Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fun at the Park

Today, I told the kids they had to get used to the 105 F (41 C) temperatures- because as far as I can tell, it won't be much better till October - so they headed out across the street to the park.  The playground area has a sandy base which is perfect if you have sand toys and water.  We had neither.  Next to the playground, however, is a school and in the school yard is a wonderful play area built on a more rubbery surface with a tent-like covering that stretches across the whole area.  The shaded area was perfect.  Until after they had taken a trip or two down the slide.  My nice, clean kids were now coated with a layer of desert dust the play equipment had acquired!

A couple of workers were in the school yard and came over with a hose offering to wash the play equipment down for us.  We readily agreed.  The fun began with toes testing the water as it flowed from the hose laying on the ground.  Then one of the workers picked up the hose and sprayed the roof over the slide and the water dispersed like rain.  Caitlynn and Ben raced up the steps to catch the spray as is came down.  Soon the workers were aiming the hose directly at the kids who squealed in delight.  Of course the slides had to be washed too, and what better way to do it than with a couple of kids zooming down while the workers aimed the hose straight down the slide!  (I could be mistaken, but I think the workers were having just as much fun as the kids!)

Perhaps it's not too hot to play outside.  If you're in the shade.  In a park. And happen to have some fun-loving  workers with a water hose nearby!

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Before we came, we were advised by a few people that Kent had met that the kids and I should stay in the US until after the month of Ramadan.  Well, we're here and now we really understand why!  For Muslims, this is a special time of year when they fast from sunrise to sunset.  It is also a month of celebration for what they have and of charitable giving to those who may not have as much.  Because of the fast during daytime hours, most stores are closed until just before the fast breaks and daytime work hours are sometimes reduced or postponed into the late evening hours.  For example, one of the AC units that cools our house had a compressor that quit working.  The workers showed up one night with the new compressor at 7pm, informed us that they had to go eat, and came back to work a few hours later.  They worked until 2am!  Activities last night at Discovery Square (our market area) didn't even begin until 10pm and the malls in Jeddah are closed all day and open all night!  A lot of expats here leave the compound during Ramadan, so there are not a lot of people here.  Since we're new and trying to meet people, that's a little tough.

In addition to Ramadan, it is hot and humid here so people are just not outside during the day.  I'm writing this at 11pm and it is still 33 degrees Celsius (equal to 91 degrees Fahrenheit).  My weather app says it "feels like 41 degrees Celsius" - or almost 106 degrees!  Ben, Whitney, and Caitlynn all went to "summer camp" at the recreation center this past week mainly so they would have a chance to meet and play with other kids - a plan that worked out well.

We are enjoying it here, though, despite the heat and unusual hours that people keep this time of year.  Kent took me out for a Sunset Cruise on the Red Sea for my birthday.  It was just a short 1 hour cruise with a small group, but it is really was beautiful.  A couple of people in the group are divers and they both told us they had seen dolphins on some of their diving expeditions.  Tonight, for a family night out we went to the rec center and some of us played on the climbing wall while others tried to master ping pong and pool.  I beat Kent in pool the very first time I played him!  (Kent - you are not allowed to comment on that game!)  He creamed me the second time though - I don't even think I got a single ball in a pocket!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

First Week for Barbara and the Kids

Although Kent has been here since the end of May, the kids and I just arrived this week.  We left Phoenix, AZ on a Wednesday morning and flew to Chicago where we transferred to Etihad Airways, flew to Abudabi and then on to Jeddah.  Etihad was equipped with personal TV screens on the back of each seat.  The kids could each choose their own movies (The Lorax was the most popular choice), watch TV shows or play a variety of games using the controller attached to the seat.  Total airplane time was 20 hours plus another 10 hours in layovers.  Adding to that the travel time to the airport in Phoenix and the from Jeddah to our new home at KAUST - it was a VERY long trip!  At least we didn't travel by boat - the stuff we sent by boat May 15th has still not arrived!

The kids finally sleep at night again and play during the day.  Last night, we enjoyed a fun family night of bowling and eating out at the square.  They give free bowling instruction if you ask them and the price per game and for shoes is super cheap.  It's 2 Riyals per game and if you divide that by the exchange rate of 3.75 it comes out to be 53 cents a game.  The shoes are only 3 Riyals - still under a US dollar.  Burger King has the standard fair.  Yes, my kids are still ordering chicken strips even after all this traveling.  The ice cream cones are 1 Riyal - or a little over a quarter in American money.  It makes a pretty cheap family night!

Kent and I were brave enough to eat a little different.  Here, the "fast food" staples are "shawarma" and "martabak".  The spelling of these foods can vary.  Shawarma has thinly sliced meat wrapped in pita bread with veggies and sauce.  I had one on the way home from Jeddah the other day and found it a little dry.  I imagine it's like hamburgers in the US though - there's probably a lot of variation in the way they are prepared and in the way they taste.  I'll have to try it again.  Martabak is sort of like a stuffed pancake.  The dough is rolled round and paper thin and it can be stuffed with all kinds of foods.  For dinner I had a chicken martabak which turned out to be a little milder than Kent's lamb.  For dessert we had banana martabak, which I had previously tried on my trip home from Jeddah.  The banana martabak tastes a lot like banana bread and custard.  Neither Kent or I were completely enamored with the chicken or lamb versions, but I really like the banana one.  Check out the left sidebar if you're interested in seeing how these foods are made.

My shopping trip to Jeddah was a little disappointing.  I was hoping to find a few home goods such as coat hangers, bathroom items, and a mattress topper (my bed came with an EXTRA firm mattress - I thought I was sleeping on the box springs!)  I found the prices high and the selection low and if I had to do it over again I would bring more of these items with me.  Shower curtains, toothbrush holders, soap dispensers, bath room rugs and such are all inexpensive with tons of variety in the US, but here they are cheap in appearance but not in price.  Traffic in Jeddah is insane.  I wouldn't drive there even if I could!  At the supermarket on campus  today, I noticed a large sign reminding drivers that a red traffic light means to stop - always!  Apparently drivers here consider it just a suggestion!