From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






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Thursday, September 16, 2010

First Holiday in Saudi Arabia

Since we couldn’t go anywhere, it wasn’t much of a holiday, but we still enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. Jamie and I took this week to buy some things needed for our villa including some much needed kitchen items as well as a not so much needed rather than wanted new TV and surround sound system. I’m happy with both the kitchen items and the audio/video equipment.

Not many people on the compound left for this break since it was so close to the beginning of the year, so there were lots of compound activities. At times, it seemed as though we were bombarded with requests of things to do, place to go, etc. The compound next door to us is an old BAE compound complete with its own restaurant and beverage facility. We are invited over there occasionally to partake in the fish and chips and frosty beverages, which is a nice outing because it is not like you can go “out” here in Saudi.

Other activities this week have included rides to town and stores. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you do not have a car, you have to rely on either a) the compound bus which only goes at certain times during the week b) a taxi which is fine but can get pricey or c) a neighbor who offers or you simply ask. Fortunately, we have been paired with a buddy couple who have been very generous, but everyone has been very nice to give us lifts when needed. With the end of Ramadan a few days ago, the stores are now on regular schedule. By regular schedule, I mean they open at what we would call normal hours, but remember, they still close for prayer times, which are becoming closer and closer together as the days become shorter. This can be hectic when scheduling your shopping times.

There of course have been a couple of poker nights and yoga classes and I went to the driving range in the desert again, but Jamie and I have both enjoyed learning how to play Settlers of Catan, a simulation board game which can be very addicting. It is a big hit here on the compound and a few people even have the expansion packs. A bit nerdy, but very fun.

The weather has been cooling down, especially in the morning. This morning was the first one where I actually ran outside. A loop in our compound is .23 miles, so a little over 4 times around becomes a mile. It gets a bit monotonous running around, but not as bad as running on a treadmill, plus I can vary my speeds easier. A few people play tennis and basketball and we have some decent courts here, so I’m looking forward to playing soon as the temperature cools even more.

Jamie and I have worked on our dissertations a little bit this week, although not as much as what we should have. I am right in the middle of Chapter 4 (of 5), while Jamie is rewriting her Chapters 1 – 3.

Our big news this week was the great flight deal we received for Christmas break, so we’ll be coming home. We haven’t made it home for Christmas since moving overseas, so we are excited and I believe our families are too.

Have a great weekend, but it’ll be the start of the week for us!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

1 Month in the Kingdom

Jamie and I have been in Saudi Arabia right at 1 month. Here are some things that we have learned...

1) It is hot, although people keep claiming that it will cool down and 9 months of the year it will be very pleasant. We are still waiting for those days.

2) It is a sexist, chauvinistic culture. This is evident by the fact that women can't drive, men have more freedoms with what they can do and where they can go, and the overall general attitude of male Saudis. We don't experience it on a day to day basis, but when you are out and about, you certainly do get that feel. Some women cover from head to toe with only their eyes showing. It all depends on what their husbands require of them. This is something I'm not sure I will ever really be comfortable with, and Jamie tolerates, although she does like the fact that she doesn't really have to worry about what she wears to town.

3) Shawarmas are delicious. So is hummus, tabouli, flat bread, and tea that really isn't tea, but just spiced water.

4) The food isn't too different from Chinese food, but it does have a different flavor with some different spices.

5) Not have pork and alcohol isn't that big of a deal because people still get it. Not so much pork, but alcohol is readily available to the point where they sell shot glasses, beer mugs, and wine glasses in kitchen stores.

6) Prayer times in Saudi cramp your shopping experience. You have to constantly check the prayer schedule before going out. If you show up to a store 5 minutes before prayer time, you better run around and grab as many things as possible. Otherwise, you'll be waiting for prayer to be over.

7) Beef bacon really isn't that bad. In fact, it is really good, but doesn't have the same bacon smell.

8) The best part of wherever you are is alway the people. Our co-workers have been very gracious. We miss our friends from the US and China but are quickly making new friends.

9) Compound life can become dull, but with a variety of activities, you can keep yourself busy just about every night (poker night, Sultans of Catan, bocce, tennis, swimming, working out, movies, eating out, ordering in)

10) Swimming pools in Saudi Arabia feel like bath water.

11) Air conditioning is a gift from God. I would like to personally thank Mr. Michael Faraday for inventing the air conditioner and Mr. Willis Haviland Carrier for making it commercial. I'm not sure how people lived prior to it.

