Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sunset Rush

Late yesterday afternoon I was winding my way home on foot, crossing roads through bumper to bumper traffic and trigger finger horn tooters when I looked up and saw the sunset.

It painted the clouds in a beautiful range of pinks and greys.  I thought what a stunning photograph this sky would make as it backdropped against the man made metal street lamps, hectic vehicles and people rushing with their hands full of grocery bags recently filled at the nearby supermarket. 

So taken was I with the sunset that I sat down to pull out my Nikon and capture the moment, but by the time I had my camera in my hands the sky had already changed, the bright pinks deepening, the greys beginning to turn black and yellow was starting to filter through the clouds. Two things occurred to me as I contemplated whether I should still try to capture this sky - how quickly the sunset can change and how long it has been since I have watched the sun set. 

So, in that busy street in the center of Riyadh with its hustle and bustle I set aside my camera and watched the sky.  

At that moment the call to Salah hummed its way through the air and men headed from their busy walking path toward the nearby mosque.  I couldn't help but wonder how many would take the time to watch the miracle and beauty of a changing sky before arriving for their prayer.  If they are looking for a greater power, they might find her there.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

My Kiwi Name

I get a few emails from peeps who aren't sure what to call me.  Is my name Ka? Is it Kite?  Is it Ka Kite or Kiwi?  Well, in fact it's none of the above.  Here, for those of you who may want to know, is an explanation of the signature at the end of my posts:

Ka Kite,

It's quite simple really.
Ka Kite is a Maori term that translates to 'See Ya'.
And Kiwi is the pseudonym I've adopted for this blog because living in Saudi Arabia one doesn't really want to advertise ones real name on a blog!

For those of you who aren't aware, because you haven't read my About Me page, I hail from a little country at the bottom of the world called New Zealand.  New Zealander's are often referred to as Kiwi's after our native, flightless bird.  Though, with so many of us travelling and living overseas these days, flightless is one thing our people are not!

So I am a Kiwi.
And that's really all there is to it.
See ya :)

Ka Kite,

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Ritz High Tea Thumbs Down

Madam Lily has gone, which is a shame because I quite liked Madam Lily.  Though her time in Saudi was short, she did leave an impression on those of us who waved her good bye not so long ago.  Perhaps one day she'll write  a little post about her experience here and share it on my blog (fingers crossed!) One of the things we loved about Madam Lily was the way she dealt with people and situations she felt weren't up to standard.  We usually got to see her in action when it came to coffee shops and restaurants.  The Ritz Carlton High Tea got a complete thumbs down from Madam Lily (and the rest of our group for that matter) when we went there late last year.

Our group of six didn't actually go to the Riyadh Ritz for High Tea.  Nope, we went for bowling, but as we'd arrived too early for the alley to be open, we decided to have a coffee.  High Tea was suggested by the staff.  We figured, why not spoil ourselves a little?  Oh, how we regretted that decision.

We sat outdoors, chatting beneath some lovely ancient looking trees while waiting expectantly for our treat.  Eventually three tea pots - 3 very small teapots - were soon placed on the table and their arrival caused a little confusion.  We looked at the pots, at each other, then at the wait staff wondering where the rest of the tea was.  Apparently this was it.  One tiny pot to be shared by two women.   Really?  Seriously?  Madam Lily was not impressed and we could see her warming up to take someone down.  More tea pots were asked for, a request that sent the staff into a bit of a spin.  You do get used to staff going into spins when asked for something out of the usual.  I guess 1 pot per person was unusual at the Ritz.

The food, when it arrived some time after our mini-tea pots, looked quite nice and we each chose a dainty piece to try.  Oh, how disappointed we were.  Bread was stale, the scones were tiny and hard, the jam made up of strawberries in a runny sauce just didn't work, and the German bread was moldy.  We  sat there testing, tasting, screwing up our noses and commenting in that way that ladies do when we are trying to decide how best to deal with the situation without seeming like snotty bitches.  When the staff asked if everything was OK, well, we just had to let them know what we thought and Madam Lily was firing on all cylinders with feedback delivered in that positive, yet firm, Madam Lily way.  

Here is Madam Lily's opinion of High Tea at the Riyadh Ritz:
"Considering that we are discussing afternoon tea at a five star hotel, the setting is gorgeous - an oasis garden with comfortable seating for 6 under beautiful mature trees.  The silver service with linen napkins and place mats is lovely and set us up to expect a wonderful tea.  
But the food - None of the ladies oooohed or aaaahed when the food arrived.  There was silence.  When we made a choice of what to eat it was done rather reluctantly.  I chose a circle of white bread with a large shrimp atop adorned with a gloup of pinkish sauce.  After my first timid bite I discovered that the bread was old and stale and hard.  I removed the shrimp and, after scraping off the mystery sauce, ate and enjoyed the shrimp.  I wasn't willing to try any more of the savories but did try  a small piece of Louise Slice.  It was nice and tasted homemade.  After that, I stopped while I was ahead as the ladies weren't happy. 
The tea itself (I had white) was lovely but was served well ahead of the actual 'tea' and one small pot was meant to serve two ladies.  Pathetic really.  They need to upsize the tea pots or provide a pot per person.  The small brownish scones were served with side condiments of custard, 3 halved strawberries in a sugar sauce semi cooked and cream that was left untouched as it looked like it was near butter….and speaking of butter….there was none.  I've never had a scone without butter - it just seems wrong.
The Ritz gets a score of 2 out of 10 from me and I feel that's generous.  There is no excuse for the quality of food that we were served and the processed cheese and stale bread really offended."  

Though the staff were attentive and accommodating and wanted to please, this was beyond their control and apologies from them were many.  We acknowledged that it wasn't the wait staffs fault, and they handled the situation quite well, deferring to someone slightly higher up the food chain.

