My Yanbu: The Red Sea

When people say Yanbu, they could be talking about Yanbu Albahar, Yanbu Alnakhel or Yanbu Alsinaiyah (Industrial). I live in the latter, and it’s the place I’ve called home for almost 12 years.

It’s small, but in my opinion it’s a very nice place to live and raise a family. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you may find in larger cities like Jeddah and Riyadh, but it has its own charm. And one of the best things about living here is being able to go sit by the Red Sea anytime I wish.

My favorite time to go is early in the morning because I like the calm, and if you like birds, this is the time to see them. Also, if it’s not windy, the water is still. My morning trips to various spots along the sea have rewarded me greatly. I’ve seen birds and lots of fish without having to dive.

It’s very tranquil. If you want to relax, sit by the sea in the morning with only the sounds of the water splashing and the laughing seagulls. If you want to venture elsewhere along the corniche, you’ll experience different things as can be seen in the featured photo.

I’ve seen flamingos, herons and egrets, and other shoreline birds that I’m not likely to see in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Some people comment on how small Yanbu is, or they say it’s not as nice as other cities. But I say it has its own charm, and I like it the way it is.

This is my Yanbu.

 

Butterflies and More Flowers

Well, I met my friend at the Flower Festival, again. We wanted to try going on a weekday and early enough to possibly have a few “people-free” shots. Dare to dream! Of course it didn’t go perfectly, but it was a huge difference compared to the previous time. Since we had seen the birdies the first time, we decided to skip them this time and enjoy the ability to move without bumping into people.

This time we headed to the butterfly garden. There was one last year, but I didn’t go at all last year. And that’s why I really wanted to go this time. I also happen to love butterflies. I used to joke that there were only a total of 4 butterflies here because we just don’t see them that often. This gave me a chance to see more variety as well as hold a butterfly in my hand which I hadn’t done since childhood.

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I kept holding my hand out, hoping one would land. Instead one landed on the bridge of my nose. But it didn’t stay long enough for me to get a picture though I would have loved to have gotten one. Truth be told, I would have been happy to spend most of my time there. But, we were there to also shoot the flowers, with our cameras of course! As we were leaving, we noticed one rogue butterfly that was determined to be free. My friend kept telling it to go the other way, but it fluttered its way out.

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It tried to hide between flowers as it continued on a journey of escape, but I saw it.

We left the butterfly garden and walked around, stopping here and there to take more photos. I changed lenses multiple times. I’d see something I like and then move a few feet and think that I need a different lens for a different shot. Indecisiveness, but that’s neither here nor there.

We took pictures, lots of pictures. But I won’t bore anyone with those because there were some in the last post.

When it started getting dark, it didn’t stop us. We used whatever light was available and made the best of it. It’s truly great to see how different things look when you take away the light. As you may guess, I like fountains. More specifically, the water rather than the design of the fountain.

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It was time to go home. My battery was getting low and I had forgotten to take my backup. My friend and I parted ways and I headed out, with the following as the final shot for the day.

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It was a good day.

Yanbu Flower Festival 2018

It has been quite some time since I actually wrote about life in Saudi Arabia, so what better time than the present? And what better topic than the annual Flowers and Gardens Festival held in Yanbu Alsinaiyah? It attracts people from various cities which is still strange for me because it’s where I live.

As I said before, it’s an annual event though I did not see it at all last year. I couldn’t be bothered even though people I know raved about it. So, this time I decided to ask a friend and colleague what she thought about this year’s. I trust her judgment and she’s also into photography so her opinion really counted. She told me not to miss it because it’s lovely. And lovely it is. The only problem? I decided to meet her yesterday, Friday. Note to self: Do Not under any circumstances try to go anywhere on a Friday, especially any “events” or the like which may be taking place.

To say it was crowded would be an understatement. It was as if everyone woke up at the same time and decided to meet me and my friend. It made taking photos a challenge. We both like to have shots without people in them. That was nearly impossible yesterday, but I did my best.

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Last year there was also a butterfly garden which I’m hoping to see on a different visit. And this year, there’s a bird “thingy”. Again it was, it was super crowded but we managed to get a few shots after bumping into a few people.

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Those who know me well enough know that I love birds, especially as a photography challenge. My favorite shot was of an Amazon Parrot that was apparently not feeling his handler/owner. He took off flying, as birds do from time to time. The handler was calling him, telling him to come back but he couldn’t be bothered.

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See you, suckas!

I followed as best I could and managed to get the shot above. He seemed to enjoy the fact that he was driving his handler crazy. And seeing this was probably the highlight of my time there.

