Resignation isn't Defeat, It's Knowing When Enough is Enough.

This past week was another wonderful misadventure into the underbelly of organizational leadership. The sudden changes I had spoken of previously have started taking place, and, now more than ever, it’s becoming glaringly obvious just how absurd our school has become.




From Oxford Dictionary: Diversion: an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns.

A new teacher, from a very privileged affluent teaching background, arrived during our Eid Holiday. My Principal decided to extend his holiday by two days without telling anyone, so I was left in charge and had to entertain him for the time being. He caught up with me yesterday in the hallway while I was taking a break from going back and forth between teaching my fourth grade class and handling fistfights between other grades while they were on their break.

Me under my breath: .... I really fucking hate children.
Newbie: I beg your pardon?
Me: I hate children.
Newbie: Seems like an odd thing to say.
Me: ...eh.

There was an awkwardly long pause. He didn't walk away.

Newbie: How long have you been teaching in Saudi?
Me: This is my second year.
Newbie: How long have you been a teacher?
Me: This is my second year.
Newbie: ... Really?
Me: ... Yes.
Newbie: That seems like an odd thing to say.
Me: ...
Newbie: You're a teacher, and you hate children... Isn't that an odd thing to say?
Me: ... If you cleaned septic tanks for a living, neck deep in shit every day, would you enjoy plunging your hands in every random clogged toilet you came across just because people think you're used to it?
Newbie: Well... Um... No.
Me: Then you see my point.

You've Made Your Bed.

My apologies for the lengthy absence. It wasn't something I anticipated.

Things here in the Kingdom have been exceptionally extra-ordinary these past few weeks. This school year so far has been, without a doubt, one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had, and things have only gotten more ridiculous as time has gone on. It’s been an incredibly trying time, both personally and professionally, and as things stand currently, it will continue to be this way for the foreseeable future.



From Oxford Dictionary: Diversion: an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns.

One of my fourth graders came up to me yesterday morning after I got done talking with the Brit in the hallway.

Student: Mr. S, what this word shite?
Me: It's how British people say shit. You shouldn't say it.
Student: Ok... Mr. S, what is shit?
Me: It's a swear word that means crap. You shouldn't say that word either.
Student: Oh. Like we not say fuck?
Me: Yes, fuck is a swear word too.
Student: Ok. You want I tell class not say shit or shite or fuck?
Me: No. I would prefer that you didn't.
Student: Ok Mr. S. You tell me time, and I say to class. No problem.
Me: Thanks Osama, I'll keep that in mind.

A great lesson to out start the week.


Perfectly Ridiculous

Over the course of the last year I’ve learned quite a bit about myself. Personally, it’s mostly just the reaffirmation that I’m not the friendliest person in most situations and that I have to work a little harder than most in social situations. Professionally, I’ve learned more than I could have imagined.

I didn’t start out intending to be an elementary school teacher, but over the course of the last 7 years I continually dug myself deeper and deeper into that choice. I’ve been fortunate in that every experience I’ve had has been relatively positive, but after moving to Saudi and developing my professional demeanor, the reasons that keep me in education have changed dramatically. I like being a teacher (most of the time) and I consider myself to be very competent in chaotic, atypical, less than perfect situations that most people would choose to avoid. However, I can’t see myself being a teacher for the next 35 years. I’d rather be an administrator. Luckily, I’ve had plenty of inadvertent experience working towards that goal.



From Oxford Dictionary: Diversion: an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns.

A few weeks ago my Principal interrupted the first period class I was filling in.
Him:  Do you have a second?
Me:  I just got started with my lesson, but...
Him:  Thanks. Would you be willing to sub for the Arabic block for grade 6?
Me:  They can come to my classroom and have a study period while I prepare for my normal classes.
Him:  No, I meant will you please teach them Arabic.
Me: ....I don't speak Arabic.
Him:  That's alright, they just need a basic lesson to fill time during Arabic. It can be impromptu.
Me: ....No. I do not know how to speak Arabic.
He reached over to touch my shoulder:  It's just for today.
I backed away from him, then using exaggerated arm movements and speaking slowly:  I. Do. Not. Speak. Arabic.
Him:  ...Huh... Really?...I thought you did.
Me:  No.
Him:  I guess I'll go ask David, I know he's pretty good with Arabic.  [He isn't]
Me:  Good idea.

