parks, amusement parks, ice skating and even skiing throughout Jeddah. Heidi was with me yesterday and said she was on sensory overload. Half of the upstairs (third floor) is video arcade and one thing, I would like to have tried, you bang on a drum to try to splat something for points. Looks like a good stress reliever. Anyway, Heidi said she thought this was like the Mall of America. Nope, says I, that is even bigger. By a lot. But this place is quite huge and had a wider selection of stores than many of the current malls. Even though many of the shopkeepers do not speak English, the mall is more western (las vegas style) and interestingly, I have never seen so many male-female couples holding hands. You just don’t see that here. Men hold hands. Women hold hands. (Both can just mean friendship…) But public display of affection is OUT. So that was very nice.

I finally got my ATM card to work. I had really needed until this week and the first attempt was a bomb. I was rather worried about not having a usable ATM, but found the appropriate one last night on the way to New New Sawari.

Other stores have the same problem: Danube, New Danube, new HyperDanube in the Mega Mall. Panda, new Panda, Panda in Tahlia and the new hyperPanda.

Trivia question: Which city contains the largest Chuckie Cheese in the world? You got it-
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It is huge. It is on the Corniche which is the area along the Red Sea downtown. There are two amusement parks right next to each other and another just down the way along the sea itself.

The weather has turned a bit cooler – low 90s which means the bugs have come out. When it is very hot – over 100 everyday up to 120, it’s too hot for bugs. Now the mosquitos are out as are the pesty flies. The compound staff sprays diesel fuel to kill mosquitos. See previous Saudilogue about toxic fumes.

Fumes – Shannon and I were hanging out by the pool, when she said – hey, a sandstorm. In the distance you could see a sand colored cloud slowing rising in the distance moving to my right (I am directionally impaired. NSEW better suited to those who can handle them). Our compound is surrounded by a high wall and there is a fence on top of that which hold 4 strings of barbed wire. I really wanted to see what the sand cloud looked like. Wall was in the way. So, I tried climbing a rock fountain that leans into the wall. I could not get high enough to peek over. I decided that to try to climb a bit higher at my age and calcium level would be dumb. UNDAUNTED, in the face of this set back, I climbed up the kids rock wall/swingset thingy. That put me up high enough to see over the wall. Shannon said there really is nothing to look at. The sandstorm does not move on little cat feet like fogs do. I’m German. Just had to see. And, yup, the color simply went down to the horizon. So, I got down off the swingset.

She showed me pictures of some sandstorms she had seen. The sky turns black and you can’t see anything. Apparently this sandstorm was just out in the desert and didn’t’ come into town.

Trying to scale the barbed-wire fence did feel a bit odd. I thought about Martha Stewart. Even if it looked like our compound, it still was a prison. I do not feel like I’m in prison but a couple of the other women do – just because getting a cab is a hassle and it costs money. Most of us are either sending money home to support family and/or pay off student loans or credit card bills so even though we are paid very well, we are all playing catch up on other events….

The local television (CNN London) is making fun of Americans complaining about high gas prices. Gas in UK was $9 a gallon not to long ago. The commentator was talking about Americans being very attached to cars – even walking the dog with the leash out the car window. They all had a good laugh about it.

See that Bush put out a new Supreme Court Candidate. I would’t be surprised if he purposed nominated Meirs, knowing she would be distressing so he could then nominate a very conservative judge.

Oh – have you ever wondered what that object is that muslims walk around in the grand mosque? I thought it was a rock, and they guy on the plane told me it is like a main alter and that it is the center of God… but it originally was built by Adam (yes that Adam) at God’s request for God. I don’t know how much of the original house is still there… there is something there. The Hajj has been celebrated long before Mohammed here because it all related to Adam building the house, Mekkah was first settled by Ishmael (Jacob’s brother) and Abraham’s second wife. Ishmael was a baby at the time. Abraham is referred to as Grandfather. I borrowed an English copy of the Qu’ran. Hard reading for a non-sectarian. But it is interesting that Jews and Christians are mentioned throughout since Mohammed came along 500 years after the death of Jesus.

Anyway, Ramadan is nearly done. Then we will go to Eid which is the end of the fasting, the stores will go back to the normal time schedule, the bus will go back to the more normal bus schedule (5:30pm instead of the current 9:00pm). A neighbor game me a plate of Ramadan cookies. Oh my are they good.

So – off now, until another day.

Sandy

at November 7, 2005 8:25 AM