So I will attempt to tell you about my Wednesday as best I can.
I am serving on a committee that plans an annual conference for literacy teachers in the Middle East. It has been dubbed "the #1 reading conference in the region." ...mostly because it's the only reading conference in the region, but that's neither here nor there.
Anyway, the meeting for the TARA committee was in Aramco this week, so I hitched a ride with my colleague and her driver and we headed to the camp. I really enjoy her driver because he's such a kind soul and I think he enjoys carting us around because we treat him more like an equal rather than "the help."
As we were entering the Aramco camp, he was talking about how Aramco "is having very strict" rules. "You can have no going too fast, always stopping at lights, and most important is the no talking on the mobile. That is very bad." We chuckled to ourselves at these "very strict" rules that are just considered "good driving habits" at home.
We registered at the Visitors Gate and followed another TARA committee member to our meeting location. At one point, we had to turn left without the assistance of a traffic light or stop sign. Normally in Saudi Arabia this means a driver guns it across and hopes the other cars stop in time, but we were in Aramco. Our driver came to a rolling stop and inched his way very slowly into the oncoming traffic. Thankfully they were slowing because they were approaching the gate through which we'd just passed, but it was still a little scary because our driver didn't have the right-of-way.
My colleague and I whimpered in the back seat and our driver reassured us by saying, "In Aramco we don't driving rough." I laughed at the fact that for him, not driving rough meant to slowly break the laws of driving.
Despite the fact that we were following a TARA committee member who has lived and worked on the Aramco camp for over 25 years, we got lost trying to find the house where Wednesday night's meeting was being held. While most of our driver's passengers would get mad at him over a situation he could not control, my colleague and I thought it was hilarious. We twisted and turned on the back roads of the camp, back-tracking when we reached dead-ends or circling back and going against traffic when we got to the wrong intersection. While we were hooting with laughter in the back seat, our driver was trying to figure out why this woman who was supposed to be acquainted with the camp was so lost.
"I think she is having many years," he said. At first I thought he was expressing his confusion at her lack of familiarity with her own neighborhood. Then he said, "She is almost having sixty-years, I think."
That only made me laugh harder! "What, are you trying to say she's lost because she's too old to drive?!" I asked between snorts.
"No! No, ma'am!" our driver laughed. "No, I am having almost 60 years in 20 years time."
We eventually made it to our meeting, and after a couple hours our driver was back to take us home. We also gave one of the guys on the committee a lift home, but mine was the first house on the route. As we approached my street, I asked our newest passenger if he knew the name of the mosque that's a block away from my house. I was hoping he would know so I could use it as a landmark when giving people directions. Our driver slowed down so we could all strain our necks to see if there was a sign with the name of the mosque on it.
"I think it is called 'mosque,'" our driver said sincerely.
The back seat exploded with laughter.