Sunday, April 29, 2007

i've had the worst luck with security the past two days.

over the weekend, in the restaurant/bar on the compound, i met a 30 year old half african half arab named sam from holland who spent 4+ years in london then went to surf in brazil before ending up here in riyadh. he has been calling me incessantly ever since. . .so last night i decided sure. . .man. . .lets hangout. we drove around the town and grabbed a bite to eat at chili's. . yes, chili's. . .because it made me think of the television show "the office". . .which is funny.

around 10pm we found ourselves back at the compound gate. only. . .the little security guy, who vic calls "rat boy". . .wasn't there. it was some new pump fellow who was followed out of the gate house by some guy in military fatigues. security always checks under the hood. . .looking for bombs. . .so i popped the hood to my corolla. the security guard then gave me the hand signal for "papers". i pulled my compound card from my pocket and told sam to do the same. . .about this time the security guard positioned himself to the right of the car, and the military guy was standing on the left. . .and now outta now where there were two more military guys. . .one of which was standing in front of the car and the other one behind. i thought to myself. . .what the f*ck?. . .i was starting to get nervous. . .i knew if i needed to drive away i was going to have to hit one of these bastards. the military guy on the left asked me with a hand motion to roll my window down. . .i did. . .he said in arabic "how are you?". . .i said back in arabic. . ."100%". . .he then pounded on my door and said in english. . ."open your door!". . .i said in english. . ."what?". . .then i spewed a string of both arabic and english. . ."no no no no. . .you better explain why you want me open this door!!" then the man said something to the others. . .and they all backed off. . .and waved us through. the whole thing wigged me out. . .i'm guessing its probably new security measures. . .something to do the recent news. . .but i'm not about to get outta my car for anyone.

as a quick side note. . .this is prime example of what i'm talking about when i say it's mentally exhausting here. . .i'm simultaneously thinking, "what is this guy asking", "how can i get outta this situation if i need to", "why is the happening", "is this new guy next to me doing the right thing", "how do i communicate everything is cool", "damn what is the arabic word for cool". . .thought processes like this happen. . .a lot. . .

this morning i pulled up to the security gate at work. . .the military security checked under hood. . .and in the corolla's boot. few meters after this manual human staffed gate there is a second gate that is automated by badge/access card. it's pretty much standard procedure to tailgate through the automated gate if someone swipes through in front of you. this morning i was third in a line of cars at the gate. car one swiped his access card. . .car two followed him under the gate. . .and i followed car two under the gate. i parked my car. . .opened the door. . .and got out with my briefcase in one hand and my starbucks in the other (i'm such a yuppie american). . .and up marched a military guard. he said in english, "card!". . .so i set down my briefcase and dug my badge/access card outta my pocket. . .he grabbed it and my arm and pulled me over to the automated gate (which is now about 50 meters away). he swiped my card for me then handed it back to me and said, "go!"

i left work today and found the outgoing gate which operates with the same protocol as the automated incoming gate. . .to be lopsided (i.e. the end opposite the hinge was on the ground). . .i certainly learned my lesson this morning. . .so i swiped my badge. . .the gate didn't move. . .so i swiped again. . .no luck. . .by this time there was a line of saudis behind me. . .and if you know saudis you know they LOVE honking those car horns. . .by this point. . .i'd just had it. . .with gates. . .security. . .my crappy luck. . .so i put the car park and got out to lift up the gate. . .it was dusty and heavy. only it didn't stop at 90 degrees like i expected. . .it did a full 180 degree rotation and smacked the ground on the other side with a huge "BANG!" i looked at the saudi in the car behind me who was laughing. . .i shrugged. . .and got back into my car. about the time i shut the door. . .out ran a guard. . .barefoot?. . .he was yelling. . .he told me to pull over. . .i did. everyone behind me just drove through the gate and waved at me in thanks. the guard went back into the guard house. . .i could see the guard fiddle farting around with his socks and boots (obviously he neglected to put his shoes back on after prayer). . .he started getting really frustrated as he was lacing up his boots. . .i swear like 5 minutes went by and the guy couldn't get his boots on. . .he gave up. . .poked his head out and told me to go. . .

Saturday, April 28, 2007

. . .i work for a section of the interior ministry.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

i'm excited about arriving in the states on may 18th. . .i'm excited about getting some rest. . .not the "i need to take a nap" sort of rest. . .mental rest. i'm tired of standing out because i'm a minority. . .i mean everyone notices me. . .i'm tired of listening to every word someone says either because i'm trying to match it to my very small arabic vocabulary. . .or because i'm trying to figure out the broader concept from someone's very small english vocabulary. i'm tired of white knuckles always aware driving. i'm tired of being excited to get off work to remember that i have nothing to do at home and thus getting excited about going back to work. i'm tired of not sleeping well. i tired of saudis calling me for "black label" whiskey. i'm tired of wanting to leave work only to find the little indian man i paid to wash my car. . .washing my car (which i why i'm writing this blog entry right now).

i want to eat a gt's souths pulled pork sandwich. . .i want to eat a bazbeaux's sausage and banana pepper pizza. . .i want to drink a heineken beer. . .i want to drink some c-shaw/$2 buck chuck from trader joe's. . .want to remember was it was like to see women about. . .i especially want to see jen. . .want to breath deep some air that has humidity in it. . .and not have dust mud in my lungs or dust boogers. . .