Later that day 6th graders showed up in my room, so I made them sit quietly and read. The Principal poked his head in the door.
Him:  What are you doing?
Me:  Preparing for my next class.
Him:  You are supposed to be teaching Arabic.
Me: ...I don't speak Arabic.
Him:  We all face challenges, but we need to work together to reach our goals. You should be teaching these students Arabic.
Me: ...I'm sorry. It was foolish of me to think of myself in this situation and make a decision not to teach them a language I don't actually speak.
Him:  Thank you for thinking of the team. (As he turns to walk out the door he faces the students) Now, Grade Sixers, listen carefully to Mr. S because he'll be your new Arabic Teacher! Have a wonderful day!

Students turned to look at me, then looked blankly around at each other.
Student: You teach us Arabic, Mr. S?
Me:  Nope.
Student:  What we do then?
Me:  Whatever you think will annoy me the least.
Student:  We keep reading.
Me:  Good boy.

What Goes Around

It's been an interesting past few weeks. For as much as things have varied on a day to day basis, things hadn't really changed much since the beginning of the school year. Chaos and uncertainty still reigned supreme, but after a few fortunate bits of turmoil things started looking up.



From Oxford Dictionary: Diversion: an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns.

Last year I taught 6th grade. One day in the later half of the year out on the playground during recess:
Me: Mohammed! What did you just say to him?
Mohammed (smirking): I say, 'Ahmad,' then I say 'ack you'....
Me: Mohammed, you can't say 'fuck you' on the playground?
Mohammed: Ok... Where I say 'fuck you' then?
Me: Anywhere else you want, but not at school.
Mohammed: Ok (nodding his head proudly), I say 'fuck you' to Ahmad after school.
Me: No, Mohammed, you shouldn't say 'fuck you' to Ahmad at all.
Mohammed: Ok, I not say 'fuck you' to him. (He turns his head and shouts across the soccer field) Ahmad! No more say 'fuck you' ok? Ok.

Twenty minutes later after I picked up a doodle on Mohammed's desk during math:
Me: Really?...
Mohammed: Haha. Is funny, no? I write it for Ahmad.
Me: Nice try Mohammed, but fuck is spelled with a 'c' and a 'k'.
Mohammed writes a 'c' so it says 'fukc’ : "Good?
Me with a sigh: Close enough...


You've Never had It so Good

One of the more interesting aspects of teaching in Saudi is dealing with the large cultural divide between the ideals of the organization that pays me and the norms of my students. This past week marked the beginning of the school year, and in keeping with the normal chaos, life was interesting.


From Oxford Dictionary: Diversion; an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns.

Diversions are happenings that highlight the many aspects of living here in the Kingdom. They might be conversations or experiences, extraordinary revelations, or just plain rants. Either way, it's day to day life. 

I left my coffee mug in my car, so I poured my coffee in a regular glass. My roommate walked in the kitchen while I was eating breakfast.
Him: What are you, like, drinking?
Me: Coffee.
Him: Huh?
Me: Coffee.
Him: But... Ohhh, like cold coffee. That's cool.
Me, as I look at the steam rising from my glass: .....
Him: So did you, like buy a new cold coffee machine, or does yours make cold stuff too?
Me: ... Yes. I bought a new cold coffee machine. It's in the other room.
Him: Oh. That's cool man. Do you mind if I, like, use it later? I'll go buy some more ice if I need to.
Me: It's alright, it makes its own ice, you just add water.

An hour later he knocked on my bedroom door.
Him: Hey, do you think you could, like, help me? I put water and even some ice in the cold coffee machine, but it isn't coming out very cold.
Me: Hmm... sometimes you just have to wait a bit for it to cool down.
Him: Yeah, I did that for a few minutes, but it, like, just kept getting hotter.
Me: ... I guess it's probably broken. If you want you could pour it into a pitcher and put it in the fridge. Then, if it's not cold enough, you could add some ice before you drink it.
Him: That's a good idea! Cool! Thanks man... [whispering to himself as he walks away] I love cold coffee...


