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.

Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) is a big deal within certain parts of the British Expatriate community here, but I haven’t the slightest clue as to what they do or why they care so much. I spent my day cruising around in this bad boy, relieved to finally have it in my hands.

As it turns out, I had the keys and the ability to drive, but I lacked a complete set of paperwork. I had to return the next day for the registration card, which was surprisingly easy to obtain. Knowing I would need to take my car out of the country in the coming days I then headed over the causeway to the border crossing with Bahrain. I was rejected at the police station for not having the complete paperwork for a vehicle inspection, but in keeping with the standard practice of being a Naïve Westerner I tried to cross the border anyway. A few hours and several conversations later I was still in the exact same predicament as when I started the task, but I had made enough phone calls to the right people with the help of the border guards to ensure that everything I needed would get done the next morning.

The next day, I surrendered my car to a rather portly mechanic, who not only readjusted all the settings to the radio, seats, and mirrors, but also spilled grape soda over the entire center console and passenger seat. He took my car for its inspection, which passed not because it’s only a few years old and has relatively state of the art engineering, but because I had a Saudi do it for me and bribed him enough to make sure it passed. After cleaning up his mess and figuring out how to fix all the presets, I drove across the causeway and spent a few hours in rush hour traffic to finish the process at Bahraini Customs. Several stamps later I immediately turned around and spent the next hour waiting to cross back through Saudi Customs and headed home. I can finally say, with great satisfaction, that I am now, officially and legally, the owner of a car in Saudi.

I exercised my new found freedom with a short notice trip to Dubai to ring in the New Year, which I’ll post about soon. For now, here are a few pictures I’ve been neglecting to put up for the past few weeks. Enjoy. 

Sunset over Manama, Bahrain.

 Typical highway views.

An atypically nice Saudi restaurant.

Delicious Kebab meat. 

South of the border fare at Maxicana Restaurant in Bahrain. 
Yes, that is how it's spelled. 

Monkey Hangers, an underground bar on another compound not far from mine.

Pints at Monkey Hangers. Its homemade, but we take what we can get.