Thursday, 17 November 2016

Change is In The Future


"When the oil runs out, Saudi Arabia will be history...everybody will up and leave, including the rich Saudi who have homes and investments all over the world".  That's the common rhetoric you hear around the expat traps.  Even I admit to thinking along those lines every now and then.
Well, the oil hasn't exactly run out but the downturn in prices has meant that the Saudi government has, for the past many months, been thinking about their future.  As Saudi's future affects a number of expats, I started a blog post on what I thought should be part of those changes.  The Husband, bless his worried heart, told me not to post it and every now and then because, lets face it, he pays the bills, I heed his advice but given how things seem to be panning out, here's what I wrote all those months ago.

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The Deputy Crown Prince made an announcement the other day that wasn't exactly a surprise given all the debate going on in expat circles - well the ones I move in anyway.  I'm sure there was debate in Saudi circles too, but not so anyone else could hear it because peeps in this part of the world are cautious about exactly what they express and to whom.

And Yes, we all know if Saudi hierarchy had thought about their future years ago when the gravy train was so overloaded with cash that the handful of peeps at the top who had access to it all didn't really know what to do with it so wasted a boatload of it on themselves and their closest relatives, they would be in a much better position now to deal with this little economic hiccup.  But they didn't, so lets move on...

The general consensus is that the government is going to use this little downturn in the oil income to drag this country into the 21st century.  All of it.  All the way.  I'm guessing the young people love this idea. (I have to guess because I haven't actually asked that many young people their opinion, but the ones I know are waiting, expectantly, for things to happen - here's hoping they aren't disappointed).  The old conservative bunch may have to dragged kicking and screaming.

Here's a Bloomberg article on the man charged with guiding and directing the future of Saudi Arabia if you are interested:  The $2Trillion Project to Get Saudi Arabia's Economy Off Oil .

What Saudi don't want, and who can blame them, is a move toward change that will descend into chaos, as has happened with their neighbors.  Personally I don't think young Saudi are at the mass revolution stage.  Restless, yes.  Revolting, no.  The sector that needs to be watched are the old guard and any of their loopy loo friends.  The time is right to make a few adjustments to the way the populace thinks - the modernists will be looking ahead.  The loopy loos will be looking backwards.

Some indications of the changes are already published and if you want to read more about them just google: Future of Saudi Without Oil.

Personally I reckon we'll see:
  • The sponsorship system eradicated.  It's nothing but a slave trading system full of exploitative kafeels and their equally unscrupulous agents.  Naturally there should be some other form of control for monitoring the comings and goings of people into and out of the country...just not that one.
  • True reform of the public education system which most intelligent people recognize needs to change, the question is how.  Naturally I have formed an opinion on this subject even though I have close to nothing to do with the current educational institution.  I see there has to be a two fold approach.  First the curriculum needs a massive upgrade to better prepare youth for the modern world in terms of their ability to ask inquiring questions, to think critically and creatively and not be afraid of expressing an idea or opinion.  (You're thinking I'm barking up a tree with this, aren't you?)

    Perhaps instead of insisting on rote learning of the quran, which I gather through much discussion with people in the system is largely the current set up of public education, Saudi could set its brightest brains to creatively integrating quranic lessons into a more useful school curriculum.  You know, like real life word problems.

    Then of course you have to find someone who can teach such a curriculum and encourage participation and expression without getting their shemarghs tied in a twist.  I have mentioned before that you cannot possibly teach a student to think out of the box if you don't know how to think that way yourself.  Most local teachers in this country have definitely been programmed to live 'in the box'.  And the box sucks. 

    I have been the recipient of Saudi type lessons.  It was quite early in my residence in Saudi and fellow compound dweller and I decided to try and learn Arabic, spoken and written, so hired a woman who said she could teach us.  We thought learning from a local would give us an edge.  We had one lesson.

    There wasn't much structure to the session which wasn't so bad.  The disturbing things were when we struggled.  After teaching us 'Hello, How are you' and the response she asked us to have a conversation with each other - but she wouldn't let us have the conversation.  She would jump in and say the words for us...every time.  We're lucky if we got half a word out.  When we struggled with pronunciation she was less than complementary and, eventually, she gave up teaching us to talk, with a huff and a sigh, and moved on to writing the alphabet.  She shows us a few letters and asks us to write what she has.  While I am trying to do so she snatches the pencil out of my hand exclaiming 'No, no...like this', takes the paper from in front of me and writes the letter herself.

