Sunday, January 20, 2013

Day Zero - Part Two

...continued from Day Zero - Part One

My igal-wearing saviour and I left the baggage security check section and walked into the Arrivals area of the airport.  It was exactly as I would have imagined a middle-eastern airport Arrivals area, at least in this one little half-walled section situated right at the doorway through which we came.  Lined up in about five or six hap-hazard rows stood friends, family, colleagues, and drivers holding name-cards and not-so-patiently awaiting their target audience.  Many had been waiting a long time.  Many would continue to wait.  Many were aware that the wait would be long and hadn't yet arrived to meet their dearly beloved (or means of salary).  Smart Saudis they are.

Mr. "Igal" had been talking on his cell phone since the porter picked up my bags at the luggage carrels.  It soon became clear who he was talking to, my driver, whom we will call Mr. T.  No, he didn't look at all like Mr. T.  To get that image out of your head, he was a smallish dark Saudi man with buzzed cut hair and a leather jacket.  No mohawk, no mounds of gold necklaces draped around his neck.  Although, that would make for a much more interesting blog entry, wouldn't it?  Mr. T continued the theme of the night, greeting me with quiet kindness and a sense of humour that made me feel at ease.  Well, he seemed to have a sense of humour.  If anything he had a boundless amount of patience to put up with my nervous attempts to joke about the events of the evening.

Mr. T had me wait with the porter at the parking lot entrance while he retrieved his SUV.  And what did my wandering eyes first behold as they scanned the parking lot being overrun by chaotic drivers making random U-turns and cutting each other off as they turned corners?  The highly regarded (in my mind, anyway) Toyota Hilux 4X4 compact pickup truck that evades us North American truck lovers.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed.  I expected it to have a shining, heavenly glow as it's backdrop, and for an angelic choir to sing out soft praise as my eyes alighted onto the shining truck's exterior.  Not so.  Instead I saw a typical compact truck, and not just one, but many.  All with the same white paint job and the same red and orange decals along the sides.  They looked like a bunch of company trucks.  For all I knew, they were.  Ah, but no matter.  I know that it's what's on the inside that counts and I was starstruck regardless. 

Mr. T soon came along and had the porter heave my heavy bags into the back of his SUV.  The helpful and oh so polite Canadian in me was dying to go over and heave a few bags myself.  They were packed to the hilt after all.  But I felt it was better to follow Mr. T's lead and allow the porter to do his job.  He was paid soon after by Mr. T for his assistance.  Mr. T and I then climbed into the SUV and off we went, to wherever it was he was taking me.  At this point I still had no idea where I would be laying my exhausted and running-on-pure-adrenaline head that night.  So, of course, the first thing I asked was, "So, where are you taking me?" With a smile on my face and a slight wobble in my voice.  Mr. T, with his crinkling-eyed smile looked at me and said, "To your home."  "And where might that be?" I asked.  Mr. T chuckled, and with his strong Arabic accent told me that I would be staying at a nice compound located near the airport, but unfortunately, it is somewhat far from the Saudi family's home where I would be working.  He also added that my room would be temporary, as the one I am supposed to be staying in is not ready yet, "But it will be ready in ten days." Mr. T added.  It only took about two days of living in Riyadh to realize that 10 days really just meant whenever it gets done.  More to come on that subject later.

As it was approximately 1:00 a.m. Riyadh time, the grocery stores were closed.  So Mr. T, thoughtful man that he is, took me to a gas-station-corner-store (as Mom pointed out, what could be considered the Riyadh version of "Needs Convenience Store" from back home in Cape Breton) to get me some semblance of food until I was able to get to a grocery store for a proper grocery order.  As we pulled into the parking lot, Mr. T's phone rang and after a few seconds of the most confusing language I've ever heard, he handed the phone to me and told me it was the mother of the boy I would be working with.  As I was talking with her, telling her I had a good flight and arranging a time to come to the house to become acquainted with my workspace and to see the boy, Mr. T was roaming around the store with a plastic bag picking up random items that he thought I might want.  He came up to me as I hung up the phone and held the bag open for me to survey the goods.  In it I saw about 12 small packages of one-cup-worthy instant coffee, two boxes of tissues, and a bag of sugar.  I'm sure I could surmise what he was thinking about how I felt about my arrival to Riyadh, but the items in the bag can spell it out pretty clearly for us all.  I asked him where I can find some fruit, nuts, yogurt, and tea and then we were on our way to the compound where I would be living.

