Saturday, 2 October 2010

Alan has gone

Alan has gone.He put in his two years, now he’s flown home. Well, actually he flew home a couple of months ago, I’ve been a bit remiss not getting this out sooner, but the point is his tour of duty in the Middle East is ended.  Khallas.

I imagine he spends a bit of time on his balcony, in the company of his lovely wife, enjoying a glass of red, looking back on his Saudi experience and telling all sorts of tales that most likely end in ‘Well thank goodness that’s over’.....

I reckon Glenn started missing Alan a good couple of months before he actually left.  Glenn and Alan arrived in Saudi about the same time, they moved into the same compound and they worked at the same office.  So they kept each other company bouncing thoughts and opinions off each other – good and bad – to try and make sense of this desert city and the very different life and attitudes they found themselves in the middle of.  Two years on they were still spending most evenings together, still trying to understand what makes this place tick.

Now that his best buddy in all of the Middle East has gone west, Glenn is wondering whether or not he’ll stay. Saudi is not the kind of place you should be without good friends. With no one to talk to who understands and sympathizes with the stresses involved in working and living here, you could seriously go balmy. Maybe he should look at making some new friends.

I, of course, am always here for him, though he does doubt my mind is seriously on the job, or any job for that matter, but I think another man, another male brain, another legal beagle, another whose similarly suffering is who The Hubster would be better off-loading to.  That would sure help me out!

Anyway, Alan you are missed.

No longer is Alan waiting on the front lawn at 8.45am on the dot so the boys can share a taxi ride to work. Glenn now walks to the taxi a lone figure.

The taxi ride is still 15 SAR each way....a bit expensive without your buddy paying half.   Will have to talk to that Mr Noor about his fares!

The Wednesday night trip to Al Khozarma for a haircut, shoe shine and a chicken burger has come to an end.  Though I believe the haircut and shoe shine were Alan’s treats - Glenn managed to arrive about the time the food was getting served.

The boys used to eat the burger out in the lounge but one night Glenn, who considers himself a Crème Brulee connoisseur, he likes to tap the top testing it for crispiness before diving down into the soft crème custard below, an exercise that Alan always watched with a smile forming on his lips and a "whatever turns you on" shake of his head, discovered they made this dessert in the Al Khozarma restaurant.

Not only do they do, on most occasions, an absolutely excellent job according to ‘Glenn the Creme’, they also make it huge. No weeny little crème dish at the Al Khorzarma. Oh no. You get a dessert plate full of the stuff.  This discovery meant moving their little gathering from the relaxation of the lounge to the ambiance of the restaurant where they could get both their favourite dishes.

It was awfully nice of them to invite me along to their dinners once I arrived. I preferred fish followed by apple tart. Of course, the meals always came with a rundown of the weeks work - pros, cons, good, bad, dickheads and great bloke’s conversation – you get the picture.

Wasabi Prawn
The Noodle House became another of Alan’s favourite eat out options. It’s nicely set up, there are huge windows so you can see outside, a definite advantage for this particular expat woman who still finds the lack of view in most family sections kind of weird, and the food is very nice.  Especially that Wasabi prawn dish. 

The Noodle House, Centra Mall, Cnr Tahalia and Ulaya St, Riyadh.  That is the boys in the background.
Alan really appreciated my accompanying the boys on their visits to the Noodle House.  I'd like to think it was my charm, intelligent conversation and sharp wit that he liked, but apparently the Family Section is much nicer than the Singles Section and he and Glenn couldn't get in without one of them having a related female.  The boys would go early in the evening so the place was not crowded. One time I joined them and the place was empty so I took off my abaya.

I like to remove my abaya when out if at all possible. It makes me feel normal and not just a black thing sitting on the woodwork. It used to freak Alan out just a little. I can’t really blame him; after all, if someone called the authorities, who decided to actually do something, I imagine anyone in the company of rebellious types will get taken along for questioning as well.

Alan could just see the headlines:
“Respected Aussie Lawyer Caught With Uncovered Woman”.

There’d be no headlines about Glenn because he’s not a high flying lawyer in NZ.  Alan is chummy with the Australian Ambassador in Saudi....he’s respected.  Alan got invited to the Royal Princes palace.....he hob nobs with the best.  And he came back and told us all about it - what a good bloke.  Unless you’re a Pakistani or Indian who follows cricket, most of the population here doesn’t even know where NZ is. They think we’re somewhere up near Iceland.

Alan rediscovered tea while in Riyadh. He became such a fan that, as his leave date got closer, we’d often find him with a nice black tea.  He liked his with Diet Pepsi, I prefer mine with Coca Cola.  I may touch on the subject of banned substances (alcohol) in Saudi in another blog.

The Embassy events were a must attend....for sanity sake. It was at one of these that Miss M was mid-chat with Alan when he just walked away.   Alan claimed that he is a little deaf.  Should we believe this?  Pitch this claim against the view the boys have that Miss M talks a lot, which I totally disagree with by the way, and there was much doubt cast on the hearing difficulty defense.

We’re going to have to find someone else to get us onto the Australian Embassy list now, Alan.  And I believe Miss M has forgiven you.

There are numerous stories we could write about Alan and his life here in the desert city, but he often told us he's going to write a book on his experiences.  He even carried round a little notebook to jot down his impressions, so far be it for me to steal his thunder here in a simple blog. ( Glenn reckons he's going to write a book one day too, but he doesn't know what it's about....)(sigh).

A death in the family meant that Alan had to leave Riyadh a little sooner than expected. Being good friends and neighbours we said, “Don’t worry about your place Alan, we’ll sort that out”.  And we did.  Lots of people got super cheap bargains on the white ware you left and we kept the TV, the couch and the wall unit...cheers.

You lasted 2 years Alan.....Gooood Jaaaab.

Ka Kite,

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