Hopefully, I’ll get to make it back again when there is less of a crowd.

Rats!

One night, I walked into the kitchen to get something to drink. The curtain by the class door was still open. I don’t bother to close it, even at night, because there’s nothing outside of it except the yard and a wall.

But that night, I saw something. I turned on the light, and there it was. A rat! It was sitting on a bar of the iron door. It was as if it was sitting inside as far as I was concerned. 

Even though it was outside, I couldn’t stand the sight of it. So, I tapped on the glass thinking it would run away. Not only did it just sit there, it didn’t even flinch. Obviously I had to try something else. So, I hit the glass harder using the broom stick. This time, it acknowledged that someone was trying to get its attention.

It turned its head as if to say, “Do you mind?” And that was it. That rat didn’t give a tiny rat’s fill in the blank about me or my feeble attempts to get rid of it.

Apparently, there was a cat in the neighborhood, and the rat was hiding in a dark spot where it might not be seen. 

Now, whenever I’m in the kitchen at night, I check to see if there might be one. I’m still bothered by the fact that there might be others lurking about.

Just a day in the life…

Only in KSA

A few years back one of my colleagues talked about a visit she had at the doctor’s office. She mentioned that the doctor was chewing gum and how she thought that it was inappropriate. At the time, I laughed as I tried to picture it. But who knew I’d have a similar experience someday?

Well, my experience wasn’t exactly the same, but gum was involved. I went to the pharmacy in hopes of finding a particular type of shampoo. As is customary when I’m shopping, I picked up a couple other items I probably don’t need. I put them on the counter and asked one of the pharmacists about the shampoo. He went to get it and gave me instructions on how often to use it. And then the other “pharmacist” behind the counter started ringing me up. I watched in amazement as he scanned each item while chewing gum. And he wasn’t simply chewing. He was really going to town.

I remembered my friend and said to myself, “Smacking gum isn’t a good look on a pharmacist.” He was trying to tell me the total but all I could see was his mouth moving a mile a minute and also hear the sound of gum popping between his teeth. As you might have guessed, I can’t stand that.

Where on earth would you see doctors and pharmacists chewing gum like school kids while on the job? Maybe it happens elsewhere, but for now I’m going to say it’s one of those things found only in KSA.

Just a Day in the Life…

Thursday, July 9, 2015. I had been waiting for that day for what seemed like an eternity. We would begin our long journey that day, the ninth. But, no vacation would be complete without a little stress to make you remember why it is you need one to begin with.

And this type of stress is all part of the whole experience, the whole package.

Wednesday, I got an SMS from the bank about “prohibited” countries. My first thought was, “What the heck does that mean?” I continued reading the message which stated that, “If you plan to travel to Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Macao, your ATM card will not work.” It then said something about contacting the bank to activate your card so that you can use it in previously mentioned countries. I looked at the message again and again. Why on earth would a bank block your ATM card? Who cares where you travel? It’s your money! And then I had a flashback. When I was in Thailand a couple years back, my ATM didn’t work. I had no idea why and I was fortunate enough to have some other currency I could exchange. The bank wasn’t so “courteous” at that time, so I didn’t receive the nice SMS.

I called the bank. I was told my card would be activated. I called the next day to make sure. I didn’t trust the situation, so I withdrew cash and exchanged money in the airport. And it’s a good thing I did because when I tried to use my ATM in the airport in Kuala Lumpur, it didn’t work. When I read, “Declined for insufficient funds” I nearly had a heart attack. What kind of trip was it going to be?

We hopped on a plane to Langkawi. An hour later we were getting our bags and looking for our transport service to the villa. I tried the ATM machine. And guess what? My card didn’t work. I was slowly coming to a boil. Not only did I have to worry about being able to access cash, I also had to make an international call while roaming. It was Friday night which meant I would have to wait until Sunday to call the bank.

Sunday morning, KSA time, I started my the phone call game. I must’ve made about 10 to 15 calls that day. Not only did I have to navigate through the silly phone menus to speak to a human, but I also had the misfortune of my calls being dropped or the person on the other end couldn’t hear me. I did finally get through and I was told that it would be working in 24 hours. And of course, I had my doubts.

Twenty-four hours later, we went to town with a driver and stopped to use an ATM. I tried one machine but it apparently hadn’t yet awakened from its slumber. It must’ve been a rough night for that machine. A bank worker then directed us to a different machine. I waited patiently for the card not to work. I told myself that if it didn’t work, the first thing I’d do one back in KSA would be to change banks. Thankfully it did work and we both breathed a sigh of relief. For one, we knew we could get cash if we needed it and two I wouldn’t have to endure the pain of trying to close my bank account. If I ever do, one post won’t be enough to tell the story.