12) Driving in Saudi Arabia can be quite hectic, but not nearly as bad as China and other southeastern Asian cities. Nonetheless, you better be careful.

13) Things here are expensive. There is probably about a 25% price markup on most items, although you can find just about anything here to purchase as you would in the States. We even found a cast iron skillet today, and there is a shot downtown that sells very old Barbie dolls for very cheap. I'm thinking of buying them, taking them back to the States, selling them on Ebay to all the crazies who collect them, and paying off our student loans.

14) You can get just about anywhere from here, and we are very excited about all of our travel opportunities. You basically have 3 entire continents you can travel, and we fully plan to hit up all 3 of them.

15) Ramadan is a very exciting time to be in the Middle East. While it can be a pain working around the crazy shopping hours, it is all part of the experience. Today is the last day of Ramadan, so things after this weekend should be pretty much back to "normal," whatever that is.

All for now. Decent list and I want to share some thoughts. Not really any pictures yet, although I've got some great ideas for when we purchase a car and I can drive out and about. Just taking pictures in a store of all of the women blacked out is enough to fill an album.

Let me know if you have any questions!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

TAIW - Thank Allah It's Wednesday

Ironically, the have the restaurant here... T.G.I.F, but it doesn't really true here as you have your first workday on Saturday. We've changed it around as TAIW.

We've had a busy week here with school in full blown session, lots of compound activities, and trying to rest in the process.

Let me first say that we are still really enjoying living here. The temperature, or at least the humidity, has dropped off a little bit and going outside at least becomes bearable. Our villa is coming together nicely as we purchase small items to fill it out. We purchased a new printer that can print some photos, so we'll be adding some photos and frames around the villa to make it look a little homier.

Last weekend, we were hosted by our friends next door to a delicious pancake breakfast. We then had some brunch of scones and other Kiwi snacks with some other friends a few villas down. This seems to be the thing to do with the newbies here, and Jamie and I have already discussed having a good southern meal for our compound friends some day.

Our kitchen is coming together nicely as we purchase small items to help us in there. We still haven't purchase dishes. We received 4 plates, forks, spoons, etc when we arrived, but it is getting old washing the same 4 things over and over again. Our trip to IKEA last weekend came up empty on something we liked, so we'll try another home store somewhere. There are only a dozen in the city, so it shouldn't be too hard.

Tamimi's, which is like Safeway back home, drives to our compound to take us to the store. Jamie and I have used this before and it might be something we do often from now on. It is very convenient. There is also a compound bus that leaves 3 days per week and takes us pretty much wherever we need to go. This is also a great option to get us out of the compound so we can shop. Of course, all of these procedures will change once we get a vehicle, but it is nice to know we have the option.

On Monday night, we went to the compound next door for "night out." The compound next to us is the BAE (British Aerospace) compound. BAE is HUGE around here and employs probably hundreds of people. They are actually building a super compound outside the city, so Las Dunas will be vacant. We are hoping we can move in there as the facilities are nicer. They have a "pub" inside their compound, so we were able to go over there for some drinks as well as take home some. Good food of fish and chips were delivered and we overall had a wonderful time with our co-workers and new friends. Since Saudi has really no nightlife, this is just another example of the type of activities one can do here. It isn't much, but it is fun.

Tuesday nights are poker nights here on the compound and apparently have been for years. I participate and really enjoy it. When the weather cools, people also play bocche, tennis, and of course more of the pool. I have done OK at poker, but there is always room for improvement. A group of ladies went for yoga on another compound, but Jamie didn't participate.

Wednesday night, we had a pot luck meal for the newbies on the compound. There is actually a small compound committee that organizes these events and I believe they organized Thanksgiving meals, Christmas dinners, and other holiday festivities for those who want to participate. It was a good showing last night and we enjoyed it. Great food. Props to the single male who made the pizza spaghetti!

Since everything comes to life during Ramadan at night, I was driven around by a nice family to purchase some necessary items like a vacuum cleaner, surge protectors, and other things necessary for our villa. We have a shipment still coming in from China that will round out our belongings, but so far so good here.

Thanks for some of the questions I have received. I believe I have answered all of them personally. I'll answer some on sometimes, so continue to shoot them my way. I was approached by an international teaching organization to write for their blog. I think I might and just post everything on there and a shortened version for them. They have some rules of things I can't put on there. I'll provide a link when I get it up and running.

Hope everyone enjoys there weekend.

Tuesdays are poker nights here on the compound.

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