A Good Rest is Half the Work

Having been through the interesting day to day deterioration of school that occurred last week, I spent the majority of this past weekend avoiding responsibility while attempting to restore my sanity. It worked out well enough, and there were only a few awkward phone calls and email exchanges with the Californian while I sat around the pool on Thursday. As validating as it is to try to elaborate on all the finer details of the work your superior should be doing himself in hopes that he can do his job come the start of the week, it isn’t really all that relaxing working through someone else’s problems while soaking wet and half in the bag. The Brit and I called it a night early, though clearly accomplished in our mission of more than a few drinks and plenty of poolside ogling.

Late Friday morning we set out towards Half Moon Bay to meet up with a friend of the Brit for an afternoon by the sea.


It's Always Sunny

It was quite the interesting start to the school year. We started this past week with four straight days of workshops, dividing our free time between meetings and introductions for new staff and sorting out the many unresolved issues from this spring. What started out positive quickly turned into the monotonous chaos that defines working in Saudi.


Turn and Face the Change

Summer has come to a surprisingly abrupt end after spending a long holiday back in the States. Things here in the Kingdom are continuing their normal chaotic pace, but in a strange way I’m glad to be back in the Land of Endless Sun.


Killin' Time

This past weekend I decided to take a break from the monotony of sweating it out by the pool every afternoon with a long weekend in Doha, Qatar. Not really knowing much beyond how to drive there, I didn’t anticipate anything extraordinary. That’s about what I got.  


Whelp, that’s over.

School is officially out here in the Kingdom, and it went out in one big anticlimactic sigh.


There's always Bigger Fish to Fry

Due to a few circumstances that were very much under my control, this past week got off to a less than ideal start. Girl’s birthday celebration (if it can be called that) brunch Friday afternoon was a great way to wrap up a relaxing an uneventful weekend. What followed at a number of bars and clubs dotted in and around Manama resulted in learning firsthand the old adage that one really should try their best to avoid getting drunk in front of their boss. And all their co-workers. And the Border Patrol.

It started off well enough


Feh Sahahtikum

Tomorrow is Girl’s 28th birthday. For the past several weeks myself and the Brit have been relentlessly referencing her age and reminding her of how little she has accomplished so near to her 30th birthday. What started out as a little lighthearted jesting quickly turned into a friendly competition to see who can break her down first. A career that’s produced nothing but debt, no wedding ring or babies, no long standing friendships or house to go home to. I have to admit that I’m in the same situation, but, for one, I’m not nearly that old, and two, I don’t care nearly as much as she does. Cruel as it is, she’s taken it fairly well, and the only one to have been slapped was the Paki (sometimes things just don’t translate that well into English). To celebrate the occasion, she made the Paki arrange (and pay for) a large all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet at one of the nice hotels in Bahrain. Despite all our jokes (and partially because of them) she’s put together an entire day of youthful drinking and debauchery. Little does she realize, the hotel the Paki picked is usually packed with the retired men, and, like everywhere else in Bahrain, prostitutes. It will be interesting.


It is what it Is

Next week marks the start of the last leg of the school year. The slog through the final three weeks will begin, and if this past week is any indicator of what’s to come, life shouldn’t be too rough.  


You never really get away...

A short work week has past, and after trying, and failing, to lounge around the pool in the 112 degree heat I figured I might as well post an update.

Over the previous long weekend I was fortunate enough to spend 5 nights in Barcelona. More than anything, it was a great way to relax before starting the last remaining month of a busy school year. The trip started off on the wrong foot with unnecessarily loud flight from Dammam International early Wednesday morning, followed by a long layover in Cairo. Even though I had attempted a promise to myself never to fly with them again, I ended up flying EgyptAir because of a number of time constraints, but more so because I’m cheap. I wound up landing in Barcelona without much incident and without spending too much at the bar in Cairo International, so it wasn’t all bad.

 The Suez Canal

Egyptian Breakfast of Champions


Numbers, Swear Words, and Beer. That's all You need to Know.

Just as I was getting back into routine and feeling like I had everything sorted out, an opportunity presented itself that I couldn’t pass up. Posts will be light for the next week or so. I’m spending an extended weekend in Barcelona.

Sometimes we all need a little change in the monotony (or lack thereof) in life. I’ve awoken to a minaret everyday for the last 8 months; it’s about time for a break.

And some bacon.   

