Tag Archives: Saudi Arabia

Real Fear in the Middle East

Camel Spider MawThe most popular question I get asked about living in the Middle East is: Aren’t you afraid being over there?! Well, yes, I’m afraid! But it isn’t because there are lunatics in the country next door committing barbaric crimes of inhumanity. I mean, yes, that’s terrifying regardless of where you live, but that isn’t what scares the bajeebers out of me here. I have more immediate terrors.

Living where I do, I’m afraid of things like scorpions and camel spiders. I think they’re called camel spiders because they’re so big, they actually hunt and eat camels. Whole. Without chewing. If you think I’m exaggerating, Google them. In my opinion, spiders should never be larger than the shoe that squashes them. They should not be able to put on four pairs of your husband’s shoes and wear them out.

I’m afraid of driving. Not that I can drive, so let me clarify: I’m afraid to be in a car on the roads here. I’m more likely to be killed by some maniac driver behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia than I am by a member of ISIS or ISIL or ISwhatever. These are people who take the term “freeway” literally, as in “free to drive in whatever ridiculously unsafe, unpredictable, unharnessed way I want.” I had never considered the dashboard when looking for places to set down my newborn while driving 100+ mph on the left shoulder, but okay. Maybe there’s not a word for “projectile” in the Arabic language.

I’m probably more afraid of heat stroke than I am of terrorists. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to find my favorite cereal at the grocery store, even if it’s $8.37 and expiring in two months. I’m afraid of the five pounds I put on every single time I go back to the US because I’ve been deprived of those chocolate chip cookies at Chick-fil-A for so long that I lose my ability to reason and start justifying buying them by the dozen. I’m afraid they’ll close the gym where I live and I’ll be stuck with those five pounds forever.

Otherwise, I’m pretty safe where I am. Watching the news, sometimes I think I’m actually safer here. The world can be a scary place anymore. And camel spiders certainly aren’t making it any easier to sleep at night!

 

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What’s scarier than the Middle East?

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People who aren’t familiar with Saudi Arabia often ask me if I’m afraid to be here, if it’s not scary living in the Middle East. It’s not any scarier than being outside the Toyota Center in downtown Houston after a really bad Rockets’ game. So, no, I’m not afraid of living here. There are bigger things to be afraid of, even beyond the standards like poisonous snakes, zombies, non-poisonous snakes and overdraft charges.

I recently found out that my high school English teacher reads my column every week (online at http://www.TheSourceWeekly.com). There are few things that strike more terror in the heart of writer like me than that! I’m one big, bumbling, improperly punctuated run-on sentence fragment after another! All this time I’ve held the belief that my tens of readers never venture past the first couple of sentences before skipping over to the used car ads further back in the paper.

Now I lay awake at night knowing that there is a perfectly wonderful, retired educator out there banging her head on a table wondering where, oh where, did she go so terribly wrong! (My sincerest apologies, Miss Darling, but if I’d pursued something with numbers, like accounting, we’d have countless former math teachers on suicide watch. You understand, right?)

You know what else is scary? Snuggie blankets are scary. What kind of mind control has this company used to convince so many Americans to crawl into a fuzzy body bag that looks like a human cocoon with sleeves rather than just turning the thermostat up a couple of degrees? What if there’s a fire or you have a heart attack while wearing your snuggie? I’d be terrified to have emergency response personnel charge into my house to find me half dead in a snuggie.

Multiply that snuggie fear factor by 40 because they have snuggies for dogs, too. Making your dog wear a snuggie is an abuse prohibited under the Geneva Convention on Prisoner’s Rights. Let me be the voice for those who cannot speak: Take the snuggie off the dog.

Personally, I think drawn on eyebrows are scary in an unnaturally surprised kind of way. Pit bulls are scary; I don’t care what anyone says about them having bad press. Rutabagas are scary, because what are they really and who eats them? With all of these real fears out there, who has time to worry about the Middle East?

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Driving Out Evil

Push the seven deadly sins aside! Forget about unspeakable crimes against mankind! Iran, Iraq and North Korea are no longer the Axis of Evil! The true source of evil among us has officially been declared … women drivers. According to the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, the matter of women driving cars must be “considered from the perspective of protecting society from evil.” HA! I knew it!

It’s not just annoying to have some woman in front of you at the intersection putting on mascara long after the light has turned green, it’s a portal for pestilence. Giggly girls gabbing on the cell phone instead of paying attention to traffic is eroding the moral fiber of humanity. And don’t even get me started on the eternal damnation we are all being condemned to because women don’t know how to change the oil, check the tire pressure or use a turn signal! All of which is easily avoided by simply prohibiting women from driving. Can I get a kumbaya and an amen from the balcony?

You may recall that our friend, Mr. Abdullah al-Sheikh is the same guy who pointed out that driving would damage women’s ovaries as an argument about allowing them to drive earlier this year. I’m barely coping with the shock and dismay of the reproductive ramifications I’ve inflicted upon myself from years of Toyota time and now I have to accept that my car keys have unlocked uncounted evil into the world. It’s almost too much to bear.

I’m not completely sure that the most senior cleric’s words are getting past the veils of the Saudi women and soaking into their heads, because the push for the right to put the pedal to the metal continues. It obviously wasn’t enough for them this past spring that they were finally given the right to ride a bicycle in public. As long as it was only for entertainment. In a park. If they’re accompanied by a male relative. And dressed in the full abaya and veil. Okay, a burkha on a bike is going to be entertainment no matter which way you look at it, but a burkha in a BMW is a whole new kettle of fish.

saudi bikeIf the protests continue and the issue is pressed, I can only expect the Sheikh to tack on another terror. Global warming, the failure of ObamaCare, Honey BooBoo … yup, all because somewhere there are women driving!