Whew!

Weddings in Saudi Arabia: Jeddah

Who doesn’t love weddings?  It’s always nice to be part of the celebration of starting a new life together.  But for me, weddings are about more than that, especially since college when I first started to learn more about Arab culture.  I always wanted to go to weddings to see how different countries and cultures celebrated this life changing event.  I saw Palestinian weddings, Senegalese, Moroccoan-Iraqi and Iraqi weddings.  Each one had its on uniqueness.  And Saudi Arabia is no exception.

In all honesty, I’m not even sure where to begin.  I love and hate Saudi weddings, lol.  I hate the fact that they go so late though I’ve been told that in some areas of the country they don’t last that long.  I was most recently at a wedding that was supposed to begin at 10pm. Apparently in this part of the world, the time is a target time.  No one is ever on time.  If you say 10, it means at least 11, at least.  Unfortunately for me, I was already sleepy at 9.  But, it was important for me to go.  First, the bride was one of my best friends’ daughter and second I had never seen a wedding in Jeddah before.  I had seen Medinah and kind of Yanbu.  I was sick of what I had seen in Medinah so I was hoping to see something different.  Sadly, many things are in fact the same, for example the dresses and makeup.

Clothes and Makeup

When you walk into these weddings, you will see everything and I have a name for them all.  There’s the skanky dress, the gaudy, the elegant, the “eh” and the OMG.  You will see it all.  It should be a crime for some people to wear what they do.  Please think long and hard before showing yourselves in public, ladies.  I saw Punky Brewster style getups as well as the, “Who let you out the house like that?” While I saw much that entertained me, there was one dress that really stood out to me.  The lady reminded me of Little Bo Peep. You heard me, Little Bo Peep.  It was ghastly yet she was so proud.  And of course my friends and I  were the first ones to notice.  I heard my friends saying, “Wow!”  And all I kept thinking was, “Sorry, Little Bo Peep, we haven’t seen your sheep.  Now get back on your rightful page in that nursery rhyme book and we’ll call it a day.” What was she thinking?  I realize we all have different tastes, but come on!  Her dress wasn’t the only offensive thing I saw, but it was definitely the biggest offense.  I still have nightmares about it.  Then there’s the makeup.  What can I say about makeup?  Perhaps I shouldn’t talk about it since I’m not a fan of makeup.  I use light, very light makeup.  I don’t like putting gunk on my face.  Some women had on about 10 layers of crap which was then painted with various colors of the rainbow.  It’s not clown school.  I don’t know who told them that more makeup means more beautiful.  Less is more.  Not everyone opts for clown makeup, but many do.  I keep trying my best not to be so judgmental, but I simply can’t help it when I see it.  Often they were more attractive before the remanufacturing of their faces.

Entertainment

One of the things that can make or break the wedding is the entertainment.  If I didn’t mention it before, we westerners were on time.  We were there by 10pm.  Silly foreigners, lol.  Anyway, the “singers” didn’t begin until about midnight.  What was funny was that they performed one song and took a break.  The song sucked and then they had the nerve to take a break.  Really?!  Were they so exhausted that they needed a coffee break?  I didn’t even like the looks on their faces.  They seemed to have attitudes, bad ones.  They couldn’t keep people on the floor.  Lots of times people were dancing and they actually looked bored.  My buddies and I laughed at the scene we saw.  Interestingly enough, they got better later that night.  Unfortunately, many of us were half asleep.  I didn’t get back to my hotel until 5:30am.  I was awake with the roosters.  In fact, I could have done the cockadoodle doodling.  Who knows?  Maybe I did.

The last thing that I have to say about the weddings here is that I personally find them to be excessive.  I suppose it’s okay if you’re filthy rich, but contrary to popular belief, not all Saudis are wealthy and they don’t each have their own personal oil wells on their property.  Often people have to break the bank, maybe incurring debt, to pay for their extravagant weddings.  Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy seeing the wedding halls nicely decorated and the like, but I still believe it’s too much.  My advice to everyone is to consider toning it down a bit.  A grand wedding does not guarantee a grand, happy life.

I know that what I said might piss some people off and at the same time I know there are plenty of people who agree.  Feel free to comment, yell, scream or otherwise :).

Anyway, one wedding down, a gazillion to go.  Next up, a wedding in Yanbu.

