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June 27 - Lisa arrives in Saudi Arabia (Calgary to Amsterdam to Dammam airport)
I was so excited the day of Lisa's arrival. The last time I saw her was Sunday, April 10th when we said goodbye at the airport. I forgot to tell her to get the Saudi guys to help load her luggage onto a cart before customs and I'd pay them once they got out. Instead, she had to load up 3 suitcases and the cat to go through customs. What a trooper! WELCOME LISA!!! Charlie could have cared less to see me - f'n cat.
OK, so what are Lisa's thoughts??
Here's my first official blog posting...I've been asked a few questions - here are some answers...
How were the flights?
Long! Not as bad as I thought. Loving the lay down beds in business class. I really enjoyed the lounge in Amsterdam airport - had showers there to freshen up!
What are your first impressions of Saudi?
What do you like?
Retirement. Loving the lifestyle and travel opportunities. The compound has lots of great activities and I'm looking forward to meeting the ladies once they come back from their summer vacations (many ladies and the kids go home for summer break, June-Sept, to escape the heat). Have met many great people so far!
DRIVING! Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't do cabs well, whether it's at home or on vacation. The drivers here know the rules but choose not to follow them since there are no consequences. For example, there is no apparent speed limit. Another example - if you are at a red light and there are 4 lanes, the one on the left is turning left. The middle two go straight, and the right lane turns right...correct? But not here. Any one of those lanes can turn left at any time. Even if the middle lanes are going straight. Complete shit show! I'm really trying to convince Jeff to take the bus to work - it's free and a heck of a lot safer!
With no hot dogs there, what exactly are you eating?
Potato chips, french fries, chicken. Some pasta. Can't wait to get my visa for our first trip to Bahrain, where I will eat nothing but bacon! I've been able to find many things we're used to back home at the grocery stores. Finding tater tots was like a jackpot for me. The only thing I can't seem to find is crackers for soup. Today I improvised with garlic bread so I'm having to get pretty crafty! We found some microwave popcorn that is sweet kettle corn flavour - DELICIOUS. Also salt n' vinegar Bugles - 2 bags have mysteriously disappeared.
How is the abaya?
I don't mind it at all. I don't have to think about what I'm going to wear when we go out. I may have to get a new one since mine may not be the best material for summer. It traps the heat in. I've seen some pretty fancy abayas that make my black one seem plain so maybe I'll get a fancy one.
Do you feel safe there?
Yes I do. Driving is by far the biggest worry I have over here. My biggest worry when we're out is that I don't want to break a rule. For example, I was walking around with a water bottle during Ramadan while Muslims were fasting. I don't want to offend someone.
I'm going to leave the compound for my first time without Jeff tomorrow, as I need to apply for my Iqama so I can also get my visa. Jeff is working, so I'll take a cab to the closest Aramco compound to get this processed. Might need to be drunk so I can stand the cab ride. Oh, wait...never mind.
Getting excited for our shipments from Canada to arrive so we can personalize our apartment with our things. It will also be nice to get more than 4 sets of cutlery going. And a toaster so I don't need to bake my bread. Our air shipment (4 large boxes) is here and going through customs - should get it this week or next. The sea shipment is floating over here somewhere and will be another month to 3 months away.
Charlie seems to enjoy it here. He's settling in and has probably slept on every chair in the place. He seems to be missing his foster sisters - Mya and Jadee. Thanks again for everything Patelli's.
Ramadan has come to an end
Ramadan has finally ended and we are now finishing the Eid holiday.
For the Muslims, it means they don't have to fast anymore and they now celebrate.
For us, it means we celebrate because we don't have to wait until 6PM to go out for a Starbucks or food.
Everything is back to normal hours.
OK, you have all probably heard that a few radical terrorist groups wanted to perform terror activities throughout Ramadan with many incidents worldwide - Istanbul, Bangladesh, Baghdad, and also 3 suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia. Two were on the west side of Saudi - one in Jeddah and one in Medina. The other was in Qatif, which is halfway between where we live and Ras Tanura where Jeff works (see map below). So much crazy activity all over the world. Most expats we've spoken with say they feel safer here and we've had no issues or worries at all. The Canadian embassy sent us an email right away and said all is good - just be aware, just as you would anywhere else.
How about we try something new where everyone gets along and puts an end to all of this hate?
Enjoying our compound and the beach
Lisa's got a pretty simple routine going...here's the daily ritual:
We do enjoy the weekend days off (Friday and Saturday). Thursday night is the new Friday night for us, so we often visit some friends or hit the pool for evening cocktails.
We've met some very fun friends on our compound as well as some from other compounds...from Texas, Louisiana, UK, Australia, and South Africa. Have met some great 'chemists'. (we can discuss in the Dominican).
A HUGE thanks to Avi for setting us up to be able to stream TSN and watch Rider games. Now if only the TSN schedule maker could cooperate and make games on Thursday and Friday mornings so we could get them Thursday night and Friday night. Oh well - 5AM games are better than nothing at all! 0-2 so far but we are looking stronger and will get better as the season goes along. GO GREEN!
As mentioned, Lisa has not exactly joined the Saudi Driving Fan Club, so our first excursion out of the city (to the beach at Ras Tanura) was on an Aramco bus. Spent the day there and almost died from the heat - so hot and not a lot of shade.
We're getting excited for our upcoming trip to Italy in September - 4 days in Rome, a day trip to Venice with a boat ride in the canal, then a 3 day trip south to Naples, Pompeii, Sorrento, the Amalfi coast, and a trip to the island of Capri. There should be some fantastic awe-inspiring sights, plus some killer pasta and wine! Please send of any "have-to-see" places that you know in these areas! Will post pics and stories for sure. There are rumblings that Jeff may join from Vancouver - that would be awesome!
October/November - Island of Crete in Oct - we are SO excited to see Greece and have some greek ribs, souvlaki, and greek cocktails. Going to be amazing! Still undecided on the Nov trip.
Spring 2017 - T&A Sunglasses Travel Group (Puerto Plata, Feb.14-26)
You can't even imagine how excited we are to get back and see our friends back home. Something is telling us that the February Dominican trip is going to be such a fun reunion. Can't wait to see the executive members, the 'old T&A'ers' and all the new T&A'ers making their maiden voyage with us.
Brace yourselves and make sure to bring tons of fun party gear - sunglasses, mullet wigs, anything goes...well, not that Borat bathing suit Rob.
If you need ideas, just hit the T&A site for pics & videos. Preparation is key.
You will not be disappointed with the resort. 3 resorts together - eat and drink at all of them. Fun, party swim-up bar, great beach bar. Disco club called Pacaa. Rotisserie chicken that is the best we've had. Markets along the beach. Fun excursion road trip to Sosua which is a blast!
Follow the T&A site for more updates from everyone - please check in as you book so we know how much swag to order. See y'all there!
Planning our vacations right now, but will most likely look something like this:
Vacation 1 - looks like Jeff will take June 23-July 20 off.
Lisa will fly out to Ontario a couple weeks before to see her Mom for a week or so first, then we'll meet up in New York for a couple days. Anyone want to join?
Then to Calgary to see some friends, get in some golf, BBQ's, cocktails. Maybe a girls weekend to Anita's cabin, maybe a trip to Saskatchewan to see Jeff's dad.
Then we'll work our way back to Saudi with a pitstop in Europe somewhere for a few days.
Vacation 2 - we have booked off August 28-September 14 ... hoping for an African safari here. Anyone want to join?
More details later...
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa