Monthly Archives: September 2013

Saudi Shopping

I’ve moved to Saudi Arabia, a country boasting a wealthy population and one of the lowest percentages of women in the workforce. You don’t have to master Chinese Algebra to add up a lot of women with money plus free time to come up with some pretty amazing malls. Now before you shopaholics run out to buy a plane ticket over, there are some things you should know.

Traditionally, you see Arab women out in public covered head to toe in black. I’m not saying they’re wearing a cute black top and black pants with the idea that dressing monochromatically is slimming. The traditional attire is a loose-fitting abaya dress that covers from the neck to the wrist and down to the floor. While Western women typically don’t, Saudi women also wear a hijab to cover her head and many wear the niqab face veil revealing only their eyes. Now I’m not judging! I come from a culture that dresses its little girls in booty shorts and Victoria Secret underwear for their first day of Kindergarten. We’re hardly the ones to point fashion fingers.

But what an Arab woman wears to the mall isn’t necessarily what she wears behind closed doors. So let the shopping begin! These massive malls display clothing from some of the finest designer names. It’s easy to get lost in the choices… until you want to try something on. All those clothes and no dressing rooms!

If you find something you like, you purchase it first. Then take it home or hunt down a bathroom in the mall that might have a changing room, take off your abaya, hijab and niqab plus whatever you’re wearing underneath like shirt, jeans, shoes and try on, say, one pair of pants. Then put it all back on. You have 3 days to return the pair of pants for a cash refund or 7 days for a different size.

I think it’d take me 3 days just to get undressed and redressed with all that! It could potentially take a month, working through this back and forth and trying it on somewhere else stuff, to find the right size of pants. Factor another couple of months for a top to match. By then, forget about shopping! No outfit is that cute! Suddenly, I’m more than happy to go to the closet, pull out the black abaya and be done with it!

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Filed under From the Sandbox

Berka in the Bathroom

I come from the land of Buc-cee’s, that magical place of pristine, spacious bathrooms. So wonderful are the Buc-cee bathrooms that their virtues are touted on billboards, and travelers go miles out of their way just to pop in to pee. Unfortunately, I’m not currently living in that world. I actually think I may have been condemned to bathroom hell. And trust me, that is no place for a woman.

I’m in Saudi Arabia, where a lot of things are strange to me, bathrooms being pretty high on that list. I can’t speak for the men’s bathrooms, but in the ladies “hammam,” it’s odd.

First of all, stalls are very tiny. You almost have to climb on top of the toilet to get the door shut, which is a feat considering all the women wear long, black abaya dresses. Okay, so you get the door shut, and then you have to deal with that dress. I’m not sure if the protocol is to take it off and hang it on the door hook or flip it up over your head or just wad it up under your arms. So take note: dress up, pants down. Practice at home.

To complicate the juggling act, the floors are always really wet. Typically, stalls are equipped with this spray nozzle thing. Back home, I had one on the kitchen sink to spray dishes. We had one in the bathtub to wash the dog. I’m hesitant to wonder why it’s in the bathroom stall, but from the amount of water on the floor, it obviously gets used. I’ve tried to think through in my head how one would go about taking a tiny, area-specific mini-shower in this cramped space without drowning completely, all the while managing the dress up-pants down balancing thing. Some bathrooms are serious about it, too, because toilet paper is available only at the door when you walk in, so think ahead or be ready to spritz. Or maybe you could drip dry while you struggle over what to do.

Through all that, though, you have to be grateful if there’s actually a toilet in your stall. There are bathrooms where target shooting isn’t just for boys. In which case, maybe you flip your pants over your head with the dress and the sprayer is to wash off your shoes. Or maybe you just learn to hold it until you get home. To the States!

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Filed under From the Sandbox, Much Ado About Nothing

Dog Snores

Some people have to have a room perfectly dark to get a good night’s sleep. Others want it to be cold enough to hang meat or maybe they want some sort of white noise. Me, I want it to be quiet as a tomb. Which is why I’m awake at 3:16am writing this column. I’ve been dog-sitting a very old beagle that must have adenoids the size of pomegranates because he snores like a freight train. Incessantly. So forget my silent night.

Do dogs get sleep apnea? I’m almost sure this one has it. He has all the signs. He’s overweight, probably has high blood pressure, and most of the time I’d believe it if someone said he’d had a stroke. I’m inclined to just take him in for a sleep study, have him hooked up to all the electrodes and find out once and for all. Then we could get him a little doggy apnea oxygen mask thing he could wear to silence the situation.

Did I mention that the dog is deaf? I think that’s because the elevated decibel levels of the snoring have damaged his hearing. They’ve damaged mine. I can only guess, then, that he has developed some sixth sense that alerts him when I’ve tried to sneak out of the bedroom to sleep on the couch where it might be quieter. But with Dogzilla, there is no hiding. He will find you. And sleep next to you. And snore. Really loud. If I slept in the car, he’d find the spare key, waddle out and climb into the backseat where he’d snore. Really loud. His owners have obviously gone on vacation for the sole purpose of catching up on their rest.

To add to the problem, I think the dog may also be narcoleptic. You can Google that, but it means he randomly falls asleep without provocation at any time. He’s half way through a bowl of Purina Senior Dog Chow when suddenly he’s snoring in his kibble. I can only hope the County has revoked his license because there is no way he is capable of operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment responsibly.

As God as my witness, this dog is the American Kennel Club Grand Champion of snoring. If my husband snored like that, he’d for sure be in the dog house. Instead, I’m here wide awake in the dog’s house wondering where the ear plugs are buried.

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Filed under Much Ado About Nothing