Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Summer heat


This is my first experience of Saudi summer heat - and it's hot.  By 10am its 40 degrees Celsius.  Midday is 50 C+.  Walk much during the day right now has been curbed somewhat.  Evenings is a balmy 35 Celsius - perfect for sitting by the pool - which is still tepid from the heat of the day.  We call it 'moonbathing'.

On my short stroll from our apartment to the taxi, which is about 300 meters, I have my black get up on, ie abaya.  I used to whinge, just a little, about the heat, as in "oh crap it's so hot in this get up" but then one of the garden maintenance guys walked past and I had a little word to myself for being such a selfish wimp. 

He has not just walked from air conditioned comfort.  He will not be spending a maximum of 2 minutes in the heat, which is how long it takes me to walk to the air conditioned taxi.  No, he has to work long hours in this heat 6 days a week along with the rest of his colleagues.  When I choose to walk a little further than the taxi, I make sure I remind myself of these facts.  Certainly helps me feel the heat less.

Our maintenance guys are transported in a windowless truck (I saw them being picked up one day.  If you think small furniture truck, that's it.) - definitely no air conditioning.   I have no idea where these guys live.  In fact, I'm not even sure I want to know having heard stories of shanty's and over crowded rooms.  I guess if I was really concerned I would go find out....now I'm making myself feel guilty.  I asked Noor what his accommodation is.  He and some of his fellow taxi drivers live at his Uncle's house - all 13 of them with 4-5 men per bedroom.

Our garden maintenance men are mostly from Bangladesh and they don't speak much English.  The culture here pretty much tells them don't talk to anyone especially the women, so it's interesting to see their reaction when I say hello or good morning - they get a bit of a shock and aren't sure what to do or where to look.  Some of the long termers, those who've been here since I arrived, say hello back and even look at me and smile.  But that is it.  Unless they have something to repair there is no real need to communicate and then the language barrier really kicks in.

I was putting together a kit-set chest of drawers one day and all I needed was a drill to put a few holes through.  Try telling that to someone who can't speak English.  We rang the head of maintenance and a worker arrived.

'I just want 3 holes.  One here, here and here'.
He took one look at what was going on and started picking up all sorts of bits and pieces to help out
'No, No...I don't want you to put the whole thing together.  I can put it together. NO. Stop'.
(looking confused and still wanting to help)
I hold up 3 fingers - '3'.  I point at the drill, then to my piece of board.  'Here, here and here'
( he picks up some other bits and pieces to get on with doin the whole job)

I actually don't think these guys are used to women over here being independent enough to build their own kit-set drawers.  Rumor has it that even the males in this area lack get up and go.  I get the impression most people higher up the food chain in this country call the head of maintenance, say send someone to sweep the dirt off my doorstep and then sit back in their sofa while they watch the job being done.

No. Laa (try arabic). Stop. Khalas (More arabic. I'm presuming a Bangladeshi man speaks Arabic.  Hmm?)
The Husband, who's in the bedroom talking on the phone, comes out because of the commotion.
What's goin on
I'm trying to tell this guy I only want 3 holes.

The Husband goes through the routine. 3 fingers. Pointing to 3 spots.  Taking the bits and pieces off him.  Nothng is working.  Frazzlement is starting to rise. 
Glenn, just take the bloody drill off him and drill the holes yourself.
Glenn does just that. Thank the universe for small mercies!
Khalas.  Thank you. You can go now.

My dresser

The heat inside the apartment has settled (yay) I can't say the same for the Saudi summer heat outside.

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