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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Settling into a Routine and Authentic Food - Day 3 in Saudi Arabia

This morning was our day off, but I decided I wanted to try out the pool in the morning so I woke up at 5:30 and took a morning swim with the sunrise. It was surprisingly light out when I went outside at that time, and the water was very nice, I had the whole pool to myself. I hope I’ll be able to get into a routine of swimming or working out regularly. The gym on the compound is pretty sparse. It does have equipment, and a TV, but no elliptical and the stuff it does have seems pretty old. We’ll see. 

After my morning swim I finished unpacking. I finally put away all the clothes that had been in my 65 lb. suitcase and discovered that the plastic around one of the wheels was broken. I didn’t notice it until now so I have no clue when or how it happened, but it just kind of sucks because that was a brand new suitcase. Oh well, guess that’s what $50 on Amazon gets you. My next major move won’t be for a few years so I’ll just get a new suitcase before then. New trip, new suitcase it seems. Also, I still need hangers! You can only buy packs of about 5 hangers, but they are cheap. Guess I’ll stop by Panda sometime this coming week.

About our drivers: Since women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi our school has contracted bus drivers to take us around wherever we need to go. The drivers are really nice and know the area very well; it’s great having them help us. Also, they do at least two runs to the school in the morning and I’d guess two in the afternoon to transport us female teachers. The school is a 10-15 min drive away so we definitely need that transport. I’m glad they make an early run because I think I’d like to be at the school early to get organized and be sure I have all my materials. 

Since we had the morning off the bus didn’t come until noon. Then we piled in, checking that we all had our abayas in hand, and went to school. First order of business was to configure our MacBook Airs with the tech team. I got mine set up for use in the school and I have to say, I’m becoming a fan of Mac. I like how my Pro and Air can talk to each other. :) Now I just need my iPhone unlocked…

I had some time while the tech team helped my colleagues, so I visited my room and put out the things I’d brought across the ocean to use in my classroom (books I love too dearly, cool science stuff, tangram pieces, etc.). My principal came in to hang out and he was happy to find that the AC was now working (it had been a bit toasty yesterday). He said we were going to have a group meeting around 2 so I had some time before I needed to return to the conference room. I decided to wander around the interior of the school, just to get more familiar with where different grades were and important rooms (restrooms, gym, library, etc.). We met in the conference room and the principal and assistant principal gave us a general introduction to the district, school goals and vision, and other basic information. We’ll be diving into more during work week. 

After the meeting we were all starting to get hungry, so our principal suggested a place downtown. We hopped on the bus (I almost forgot my abaya at school, :P) and went to India Gate restaurant. Unfortunately it wasn’t open until 6 (it was 4:40pm). We drove through downtown, which seemed to be where a lot of immigrant workers live, and got a good view of authentic Jubail - all kinds of shops with apartments above them. It was like any other city center other than the fact that I didn’t see many, if any, women. Probably because of multiple factors - weekend, evening, immigrant area. (Many immigrant workers are here alone and send money home to their families.) Our principal has said that Saudi is very safe, supposedly because crime is so bad for your reputation, so it isn’t actually an unsafe area. As with traveling anywhere, it’s just better to be in a group or with a friend. Anyway, we tried to go to another restaurant but they didn’t have a family area, which we needed because we were a co-ed group. (We also realized that’s probably a major reason why we’ve been taken to eat at chain restaurants - they are guaranteed to have family areas.) Our driver walked up and down the block and ended up finding us a place that had a family area we could eat in. (Our driver is awesome!) The waiter took us upstairs and into a back corner room.  We had the whole area to ourselves. 

Two of my fellow teachers had taught in Bahrain years ago so they suggested dishes we should try. We ordered family style - ordering items for the group to share. It was authentic Middle Eastern food. Everything was quite good though I wasn’t as big a fan of these dolmades (the stuffed grape leaves), they were a bit too sour. We also got lemon waters which were almost like sugarless lemon slushies. They were excellent. We chatted about travel and how we each got our ISG jobs - going to job fairs, having a connection, etc. Most of our group is very well traveled. The average country count was about 30. I’m on the low end with 11! It was a very relaxed meal and I really liked the sharing aspect. We’ll have to try ordering delivery from a place and try sharing at home. 

We returned to the compound in the early evening. Tonight I’ve been working on moving some student teaching files into my Dropbox and fighting with my spotty internet connection. To put it simply, the internet doogle the school provided for use on our personal computers is temperamental. It works great sometimes, and for some people, but it often goes out for me or doesn’t work at all. Each time that I post I just hope that the internet loads enough for me to log in and publish what I’ve written in Pages. I can do most stuff on my Air at school in the next couple of days so it’s not really a big issue, just an annoyance (and everyone knows it’s sucky, but once we have the Iqamas we can get wifi routers and internet will work fine). 

Happy teaching and traveling, 

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