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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Back to School night, Abaya Shopping, and Pedicures in Khobar

This week's post has a lot of photos, please enjoy.
Overall my teaching week went well. There were a lot of meetings this week after/before school. Monday I taught a pretty informal PD session on Class Dojo to prepare our primary team for Back to School night. Tuesday morning we had a scoring meeting to discuss the writing prompts we'd given to the whole elementary school last week and how to use the rubrics/ find exemplars. Wednesday night was Back to School night so I just decided to stay at school, 7am-8pm. It was a long day but successful and I didn't have any issues with parents, presentation, or anything. I always find that on those days that I stay late I think that I'll be able to get so much done, but in reality I find I'm actually just doing nit-picky things like relabeling student cubbies and book boxes, or calling in tech help to fuss with my computers and Promethean board. I need to remember that I'm much more productive at home after school or when I come into school on a weekend for a whole day. After-school brain at school is just too unfocused.

Thursday was a good school day. I had a student who was on my roster but hadn't come yet show up and the class was excited that this student was here. After school we got free drinks at the coffee shop in the school - basically a treat for being awesome at Back to School night. The plan for Thursday evening was to stay until around 4 then go abaya shopping, food shopping, and out to dinner in Old Jubail town with some teacher friends. Our first major stop was Ladies Street in Old Jubail, which has a lot of clothing shops, perfume stores, and general random item stores (like Kmart). It also has abaya shops.

We stopped at one abaya shop but the abaya I tried on, which while nicely blue and purple, had a high collar that was just a bit too much for me. It was also still long on me. We ducked into a store, Big World, that sold the most random collection of things you could imagine. There was jewelry, stickers, camel trinkets, colored feathers, water pumps, baby food, and more. It was a worth seeing but I only bought a water pump for when I get one of those big blue jugs of water. (The tap here at my compound is probably fine, but the pipes are old and our principal said he didn't drink it. A teaching couple recommended the water jug because that's what they do so I figured I'd try it too since bottled water is pricey and I have soooo many empty plastic bottles and so far have no where to recycle them.)

It was already getting darker around 5:30 when prayer started so we decided to just go straight to dinner. We went to this nice Indian/Chinese restaurant and the food was pretty good. I liked the garlic naan bread best. I also think the Indian plates were better than the Chinese plates, but we all shared the dishes so I got to try a little of everything. Family style is definitely the way to go around here since the appetizers are just awesome. Here's our group at the restaurant after the meal:

Since it was dark by the time we left and two of us still needed abayas, we stopped at another abaya store that was tucked into a hallway off the main Ladies Street. Here I found my new abaya for only 130 SAR (about $35). I'm very happy with it. It's not purple, but the red/maroon and gold works and it actually fits me! I wore it today in Khobar and it was so nice to not have to kick it out of the way to walk. Here it is!

Satisfied and newly abaya-ed, we decided to cancel food shopping plans and just head home. At this point it was probably only 7pm, but it felt much later because it gets dark here very early. (Granted, it gets light at around 4:30am. I'd rather have it be nice and light when I got to school than dark so I'm okay with the odd daylight times.)      

Friday morning I woke up all ready to do a full day's work of planning for the coming week, but I quickly realized I made a dumb mistake: I'd left my planning books at school. I guess that on Thursday I wasn't thinking about bringing things home so I only grabbed some papers to grade, not my planning books. After running through my list of options in my head I decided to just plan for Sunday and take this mistake as the universe telling me to cut myself a break and just enjoy a weekend. I found my math textbook online and laid out my Sunday plans to the point that I was happy with them by early afternoon. Then I relaxed and actually had a weekend day off. It was actually pretty boring.

My Friday afternoon: I moved a large piece of furniture in my house, I thought about putting up my travel photos but then realized my scotch tape was also at school, I ate leftover Indian/Chinese food, and I watched a lot of HIMYM and YouTube. Not surprisingly, by about 5pm I was tried of not being busy so I went for a walk. The temperature has finally become pretty nice, I mean it's still 100-something F, but the humidity is gone and early evening feels perfect by my standards. I wandered to a teacher friend's house and we decided that since we were both bored we should just get the gang together and have a night together. We tracked down one teacher friend on the way to the pool and another at the pool. Later they both came over and the four of us played some games then watched a movie. (We played that game where you write a sentence, pass it, the next person draws a picture to match the sentence, then pass end up with a hilarious, very strange story.) The movie was "Wadjda" and it was filmed here in Saudi Arabia. We watched it through Amazon Prime and it was pretty good.