. . .i want to just blend in and half listen. . .i want to be an american.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

a few years ago i went to new york city. . .i was staying on the upper west side of manhatten. . .and taking the subway to brooklyn every other day for theremin lessons. . .but one morning i got on the subway and i rode it toward "ground zero" of the world trade center disaster instead. . .only the train didn't go to world trade center anymore. . .so i got off at the stop before. i walked up the stairs to outside. . .and i saw it. . .the big hole. . .the one you see on tv. . .only it was bigger than i expected. . .it was huge. . .i'm sure i looked like any other world trade rubber necker. . .standing there with my month hanging open at the sheer size of the whole dibacal. i walked around the hole. . .there were some construction machines inside it. . .but no one was working. i don't know how many square blocks the hole is. . .maybe 2, 3 or 4?. . .i remembered seeing those dust clouds blowing down the street with people running horrified while the buildings came down. . .and i bent down and stuck my finger in some dust that was still gathered between a sidewalk and a building. . .it was soft.

i literally live right across the street from where some of the 9/11 hijackers went to school. . .and everytime classes get out and i see college kids going to their cars or getting in taxis. . .i try to imagine the hijackers being just a bunch of college kids standing in the parking lot smoking cigarettes like the kids across the street. . .they look so normal. . .and then i think about that eff'ing hole in new york. . .that is so outside the ordinary it rocked a nation and the world. . .that hole seems so far away from those kids. . .but just as i stand in the dust blowing in off the desert in saudi arabia. . .it was only a few years ago i was poking disaster dust in nyc.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

what's great about being overseas is things that would normally be a huge annoyance turn into interesting cultural experiences.

yesterday i came out of the grocery to find a right rear tire on my corrola that looked suspiciously low in air. i confirmed this with a few kicks of the tire, but decided it was still full enough to drive to garage close to my villa.

i pulled into the garage and in front of the area that looked like the tire shop (i.e. there were stacks of tires). an indian man came up to me and said something in arabic. . .my arabic is terrible. . .so i said in english, "more air", and accompanied it with a hand motion indicating inflation and a noise that sounded like air going into a tire. . .at this point the man grabbed a young saudi guy (a LOT of saudis speak english) to help him. . .only this saudi's english was terrible, but he was just a teenager so he probably hasn't been to school in the states yet. . .seems most saudis inevitably end up going to school in canada or the US . .so anyway the three of us are standing there looking at the tire. . .making noises, hand gestures and speaking two broken languages. then the indian man busts out a whacky looking gage and attaches it to the tire. . .he then shows me the gage. . .okay. . .the thing is EVERYTHING is arabic is backwards. . .they write right to left. . .and even the computer screens here are mirror images (i.e. the windows start button is on the bottom right). . .so when i looked at the gage the needle was in the bottom left. . .which as most westerners would agree means low. . .but it's also in a green "zone" as opposed to the yellow or red zones. . .which to most westerners would indicate okay. . .so finely i say in arabic. . ."problem or no problem?". . .and both the saudi and the indian say in arabic, "problem". . .yes!. . .we are finally on the same page. . .i need the tire patched. the indian man just takes the tire off and starts patching it. . .he didn't ask me anything, like, "do you want this patched?". . .i had no idea how much this was going to cost me. . .but luckily being in saudi and seeing has how it was being done by an indian. . .it was probably safe to assume it was going to cost me very little. (yes these thoughts would be considered racist in america. . .but it's the sad truth of saudi arabia. . .everyone is EXTREMELY race conscious). right about this time a SUV comes squealing around the corner into the garage and out jumps this 20 something saudi dressed in western clothes. he literally opens the back of his SUV and throws/rolls a flat tire into the tire shop. he then struts over to me and asks, "where are you from?" his english was perfect. . .i said, "the states." he said, "obviously, but were in the states?" i said, "indianapolis." he said, "i went to college in VA." explains his excellent english. . .anyway. . .he starts to tell me how i should go to some bar in bahrain and how i should go to his gym. . .blah blah blah. . .he was nice enough. . .he even bargained a decent deal on the tire patch for me. . .we exchange numbers.

later that night he sends me some text message that is some sort of joke. . .whose punch line i forget but it described penises as "===>" and vaginas as "( )". . .i was at a loss as to what to text back. . .so i ignored it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

. . .i'm considering an early return. . .any of you past co-workers want to work with me again. . .;-)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

