Friday, May 27, 2011

Brunch at the Four Seasons

So as my time in Saudi Arabia is wrapping up, I'm trying to fit in all the things that I have been meaning to do, but have never quite gotten around to doing. Near the top of this list was the infamous brunch at the Four Seasons, and let me tell you it is amazing. I'm pretty sure I ate my weight in food. Yummm!!

Its not cheap- we spent about 330 SAR a person- that's roughly $85 US. Its held on friday's from 12:30 till 4. We made a reservation, and showed up at 12:30, and the place was completely empty. It started to fill up after 1pm and when we left at 2:30 it was packed. There are several stations including an Italian, Asian, Indian, and my personal favourite Sushi!! Sushi is my most favourite meal, and they had deliciously fresh sashimi. They also had an enormous assortment of seafood, and it was all delicious.
 Now, on to the desserts. Two words....chocolate fountain. Several different types of Creme Brule, an ice cream station, crepe station, and a waffle station. There was an entire dessert section that we almost missed, and by the time we found it we were far to full to indulge.

 The crowd was a lovely mix of Westerners, and Saudis. Kids had their own section, although many families chose to do as Saudis do and let their kids run wild through the place. I had to restrain myself from wanting to discipline a few of the more energetic ones. All in all, a lovely culinary experience. The one bonus is that women must wear an abaya, which left us free to wear stretch pants underneath, so we could eat till our tummy's content!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Countdown is on...........

So, I have 6 1/2 weeks left, and the time is flying by!! I have tons of things to do, but not really feeling super motivated at the moment. Mumkin (maybe) its the heat, since its now getting above 40C here. I officially will be starting back at my old job July 25th. Am feeling like a need to do a major nursing refresher, as my nursing skills have fallen to the way side here. Pretty sure my VIP ass kissing skills aren't going to come in handy when I return home!! Its been quite some time (possibly the entire time I've been gone) since I had an acutely ill patient. I make a mean servant here, but maybe not the best real-life nurse. Inshallah, it will all come back to me- like riding a bike again!!

As it gets closer to leaving, the list of things I miss gets longer. Sadly, the many varieties of proper alcohol often repeat on my list. I miss my peeps, my gay boyfriend, and anything resembling getting dressed up in costume and pub crawling. Am so looking forward to being a short trip accross the border from my family. That's really all thats new. Will be booking my flght home later this week. Need to look into shipping my stuff. My roomie is leaving this week, and my closest Kiwi mate in a month. It's Masalama Time!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


While charting at a computer the other afternoon, a doctor who I have never seen before sat down next to me. He leaned over, and in a very think accent said what sounded to me like "Do you have painful urination?" I looked at him said "excuse me?" He again repeated the same thing. At first I was thinking this is the strangest pick-up line of all time. I relied with an irritated "What?" He then pulled his pen out and dangled it in my face and said much clearer "Do you have a pen for donation." Wowzers- I started laughing, while passing him my pen and told him what I thought he had said. He looked super mortified, and coudn't get away from me fast enough. No doctor, I do not have painful urination, thank you for asking!!!

Bin Who Dat??

So the other day I walked into work, and the place was abuzz with gossip, and not the normal run of the mill news. My friends back home were messaging me asking "are you ok?" and "be safe." So I knew something was up. One of my co-workers quickly filled me in that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. My first thoughts were "that guy is still missing?" Cause lets be honest, I see someone who could be his twin on a nearly weekly basis being here. It's all I can do to not speed-dial the CIA hotline with reports of his supposed location. But seriously, this just adds another reason to the ongoing tally of reasons why I should probably get the eff out of the Middle East.

Not that this isn't amazing news for Americans, or for other Western countries, but it does make those of us here a little more leary about our safety, and gives my friends and family another reason to worry. Unfortunately, being a blond Westerner, you sortof stand out in these parts! So, what has the last week been like? No different than the one before. There was talk that embassy events would be canceled, but this didn't happen. The security to get into our comound is as lax as ever- the last 5 times I've come back my car hasn't been stopped or searched. The VIP entrance to the hospital remians unmaned most hours of the day. Anywho- that's all the news from these parts. I did get to inform 2 co-workers of mine, a Saudi and a Jordanian about the news, and they immedicately switched into talking Arabic in front of me, and told me they were saying a prayer for Bin Laden.

Friday, April 29, 2011

One Year Anniversary

So today marks my one year mark in Saudi Arabia. What an incredible and equally hard year it has been. In many ways, it feels like I have been gone much longer. A lot has happened, many new people have entered, and left my life. I've traveled far more than I expected to, paid off some debt, and been thrust into the most severe form of culture shock. I've grown as a person, and see the world quite differently than before I left. I'm so thankful to have had this opportunity, but am ready to return to some normalcy. Before heading to Turkey I had decided to re contract for another year. While in Turkey, I realized that there are far too many things and people that I missed, and I yearned to go home. Originally after leaving Saudi I had planned to return to Canada. Years ago I let my BC nursing license lapse, and it will take some paper-work time before I can get it back. For this reason I'll be returning to Seattle, to the close friends that I have there, and am so excited to do so. I have officially given my notice and will be vacating Saudi the beginning of July.

This was a hard decision as to whether I should stay or go. Financially, the money is decent here, but I work many more hours than I did back home. Rent is free, but the living conditions confining, and aging. I have met some amazing people, and will keep in touch with them long after I leave here. At the same time I have met some extremely manipulative, self destructive people as well. Being here has challenged my morals- Saudi has a way of blending right and wrong into various shades of grey. People are transient freely entering in and out of our lives.