See you in a few.


Stupid Is as Stupid Does

Given my lack of updates over the past few weeks, I sat down with my computer last night hoping to start a new post or two. I ended up encountering a bit of a mental wall. As my fingers sat ready on the keys I tired in vain to think of a good opening sentence. My mind kept wandering. Lost in thought, my eyes glazed over. For a solidten minutes or so I sat motionless, completely oblivious to the world around me. I was absorbed. Absorbed in something, that, up until now, hadn't frustrated me enough to want to write about. But last night was different. Try as I might, I couldn't rid myself of the ever growing disdain I’ve developed for my roommate. I didn’t intend on spending my free time ruminating over this seething hatred, but after having spent nearly every moment of my life, night and day, for 8 months with such an incredibly perfect example of a blundering idiot, I couldn’t help myself.

This hasn't always been the case.


Day In, Day Out

Summer has basically arrived here in the Kingdom, bringing with it endless hazy blue skies and freakishly consistent temperatures. It hasn’t gotten unbearably hot as of yet, but every week the mercury slowly rises, and by the end of May temps will settle around 110 degrees. I’ve been looking forward to the change in weather, especially the end of the dust storm season, but I’m sure the last few weeks of school in June and having to constantly transition from frigidly efficient air conditioned classrooms to blisteringly hot playgrounds will change my opinion.


Live and Learn

After experiencing the squalor and beauty of Cairo, we continued our holiday in another historically significant, but much more sanitary, center of Islam: Istanbul.

Our flight out of Cairo was about what we had come to expect. Unorganized lines and procedures that aren’t really explained, followed by long queues and lingering mix of powerful body odors masked by even more overpowering oil based perfumes. The terminal our flight left from was fairly nice, but the small number of bars and the horrible quality of service meant a wait that felt much longer than necessary. The flight was relatively uneventful, although there was a very interesting older Egyptian gentleman who felt inclined to disregard most of the rules (including trying to smoke) and eventually passed out lying with his feet in the aisle. He was travelling with a bottle of what looked like booze and a dozen or more cartons of cigarettes in his plastic bag carry on and nothing else. We didn’t see him again after passing through passport control.

Landing in Istanbul was quite refreshing. It was still early spring, with bare trees and patches of brown in the fields and forests surrounding the city, but everything else was shaded in various hues of green. Having seen nothing but sandy shades of tan for the past 6 months, it was a nice change of pace. The weather was relatively beautiful, a chilly 55 degrees with a light breeze and a fine mist, but it felt wonderful to experience natural coldness and dust-free air. We collected our baggage and hailed a cab, not having to physically push anyone away or having to haggle, then set out for our hotel. Twenty minutes later we arrived. There were no horns, no bumps or scrapes, no irrational lane changes, no death grips on door handles. I paid the driver what the meter read, tipped him without him demanding it, and it was finished. I was perfectly content with my experience at that point, and was almost willing to end my holiday early for fear of everything suddenly going to hell.

Thankfully my fears weren’t realized.

 The Bosphorus. Europe on the left, Asia on the right.


Make it Work.

I started the first leg of my spring break with a 5 day visit to Cairo. It was quite different than what I had anticipated, but it was nothing short of memorable.

Myself and Girl arrived about an hour late after a very crowded and very loud flight from Dammam on EgyptAir. It was actually better than what most people had warned us about, considering how cheap our tickets were and that EgyptAir has a less than favorable reputation as a low-cost Middle Eastern carrier. Customs took a fairly long time by Western standards, though it was a breeze compared to Saudi, and after collecting our bags we met up with a driver I had arranged through our hotel. We made a pit stop at the duty free, then walked to his car.

This was the last semblance of normalcy for the next five days.

Cairo International.


Delta Blues

Spring Break is upon us, and I’ll be doing a fair bit of travelling over the next two weeks. I will be spending a few days in and around Cairo exploring some of the wonders of the Ancient World, then I'll be flying on to Istanbul for the rest of the break to get a little taste of Turkish Hospitality.

It’s a well placed hiatus, and hopefully by the time I return in early April the dust storms will subside and the endlessly clear pale blue skies will have returned.

See you in a few. 

A Blessing or a Curse. Usually Both.

