Archive for February, 2015

Nireekshana Orphanage in Tanuku – India

Posted: February 26, 2015 in Tanuku

This is the orphanage I am hoping to volunteer in during my summer holidays as an English Teacher – assuming everything runs according to plan 🙂

https://livingepistlesoflove.wordpress.com/charities-2/nireekshana/

orphan

Very excited to see some of the countryside along the South East coast – an area I have not experienced a great deal of in my travels to date

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I am based in Jubail in the Eastern Province – the most ‘liberal’ region of the country, due in part to the large number of expats working in large multi-national oil refineries, water distillation plants and heavy industries/commerce. The population living within the the built up areas of Khobar/Dammam/Jubail are afforded slightly more freedom and self expression then people throughout the Kingdom – outside of Riyadh which is also slightly more relaxed – being the ‘metropolitan’ capital that it is!!

Sat on the Persian Gulf – what used to be a small fishing town before the mid 70’s has now become home to the Middle East’s largest/world’s fourth largest petrochemical company. It has the world’s largest Independent Water and Power Project producing 2743.6 MW of electricity and 800,000 cubic metres of water daily (much of which I use for frequent showers!!)

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Driving home after work we pass mile after mile of complex steel structure, massive containers, inter-twined transit tubes, gas flare stacks which light up the night sky.

With the huge flames rocketing out the chimneys across the horizon I often think it resembles a scene from Tolkien’s fictional region of ‘Mordor’ occupied and controlled by ‘Sauron,’ either that or Dante’s ‘Inferno!

The town of Al-Jubail on the Persian Gulf coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has ancient roots. Human habitation dates back at least 7,000 years, when the people of Dilmun – whose civilization radiated up and down the Persian Gulf — established a settlement there. (Wikipedia)

Reading the newspaper this morning….

Posted: February 25, 2015 in 2015

SAUDI GAZETTE

Madinah Province: Two members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were fired after committing multiple monetary and administrative violations.

 

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha) forwarded the two members to the Control and Investigation Board after they refused to respond to the specialized committee formed by the presidency to look into their case.

“They exploited the presidency’s budget for their own personal gain and interest and would be absent from duty for weeks at a time..”

It is nice to see that it is not only officials in the west who are corrupt/found in dereliction of duty – here two men charged with maintaining virtue/appropriate behaviour are they themselves thieving scoundrels

A Kingdom of contradictions

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Saudi Arabia

Some of you are asking me what it is like living in Saudi Arabia, people, accommodation, transport, social life… so,

it’s a Kingdom of contradictions?

Observation 1,

Society is fundamentally based around men not woman. Single woman <read post pubescent girls and above> must be chaperoned by family or groups of other woman virtually at all times; single woman walking around alone is generally not something you are likely to see. Married woman are limited by what their husbands allow, meaning some rarely leave the house other than weekly shopping or for medical appointments, others are granted more freedom to study and work (although again it is heavily legislated.) Education for boy and girls is totally separate from the start, men teaching boys and woman teaching girls.

One key problem for woman is that they are not allowed to drive, which means they rely on their husband/family -Saudi men get a severe telling off if they let their wives drive!

There is no official law that bans women from driving but deeply held religious beliefs prohibit it, with Saudi clerics arguing that female drivers “undermine social values”.

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/middle-east/60339/eleven-things-women-in-saudi-arabia-cant-do#ixzz3SAuCIXf5

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/04/19/Saudi-man-fined-for-allowing-his-wife-to-drive.html

A woman drives a car in Saudi Arabia

Observation 2.

Men and woman who are unrelated are not allowed to speak unless absolutely necessary, e.g.a female employee in a pharmacy serving a male customer with a prescription. Hotels, hospitals and large international organisations are the most ‘relaxed’ about these cultural norms/rules – although woman will still need to be veiled, unless in the REALLY large international hotel e.g. Hilton, where a head scarf will suffice.

Smaller retail outlets often adopt one of three policies; let’s consider a coffee shop. Option 1 – men only, meaning woman are not permitted to enter/buy/remain on the premises. Option 2 – a woman only, which means all window have to be blocked out <normally with colourful pictures/advertisements, similar to those you might see on a bus window in England. Option 3 – a family coffee shop that do allow single men – the windows do not need to be blanked out. They often provide ‘shielded off’ areas large enough for individual families.

In shops which cater for both genders there will be two queues with a glass divider/rope or wall down the middle of the shop with separate cash register/cashier. Clear posters and signage are displayed. I made the mistake of walking through the wrong door before being whistled at, corrected and guided to the correct door by the panicked looking salesman!!

I visited a hospital recently to have a follow up medical examination for my Iqama ‘residency permit.’ There was a door for woman and a general entrance, so I assumed the hospital would be segregated in the main – WRONG. Once you entered the entire building and staff were pretty much mixed, although woman on reception were fully veiled. What was the point of the separate entrance you may ask… I have no idea

Observation 3.

There is an extreme phobia of single men in Saudi Arabia, husbands are EXTREMELY jealous/irrational and families wary of potential suitors for their daughters. In the UK I am sure many woman would say married men are just <if not more> of a threat than single men, all that frustration from monogamy, routine and overwhelming need for new intimate conquests?

