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.

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…..

Leaving KSA…A Continuation

I left Yanbu on the 8th and spent the day/night in Jeddah.  As is the norm for me, I didn’t sleep before my trip.  But, I wasn’t worried.  I would sleep on the plane.  That’s what I told myself.  I pictured myself stretched out on 2  or 3 seats.  Aah, what a dream! Unfortunately, it was not my destiny to be comfortable on that flight.

I sat for a moment, and then he came.  Yes, my plane buddy.  I thought my plane buddy was Syrian, but then I saw that he had a Galaxy 3, iPhone and a BlackBerry.  Yep, he was Saudi alright.  But, I digress.  Moving on. One of the flight attendants told him that there were other seats available and that maybe he’d be comfortable in one of them instead.  I know that he told him that for my benefit.  But darn it, he said he’d stay where he was.  Great!  How was I supposed to sleep, comfortably?  Well, it wasn’t about to happen.  And so I began…..

That flight was 13 hours.  And I was uncomfortable the entire time.  I couldn’t really move, but my plane buddy was not phased at all.  He slept like a baby.  It was really too close for comfort.  It was so close I think we might be married now.  He elbowed me a few times while he was in dreamland.  Must have been nice to sleep, Grrr!!!  But when he was awake, he did offer me some of his snacks.  Wasn’t that nice?  And because the battery on my BB was dead, I had to borrow his USB charger.  Well, I had to get something out of this unexpected relationship.  Don’t judge me!

Anywho, I got into Washington, DC.  I was finally on American soil after two grueling years.  It was raining.  Life was good.  Even going through customs was a breeze.  Since my trip to Syria, my life was always hell going through security and customs.  It was a most welcome change.  I headed toward the terminal for my domestic flight.  I walked to the terminal, staring at all the little restaurants and shops.  What would I eat?  What could I buy?  Chipotle, Fudruckers, etc.  The possibilities were endless.  I settled on a cinnamon pretzel from Auntie Anne’s.  If you haven’t had pretzels from there, you must, absolutely have to try one.  Mmm mmm good.  And again, I digress.  I called my family to let them know I was there and I sat.  I waited.  And as luck would have it, my flight was delayed.  The plane was still in New York, delayed because of weather.  It was storming pretty badly.  I didn’t care because I was almost home.  What did bother me was the fact that the goofy airlines people made useless announcements.  “The flight to Cincinnati has been delayed.  We don’t know when it will be departing.”  Lovely!  To make matters worse, that goofy lady was hard to understand.  Can we please get someone who speaks English or a language that someone understands?  Man!  These people.

Finally, they announced the arrival of the New York flight and that soon the flight to Cincinnati would depart soon after.  I got in line, ready to leave.  Get outside and there’s a toy plane waiting.  “Should this toy be allowed to fly,” I wondered.  Again, I was going home so, whatever, right?  Got in the plane and it started raining again.  Nice.

Cincinnati, Ohio.  I was finally home.  I got my bags and headed to the rental car office where I had reserved a car.  I drove home, admiring the Cincinnati skyline.

I made it home.  Finally.  It felt good.

Women 2 Drive

Sometime back, there was a lot of hoopla about women driving in Saudi Arabia.  Things have quieted down considerably but that doesn’t mean that the debate hasn’t continued.  As a female expat, I’ve been on the fence about the issue ever since I first learned about it.  Let’s get one thing out of the way, the debate no matter what people say, is not a religious one.  It is completely cultural, if we can call it that. There is no verse in the Qur’an and no hadeeth from the sunnah that says that women are not permitted to drive.  If I am wrong, I invite anyone to show me otherwise.

When I first came to Saudi Arabia six years ago, I didn’t care much about not being able to drive even though I’ve been driving since I was 16 years old.  I didn’t know anyone and there weren’t that many places to go here in Yanbu, so I wasn’t in a hurry to drive.  Then there was the arcade game people refer to as “driving.”  A video game is the only other place people can drive like that and get away with it.  For example, you rarely see people use signals.  The no U-Turn sign is apparently a challenge because no one adheres to it.  Red light?  I laugh at your feeble attempts to stop me.  And before the light turns green, people start driving and are so impatient they beep their horns because the cars in front of them are still stopped.  And don’t get me started on the lines on the road.  What are these “things” and why can’t I seem to stay in between them?  So I thought, why would I want to share the road with these people?  A road I must also share with kids that need a step stool to get in the car and sit on a pillow so they can see over the dashboard.  So, for a good while I was in no hurry to drive.

But, let’s think about what they say about women driving.  There are those who say that if women drive, it’ll promote and/or facilitate immorality.  That is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard.  Do they think that women riding in the car with complete strangers promotes morality?  How can men feel comfortable ultimately handing their women over to strange men?  I am not a child and I actually had a driver propose to me.  What the….?  He had to be fired.  Anyway, the potential for immorality is more likely in these situations than if women were driving themselves.  Twice I’ve gotten in a car with a driver who was also driving others and I saw the same girl, if I can call her that, uncovered and obviously smoking.  If her mother could drive her, would she be so quick to uncover and light up a cigarette?  I think not.  At the end of the day, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  If someone wants to do something, no matter how many restrictions and roadblocks you put up, he/she will find a way to do it.

Considering these things, I started leaning toward wanting to drive while I’m here in KSA.  I got sick of waiting, and I’m still waiting.  Husbands, fathers, brothers, drivers, etc., are in complete control.  We are dependent on them for simple things that don’t require a man.  I always think about being home in the US and not having to ask anyone to take me anywhere, not having to wait to go somewhere.  I get in the car and go.  I don’t want to have to beg to go get groceries.  I don’t want to beg to have someone take me to a friend’s.  And I shouldn’t have to.  I want to drive.  Am I scared of the idea?  Absolutely!  With all the car accidents and some sick men out there, it is frightening.  But how long can this last?  At some point, things have to change.  That’s just life.  I hope to see the day when women can safely drive in Saudi Arabia with confidence.

What do you think?

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