With around 3 weeks in Riyadh behind me, it’s time to commit a few thoughts and experiences in writing. It’s my first blog, so please bear with me as I feel my way through it and develop a style that is both entertaining and informative.
The first thing that struck me when I left the airport in Riyadh was the heat – like a hammer. It was well after midnight, so the temperature had already dropped to a respectable 100F (38C) and my nose hair was only slightly singed. There’s something to be said for a ‘dry heat’ since whatever sweat might be coming out evaporates immediately. Enough about the heat unless it directly relates to another story I want to share.
Saudi hospitality has been amazing since I got here. From getting picked up in the middle of the night by a colleague to the countless offers of help and genuine inquires as to how I’m settling in, I’ve been made to feel wholly welcome. I stayed in a hotel called (quite creatively) “The Business Hotel” for the first few days so that I could have time to check out an apartment to see what I would need in it. I had the choice of two different apartments. Both had that 1970s feel.
I went with this one because it had nicely tiled floors, whereas the other choice had carpet on top of tile with parquet floors on top of the carpet. Needless to say, the stacking of floor types didn’t work out very well.
On my third night at the hotel, I went with some colleagues on a field trip to IKEA where I found almost all the things I needed for the apartment. We made it through the store – only getting lost occassionally. Two of us (of four) got separated and somehow managed to walk about 1 kilometer only to find ourselves back where we started. Eventually we made it to the cashier area and we were getting close to paying when all the cashiers left for prayer time. We waited for about 45 minutes for the cash registers to re-open. This was my first lesson in remembering to plan around prayer times. I’ve downloaded an app (MyDailyFive), which goes off about 15 minutes before prayer times so I know I have a few minutes to dash out for a coke, a pack of smokes or something to eat.
Speaking of something to eat, I’ve been cooking most of my meals since I moved into the apartment. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that it takes somewhere between 2 and 3 hours to have lunch delivered and I don’t have the patience. The second is that I haven’t been able to find anything except American fast food chains near my apartment or the office for dinners. I’m sure there are some gems out there waiting to be discovered, but I think I’ll wait a couple of months for the cooler weather to arrive so I don’t melt while exploring.
Besides lunch delivery, some things seem to take longer here. There was a team of about 8 people the second night at my apartment getting some lightbulbs put in, a new refrigerator delivered (and hard-wired to the outlet). Apparently when the apartment complex was built, it seemed like a good idea to use two different types of outlets – some 110 and some 220, but none the right size for the standard Saudi plug. Rather than run to the hardware store, the maintenance guy figured it’d be easier to just chop off the end of the plug and twist the wires onto the active wire hanging out where the socket was once installed. 5 converters later, I got everything else hooked up.
The satellite tv was a bit more complicated. The price changed for the same service about 4 times over the course of the 3+ hours it took to get the ball rolling. In the end, I got all hooked up, made the payment and received my change based on some fuzzy math concepts, but it worked out in my favor and the installer was having none of my fancy logic.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these first few little tidbits. I’m enjoying my time so far and plan to have quite a bit more to share.
I’ll try to leave less time between posts from now on so that they aren’t so long. Until the next one…