    Suffice to say my friend and I decided to relieve this woman of the language teaching position and then sat about expressing, with absolute astonishment and disbelief, how shit it must be to be a young student in her class with no recourse to removing her for from the role.

    A few years later, after many promises being made by the modernist hierarchy to revamp the national education curriculum not much was improving because, basically, they were being beaten back every step of the way by the conservative crew who didn't want to give away a second of Quranic Time.  (Gosh this reminds me of the American education problems.  If you ever get a chance to watch 'Waiting for Superman' you may see a lot of similarities to  the Saudi situation).

    My neighbor was hired to teach in a supposedly international but actually Saudi school and complained constantly about the ridiculousness of her workload.  Not the teaching workload - the additional stuff, like the marking of homework.   She had to go through every student book and mark every missing dot to the 'i', every crooked cross to the letter 't'.  Such activity is an absolute waste of a teachers time and is also not teaching, but it is a reflection of what the system thinks is important.  Trivialities.  Image.  She would watch my grand-children on the mat outside our door writing imperfectly shaped words and hear me saying well done - not for the imperfection, but for the effort -  and correcting every now and then as required and wondered why that type of teaching wasn't acceptable in her class.

    Here's hoping the new changes include real change to the education system, its' curriculum and delivery.  Those would be a good start.
  • The government can't afford to keep employing their own so all those cushy government jobs need to be fewer and further between.  And seriously, I have heard numerous Saudi say they prefer to be hired by the government because its a cushy, non—demanding place to be.  Watching the reshuffles in those offices will be interesting.
  • More foreign investment makes sense so people can be pushed out of their comfy government employment into real work.  PPP's (Public Private Partnerships) seem to be flavour of the month.  I'm guessing a Saudi influenced arrangement will see more risk put on, and more profit demanded by, the private P in that bunch

    The Private portion of the PPP's also has to be able to have more say on how to deal with unproductive workers because no company wants to come here if they have to pay people whose productivity is negligible, or pay two nationals to do the job of one expat and, whether Saudi likes it or not, that is the reality of the Saudi reputation on work ethic - it is sorely lacking.  If the Private Sector is going to be expected to take on more risk, it would not be impractical of them to push back on Saudization criteria because it will hugely affect their bottom line.

    Too much privatization isn't healthy either.  Often times the profit becomes more important than the people.  Saturating a country with large corporations only leads to the small business owner being pushed out.  With 20+million nationals, there's the potential for a lot of unhappy small folk if privatization by big corporations takes over willy nilly like it has the rest of the world.

    If Saudi is keeping their finger on the pulse of global trends, they will see the the little guy is beginning to re-emerge in various areas, mostly because the consumer, sick of the big guy, is asking for more community focused, user friendly, responsive and local entities.

    Balancing large and small business investment properly will be tricky given that the Regal Clique has a lot of their fingers in the big corporate pies.  That clique just stamp their stroppy feet and say NO to anyone else wanting to enter the market that looks like they might be either too much of a competitor to an existing regal owned entity or unwilling to pay the backhander to the Princely Type holding up the paperwork.  Ask around the traps and many a rumored tale will be told about that! 
  • Training institutions, educational institutions and the workplace has to be able to emphasize reward for effort, not reward for existing which, unfortunately, is how the many Saudi view their place in the world.  At the top, regardless. Take for example a locally based firm that gives its Saudi workers raises and promotions for billing four hours a week.  Four hours.  A week.  And you get a promotion.  The amount you bill over the course of a year doesn't even pay your salary.  Nope, the expat slaving it in the office next door, billing 60 hours a week is covering for everybody else.  And his promotions get over looked.  If the idea is to replace all expats with Saudi's then stuff like that should not be happening.  A good hard look in the mirror and facing some home truth's about exactly what the Saudi employee is or is not producing is required.  
  • Women should be driving.  There are far too many unnecessary foreign men milling about in this country who don't actually need to be here.
  • The government will be expected to assist while the local people get used to less money in pocket due to price rises of consumer goods.  And they will rise some more although I'm guessing expats will be expected to shoulder the brunt of those somehow.
  • To make the locals more accepting of price increases and austerity measures The Regal Ones should start leading by example.  Everyone knows where all the money is.  If peace of the masses is to remain and vocal disapproval by them is to be kept to a minimum, I suggest the peeps up top take some of that cash they have stashed in their bank accounts and back their own country by plugging deficits with money they should have been sharing with their countrymen for years anyway.