One of them ran off to get us some fresh food.  The offering they returned with was cheese and tomato sandwiches (and plastic, processed cheese at that) obviously whacked together in a hurry, kind of like the sandwiches you make at home when you come in starving after a few hours gardening and just want something to wolf down.

The Ritz Calton High Tea in Riyadh was such a disappointment food wise and I have been loathe to recommend the place for their High Tea since.  However, I like to give people and places second chances, so one day I will rally the ladies to give high tea another go.  Just not today.

Ka Kite,

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Grandchildren and Travel

Goodness me, it's been a while since I wrote a post.  I've been somewhat pre-occupied over the last few months with things that have kept me from my keyboard.  Some voluntary work, some child minding and some traveling.  All with a dash of procrastination thrown in because, if I'm being honest, at the end of the day when the decision was made post or do something else, something else won out!

Last year I volunteered to help out at Haya Tour with a few things around the office and soon found myself with a full time voluntary occupation.  The perks were great, (free trips), and I was quite enjoying being useful.   There have been times in the last five years living in Saudi Arabia, when I haven't felt particularly useful or contributory.  Sure I can swan around to coffee mornings and travel to places far from home that, for most of us, are just a dream, but feeling useful is just so much more rewarding, don't you think?  And though Hubster says that having me around is much nicer for him than his being here alone, I have to say, being here as a non-working expat woman with no kids to run around after and no real purpose for existing, other than to welcome Hubster home at the end of the day, present him with dinner and then practice ignoring him all evening so he can do more work on the computer, is a sucky kind of existence!  So, when I found myself fully occupied and useful I was pretty chuffed for a while there.

Then my grandchildren came to stay.
For three months!
So I was pleasantly busy, though I'd forgotten how time consuming and energetic young children can be.

We took them to Budapest for Christmas hoping to frolic in the snow.  Unfortunately that part of Europe was having an unseasonably snow free winter even though it was still frikken cold.  I think it snowed, very lightly, only twice the whole two weeks we were there.  But that was enough for their first introduction to the white fluffy stuff, and their reaction was priceless.  We'd been out to dinner with some friends and the kids were tired so I was taking them home.  A very light dusting of snow was on the cars outside the restaurant and the lightest flakes were falling.  They ran in to Hubster shouting excitedly, to the amusement of other diners, to announce' It's snowing!'  Of course the table of adults had to come out to see.  A child's excitement is cute and infectious.  So late that night the kids were in the park, playing in a smattering of snow and having a blast.

Then we bought them to Saudi.
I had ideas in my head of the great and marvelous things we would do while they were here.  However the Hip Hop must have hooked it as I got no reply to email requests, the music center wasn't answering their phone, (I had visions of guitar lessons as Hubster had bought the grandson a guitar.  In the end we had to rely on the internet for tuition), and the activity center over at the Localizer has closed up shop.  Although there are loads of fun parks in the shopping centers that the kids would have been more than happy to visit every day, I was more interested in finding physical activities.  After all, these two are very active outdoorsy Mozzies.   Fortunately we found tennis coaching once a week, Karate twice a week and the pool, once it was refilled, was a daily activity.

Cafe Ceramique was recommended as an art outlet to satisfy their creative side.  And we visited Azzizi Mall one day for the soap and chair making upstairs.  Plus on our walks around town we would collect up different bits and pieces and get artistic with glue and paints from Jariir Bookstore where we also spent a bit of time each week choosing new books to read.  Both kids love books.

Other days were filled with visiting friends and joining the ladies on coffee mornings.  They met loads of people and got totally spoiled.  On weekends we would head out into the desert for  picnicking, camping and searching for bones - the grandson was becoming quite an archaeologist.  They both loved camping in their tents given as gifts from Madam Louise and the granddaughter became quite adept at roasting marshmallows over the fire.

The granddaughter also formed some very definite ideas about Saudi Arabia quite early on in her visit and I take some of the blame for that.  Cursing under my breath at the driver who guaranteed he was ten minutes away from picking us up outside a bookshop that had closed for prayer, but decided instead to be an extra half an hour late didn't really give her a great first impression.  "Why don't you just drive us Nana?", was one of the questions she asked as I grumbled away.  No matter how nicely you say it, explaining to a switched on seven year old the peculiarities of Saudi male thinking when it comes to the women related issues of driving, abaya wearing and segregation makes them sound a bit like dicks.

In the second half of their visit I had to spend a bit of time pointing out the good things about the country, but I have to say, you local blokes just didn't cut the mustard for my granddaughter and she doubts she will be back here again until you can open your eyes and get your act together.  Our grandson, being five and cruisey, was pretty much just cruisin' the whole time.

Whanau on a birthday cruise: photo credit Rehua's GoPro

After three months the grandchildren had to be returned to Australia.  The timing coincided with a visit to Melbourne, where Hubster was doing some study, and a trip home to NZ (because if I'm down that way it seems silly not to go the extra two and bit thousand miles) before we set off on a Pacific Dawn cruise.  Our nephew turned 21 and, as he likes boats, his family decided the best way to celebrate his coming of age, would be on a cruise ship.  So 22 members of the family cruised their way up the Aussie coast for a week and we had quite a good time while we were at it.  Unfortunately WiFi isn't that great out at sea, so no work was done by anybody.  Fabulous.

After that Hubster and I went to the Gold Coast to get our land lubber legs back, to catch up with some of his family and to meet the rest of our brood (they didn't go on the cruise).  It was a fabulously relaxing time and a perfect end to our tiki touring ways before heading back to Saudi.

And here we are.
Back in the frey.
A few things have changed.
The Yemeni scene is looking a bit shaky.
I guess we'll all be keeping on eye on that.

Ka Kite,

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