 

Special Report: Bravery in Action

We interrupt this series on Turkey for a special report…..

Once upon a time, I mentioned that KSA had taught me bravery, courage.  And today, I was given the opportunity to show this courage.  The story goes something like this.

I was sitting in my friend’s office talking about nothing, as usual.  Out of nowhere, my friend showed me a teeny tiny black “object.”  “What does this look like to you?” she asked.  It wasn’t a matter of what it looked like but what it was.  I told her, “It’s mouse poo.”  It wasn’t really surprising since we have seen these “gifts” around campus.  We saw one mouse run from one office around a corner and another set up camp in the librarian’s office.

She asked me where it was and I told her with confidence that it probably left already.  Perhaps it had left a present and left.  So we continued to chat, and like something out of a movie, I looked to my left and saw the mouse walking on the chair.  It felt like it was happening in slow motion.  It was so close that I wasn’t sure if it was on the chair or on me.  And being that I was now this courageous woman, thanks to KSA, I screamed bloody murder.  My friend, startled of course, started screaming, “What?  What is it?”  I said frantically, “It’s your mouse!”  And she jumped up out of her chair and we both headed for the door.

Fortunately, one of the cleaning ladies was nearby.  My friend called her name and she ran.  I guess so, my friend sounded like she was freaking out.  She said, “There’s a mouse in my office, can you kill it?”  She got her broom and went in.  That psycho mouse moved like he didn’t have a care in the world.  It was as if he was taunting us.  All the while she was swinging and banging the broom all over the place trying to kill a seemingly suicidal mouse.  And being the brave souls we were, we screamed and ran down the hall.  Sadly, there were a couple students around.  I put my finger to my mouth and said, “Shh, don’t say anything and don’t tell anyone.”
The mouse finally met his demise when he made a run for the door leading outside.  Soon, life went back to “normal.”

I am as brave today as I was before.  I’m actually quite proud of myself.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program…..

A Suburbanite in Jeddah II

It was Thursday and I knew that I would have no choice but to venture out into the city, the jungle known to others as Jeddah. I woke up early as is customary for me. I showered and had something that was supposed to be breakfast. I then spoke to the concierge in the hotel to make arrangements for a car. This time I decided to go with a regular taxi because it would cost me half of what the hotel charged.

I got in the taxi and the concierge told him to take me to the Mall of Arabia. I had seen it but had never been inside. Being a typical foreign tourist, I was carrying a super sized bag and my ginormous camera. It was so bad that I laughed at myself. I walked around looking and feeling lost. I marveled at all the stores I knew from home. I also marveled at their prices which were worse than home. Still, I walked around venturing into those that somehow caught my eye. Of course the assumption was that I spoke Arabic so I did what I usually do, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I stopped in a department store looking buy some mascara. I had very specific colors in mind but being the “wonderful” salespeople they were they tried to convince me to choose different colors along with some other crap I don’t use and don’t ever want to use. But my personal favorite was a woman who I told I wanted a color. Her reply, “مو حلو” or it’s not nice. I thought to myself, “Did I ask for your opinion, lady?” Instead I told her that I wanted it anyway. And I recorded a mental note to not shop at that store again. It should be pretty easy since the chances of me going to that mall again are zero to none.

I continued exploring the mall until I realized that I had walked in a complete circle. I was tired but I kept walking. The fact that there’s no place to sit helped. You would think a mall this size would have a few benches here and there. You would think. It was getting close to prayer time so I kept walking until I came to the food court. I looked around at all the restaurants I couldn’t eat at. After all, it was prayer time. I had seen Friday’s on the other side and had decided to eat there once prayer was over. When it was time, I started on my trek across town, I mean the mall. As I got close enough I noticed that the food court was actually pretty close but to my dismay I had take the scenic route.

I ate at Friday’s and was disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Another note to self to skip that joint if I ever see one again. I had finally had enough and decided to go back to the hotel. I went out a little later to get those darn passport photos. It was “warm” of course and I worried about having the same wonderful look for this new set. I fanned myself and prayed the driver would get to a place soon before my entire face melted off. As luck would have it I looked slightly less sweaty than the previous disaster. So I took them and said, “Oh well.” I was not going to spend the evening trying new photos with each one worse than the previous one. I made one more trip that day and decided to go back to the hotel.

Friday morning it was time for me to head back. Having no shame and being desperate, I asked the taxi driver to deliver my photo to the US Consulate. Of course I paid him extra and prayed he was trustworthy.

In the end I had one thought in mind…..

I am not a city girl.

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