Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wait, you mean we'll have to actually do for ourselves?!

I've been writing a lot of homesick-sounding posts lately. It is true, the Mister and I are excited to head West for the summer. There's nothing quite like the modern conveniences of home. But despite all the complaining I've done lately, there are a few things about living in Saudi Arabia that will make eventually moving back home a little difficult.

The Mister and I hardly do anything for ourselves anymore. This country is chock-a-block full of Southeast Asian migrant workers who work for less money and in much worse conditions than their Central American counterparts in the States. They are always looking to make an extra buck, and lucky for them, Saudis and their expat neighbors are l-a-z-y!

We don't have to take our groceries out to our car anymore. We just go shopping, get the cart loaded up for us by a nice Indian worker, and then a Bangladeshi or Indonesian man meets us at the door and takes over. We usually tip the guy SAR 5 ($1.15), and you'd think we'd just made his week!

We don't have to wash our car anymore (although, our parents would say we never washed it all that much to begin with). There's a Bangladeshi guy in the neighborhood who comes around once a week, sometimes more, to return our dusty car to a lovely shine. He always appears after dark, so we assume he comes from his job as a street cleaner. I'm sure he works long days all week. We are glad to have him around and try to give him more than the $13 a month he charges us, but he won't accept it.

It seems Saudi Arabia has taken a nod from New Jersey labor laws and doesn't allow the public to pump its own gas. There's a gas attendant at every station ready to fill 'er up. Unlike New Jersey, however, I don't think Saudi Arabia has this custom is an effort to decrease the Saudi unemployment rate. A true Saudi wouldn't be caught dead doing this job, so the migrant Asian workers get to sit outside in the summer heat and wait for patrons instead! They make creative use of their time. I once saw a modified cricket match being held in the parking lot of a gas station during the prayer break. They were using a water bottle as the ball, and a plastic pipe as the bat.

The Mister and I haven't taken advantage of this service, but we constantly see McDonald's, Burger King, KFC and other fast food delivery cars on the streets of our neighborhood dropping off orders. Yes, you heard me right. In Saudi Arabia, you don't even have to go through the drive-thru. The drive-thru comes to you!!

Another service the Mister and I can't justify taking advantage of is having a house boy. Although, to hear some of the locals talk, we're suffering through the toils of housework for no reason! I once was describing to a co-worker what our living arrangements were like and she said, "Do you have someone who helps you clean all that?" (keep in mind that we only have a 3 bedroom apartment and only one of the bedrooms is actually in use)

"My husband," I replied.

"What?! You don't have to do that! There are people that will clean your house for you! And they're cheap!" she exclaimed, reaching out for my hand as if this was some sort of intervention.

Some of the other American workers do hire the services of an Asian migrant worker looking to make an extra few riyals. But they have large villas, and children to make a mess. For anywhere between $26 and $106 a month, my colleagues get a guy who comes once a week (or more in some cases) to do the dishes, mop the floors, iron clothes and do any other odd jobs they ask. A fantastic luxury that would be significantly more expensive back home!!

In many regards, the Mister and I are very spoiled over here. We're able to travel to places we could never afford on our salaries back home, we have a wonderful apartment and great co-workers. We're homesick for the familiarity of the States, but life over here is definitely just fine!!

Vicariously yours,

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