This past weekend we were invited by the Vice President to attend a boat outing and a late lunch at an upscale compound near Half Moon Bay. He’s been reaching out to the Western teachers in an attempt to get to know us better. It sounded like a nice enough time, but as will all things here in the Kingdom, ideas differ from reality.

It was intended to be a relaxing leisurely outing that would give us time to get to know one another, and it was made perfectly clear to everyone that it wasn’t a compulsory event. As such, it was a bit of a poor showing by the western staff members who were invited because for as demanding and needy as they are with the VP, they hardly if ever actually take the time to see him face to face. Granted, he is a bit of a knob head and has a tendency to forget names, but he isn’t that bad of guy to sit around and have casual conversations with. In our many meetings with him the Brit and I have learned quite a bit about his personal life, what he likes, what his pet peeves are, and how to get him to agree with what we think (or want him to think). We were planning on using the opportunity to move some of our personal initiatives along, but in a sudden turn of events the VP sent the Brit to Bangkok and we had to rethink our strategy. It didn’t help that the morning of the soiree half the people who were going backed out, and it wound up being just a core group of teachers and the administrators. 


Zhind de Bhad Pakistan

A few weekends back, I had the opportunity to go to Dubai. It was put together by the Paki and was basically an excuse for him to skip a day of work to attend one of the England vs. Pakistan* cricket matches, but it was a surprisingly good trip.

*Because of the safety concerns for players and fans, but more so because no foreign teams are actually willing to play in the country, Pakistan plays all its home games in Dubai.

Downtown Dubai


Lions into Lambs

We've had a bit of an unusual week here in the Kingdom. There's been a mix of odd weather recently including a few light showers and very high winds. Yesterday evening a large sand storm rolled in from Kuwait and, as luck would have it, school was cancelled due to low visibility and poor air quality. A day off to catch up on things is a nice break from the ups and downs of the past week, but it’s a sure sign that the full force of the summer heat will be here soon.

Spring has Sprung


True Colours are sometimes best left Unseen

Life is continuing as usual here in the Kingdom, though the past two weeks of school have been quite interesting. I’ve been continuing my ‘Deputy Principle’ duties which basically amount to daily confrontations with the South African to keep him on track as he continues his charade as ‘principle’ then delegating the tasks he should have completed months ago to everyone else. Its worked out fairly well and there has been significant progress, but, as with all change in Saudi, sorting out one set of problems immediately creates another.

A vacant lot near the School.


It’s my Gournal. Like a Journal, but with a hard G.

In my normal daily routine I have quite a bit of free time. More often than not, it ends up being spent trying to accomplish simple tasks that would normally take 20 or 30 minutes back in the States, but because of the skewed sense of normalcy here, these little things, like simple errands or grocery shopping, take several hours. I’ve learned to maximize my free time, but after I finish my work day, exercise, make dinner, run errands, and study for university courses, I’m left with less than I usually anticipate. Extra things like writing for this blog use up whatever’s left most days, and the rest is wasted on laziness or the occasional hangover. One thing I try to make time for most days, regardless of how tight my schedule might be, is writing in a journal.

In the last two or three years of studying to become an elementary school teacher, every onsite classroom experience I participated in required some sort of reflective journaling. Throughout my student teaching I kept a record of my experiences, which, besides going back and forth between a running log of all my failures and the ridiculous things I found my ‘urban’ students saying and doing, served as a way to work through the difficulties I was facing. Thinking back on it, it didn’t do much, and reading through them is much more of a lesson in self deprecation and humility than anything else. I ended up learning more about what not to do in a classroom through just about every firsthand experience imaginable in less than perfect schools with less than perfect students than I probably should have. It made me a bit arrogant about my abilities as a novice teacher, and, naively, it led me into situations that could easily be described as ‘over my head.’


Blue Ribbons, Black Abayas

Yesterday, in the usual spur of the moment fashion, I had the opportunity to tag along with a few friends to the annual Cultural Heritage Festival, known as Janadriyah, just outside Riyadh.

I had heard about this festival through various means, mostly my students’ parents and through the English language ‘newspapers’ that are available here. I didn’t think much of it, but Girl mentioned that she was going with the Paki and a few of his coworkers and there was room for one more in the car, so I decided it might be worth it to see what Saudi ‘culture’ has to offer.


