A Suburbanite in Jeddah

They say it’s good to be an adventurer from time to time but when you’re a chicken it’s best to stick to what you know and ease yourself into adventure.

I went to Jeddah to take my application to renew my passport. In an attempt to be adventurous, I decided to spend the entire weekend in Jeddah. Problem is, I was raised in suburbia and was perfectly happy to remain in my quiet life of snobbery. I’m not really a snob but some people think that people from the suburbs are.

So, I set out on my journey which began with my driver barely getting me to the airport on time. Fortunately for me the boarding times on your boarding pass mean nothing. You will board at best, 15 minutes before takeoff. I said at best. It isn’t common for it to be less, especially at the airport here in Yanbu. In any case, I still made it on time. I got to the airport in Jeddah, got my bag and went to look for the driver from the hotel. I saw the man with his sign which read, “Mr Amal Ibrahim.” Come on! I’m in an Arab country where Amal is a pretty common name so they should have known better. Yada yada yada, I reached the hotel safely and the first thing I noticed as the car was pulling into the lot was this sign.

I laughed so hard inside. I had to try to control it since I didn’t want the driver to think I was nuts. And I knew that he might not appreciate the humor in it. All I could think about was getting a picture of it which I would tweet, email and spread in as many ways as possible to people I knew would appreciate it. Every time I thought about it I laughed. But then it was time to get serious. I had an appointment at the consulate at 2pm the next day and I needed to prepare myself mentally, reminding myself that I cannot slap anyone, no matter how tempting.

Wednesday morning I was up bright and early still trying to relax. After all, my last experience at the consulate wasn’t a pleasant one. I headed to the concierge desk around 1pm to arrange for transportation. I got in the car, prepared. I had left my phones and anything I had of value in the safe. All I had was my teeny, tiny, wallet-sized purse which had my money, passport, iqama and about a million passport photos.

When you arrive to the US Consulate you feel like you are in a war zone. It’s the only one that looks that way. I walked. in, jumping through the hoops they have ready for you. When I got closer I was asked why I was there and then it was time to go through security. I was asked to lift my abaya, show my face and put all the contents of my gigantic purse into a brown envelope. “You can’t take this. Big bags are not allowed.” I thought she was joking so I asked, “Is it big?” I kept saying to myself, “Patience, Amal, patience.” I had to remember that I was there on a mission, to get my passport renewed. I followed the yellow and white striped road to get to the actual office. It felt like I was on the yellow brick road. What is this, the Wizard of Oz? I wondered. There’s no rhyme or reason for this silly trail we have to follow to get inside. But, what to do? I got inside, took a number and sat down. When I was called, I went to the counter and told the lady I was there to renew my passport. I gave her my application and a photo. “Oh no, this is too small,” she said. So being the prepared person I am, I pulled out my backup photo and then she said, “Oh no, it has to be closer to the hairline.” Oh my God! I was told I could go across the street and get photos taken. I left and crossed the street with a fair amount of ease. Of course it was closed. Great! I found the driver and told him I needed a photo studio. Never mind the fact that I had been sweating like a pig. We got to the studio and I did my best to wipe the sweat off of my face with tissues. I looked in the mirror and I thought it was okay. Not wonderful, just okay. And let’s face it I didn’t really have time to worry about it. But when I saw the pictures, I was frightened. “Good God! Is that me?” I thought. Then I remembered that this horrible picture would be with me for ten years so I opted to try again. It was too late. I only had till 5pm to get them another picture and giving them the other one quite simply wasn’t an option. So that meant I’d have to go out on Thursday to get more pictures.

To be continued….

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