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.


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.


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.

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.

Bye bye, Denali

When we got back from our Denali adventure, we were finished. And by finished, I mean we were completely out of energy. We were hungry and tired. It was 8:30pm and all we wanted to do was eat and sleep. We ate, but when we wanted to sleep, my husband asked about the activity for the next day. I was sure it was a free day to drive back to Anchorage at our own pace. So, I decided to check the itinerary and lo and behold, we did have a scheduled activity for the next day. What?! That’s all I could say. What was worse was that it was an early morning activity which might have been interesting had we not been so tired. We all agreed that we simply wouldn’t go. It was paid for, but we were willing to take a little hit to get some rest. And so we did. And then the next morning we got a call from the front desk reminding us that we had a trip. My husband calmly said, “We canceled it. We all canceled.” We were a party of four and not a single one of us could be bothered. We decided to sleep and then get ready to head back to Anchorage.

Even though we didn’t go on our scheduled river float down the Kantishna River, we most definitely enjoyed the views on our way back to Anchorage.

We saw a moose along the roadside as my dad zipped by. There was no way to stop. But, it wasn’t a problem because I did get shots of one in Denali NP. So, by this point just seeing one was enough.

After 4 hours, we stopped at a Wal-Mart and made our way to the hotel which was the same hotel we stayed in when we first arrived to Anchorage. Funny thing was that my husband and my parents didn’t seem to get that fact. My parents both said, “I’m sorry but I liked the hotel we stayed in when we first arrived.” And it took everyone a minute to realize that it was in fact the same hotel. From that moment forward I had to start watching what everyone was drinking :).



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.

What KSA Has Taught Me…..Part 2

In the West, people tend to be in hurry to do things.  In a hurry to get to work, school, etc.  If you come to Saudi Arabia, you will need to learn to slow down and just relax.  Things are not as fast paced as they are in other parts of the world.  And when I say other parts of the world, I mean America.  I know that we’re the only ones who seem to be in a hurry all the time.  It’s an adjustment and it was one I had to make.  It didn’t come without a few growing pains though.

It started with getting the job in the first place.  I had signed an initial offer and I was supposed to receive the actual contract after that.  It would be sent by DHL.  Even with international service, the longest it should take is about five working days.  But these five days turned into about three weeks.  I called and when I finally got through, the man in HR told me, “Yeah, your contract’s right here.  I was waiting for you to say it was okay to send it.”  Being that I wanted the job, I didn’t say what I was actually thinking which was something like, “When I signed the initial offer, didn’t that mean you were supposed to send it, dimwit?”  He was apparently suffering from hunger pains which caused him to be unable to think or act.

So, I got to KSA with my same “in a hurry” attitude.  But actually being here has taught me to chill, relax, chillax.  Am I too old to say things like that?  Maybe.  But please don’t tell anyone.  People who know me, really know me, will tell you that generally my demeanor is calm.  I don’t get angry quickly, though I do have little to no tolerance for stupidity.  But I am a typical American.  I believe in being on time and following schedules.  I believe in efficiency.  If I have an appointment, I won’t eat or do anything else just to make sure that I’m not late.  I would get really upset if I couldn’t make it to any sort of appointment on time.  Needless to say, my first semester at YUC was, well, a learning experience.

Whenever it was time for class, I’d head out in a mad rush as so many Americans would.  My mom told us that, “If you have an appointment at 8 o’clock, you be there at 7:30.”  Of course I didn’t go to class a half hour early but, I did want to be there before my students were.  There was just one problem.  The students!  Here I am practically running and they’re walking down the hall like they’re strolling down the beach on a beautiful spring day.  I was new so I didn’t want them to see my “crazy” side but I was screaming in my head.  I’d be shouting to myself, “Get out of the way!” And I was always perplexed by the fact that they couldn’t “sense” that I was trying to get by.  Nope, they were in their own world.  Not worried about a thing.  I kept wondering why they were so relaxed.  And I know I shouldn’t say this but I wondered what they were smoking to make them oh so mellow.  Was it something in the air?  Perhaps the gases coming from the refineries gave everyone a contact high and it calmed everyone down.  I don’t know.  I always got, get the sense of, “Just ride the waves, dude.  Ride the waves.”