It Sounds the Same in Every Language

This past weekend, for lack of anything better to do, I decided to take a short trip up the coast to Kuwait. Sadly, there isn’t all that much to do in Kuwait. Alcohol is banned, basically making it a smaller, dustier Saudi, but they have some semblance of political and religious freedom (the Vatican has a strong relationship with the Emir) and, more importantly, it’s another stamp in my passport.  

I was joined by two friends, both of whom accompanied me to Dubai over New Years, and although it started later than I anticipated due to a late night birthday dinner and the ensuing hangovers, it got off to a good start. The road to Kuwait is a multilane highway that skirts the Gulf Coast without ever actually getting near enough to see it. It passes through several large industrial oil processing areas, a few small oases, and a surprising amount of livestock ‘grazing areas.’ There really isn’t a better way to describe them than ‘grazing area’ because they aren’t really fields, but there is enough small shrubbery to support roaming herds of goats and camels. Some parts of the highway have fences to keep the livestock at bay. Most do not.

I tried to get closer but apparently camels can be quite mean


You've been in Their Shoes...

One nice thing about living in this part of the world is the general sense of hospitality most expats have towards anyone else experiencing the same ridiculous day to day life. It helps to have someone to share common experiences, and for the most part people are glad to be able to help someone like themselves who seems to be in need. Most everyone at some point or another found themselves in a similar situation when they first arrived, so it’s only natural to continue the cycle.

This past weekend I was invited to a dinner by the Brit. I was joined by the Brit’s wife, one of his close friends, a Welshman, and a menagerie of other expats that included Americans, French Canadians, and, the ever present bearers of libations, Scots. The majority of the guests worked for Aramco, the Saudi oil monopoly, which has a bit of a reputation for producing snobs. Aside from having to listen to a few overzealous American paramedics who dominated conversation with their relatively racist views on Saudis and their poorly formed understanding of Islam, everything went wonderfully, and I was asked to join a few people the next day for a beach barbecue.

Aramco is a bit of an enigma. It’s very well known and through various direct and indirect means provides a significant amount of work (and money) for both Saudis and expats. The main compound occupies a huge parcel of land situated at the edge of Dhahran, and has every modern convenience that a typical western expat would want, many of which are prohibited such as cinemas, and they even let women drive (or so I’ve heard). It’s basically its own little isolated country, sealed off from the prying eyes and repressive hands of the mainstream Saudi public. There are several other Aramco compounds, none of which I know much about, because for as well known as it is, it’s impossible to get into without a contact who works directly for the company. Seeing as I work for a Saudi owned international school with zero ties to the oil industry, I don’t have many Aramcon acquaintances.

Thankfully, the Brit does, so I joined him, his wife, their baby, and the Welshman for an afternoon at the beach. We were given guest passes by a Scottish veterinarian, and after a half hour drive from the Brit’s apartment we reached the edge of the Aramco Yacht Club, which is nestled along a beautiful stretch of white sand beach in Half Moon Bay along side Prince Mohammed’s palatial estate .

Not what I was expecting for a beach in Saudi


Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

Another week has come to pass filled with distractions (some worse than others), and once again I’m trying to catch up on posting. Aside from dealing with a hectic return to work after a break that might have been a bit too long for most students, I ran into a situation with my car, literally (more on that later), and I also started an online university course that ended up being considerably more challenging than I anticipated. I’ve gotten into the habit of keeping my plate fully loaded, but I can’t say that it’s all that negative.

Some mornings aren't all that bad at the Boys' School.


I beg your pardon, this is my Secret Garden

Normal life has resumed here in the land of endless sun, and for as dramatically as the situation at work has changed in the last few days, everything is just about the same.

I had a fantastic break from Saudi over the holiday travelling and exploring in and around Muscat, Oman. I was joined by my parents, who were able to experience all the wonders of the Arab world while still enjoying most of the conveniences of the West (toilets sometimes being one of them).

 Qur'm Beach


Back in a few...

This weekend marks the end of the first semester, meaning I've made it halfway through my first year here in the Kingdom. I plan on doing a little celebrating during my holiday in Muscat, so posting will be light for the next week (not that I've managed to be all that consistent with posting anyway).

