Today I flew from Riyadh to Buraydah, Al-Qassim. I’m writing this as I struggle to stay awake. I was supposed to fly here two days ago. The flight was leaving at six, so the driver was to pick me up at 3.30 am. He overslept, so the flight had to be rescheduled. It was all handled very casually, in the relaxed Saudi manner. The idea of oversleeping and missing a flight makes me frantic, but he just gave me a simple apology and assured me they would reschedule sometime. Airfare is very cheap here – about $30-$50 for the flight I was taking, so paying for another ticket was no big loss to the company.
Even the way they informed me I was going to fly out was very casual, almost unprofessionally relaxed to my Western way of thinking. I had been getting somewhat anxious to leave Riyadh and get to work – after all, I had been in the hotel or almost two weeks with no word about when or where I would start teaching. Then, one afternoon, the driver called up to my hotel room. He was in the lobby, and had a ticket for me. That was it – no email from the dean of the university, no official notice from the company, no word about what lay on the other end, just a driver telling me he would see me at 3.30 the next morning to shuffle me off towards my next destination.
Then, he overslept. To be fair, I also overslept a little bit. I woke up around four o’clock, and I was frantic. I rushed to throw on clothes and ran down to the lobby to call the driver, certain he had showed up, not seen me, and abandoned me – probably to crumble away forever in this seedy hotel. I called him and called again – no answer. Finally, at 5.30, half an hour before my plane was supposed to leave, he called back. “Simeon, I am sorry, but I didn’t hear my alarms. We will have to reschedule your flight.”
It was beginning to feel like I would never get out of Riyadh. Then, last night, without any warning, he called again. “We have a flight for you. Tomorrow morning. I’ll be there to pick you up at 3.30.” Great. Take two.
I elected to stay up all night because I didn’t want to risk oversleeping again. Now, I’m regretting that decision. The flight was supposed to leave at 6, but didn’t end up leaving until about 7.30. I arrived here in Buraydah a little before 8.30 am, with just shy of 2 ½ hours worth of neck-kinks and half-restful sleep in an airplane seat. Imagine my absolute delight when I was taken, not to my compound to unpack and rest, but directly to the university to meet my supervisors and begin my week of “orientation,” which consists of following other teachers around.
Everyone here is very kind, and the university campus is a clean, pleasant environment. Despite the novelty, I’m too exhausted to take much in, and I’m plowing through rounds of tea, Pepsi, and coffee as fast as I can. My eyes are still open – but barely. However, I’m happy to be here, and I know that I only have to stay awake a couple more hours. I’m not always going to be this tired. But as long as I’m in Saudi Arabia, I’ll certainly always be relaxed.
In this map, the city I’m in is labeled “Qassim.”