Their laid-back attitude caused me to think, a little anyway.  Teachers complain all the time about any number of things.  In fact, we complain so much it seems to be part of the job.  Our office was more like the Dr Phil show.  This one has problems with her students.  That one has problems with her schedule.  Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda.  With that I remembered one student telling me, “Miss, مشي حالك.”  And that was some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten.  I learned to ride the waves and slow down when going to class.  I don’t run, especially since we moved to the new campus.  S3ee between admin and faculty building A requires walking, strolling in fact.  I also stopped expecting things to arrive or be done on time.  On time is a “state of mind” if you will.  All I ever got out of being in a hurry was, tired.  It didn’t change anything.

Now, when new teachers come to the department, I let them know how things are.  The first thing I say is, “Forget about wherever you were before.  This is KSA and they have their own way of doing things.  Learn from them, you’ll be the better for it.”

So they’ve got it right.  What’s the rush?  Live and love your life.  Make the most of it.  What will be will be whether you’re walking or running.  So sit back and enjoy the ride.

Thank you students of YUC for showing me “the way.”

Neighbors…..Serenity Now!

In Arabic they say…

اختار الجار قبل الدار

My loose translation, which doesn’t sound as nice is, “Choose your neighbor before your house.”  Why would they say that?  Prior to my time here in Saudi Arabia, I don’t think I ever really thought about it.  I lived in my parents’ house until I went away for college. If I had annoying neighbors then, I assumed it was because they were young and didn’t know any better.  I know that my parents must have thought of such things when buying our house but as a spoiled, but nice, girl growing up I never thought of all the reasons why they chose the neighborhood they did.

Well, enter my new apartment.  I live on the second floor.  There’s a family below me and there was a family above me.  Before I moved in, I thought that being between two families would be a good idea.  And who asked me to think?  Thinking sometimes leads to the wrong idea or conclusion, as in my case.  I had seen the kids from downstairs, and they seemed normal.  And you know how the saying goes, things aren’t always what they seem.  Who knew that such sweet, innocent looking kids would turn out to be my nemesis?  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I do believe that they are Satan’s offspring.  Maybe that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth.  They screamed at the top of their lungs, apparently in an attempt to see who could scream the loudest before their voice boxes exploded.  Unfortunately, the contest is ongoing and they still scream though it is a little less than before.  Their other favorite past time was banging on walls.  What makes it really fun is that they usually start at night.  Maybe I was wrong.  They’re more active at night.  Hmm, could it be that they are in fact, vampires?  It remains a mystery.  Anyway, one day it was so bad that I decided to go speak to their mother.  Lucky me she speaks neither English nor Arabic.  I knocked on the door and asked her again to be sure, “You don’t speak any English?”  She shook her head and I proceeded to complain about those demons they call children.  My arms were flailing right and left, up and down in a futile attempt to tell her to do something about her kids.  When I think about how ridiculous I must have looked, I can laugh about it.  But only a little.  As if that wasn’t enough, the neighbors upstairs had a baby who literally seemed to spend his/her every waking hour crying.  I thought to myself, “They’re lucky they’re here or I’d report them to Children’s Services.”  The husband downstairs apologized to me on more than one occasion, and I believe he was sincere.  But you know what, buddy?  Your apologies don’t mean crap when I still have to listen to your psychotic children day in and day out.  Do I sound a little angry?  I’ve done my best to remain calm even as I wish I could throw them off the balcony.  But don’t worry, I would never do anything like that.  But in the movie I’m going to write, I will. You know what’s funny?  He actually asked me to teach them English.  As if.  He’d send them to me and never see them again.

My neighbor downstairs finally came to me with good news a few weeks back.  He said the family upstairs would be leaving and that would cut down on the noise because his kids wouldn’t have anyone to bother.  So I kept telling myself to be patient.  They’d be gone soon.  Things were looking up until…

Someone opened a karaoke bar upstairs.  And I probably wouldn’t have noticed except I could hear singing, loud and bad singing.  The first time I let it go even though they were singing Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.”  That’s right, “Heal the World.”  The next time I heard them, it was Barry Manilow.  I asked, “Dear God, what did I do to deserve this?”  They went on an on singing, “Do you lo me like I lo you?”  WTH?  I finally decided to pay them a visit.  I went upstairs, knocked on the door three times and waited.  No answer.  Of course.  How could they hear me when it was karaoke night in Yanbu?  I went back to my place and wrote a note.  I slipped it under the door and I can tell that they did read it because it has gotten better. Thank God!!!

So beware of psychotic children and karaoke-loving maniacs.

Ah, just another adventure, here in KSA.

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