Friday, December 24, 2010

Let's Walk

Last night was possibly one of the most fun nights I've had since arriving in Saudi Arabia. And I spent it with high schoolers. This is either a sign that I have an unhealthy need to be 18 again, or proof that the students at my school are such cool, interesting creatures and I love hanging out with them. If nothing else, last night proved that teenagers are the same all around the world.

Our hostesses were three 12th-grade girls who are in my colleague's Global Issues class. They are truly remarkable young women with amazing aspirations and insight. Anyway, they took us to this "resort" that is just down the coast from where the Mister and I live. I think at home we would probably call it a country club, because this resort just basically consists of villas and suites that people can buy or rent, there are a few restaurants, a spa, a marina. What makes it so much like a country club is in order to get on to the property, you either have to own a villa, or know a member and be on their frequent visitors list. There is a screening process to become a member and, as one of our hostesses says, "Only fun people are allowed here. The very conservative are not allowed."

It's a Saudi pleasure island!

Abayas and hijab are optional. Teenagers are allowed to mix, within reason. There are jet skis for rent, a women-only beach where the ladies can wear whatever swim wear they want, a water park, and a work-out facility that overlooks the water. It really was an amazing place that felt like a whole different country, but it was right down the road!

So when we arrived, the girls showed us around the center of the resort where all the teenagers hang out. It's this area next to the marina with an ice cream shop, a '50s diner, and a coffee shop.

A "Friends" themed coffee shop. Unfortunately, the only thing Friends-y about it was the fact that it served coffee, and it played episodes on a big flat-panel TV behind the pastries. I was really hoping it would be a replica of the Central Perk, but no luck.

Anyway, the thing to do when one goes to this resort is to walk--promenade, really. The teenagers literally just do laps around this little shopping area while their parents get a table at the patio of one of the restaurants. My colleague and I laughed when the girls told us about this custom, but then I realized that this is just a different version of what teenagers do at home. Instead of a mall, they have this little...area where they can strut their stuff. And because it's in this resort, they can also show off their outfits and cute accessories.

They're technically still not allowed to mingle freely. The boys aren't allowed to stop and flirt with the girls, but they can stop and talk to their cousins or siblings.

So we sat and had dinner on the patio like old folks and then one of the girls asked if we wanted to take a lap. "You bet we do!" was our response.

I have never felt so cool in my life! This is definitely one difference between American teens and Saudi teens. It was so cool and not horrifyingly embarrassing for these girls to be seen with their teachers on a Thursday night. We of course ran in to a lot of my students, and they were thrilled to see me!

At one point, we rounded the corner and a beautiful young lady with sandy brown curly hair exclaimed, "Oh my God! HI! What are you doing here?!" as she kissed my cheeks and hugged me lightly. "Hi! So funny to see you here! How are you?" I responded congenially, and that was it. We were on our way. After she was out of earshot, I admitted to my company that I had no idea who that child was! She wasn't one of my students, and I don't think I've ever seen her in the halls! But she certainly knew me!

Anyway, after we did our lap, we went --wait for it--BOWLING!

This was Sandra's bowling name. The other names were "TheHijabHottie," "KSAKiller," and "Lois Lane."

They only have bowling alleys on the compounds or at resorts like this, so it's an actual treat, not an ironically hipster thing to pretend to enjoy like at home. It was such a small bowling alley, only about 6 lanes, and we were the only people there without children of our own accompanying us, but we had so much fun!

Sandra, my colleague, had the idea to change the "rules" each time we went up to bowl.

One time we had to sit on the floor and send the ball down the lane. Isn't it funny to see someone in the abaya bowling? Such a fun combination of East and West.

Another time we had to stand backwards and launch the ball.

It was a lot of fun and certainly spiced up a game that these girls probably haven't played since they were in middle school.

After taking another lap or two, and stopping for tea at Friends, we called it a night. We were told that our being sighted at the resort would be all the girls would talk about on Saturday. Too bad we won't be there to bask in the glory of our fame.

Vicariously yours,

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