Sunday, November 20, 2011

Featured Photo: Happy Thanksgiving!

We went shopping for our Thanksgiving food supplies after school today. We found just about everything we needed, even the slippery jellied cranberry sauce. I especially liked the categorization our local grocer decided to use when finding a shelf for the seasonal item.

Vicariously yours,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It gets lonely out here

Do you know what your parents were like before they started having kids? Have you ever thought about it? Who were their friends? Where did they hang out? Do they still stay in touch with their friends from high school? From college?

One time, when I was a little kid, my family took a road trip to Memphis. I don't remember why Memphis was our destination of choice. In fact, I don't remember a whole lot about that trip. But I do remember us stopping at the house of an old friend of my dad's. This man was my dad's college roommate. I think he even came to my parents' wedding. I had never heard of this guy before in my short life (I think I was 9 or 10 at the time). I can't remember his name, so let's call him Roger.

Roger was a nice guy. He had kids, and they, my sister, and I played in his back yard while my parents caught up with their old friend and his wife. After a while, I was bored. Being the selfish child that I was, I kept asking when we were going to leave. I think at one point my mom said, "Your dad doesn't get to see Roger very often, so we're going to stay a little longer." Or something to that effect.

I remember thinking, "Doesn't see him very often!? I've never even heard of this guy before today! He must not be that important if Daddy doesn't even talk about him any more!"

Now that I'm a grown up and living very far from home, I understand. I'm sure Roger was one of my dad's closest friends in college. The fact that he possibly scored an invitation to my parents' small wedding is an indicator of his position in my dad's young life. But after college they had moved apart. They began families. Staying in touch became a chore.

I'm sure Roger stayed in the back of my dad's mind from time to time. He was probably one of those people that popped into my dad's head and made him think, "I hope Roger's doing well. He was a fun guy."

Living so far away from my hometown means that I am guaranteed to be lots of people's Roger, no matter how much I wish it didn't. It's already starting. Facebook has helped to make the gap between me and friends from high school and college a little bit smaller. But when it comes down to it, maintaining a friendship is hard.

My friends are starting to have babies. I'm not, so I drop off old friends' radars. This would have been the case even if I still lived at home (it's because of the Baby Vortex...but that's a post for a different blog). But because of the fact that I don't run into these friends at church or in the grocery store, the only updates I get are from Facebook statuses and twitpics. Friends that I always thought I would stay in touch with are having major life events and losses, and they don't think of me when they need someone to talk to.

To their kids, I'll be the random lady that just shows up once every few years, if then. I'll be their parents' Roger. One day they'll probably think, "I've never heard of this lady before, so she must not have been very important." I'll be part of their parents' forgotten, pre-family lives.

I don't write all this to have a pity party and be all woe-is-me. In fact, I've been sitting on this blog post for a while because every time I start to write it I can hear my mother's words: "This is the life you chose! Stop complaining."

I realize I chose this life. I knew it wasn't going to be easy when I decided to pursue a career outside of my home bubble. And I'm not complaining. This blog is designed to share my life's experiences with you; you can live vicariously though my adventures. So I'm sharing a huge part of my life with all of you. Maintaining a friendship is hard for any adult. Now I know that choosing to live my dream means I have to put even more effort into keeping my old friendships than the typical twenty-something American.

Vicariously yours,

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Anything but the royal treatment

Back in April, the Mister and I got bumped from our flight back to Saudi when we were connecting through the Amsterdam airport.

Hang on...lemme back up.

Because of the limited number of affordable flights that leave from Saudi Arabia, the Mister and I frequently fly KLM. We fly KLM so much, in fact, that it is the first airline for which we have ever joined the frequent flyer program. We really do enjoy the service of the KLM staff, and have had a pretty pleasant experience travelling with them.

Now, fast forward to April.

We were returning from our vacation in Berlin and "missed" our connection to Dammam. By "missed" I mean immigration took us a while so we were the last people in line for an extremely overcrowded flight on which we had confirmed seats. I'm guessing the kind people of KLM caved under the irate pressure that is an Arab husband and wife team being told they can't have what they want while accompanied by their screaming, rowdy brood.