Today, Saturday, I went down to Khobar on the bus. We (those at my compound) really have the best driver ever. He is so incredibly nice and he's always smiling. Especially after watching "Wadjda", I feel very appreciative of him. It is hard not being able to go out whenever you want, and not only because women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi. Friday is the holy day so almost everything is closed so there isn't much point to leaving the compound. I mean, I was used to taking a bus shopping and budgeting three hours roundtrip, but there's a convenience to being able to walk certain places that is lacking in compound life. For instance when I lived downtown in Harrisonburg I could walk to the bank, post office, various restaurants, and my university campus. Here I need to take a bus everywhere, minus the grocery store on the compound and the not-so-great compound restaurant. It's not impossible to get out and do shopping/banking/etc., but I didn't fully understand that I wouldn't be able to get outside of the compound without booking a bus until I started living it.

Anyway, our driver is awesome and he took us down to Khobar today. Here are some pictures I took from the bus as we were driving in:

I picked up my name necklace and chatted with two expat guys from Texas who were looking at jewelry for their wives and daughters. I really like my necklace, though a guy my friend met at IKEA said they slightly miswrote my name (not enough loops in the "s") but he could still read it so I'm fine with it. I'd really only care if it said "Christine". Here it is: (BTW, I'm on our bus.)

We went to Extra next. Extra is basically Best Buy and it has printers, laptops, cell phones, stereo equipment, appliances, and headphones. Sadly we did not find a CD player for my friend, but my other friend did find a printer. Pics of Extra:

We'd sent our driver to transport another one of our shopping group who was going to the hospital next for an appointment, so we called a cab. This cab driver was one my MS/HS counselor friend uses regularly when she comes down here and he apparently speaks good English. The cab wasn't really a cab, since it was just his white Toyota, but he graciously took us to IKEA and charged us fairly. I still have a thing against cabs anywhere but it wasn't bad. Here is IKEA:

At IKEA we shopped and grabbed lunch. Sadly they don't have Swedish meatballs, only beef or chicken kebabs or hotdogs. I opted for beef kebabs which were decent but not something I'd want to have regularly. Imagine a McDonald's burger patty wrapped in a piece of thin flat bread with some thick-cut onions. My friends shopped a bit but then it was prayer time. Once again I got to hear the call to prayer inside IKEA. The store was packed today - sale or something - so the line to check out was huge. During prayer all transactions stop and it was cool to see everyone in line just waiting patiently for the cashiers to start up again, 20 minutes later. Like I mentioned before, my friend chatted with a guy in line near her and he liked my necklace. He had studied at LSU and was now a drilling engineer. We also ran into several friends of the MS/HS counselor including a guy she hadn't seen for many years. He invited us to come visit next time we are in town and offered to drive us back to Jubail if we ever wanted, saying he goes there a lot for business. Overall super nice and hospitable.

Actually almost all locals I'm had contact with have been incredibly hospitable and nice. I regularly hear "no problem" when I ask for something and I've had cashiers, salesmen, staff members, and driver go out of their way to help me find something, fix something, or carry something. They have also been clearly more patient than American counterparts with the regular stupidity of their customers. For instance, today I pulled my debit card out of the card reader before the transaction had gone through causing it to be declined. After giving me a quizzical look the salesman just asked for my card again and reran the transaction. Another example - a few weeks ago my teacher friends and I didn't know that we had to weigh our fruit and get a sticker on it before coming to the register. The cashier just asked the bagger to go do this for us, which he did quickly and without fuss.

Anyway prayer ended, the line opened and by the time my friend had checked out we were late for our next event. We hopped on the bus and rushed over to our nail appointment at this beauty salon, Prima Dona. It was nice to be pampered and I'd never had a pedicure before so it was an adventure. I choose a super bright purple color which is actually not terribly bright now that it's on my toenails and not in the bottle. My friends got more conservative colors, haha. Here are my newly pampered feet/toes:

After that we stopped for a quick small cone at Baskin Robins (7 SAR, about $2), picked up the rest of the shopping group, and drove on back to Jubail. All I've done since getting home around 4 is watch HIMYM, check over my Sunday plans, and make dinner - spaghetti with tomato sauce.

One more note about abayas: Yes black holds heat, but the material of the abaya is (I think) a thin polyester so they aren't that hot, even in 100F. Also they are loose so air moves them easily, and there is usually a decent breeze here. Finally, they are generally very comfortable and you don't have to worry about how your clothes look/are positioned because you have a large black gown overtop of them. I wouldn't say I'm a fan of abayas, but at least now that I have one that I like and that fits me, I'm not opposed to wearing it when I go out in public.

That's all for now. Tomorrow is the start of a new work week so I better get to bed. Enjoy the photos!

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