Arid Letters

The Diary of an English Teacher in Arabia


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Trash

Riyadh is the clean city

Riyadh is the clean city.

Riyadh is the clean city. Also silhouette men wear dresses. You can tell it’s not a silhouette woman wearing a dress because it’s outside doing things.

My students didn't get the memo about the clean city thing.

My students didn’t get the memo about the clean city thing.

Riyadh tap water tastes better or worse depending on the day. Everyone says I’m crazy for drinking it. Even my liver flukes wish I would buy some Dasani once in a while. Actually think there’s some left in that bottle in the drinking fountain. Maybe I can just drink that.

My flaccid succulent.

My flaccid succulent.

This is what a cactus looks like if it’s actually been left outside all summer without any water in Riyadh. It didn’t make it, but think I have a cutting that pulled through. Will let you know. This isn’t relevant to anything. Now it’s just another piece of trash. … Pulled that back together innit.

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Saudis Don’t Get Ketchup

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Saudis don’t get ketchup. I cannot tell you how many non-ketchup-worthy foods I have received with ketchup packets included. We’re talking pizza, pasta, kabsa (a broiled chicken and rice dish), or shawarma (a kind of roast chicken and veggie burrito). These are things that just don’t go with ketchup, but still the restaurant includes ketchup packets with the take-out. But, when I order french fries, guess how many ketchup packets I get. One. One ketchup packet for a whole order of fries. Saudis don’t get ketchup.

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Saudis don’t get bathrooms. First off, this is the 21st century. This country has smart phones, Hummers, and MTV. So why is there any excuse for so many toilets like this? I shared the absence of shower curtains yesterday, and the inherent disregard for water on the bathroom floor. But seriously, can you believe it is common to walk into bathroom stalls that look like this? Men here don’t think about the ricochet from their bidet. However, I DO think about it, and it’s the reason I only poop at home. Because Saudis don’t get bathrooms.

Saudis don’t get timeliness. This goes both by the hour and by the day. In my personal experience, if I’m told that we will meet at 8 a.m., it means we’ll meet at 9.30 a.m. If I’m told that we’ll meet at 9.30 a.m., it means we’ll maybe meet in the morning, maybe in the evening. For a country of people that checks into prayer times like clockwork, five times a day, they don’t seem to think about the time very often. Maybe the frequent breaks for prayer undermine the workplace efficiency. Something certainly does, because Saudis must work the slowest of any people on the planet. I have been told for weeks now that someone will locate my passport and update my visa… “Tomorrow.” Tomorrow still has not come. Because Saudis don’t get timeliness.

Saudis don’t get rules of the road. I have been in cross-walks, half-way across the street, and had drivers SPEED UP as they approach me, then they yell at me to get out of the road. The other night, I crossed the street, in a cross-walk, in front of a truck that was at a standstill, waiting to turn. I locked eyes with the driver as I walked in front of him. When I was almost past his bumper, he slammed on the gas, forcing me to jump out of the way. I was also forced to call him some names that he probably didn’t understand, although it made me feel better. More then once, I have seen drivers turn into one way traffic, heading the opposite direction, and drive up the side of the street against the flow. More then once, I have seen kids about age ten or eleven driving. Maybe that’s why Saudis don’t get the rules of the road.

Saudis don’t get waiting in lines. Everyone will gently elbow each other around a counter, waiving their cash at the checkout man, trying to get served first. It seemed really rude to me at first. But now, I’m getting used to it, and I notice a lot of times it seems like I get served first, presumably because I’m white or well-dressed. It still seems unfair to me, but there’s nothing I can do about the fact that Saudis don’t get waiting in line.

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Saudis don’t get trash cans. Seriously, the litter is piling up in this country at an astounding rate. The attitude is that, if they don’t throw their trash on the ground, the street sweepers wouldn’t have anything to do. From the looks of things, I think the street sweepers could use some help. But this help will never come, because Saudis don’t get trash cans.

However, as I’ve shared in other posts, Saudis do get generosity, good food, a healthy attitude of relaxation, and many other wonderful attitudes that make this a great place to live. Forgive this one post. I’m not really complaining, I just don’t understand what Saudis don’t get about ketchup.