    When the household budget gets tight the natives will get restless and risk being outspoken.  If things go that far and Saudi responds with a heavy 'Shut your trap or you will disappear' response, they will have lost the respect of their nation.  After all, only nasty dictators pick on their own.  But if the hierarchy can be seen doing the right thing and curbing that terribly bad habit they've developed of rewarding themselves with and from riches they basically siphoned away from the masses just because they have a certain blood line, then everyone might come out of this downturn relatively happy chappies. 
  • Women should also be doing their own housework and childcare and Dad will have to start helping out more with both.   If families insist on the the 'need' for a maid cumnanny cumcook comeevery flaming thing, an unfortunate side affect of price increases will be abuse of poorly paid maids and drivers (money stress always makes people crack and pick on the weakest link).
  • Free health and education for nationals may be a thing of the past. (Such a shame.  This is the only country that actually does provide for nationals health and education.  We say health and education is free in NZ but we're always having to pay fees, books, uniforms, trips, medications, procedures,....it all gets very unfree very quickly.)
  • Conservative fruitcakes will get all trigger happy because they prefer the country back in the dark ages.  Everybody, be on your guard.
  • Naturally, such modernization has to be in agreement with the quran because, it just does.  However my take is that, though the contents of the quran can't, and will not, be changed, there may be some adaptations to current interpretation in the wind.
And those are just some of the things I think might be, could be, should be in Saudi's future if they want to come out on top.   Whatever happens, the future here is going to be an interesting ride.  Everybody, hold tight!



Ka Kite,
Kiwi
 

Friday, 28 October 2016

Stunned Falcons, Layla Lakes and Water.


The picture is beautiful.  A blue water lake fringed with green grasses and a jet boat pulling a water skier.  If that is in Saudi we need to go find it, I said to Hubster. So Google was searched and searched again for the location of Layla Lakes.

We took Mr UK with us on this trip.  He was on a short stint back in Riyadh and loves road tripping with us.  Either that or he didn't have a better offer this particular weekend.

We set off quite early because our first stop was just south of Riyadh to watch a falcon display in the desert.  There were Ooooo's and Ahhh's as the birds were carried out on their perches and displayed.  Then Oooo's and Ohhhh's as the live bait was bought out and released into the air for a raptor type breakfast.


Mr UK and the rest of the group were impressed with all falcon related activity and the falcon handler was a wealth of information.  The birds displaying their speed, grace and aggression as they swooped in on their prey in the brilliant blue sky, a perfect backdrop to the brick red dunes on a crisp but clear autumn morning, was spectacular to watch.

The sight was only marred by all the rubbish sprinkled over the desert. If someone could please invent biodegradable plastic bags - and cheap ones because Saudi businesses won't buy them otherwise - that would be great.   (And I'm looking at SABIC here - you great massive corporation of plastic related inventiveness.  Take up the challenge for your country if not the world and create truly safe, biodegradable plastic bags!  Either that or sponsor nationwide education on how to put rubbish in bins, preferably in all languages of those who live in the country because, lets face it, its not just resident Arabs throwing their shit around the countryside. Or sponsor the supply of reusable canvas bags in supermarkets while training the grocery packers on the concept of ”Less plastic, Better Environment."  PS - I know someone happy to spread a Two Bag Rubbish Revolution message if you'd like to sign him up).


The ducks who made a dash from their open cage narrowly escaped becoming a mid-morning falcon snack.  We watched with mounting tension and nervous chuckles as one escapee waddled up the dune past a falcon resting in the sand seemingly oblivious to the imminent danger, while the falcon, looking on in total disbelief at the sight of the bird shuffling through the sand in front of him, seemed stunned into inaction.