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SMACKDOWN: Flies v Mosquitoes

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Texas (where I’m from) and Saudi Arabia (where I live) have a lot of things in common. Texas has big, wide-open spaces. Saudi Arabia has big, wide-open spaces. Texas has its share of crazy people in its government, and so does Saudi Arabia. Texas and Saudi Arabia both have a lot of oil. Texas has mosquitoes that will drive you to drink. But this is where it splits. Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a lot of mosquitoes (which may explain why they don’t drink), but they do have flies. And the flies can make you nuts.

In the late summer on the Texas coast when the mosquitoes are being blown in off the salt grass in clouds, you always have a plan of defense. You can spray yourself in Teflon Off, fog your yard, stay inside, wear long sleeves, and if one lands on you, you smack the little bugger. Game over. You always have sense of superiority over the mosquito; feel that you go into it with an advantage.

It’s not that easy with these flies. These flies are smart. They know our weaknesses and how to push our buttons. I’m suspicious that they might even have the super power of invisible cloaking, because as soon as you try to hunt one down with a flyswatter to slaughter it, it disappears. Only to reemerge when you put the flyswatter down.

Once a fly has zeroed in and targeted you for torture, it has a one track mind. You can’t just shoosh it away, it won’t go. If you go to another room, city, part of the world, know that the fly will go with you. It’s like a virus.

In an effort to get the upper hand, I got online to learn more about my enemy. I’ve narrowed the perpetrators down to Blow Flies. Overall annoying, but harmless according to several websites. Unless they lay their eggs in your nose while you’re sleeping. Suddenly, I’m thinking West Nile, Malaria and Dengue Fever aren’t really so bad. Not when you compare it to having a newly born nursery of blow flies crawling out of your nasal openings.

After learning this, I’ve made some important changes in my life here in the Kingdom. I’ve become a ninja when it comes to hunting and killing flies now. As part of my new ninja training, I’m able to sleep with one eye open. And I’ve learned to appreciate mosquito bites. 

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Behind the Veil/Behind the Wheel

Saudi-women-driving-e1306394424637Stand back, my ovaries could explode. Okay, maybe not right this second because I’m safely sitting in my office chair. However, should I get into the driver’s seat of any car and actually operate a moving vehicle, I could be seriously damaging my ovaries. And it’s not just me, this applies to every woman who drives. You think I’m kidding, but this is the gospel truth because Shaikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan, one of Saudi Arabia’s top conservative clerics said so. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know for sure, but I think he said it in total seriousness and without laughing. So it’s has to be true.

According to Mr. Saad al-Lohaidan, women who drive are posing a serious risk to damaging their ovaries and bearing children with “clinical problems.” I’ve been driving for the past 35 years. Considering you can’t get anywhere in Texas without driving a long way, that’s a whole lot of driving. My ovaries probably look like a 10-car Katy Freeway pile-up on Monday morning. However, it does explain a lot of things about my kids, like why my 14-year old can’t put his dishes in the dishwasher or take out the trash. Obviously, I drove him to these shortcomings! I can now only blame myself. And Toyota.

Truth be told (although why start now?), this statement was made in an effort to keep the status quo here in the Kingdom that women are not allowed by law to drive. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with that law. Women are legally permitted to own the car, but just not drive it. Don’t get too upset, now: They can pilot an airplane. They just need someone to give them a ride to the airport.

Come October 26th, though, there may be a few more pink Cadillac’s cruising the highways and camel trails of the desert, because the word on the streets is that the girls are grabbing the keys and protesting the ban. The idea is to drive the men crazy until they let the women drive cars. Makes sense, but it could mean a hefty fine and even jail time, so they’ve been told by the Sheikh to put “reason ahead of their hearts, emotions and passions.”

And really! Think of your ovaries and your unborn children, ladies! Womb before Wheels! Kiddies before Keys! It makes perfect sense. At least I guess it must make sense to Shaikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan. But lets see what he thinks after October 26th!

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Lizard Invasion

My office has been invaded by lizards. I’m not talking about those cute little chameleon lizards that drop their tails off or turn brown to avoid discovery. I’m talking more about the Gila monster type of lizard. Think Godzilla. Living in my office. It’s not okay.
My office here in Saudi Arabia is a small room off the back of the garden that was probably used by a previous owner to ferment grapes. Now, it’s used to ferment this column. Or it was until the invasion of the giant reptiles. I think they get in using the gap at the bottom of the door. My explanation for the gap is that the lizards rented a chain saw and created it. When I went back in there after being gone for several weeks, I found one sitting in my chair and another on my computer monitor. It’s like they’d been having parties in there, lizard beer cans and half eaten flies all over the place. They didn’t run away, either. They asked me where the fermented grapes went and if I could turn the AC back up.
If you could get a rope around the neck of one of these fat boys, you could ride him to the river then use him for bait to catch Shamu or Jaws or Moby Dick. What’s worse, I think they’re in cahoots with a black widow spider that’s set up her den of doom under the desk. She may actually be the mastermind of the whole operation. You can’t trust spiders.
You can, however, go forward in the confidence that I am not going in there to serve the eviction notice. I have married one man and birthed two more for the very reason that I would never have to clean up vomit or deal with spiders, lizards, snakes, roaches, or rodents. I sent them in armed with a broom, a shoe box holding cell for transport during deportation and, just in case things got out ugly, the vacuum cleaner.
Thankfully, the lizards seem to surrender peaceably. Although, that kind of makes me nervous. It was almost too easy. It’s 112 degrees outside, and I’m the only thing standing between them and air conditioning. Sure, they’re reptiles, but it wouldn’t take long outside for them to be fried reptile taco filling. Why do I suddenly feel like the hapless blonde in a drunken zombie lizard apocalypse movie? You know, now that I think about it, maybe I can work in the house.
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