. . .dust storms. . .we don't have these in indianapolis. . .but they have them here. dust storms are strange. it's sorta like a thick brown fog. . .that sneaks up outta no where, but a flog with wind. . .and everything gets really dirty. . .and it sucks to breath. . .i guess you could say. . .it's like the earth sharted (i.e. fart where you sh*t a little). . .if you are into that whole al gore personification of the planet speak.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

i don't believe in static reality. . .i believe we are all subject to a personal reality in the context of our lives. the same action can have as many outcomes as the observers of the action. we all judge things based on what we've learned and experienced. . .this is why good intentions turn out bad. . .what's "good" in my context may not be "good" in yours. this is why morality bends between individuals. even solid in-animate objects are subject to what our individual brains interpret. . .so even the universe is subject to interpretation. racism. . .religion. . .all stem from contexts. . .all stem from experience and interpretation. . .

why is this relevant? i've done a bit of personal introspection. i've long understood that it's no use to fight emotions with logic. . .how you feel is how you feel. . .you can't change it. . .but why?. . .why can't you just recognize your emotions and decide not to feel that way? this is because you lack the experience to override your current perception of reality. i know i have trust issues. . .this is an artifact of my marriage to kristen rose graves, but why should i not trust others in my life?. . .because the damage done by kristen was so severe that it is the overriding and default interpretation of MY reality. i believe this is why depressed people are depressed. . .perhaps they lack the context to recognize "happy" events. what's worse is contexts can only grow larger the older you get. . .you'll never be rid of sub-contexts. . .i'll never be rid of the context of reality of the 3.5 years i spent with kristen. . .all i can hope is to grow the experience of trusting. . .so my context includes more incidents if trusting then distrusting.

i would also like to address the issue of patterns. . .patterns arise in contexts (i.e. you might try the same things over and over). . .i see this. . .i'm not stupid. . .i'm not blind. we can take the very obvious parallel of my time in vermont vs. my time here in saudi arabia. i believe this pattern has arose perhaps as a subconscious do-over. . .perhaps i am trying to cancel out the negative context with a positive one. . .will it work?. . .depends on the outcome, right? perhaps i re-enforce an already negative portion of my personal world view. . .perhaps i come out with a more vanilla world view thanks to perfect context frequency cancellation. . .who knows these things. it's a survival mechanism. you wouldn't believe the number of patterns i have counted in my life. . .but i'll leave them out here. . .because i might freak people out. . .i might freak myself out. . .but i suggest you try it yourself. . .

. . .beware of variable aggregations. . .one should be aware that the more variables that can be freely associated. . .the more your context will construct a personal reality. . .for example social websites. . .(myspace, facebook, etc). . .there are only variables there not realities. . ."friends", friend orders, self-proclaimed profiles of personal information, pictures. . .mountains and mountains of data that can be freely associated by your interpretation. this is why turmoil can arise from browsing information about significant others. . .etc. . .however this is only a warning. . .never ever underestimate the power of intuition, the power of interrupting your reality. . .you've learned your lessons for a reason. . .for survival. both variable aggregations and intuition should serve as a foundation for communication.

communication is the only means by which we can intersect contexts and world views. . .this is why diplomacy works for both nations and relationships. . .accusations and action serve no one in terms of changing world views. . .this is why iraq is failing. . .the united states has done nothing to influence the world view of the people of iraq. . .iraq only sees reality through the context of the rule of saddam and the religion of islam. . .they're reality doesn't include democracy. . .it's all we westerners know. . .of course it seems obvious in our context. . .

. . .or perhaps i'm going mad. . .heh.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

my mom emailed me today to ask a couple questions that probably would be interesting to address publicly. . .

Hey, I was wondering about the head gear the men wear. Is it all the same color and pattern or does it vary by family. In some cultures it does. So far it looks the men you have met are all wearing the same red.

all saudi men in general dress identical to one another. . .a white "thobe" and a red and white "sham'agh" (head covering). . .sometimes you see yellow, cream, brown or black thobes. . .or a plain white “sham’agh” but that's only when one really wants to standout. . .for the rebellious one can wear western clothes like me. . .blue jeans and t-shirts. . .but that's pretty much only for hanging out with young people. . .even my friends that wear western clothes wear the traditional stuff around elders.

all women look exactly the same as well. . .black "abyas". . .the head coverings are optional. . .depending on how "islamic" you are. . .the difference is women MUST wear black abyas. . .it's the law. women wear normal western style clothes under the abyas

Are you worried about the new escalations with Iran?

no. . .but only because i don't think it will go beyond diplomacy. . .that being said if there is a war with iran. . .i might come home. . .what i am afraid of is the us pulling out of iraq. . .now i am no supporter of the iraq war. . .and honestly i believe the us should leave iraq. . .but if the us does leave iraq the insurgents will return to saudi arabia. . .and it would probably be best to leave the area. . .

How are you? Really?

fine. i'm sorta getting home sick now. . .sad that i'm missing spring. . .i'd like to walk to bazbeaux's for pizza and wine. . .