We're out....RUUUUUNNNNN!

Falcon: What the......?
Duck:  Got to escape, got to escape...puff, puff, pant, pant.
Falcon:  Ya shittin me...

Falcon:  (Confused, stunned, falcon face)

Falcon:  (Doing a double take)  (Contemplating action)
Duck:  Got to escape, got to escape....I'm at the toooooppp!!!

Falcon:  *Sigh*...doing nothing is making me look bad.
I have to go check this idiot out.

Falcon:  Hey duck
Duck:  Got to escape, got to escape

Falcon: From? (raised eyebrow look)
Duck: (realizing this is a Falcon) ARRRRGGGGGGGHHH

Duck:  please don't kill me, please don't kill me

Falcon: Hmmmmmm...(pacing, thinking like)

Today's your lucky day duck.
Get outta here before the Falcon man sticks you back in the cage
.
The Falcon man caught the duck and put it back in the cage.  We asked why the Falcon didn't seem interested in ripping the duck to pieces.  Probably, he said, because the duck was too big.  The birds won't take on large prey if they don't have to because of the risk of damaging a wing.  Wing damage is not good for a hunting bird.

A sigh of relief was breathed for the duck that this Falcon had already eaten.  This group was not into totally unnecessary blood letting.


To top off the morning, everyone who felt inclined got to hold a falcon. Or rather, the Falcon got to hold them.  The claws on these birds are quite large and very sharp.  Leather gear is a necessary accessory for this photo opportunity, as is not minding holding bits of shredded pigeon - presumably an incentive to keep a falcon steady and quiet for the photo shoot.

After a spot of qahwah, a few more photos and a chinwag with fellow early morning Falcon watchers, it was time for us to head out of town, further south, to our intended destination of Layla.

Layla is about 300km's from Riyadh.  It wasn't so much to the township we were heading as to the lakes outside of it.  According to my research there were 15 lakes in all, some of a very large size.  Having unearthed a map on Google we headed toward the pin drop on my phone, and yes, having an almost direct route to our destination felt like I was cheating on this expedition.  We are so used to traversing this country almost mapless.

Although our early exploits in the desert had taken place in the cool of the morning, we arrived in Layla in the hottest part of the day.  Possibly not the best planned timing but then I was driven by this picture of water based sports...
Source
Yes this is Layla lakes only a few short decades ago.

On the other side of town we turned onto a side road at the end of which was a rather long fence, slightly old, and a gate, slightly ajar.  The vehicle was parked and we walked through to see what could be seen.

Topping the Saudi version of a country fence - sand piled into banks by a digger all along a boundary line - a squeal of excitement passed my lips. The boys clambered up to see what brought on such uncharacteristic behavior.  

Ummmm....errrrrr.  
Is that someone's house?
It looks a bit wrecked.
Where's the water? 


Just a few of the comments being made by my weekend travel companions about the deserted buildings we were looking at.  They were confused.  I was excited.  We were in the right place.  This was the reputedly never opened Layla Lakes Resort, built when the lakes were a weekend respite destination from the heat of the desert.

Now the lakes are dry sinkholes -  geological marvels of little use to the man who spent a fortune erecting the nearby retreat.  The depleting of the country's water table sank the resort as the water in the nearby lakes disappeared before his eyes.


We stood at the edge of the now dry lake beds  They are rather large.  So large in fact, we didn't make our way around them - the heat beat us back.  We looked for ways to walk into the bottom of the deeper hole - the water must have bubbled up from some cavity in the ground and that would have been a great find - but there was no easy trail.  Part of a natural bridge between two of the deeper lake's had caved in as well, suggesting a search in that area might be a risky adventure.  The pigeons we disturbed were easily flying in circles in the shade of the deep wells, teasing us with our clumsy efforts. 


The small formations on the side of the big lake, shaped like cups that one could imagine making excellent cascades as water poured over them or making homes for fresh water critters, and the much larger ball and boulder shapes making up the sides of the deeper lakes are apparently of significant geological interest - a Saudi Caves article has more information for you geologically inclined readers who would like to find out more about this.  All I know is the formations are slowly, but surely, turning to dust.

