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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Google Workshop and Tamimi Market - Day 4 in Saudi Arabia

This morning I woke up at 5 (!) and swam in the pool for a half hour. It was really nice and I was proud of myself for getting up and moving that early. I was able to swim and get ready for school by 6:30, so if the rumor that the early bus leaves at 6:30 is true, I’ll be all set. If it’s actually at 6, well I’ll need to go to plan B - working out in the evening. That’s probably the most logical since there really isn’t much to do after school around here besides take a trip to the grocery store. I just don’t like working out in the afternoon/evening as much as the morning. I like starting my day with that - it’s the first accomplishment of many (hopefully). 

So at 6:30 I was up, dressed, and had no where to go since the bus wasn’t coming until 10. Haha. I puttered around on my computer, luckily internet was working great. Around 10 I went over to where the bus has been picking us up, but no one was there. A fellow teacher friend saw me so I hung out in her apartment for about 15 minutes and showed her a bit of Google Drive. A few other teacher friends came by also because none of us knew where the bus was. Finally we got the announcement that the bus had been parked by another house. :P So we were a bit late to school today, though it didn’t matter. 

The first order of business was to download a bunch of items to our new Airs - Firefox, Adobe Flash Player, VLC, Adobe Reader, and most importantly Google Chrome. The assistant principal had to leave us for a few minutes so I got to be the tech guru for my fellow teachers. I’m very glad I gotten used to my Mac and knew what I was doing so I could help them. When the assistant principal returned we launched into an overview of the Google applications the school encourages us to use. These included Mail, Calendar, and Drive. I’m quite familiar with all of them so it was just a refresher for me, though I did learn about “Labs” and added some new things to my Gmail. I don’t have my school login information yet so I followed along on my personal Gmail. It seems like Calendar will be very helpful in booking rooms, setting up meetings, and coordinating events. Also, Drive is great for saving files and I learned how to convert an uploaded file that you’d normally just be able to read/view into an editable format. Overall it was a great introduction/refresher workshop. I continue to be impressed by the awesomeness of Google. 

After that we were all itching for something to eat. The MS/HS counselor stopped by to meet us and she offered to come with us to lunch and then shopping at Tamimi. We tried to figure out if we’d be able to avoid prayer time but eventually chose to just hope we'd get to Tamimi before they close for prayer. (It changes everyday by a few minutes. You can get an app that keeps you updated on the prayer times.) We drove into the fancy new touristy area of Jubail (“New Jubail”) near where we’d gone to Chili’s. The restaurant let us in and immediately led us to a back room where we split our group between two tables. This was the family area and so there were curtains hanging at the sides of the booths that could be closed for privacy. We quickly decided that we felt claustrophobic with them closed, plus we couldn’t talk across to each other. I noticed that there was even a separate door at the back of the family room so that women could enter without going through the singles (aka “single men”) area at all. A few of us mentioned how it feels almost like we are being put in a corner out of sight, and I’ve noticed that the wait staff seem very slow when we are seated far away (or maybe that’s just the local places are slow and chains are fast - TBD). Perhaps they forget about us. 

Anyway, we ordered food that our new guide suggested. She told us about her time at our compound and a bit about her life. We talked about the school culture and general age of the teachers (FYI - older than me). I ordered chicken shawarma and it was pretty good chicken. The strange thing was it was just chicken in a tortilla-like flat bread. No sauce, cooked onions, tomato - just grilled chicken cut from the rotating tower. It was quite cheap though, which is always nice. I also got lemon mint as a drink, which was basically the same drink we’d ordered last night at the other restaurant, but with mint. It was very refreshing. 

After our late lunch, during which prayer happened, we went to Tamimi Market. I learned that it is actually Safeway, just called Tamimi here. We arrived just as they were reopening after prayer - yay! That is actually a good time to come because the store is empty so you don’t have to zip around people. I’d made a master shopping list yesterday so this was my big stock-up shopping trip. I actually got almost everything on my list, and nothing I’m missing is essential right now. I’m still getting used to converting the prices in my head and just have to remember a few benchmarks to help me decide if something costs too much. Also, two items I picked up didn’t have prices. I was surprised when I added up my prices before checking out: 322 SAR = $82. Of course that was without the prices of those two unknowns. My final cost was 398 SAR = $106. Once again, I’m quite pleased with the amount of stuff I brought for that price. I shouldn’t have to go food shopping again for about 2 weeks, and many of the items I bought are permanent/semi-permanent household things (spatula, welcome mat, face wash, aluminum foil). Tamimi has a good selection, and I found a lot of familiar brands. For example - Peter Pan, Nutella, Chex, Heinz, Gillette, Babybel, Marie Callender’s, and Goldfish. Oh and Weet-bix. (Yuck!)

One thing I’m looking forward to is shopping for abayas. The one I have now is a spare from the school and basically the issue is that I’m petite and it’s long. Especially when I’m driving a shopping cart, it sometimes gets stuck under the wheels. I hope I can buy one off that rack that fits better and maybe even has some beading on the wrists and/or hem (purple, of course). Getting a custom-made abaya would be awesome, but that might have to be a birthday present to myself. 

This evening I tried to help a fellow teacher friend with her internet connection, but it still didn’t work. We gave up and went to the gym for a bit of extra exercise (we’d both swam earlier). The gym is still subpar but at least it has a TV. The treadmill is quite old and I could feel the pieces rotating under my feet. Apparently they are for “walking only”; probably too old to handle running. 

I have so much flat bread and hummus in my fridge that I need to eat it up in the near future. Maybe for lunch tomorrow… Teacher work week starts Tuesday! :)

Happy teaching and traveling, 



  1. lol, Safeway. It would have been even more ironic/funny if it turned out to be Food Lion in disguise!