On the drive to the compound I couldn't see much besides a lot of street lights, sand, and palm trees.  It was interesting to see the trees, so different from what I'm used to back home.  Yet, I still felt my usual deep affinity towards them.  I love trees, as is apparent to many of you, and even these exotic trees with their huge fronds and scaly looking bark gave me the sense that they loved me back, just like my strong and comforting coniferous trees back home.  I felt just fine.

Mr. T got a little lost on the way to the compound, missed an exit and then displayed to me that doing a u-turn on a fairly busy highway is perfectly acceptable in Riyadh.  Eventually, we made it to the compound which really didn't look like much beyond high concrete walls with coiled barbed wire along the top.  Luckily, I was forewarned by my ever helpful friend, Ridwan, and so was prepared that it wouldn't look much better as we came upon the guarded gates, yes, I am correct in pluralizing gates.  Gate #1 consisted of a man in a booth confirming with Mr. T that I am, in fact, a registered resident of the compound and in being satisfied, raising the gate.  We then zig-zagged through a maze of big concrete barriers situated to force us to weave around them to get to Gate #2, which consisted of a man asking Mr. T to open his hood and checking the innards of the SUV engine area.  Being satisfied, he pushed a button to allow the gate to slide open.  Another maze of barriers followed, this time combined with huge speed bumps and two trucks parked to the side containing guards carrying machine guns, that took us to Gate #3 where another man was waiting to confirm again that I was, in fact, a resident.

After that interesting affair, Mr. T and I took a few turns within the compound and then parked in front of a large, nothing-fancy, stucco-walled apartment building with a nice big flight of stairs at the front promising a daunting task for two people with four heavy pieces of luggage and two carry-ons to trek up.  Eventually, we got my bags into my bachelor-style temporary apartment, followed all the while by a local calico cat who didn't seem to realize that it was now 1:30 a.m. and there was a need to be quiet.  Yes, she even followed us into my apartment.  All I could think was, "Of course there's a cat here to greet me."  I should have never doubted that animals would remain in my life in some form or another, even here in the desert.  Mr. T tried to shoo our noisy little companion out, but I told him to not worry.  I would get her out once he left.  Any of you who know me well are already aware that I had absolutely no intention of doing so.

Before leaving, Mr. T  handed me my "Welcome Package" for the compound, his business card (he wasn't a driver after all, he was actually an employee of the boy's grandfather ), the compound manager's business card and a sincere offering that he would be available to help me whenever I needed him and to call him at any time.  As he closed the door and left me and the constant meowing of the calico cat behind, all I could think about was how was I going to let my parents know that I had arrived safe and sound.  I hadn't been able to find a working wifi connection since the Vancouver airport.  It looked like I wasn't going to find one at my apartment either, so I resolved myself to the fact that my parents would have to continue to wonder how I was doing a little longer.

I was still buzzing from my flight and trip to the compound so I resolved myself to simply hanging out with Mrs. Noisebox and gave her the love that she was so adamantly demanding and while I began getting my bed clothes unpacked so that I could try to go to sleep.  I have to admit, the potential for this particular moment in my life to be filled with an extreme sense of loneliness was profound.  I have to thank whatever powers that be for the grace he/she/they placed upon me for that little tri-coloured fur ball that just would not shut up.  She was nothing but entertaining and, quite possibly, the best company I could've asked for.  I couldn't even be upset when I discovered that, instead of bed sheets hiding under the comforter on my bed, there was a bedskirt draped over my mattress.  I decided then that it couldn't hurt for Mrs. Noisebox to stick around for the evening and so slid my screenless window open for her to have the option to leave if she so desired (digression: It occurred to me that, if my aunts back home were anywhere near me at this time they would've had a canary when they discovered that I left my apartment so completely unsecured.  As per usual to my nature, I shrugged my shoulders and figured I'd be fine one way or another.).  I went to bed and slept, sort of, only to find the next morning that my noisy friend had left.  The only indication that she had actually been there being a perfectly cat-sized indent left in my pile of clothes that I had left on the couch the night before.

In Joy,


  1. Hello,
    It’s too good and very impressive post. How helpful this article I never seen such an excellent useful topic in another website. Thanks a lot for sharing.
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  2. Thanks for your comment Exatasi! I'm so happy you enjoyed my blog entry.

  3. Wow Bon ~ just getting there was quite the adventure. Glad things are settling in for you. Hugs and much love

  4. Thanks, Sue!! I'm glad I'm starting to settle in too :)

  5. So happy you were sent a chatty cat for you first night! Can't wait to read more! Love and prayers, Vicky

  6. Hey Bonnie, glad to hear you made it safe. Gabrielle wanted to tell you she misses you at school. Have a super adventure and hope to see you again. Josee Jalbert and Gabrielle Jalbert


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