Saturday, 4 June 2011

Sick Of Dreaming Of Driving

Motokä iti rawa e
Mäku e taraiwa e
Tangi ana te känga
Oooga, ooga, ooga
Küpai e te iwi e
Little motor car
I'll drive you
The horn sounds
 Ooga, ooga, ooga
 Goodbye everybody...
That's a song from NZ.  A fun little ditty for kids, though we adults bring it out in the wee small hours of 'party time'.   If I had the skills I would re-invent the song with witty lyrics about women dreaming of driving in Saudi Arabia....

....but today wit has firmly packed itself into a suitcase and a headache has taken its place.

A car sick headache.

Yep, I'm one of those poorly types afflicted by motion sickness.
Sea sick, air sick, train sick, fun park Pirate Ship ride sick.  Even standing on a wharf just looking at the ocean makes my temples pulse as my belly begins to flip flop.

And since arriving in Riyadh I've been forced (when Mr Noor is unavailable) to occupy the back seat of taxi's under the control of drivers who clearly have no idea what good driving is.  Which means I can add to my list of motion related ailments Saudi taxi 'how the hell did you get a license' and 'what idiot said you can drive better than me' sick!

After last nights trip I'm seriously contemplating becoming a Saudi woman and joining their Women Driving Campaign set for June 17th.

Two evenings a week I attend an Arabic class.  It's on the outskirts of town.  It starts at 7pm.  Hubby can't take me because he's not home from work in time, so I have to use a taxi.

Piece of cake...all cities have taxis....but this is Riyadh!

In this city, if one does not have A Driver (or an available husband), one must find a reliable taxi man who can be utilised as a psuedo chauffeur.  We had one.  Mr Noor.  He went home to get married.   We are hanging out for him to come back.

It is possible to hail a taxi off the street, but as a female one has to be cautious about the cars into which one gets in Saudi Arabia.  Paranoia has been fed by the stories of women alone being kidnapped and......well, one dreads to think of the 'And'.

What to do Pounamu?

In Mr Noor's absence we have found two temporary replacements - Driver One is working out better than The Other.  For my trips to Arabic class, I use The Other.

For some insane reason a screw in my brain has repeated the phrase "Come on Kiwi - he's not that bad" and "Give him a chance to prove himself", so twice a week for the last month I have persevered with him driving me across town to class.

The other night, while in the back of his taxi, I was having a private discussion with myself on why he is still my Arabic Class Driver.   Here are the reasons being bandied around:
  • He answers his phone every time I call.  He may not be where he's supposed to be (waiting outside the compound gate) but he does answer the phone, something many drivers 'forget' to do.
  • He has, after each class, been waiting outside the school to take me home.  Being off the main taxi route and a long way from home, this is a very good thing after a night class!
  • There are worse drivers.
  • He speaks sufficient English.
  • Hubster likes him.
  • He is a damn sight better than the third bloke we tried as a driver one week - I nearly puked his driving was so bad!  I still have the text I sent to Glenn, though if you don't cuss I suggest you avert your eyes.  "Crikeys not even half way there n I'm sea sick.  Feijoa's, Let me drive!" (OK, so I didn't really txt the word 'Feijoa's...)

My self discussion finally concluded (while simultaneiously wishing - because I can multi-track- that The Other would put his foot down and knowing he wouldn't because fares are determined by time in the vehicle, not distance) the real reason I have persisted with this driver is the fact that  Mr Noor, it is rumoured by men of the taxi fraternity who hail from his village, is due back next week!

Yay....I can wait till next week! 
Well I thought I could, until last night.
Here is how last evening panned out:

Me:  Mr S, Where are you?  You are supposed to pick me up!

Mr S: Ohhhh, sorry sorry....I call but u no answer phone.  I think u not go.

Me: I was in my other class Mr S, I can't asnwer the phone.

Mr S:  Ohhhh, sorry sorry....I think you no want go no more.   You still want go?  You go class?

Me:  Yes Mr S, I still want to go.  How far away are you?

Mr S:  I only five, maybe ten minutes.  You still want go class?  You no asnwer phone.

Me:  Yes I still want to go

Mr S:  OK, OK....I be there five, maybe 15 minute....

I look at the time, decide that's Ok, so agree.

Twenty five minutes later......

Mr S:  Ohhhh,  sorry sorry, much traffic.

Me:  Deep sigh, resigned to being late, practicing my Zen breathing and forgiveness, ticking myself off for not just getting another taxi.  Ticking myself off again because I know that another taxi driver probably can't speak good English, most likely doesn't know the way and in all probability will try to rip me off cos I'm western.  Wish, yet again, that women could drive in this country!

I am pleased to say that I'm not alone in such wishful thinking.
In fact, there are women much braver than I who move from wishful to actual......

The recent arrest of a Saudi woman for driving has caused a bit of a stir though I'm not sure if the stir is from her driving as much as it is from her encouraging other Saudi women to do the same.   The articles and commentary on SaudiWoman blog and Susies Big Adventure regarding the situation make for interesting reading.

There is, apparently, no written Saudi law banning women from driving.  What stops them is Saudi culture - which really boils down to extremely conservative religious types scared of change and what it may bring, and a country that, if you believe most of the comments I've read on the topic, is full of wild, uncontrollable, over-sexed, disrespectful Saudi Muslim males!

All I know is, if I'm still here the day woman can put the pedal to the metal I will be in which ever 'Motoka iti rawa e' I can find.

Ka Kite,

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