There are many things I won't miss about Saudi: the constant eye banging when you step out of the apartment, the lack of respect that comes with being a woman in this country, the religious police, prayer times and the call to prayer. I won't miss being talked down to by doctors at work. I won't miss the double standard between Saudi work ethic, and western. I won't miss the check points, and having a machine gun pointed into the car as a 19 year old Saudi dude tries to flirt.

Things I will miss: the people that have enriched my life, the travel opportunities, and time off to travel. I will miss the lack of responsibility, and social life I have had here.

Lots of things fall into the hate/love category. I hate the abaya when it is hot outside, or I'm tripping over it going upstairs. I love it when I'm lazy and want to wear PJ's to go grocery shopping. I love that we can have almost any type of food delivered to us. I hate that mostly it will arrive cold, and inevitably the order will be screwed up. I love the embassy and compound parties, but hate the hassle of having to get signed in or have tickets organized to everything.

At some point things come to an end, and I'm heading towards mine in 9 weeks and counting. I plan on making the next 9 weeks count, since inshallah I'll never find myself back here. North America I'm home ward bound!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Janadriyah Festival

So every year for about 2 weeks, the Saudi's throw a huge festival on the outskirts of Riyadh. Its country fair meets expo minus the rides and alcohol. Oh, and all the women are covered. Its got a very happy vibe, and the locals will come up and chat with you, ask where you are from, and welcome you to their country. Men will outright stare (as per usual) and try and get the courage to walk past you and say "Hello" or "Welcome" once you have already passed them. The admission is free, but as with most things in like it comes with a price. The price in this case is getting hassled by the Muttawa (aka religious police) who are staking out the front of the joint. Whattodo?? Cover your hair for 30 seconds till you pass them and are out of sight, and then unleash your blond locks on the unsuspecting and intrigued population.

The festival is very much worth the visit!! It is about the only chance you can get living in Saudi Arabia where you are openly allowed to take photos. This was actually my main reason for going!! The festival is set up along long streets with different food stalls, vendors, and buildings that you can visit. Many of the buildings are related to the Ministries and social programs/ technologies within the Kingdom. We visited the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice, and the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment. Mostly everything is in Arabic. The tents/buildings are ornately decorated in true Saudi fashion, with dying flower arrangements adorning every possible surface. We entered the Ministry of Hajj showcasing all things Hajj related and were offered ZamZam water- the holy water from Mecca. Pilgrims bring the water home with them after attending Hajj, and it is believed to have healing powers. Often patients in hospital have jugs of it in their room. That being said I would take a pass on it if someone offers it to you- if has the most peculiar mineral taste to it, and instead of healing properties, it just tasted like what I imagine bathing water tastes like. Saudi bathing water. We took a stroll past the Saudi Human Rights Commission. I have a lot to say about this, but won't at present time.

We did a little shopping.  There are local crafts such as pottery or weaving available for purchase. Mostly we just wandered, and interacted with the locals. We were asked to have our photos taken numerous times. Many, many ladies approached us asking where we were from, and saying how beautiful our hair was. All in all, a really great Saudi experience!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

English as a Second Language

I would like to preface this blog by once again saying how difficult it is for me to learn a new language. My brain isn't built for it, and often results in a painful experience for me, and anyone involved in teaching me. I totally get how difficult it can be, and how equally hilarious it can be. Before I regale you with stories of my Arabic speaking colleagues, I'll tell you a story from my previous job in Seattle. Picture my Spanish speaking patient who has just started bowel prep for a colonoscopy he is scheduled for and speaks ZERO English. Now picture me with minimal Spanish vocabulary, but knowing how to ask "How much does it cost?" and "in the bathroom." Now picture my brain thinking I am a bilingual genius and compiling these 2 phrase together to ask my patient what I think is "How often are you going poo-poo in the bathroom?" But, is actually phrased as "How much does it cost for you to go poo-poo in the bathroom?' Honestly, I couldn't understand why he appeared to not understand me- until I proudly told my friend how I had used my Spanish, and she almost peed herself and told me what I had actually said. The answer to the question is that it's free to poo-poo in the bathroom sir!

Anyhoo- moving along to the constant hilarity that is my life in Saudi. I work with many co-workers for whom English is their second language, and honestly some of the things that are verbalized are pure magic. Its like God himself wants me to have a good day when some of this stuff gets said. I realize I am childish- but honestly with all the nonsense in this place its stuff like this that keeps me going!!!

So picture a staff meeting, and during the question sections an older man I work with who is from Sudan raises his hand to ask where the nursing mail slot is, and instead asks "where the nursing slut is?" Because I am a child, I almost wet myself, and I have to ask- Why was he looking at me when he said it?? I'm just sayin :)

I work with a Swedish nurse with a thick accent, and every time she asks for the chart she says "shart." This is funny on many levels, none of which she finds funny. She also has a very catchy phrase for diluting her medications- she says she is "saluting" them.

A Jordanian male nurse called me over to the computer the other day to describe to him an article about exercises he was reading on MSN. He wasn't sure what a 'lunge' was and thought it was the same as a squat- so I showed him what a lunge was. Next on the list was 'chest press' so we talked about what that on the list was 'keigl exercises.' He asked me to show him what they were....seriously no joke. I made him read the description of how the article said to do them. He turned a million shades of red, and I laughed till tears formed in my eyes. You're welcome for that little gem.

I work with a Saudi nursing student who worships Michael Jackson, and channels the King of Pop in his clothing choices. He means well, but his constant pick-up and hit-on lines need some work. BIGTIME. The other day he told me "you make my hormone go up and down, up and down." Hmmmm is that what we're calling it nowadays??

It is important to note that my Arabic patients, and the staff I work with laugh at my attempts at Arabic on a daily basis- am pretty sure I haven't said anything truely offensive....yet. Mostly they just regard my attempts like that of a small child and repeat "Ahhhhhh"