Imagine my shock when the lady behind the check-in counter told us that, as compensation for our inconvenience, we could choose to get an 800 Euro travel voucher, or 1000 Euros in cash. EACH. That was a very generous offer! We knew we would be taking more trips in the future, so we opted to plan for our frugal future and went with the travel vouchers instead.

Fast forward again to the past month and a half. One of my best friends is getting married in December, so I used my travel voucher to fly myself back to the States for the blessed event. We're going to Spain to vacation with my family very soon, so we used the Mister's voucher to buy part of his very expensive ticket.

Using the vouchers was a very complicated process. We had to book the tickets over the phone, then mail the vouchers by registered mail (a procedure that, in Saudi Arabia, took us 3 days and $100 to perform), and then wait for the e-tickets to be issued within 10 business days.

We did all that. And waited. Ten days passed. No tickets. Two weeks passed. No tickets. Almost a month passed. Still. no. tickets. Finally I got an email requesting I call the reservation center.

When I called I found out that my credit card company had blocked the transactions because they were 3 large purchases from an international business. How cautious of them. I contacted the credit card company and cleared all that up, then waited for KLM to issue the tickets.

And waited.

And waited.

Our trip to Spain was quickly approaching, so I called KLM again to find out what was going on. They just hadn't gotten around to re-running my credit card, but they'll flag the transaction as "urgent" and I'll have my e-ticket in the next 24 hours.

That was 6 days ago. I've called every day for the past 5 days (even twice on a couple days) and I still don't have my e-ticket. We've gotten the Mister's, so he's good to go to Spain...

Note to self: next time, just take the cash.

Vicariously yours,

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Language Barrier

I've mentioned before my students' propensity for spewing English obscenities with no regard for the fact that their lockers are located DIRECTLY NEXT TO THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. As a middle school teacher, I've made peace with the fact that I'm going to have students that use foul language. It's a fact of the adolescent years. I decided a long time ago that as long as they weren't hurling the insults at me or a classmate, or as long as they weren't screaming that kind of language down the hallway or in classroom discussion for all to hear, I just wasn't going to fight that battle. It would be a losing one.

I am a little surprised by how often I hear and understand cuss words among my Saudi students (I'm sure they're using the Arabic ones...I just haven't learned those yet). Thankfully, they pretty much reserve their potty mouths for their frustration with their lockers ("What the hell!? Why won't it open?!") or with their awful use of time ("Shit! I'm late to class!"). Imagine my surprise the other day when I thought a student let a cuss word fly in the middle of class! Here's the situation:

I have a student who gets frequent nosebleeds. I had her last year in the seventh grade and I'm so glad to report that she no longer freaks out and goes into a panic every time the blood appears (seriously, in the winter it's almost a weekly thing, and last year she would have almost a weekly freak out). The other day, she calmly placed her hand over her nose, raised her other hand and said she needed to go take care of it.

"Sure. Grab a tissue from my cart then head to the bathroom." (I'm on a cart this year. Have I mentioned that? A cart.)

The girls are so used to me not allowing them to take a restroom break during my 40 minute class period that they all assumed I was telling her to suck it up and finish the class with blood all over her hands and face. "The soulless white lady's at it again!!"*

*They didn't really say that, but wouldn't it be funny if they had?!

As I was trying to clarify my directions, one of the girls who sits completely across the room from the nosebleeder finally tuned in and figured out that her friend was losing platelets.

"Damn, Nora!" she called out. She didn't quite yell it, but I was standing directly next to her.

"Rebecca!* Seriously?! I'm standing right here," I said, a tone of annoyance in my voice. "I can understand what you said. It's my language."

*not really her name. ...obviously.

Twenty-five very confused faces turned toward me.

"Wha--...I'm sorry? I didn't mean..." she trailed off, looking at her friends to see if they knew what the crazy lady was talking about.

One of my most patient angels with fantastic language skills and a knack for quickly understanding situations said, ", teacher. She said, 'dam.' It's Arabic. It means blood. She was asking if it was blood."

....oops. Open mouth, insert foot.

I apologized personally to the non-foul-mouthed student.

Vicariously yours,

After telling my husband this story, he asked if I checked to make sure the Arabic word for blood actually is "dam."  Cause that would have been the world's most epic case of trolling if the girls tried to play the language barrier card to get away with cussing in my class. In fact, the word for blood is dam (دم).