A big thanks to those who've been following all my misadventures and giving me words of support, and to those of you who visit to remind yourself how glad you are not to be in my shoes, well, I guess you're welcome. Either way, thanks for checking in on me. 

I'm sure there'll be more to come. 

Minnesota Nice

One of the more surprising and unintended aspects of moving to the Kingdom has been the change in attitude I’ve found myself noticing recently. The culture and people here have a particularly good knack of testing one’s limits. At first you don’t realize how much it happens because everything is new and exciting and ridiculous, and you’re left with little time to think about what’s happening. After a while you realize the full extent of how meticulous everything is when it comes to making sure that even the most trivial of activities involves agonizing frustration.

The serenity is misleading.


Slowly but Surely

Yesterday marked the start of the first full week of school of in the New Year. We’ll hit the halfway point in a few weeks, and it’s interesting to consider how much things have changed (but really stayed exactly the same) since the beginning of September.

A few weeks ago I moved into a new classroom just across the hallway from my old one. The decision to move came in small part from not being able to fit enough desks in my room, but the bigger factor was the overly pungent residue that had accumulated near the door and under desks from students improperly cleaning themselves in the bathroom. The custodian wouldn’t clean the floor if he had to mop around the desks as it required too much work on his part, so there were several instances where I cleaned the bigger stains by hand with sanitary napkins. After a week of teaching in a room literally covered with sewage, I gave up and moved to a new room. I held long bathroom training sessions when we first moved, and I continue to heavily monitor bathroom breaks to ensure my new room stays relatively clean. Since then I’ve been relatively free from having to get down on my hands and knees to wipe my students’ shit off the floor. Incidentally, the water shipments to the school have been relatively infrequent over the past month, meaning that toilets don’t flush, the hoses students use to clean themselves don’t work, and students can’t wash their hands. Some days are much worse than others.

When the sewer system backs up it drains directly into the street just outside 
the main student entrance. This happens several times each week.


Enough with Half-Empty. Here's to Half-Full.

After realizing I would eventually obtain my car, I started gathering information about different road trips I could take. Gas is cheaper than water here, literally, so the only major constraints to travel are time and perseverance. From the Tri-City area almost every country bordering Saudi is within a day’s drive. Roads are fairly good by western standards, although they tend to be filled with random annoyances, and the weather is perfect for travelling during the winter months. I asked around the compound and was eventually recommended several potential road trips by the Scots who hang around the pool. I was contemplating using the New Year’s Holiday break to drive somewhere, and thankfully my car was ready just in time.

One of the teachers at the Girls’ School suggested that a few of us spend New Year’s in Dubai, and after coaxing some information from the boys at the pool, we made it our official destination for the long weekend. After sorting out my paperwork on the Causeway to Bahrain I packed, and early the next morning myself and the other American Girls’ teacher headed out for the Emirati Border. We were joined by her Pakistani ‘boyfriend’ a few days later, as he had to work over the weekend. He flew into Dubai, but rode with us for the ride home.


Small Changes; Big Differences.

The Holiday Season has come to pass here in the Kingdom, and it was a surprising bit of fun given that nobody here actually celebrates it. It was an interesting experience in a society where no one recognizes that anything is happening. The holiday season crept up quickly, and being surrounded by palm trees and barren desert meant the atmosphere wasn't quite as conducive to holiday cheer as other places.

Christmas is technically banned here, and in some areas there were the annual reports of red and white decorations and other holiday novelties like candy canes being confiscated from stores. I spent my Christmas Eve working but I was lucky to run into a Pakistani Friend of mine and he was nice enough to order myself and a few others a traditional Pakistani dinner. Christmas day I worked during the morning, then spent the afternoon lounging by the pool. A large group of Western teachers and their significant others gathered at a villa in our compound for a large dinner later that night, and after a few too many bottles of specially made hard cider, we had a gift exchange. It was an all around good time aside from the looming dread of having to work the next morning. Thankfully, a few glasses of cider and some well placed excuses meant myself and the Brit (who happens to be a Muslim of Palestinian descent but was easily the most excited about Christmas) convinced our Principle to give us the day off. It might not have been the most traditional Christmas dinner, but, given the friendly atmosphere and jovial spirits, it was a nice break from the ridiculousness that is life here.

Merry Christmas.