Observation 4.

Living under Sharia law means night clubs, loud music in public places and ‘partying’ are STRICTLY prohibited.. However the same authorities charged with maintaining these conservative ideals allow young men to race around city streets and motorways with music blaring out their car windows – the latest R&B, hip hop, bangra and dance music. Parking in a car park at the beach, near a petrol station, outside McDonalds often resembles/sounds like a ‘rave’ or ‘free party’ – minus class A drugs and glow sticks

The same young Saudi’s can also simply drive across the border to enjoy all the trappings of a liberal/open culture and drive back after they have had their fill of indulgence and hedonism!

Observation 5:

If girls are out shopping in a large mall/shopping centre looking to purchase lingerie, they more than likely will need to discuss their underwear requirements with a male salesperson. Woman currently are generally not allowed to sell knickers and bras, although some stores have recently begun hiring female employees but the majority are still staffed by men.

If I you were a young Saudi unmarried man that would be a pretty amazing/difficult/problematic/overwhelming job wouldn’t you say?

“I would recommend the french knickers that sit comfortable over your pert little bottom or thong if you want to have the lace right up inside between your cheeks Madam…”

Observation 6:

Alcohol is Saudi Arabia is STRICTLY prohibited but that does not stop Saudi men from getting drunk on ARAQ the locally made moonshine. It gets you drunk and also – I’ve been told – makes a good substitute for petrol. Although fuel prices here are so cheap you would probably just buy fuel!

10 days and all is well…

Posted: February 17, 2015 in Saudi Arabia

Bahrain – locally known as the ‘toilet/cesspool of Saudi’ – due mainly to large numbers of Saudi men who go there to get drunk, sleep with prostitutes, take drugs and party. Activities that in Saudi Arabia would see them publicly lashed, imprisoned or in some case, stoned to death. It seems like rather a farce to me. Hundreds of men queuing in cars, waiting for hours, to drive across the 30 mile bridge, passing through border patrol for the night ONLY to drive back the morning <or usually afternoon> the following day. A simple blood alcohol test would suffice to prove their ‘western, hedonistic, immoral’ activities – but border patrol/Saudi authorities choose to turn a blind eye to this blatant ‘non-Muslim’ behaviour? Seems a bit hypocritical to me, especially for all the married men making the trip. Or perhaps men go there for the great fishing or better air quality 😉 Some prospective in-laws with check a male suitors passport for entry/exit stamps into Bahrain before allowing him to marry their daughter. Although in my mind I question why the Father of the potential bride would know the significance of trips to Bahrain… through personal experience perhaps…..?

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Yes, I can confirm I have a photo of an attractive western gentleman

Ordering my burger and chips from Paprika – a fast food chain <think McDonalds with more flavour> – I noticed a group of girls/woman in full niqabs in the queue opposite. In Saudi men and woman have separate lines in the shops. Out the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of one of them sneaking to my side and slightly behind me and start taking pictures of the handsome, well dressed, western man. Returning to her gaggle or black letter boxed girl friends they then proceed to gather around her iphone and giggle as they pursued said images. For a  moment I felt like a rock star

Our driver ran over my co-workers foot this morning on the way to work. I assume he thought he was in the car, as I did, as he pulled away – right over his left foot. No breaks we think but a close call nonetheless!

Will need to talk to students later today about behaviour and attitude to study. Basically a large percentage do not want to engage in lessons or do any work. Apparently this is not an uncommon attitude of young boys in Saudi who are often idolised by their parents – rarely disciplined, pushed to achieve or told what to do. One parent when delivering his son said, “good luck teaching him!” NOT really what you want to hear in a new placement or a ringing endorsement of his son’s expected future behaviour in my class 😦

First day in the office…

Posted: February 8, 2015 in Saudi Arabia

08/02/15 8.32 am:

Sat at my new desk, exploring my my cupboards and drawers, packing pens away, reading through curriculum text books, catching up with the headlines, sipping my Turkish coffee, waiting for the rest of the staff <including my new boss> to arrive for a team meeting

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9.10 am:

Tried a double espresso from a coffee shop next door – rich, smooth and super strong

No students as of yet – may be I should get out and start handing out fliers to kids in the street!? The institute I am based in is brand new so the focus is to build the client base, publicize the courses available and develop the brand/name within the local community. Positive feedback and now having ‘native speaking’ Brits teaching English should insure the reputation of the establishment gains value very quickly. Saudi’s LOVE English language teachers – they are greatly sought after, whereas Philippino language teachers are far less popular

12.22 pm:

Spoke to Dr Adel the manager about settling in, visa, classes, curriculum – needed clarity on a few things

Collecting textbooks for class and reviewing progress pupils made last week in order to prepare for lesson

12.30 – 4.00 pm:

Chicken and rice – snooze time

7.23 pm:

First class went well – 10 boys aged 9-12

Managed to get through first chapter in the book. Some had already raced on ahead so used it as a revision class for them. Kids pretty well behaved – not unruly and only moderately chatty. I introduced myself is Mr Franklin or Mr Benjamin but they insist in calling me ‘teacher’

9.00 pm:

Off home for tuna pasta and a coffee (although I could murder a cold beer)

😦