Though this location can be marked off as something interesting we visited in Saudi, it was a sad sight not just because of the haunted looking buildings.  Saudi has a major water crisis that I'm not sure everyone in top positions has been appropriately addressing in their rush to build new homes and expand their cities.  And for people who hail from the desert the Gen Y and Z populous don't seem to have much of a water conservation mindset.  Water is wasted everywhere.  Drivers can be seen early in the morning washing sponsor cars every day, I've watched maids run water in the kitchens cleaning the dust from between the drupelets of blackberries till the fruit practically shines - a completely unnecessary exercise if you ask me.  And it is possible to stroll past water leaking on to the road from a hidden but obviously broken pipe for days in Riyadh.  In saying all that  though, I have to admit, as I look out at my well watered compound residence with its green trees, lovely swimming pool and quaint but unnecessary rockery water feature, my choice of home probably isn't helping the water situation much.

 

Rumour has it that the guys responsible for this country's watery plight are now playing a 'Steal from Peter to save Paul' strategy, which basically means locations in Saudi that still have sufficient underground water for their local population, like Al Ula for example, are being 'encouraged' with lots of wheeling and dealing, much to the disgust of the local residents, many of whom are small plot family farmers and gardeners, to send their precious resource to other areas of the country marked for rapid expansion.  Not exactly a long term strategy and one can easily envisage Al Ula winding up with sinkholes like Layla Lakes and Al Kharj (whose sinkholes you can read about in this post Al Kharj and the Eyes of Najma).

We left Layla Lakes contemplative of the future of this country and its drive to rapid modernization and growth wondering if it was all really worth it if such action is bleeding the country dry.  One day, perhaps like the falcon and the Layla Lakes resort owner, the country will be left stunned at how it buggered its water supplies up because of their early arrogant lack of concern for its limits.




Ka Kite,
Kiwi





Sunday, 16 October 2016

Saudi Waiting For Change?

 

There is a Deputy Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia who, according to recent accounts, is wearing himself out because he wants to drag this country into the 21st Century.  There is also a huge youthful population who want to start living in that century in more ways than just buying the latest iPhone release. We were discussing the other day, a few peeps and I, how these same youth don't seem to have jumped on board the 2030 plan and shouted out, loudly and clearly....'Yes! At last!  Finally someone to get us ahead'. Why is that?

The majority of Saudi youth, so I gather, want social modernization more than economic reform.  As a bright, well traveled and well educated young Saudi man told me, he sees that many of the issues considered immoral in Saudi Arabia today are only a problem in this country.  The rest of the world seems to have moved on and he wonders what is it with his own countrymen that they are happy to remain behind in many ways.  His family question his attitude, asking why he is not happy with the norms that have sustained this country for centuries.

There are young women I know with degrees in the business sector who have been told they must stay behind their frosted glass office with no view out at all, ladies (and not all of them young) crowded into a hot, shared, noisy space while their counterpart males get spacious, individual offices with views of the street out in the main business area where all the high flying discussion takes place. And the young women wonder what is so special about them to get such treatment?  The answer from the Saudi man in charge of the office is 'That is the way it is'. Their question behind their glass cage is, 'Why?

The other question young people ask is "What are our people afraid of?"

The answer to that question is easy.  The old guard are afraid of change.   The young people know this already, though not all of them are sure what to do with that knowledge.  On the one hand this could highlight their immaturity or on the other is a reflection of the respect that most Saudi youth hold for their elders who they consider to be wise and worthy - even if on modernization issues they largely disagree with them.

The old guard fear has its own.  Those who have become powerful, whether in the business arena, the Mosque or the home from the entrenched norms aren't about to give up that power without, at the least, a personal internal struggle or, at most, voiced protest.  That voice usually comes in the form of stern words that generally say things along the lines of 'you're being un-Islamic, of not being Saudi, of chasing infidel values, of going to hell. Of do what I say or else... '

In the past such a dressing down may have instilled fear and doubt in the hearts of their intended target.  What the old guard have forgotten is that the youth of today are, for the most part, well educated, globally connected and influenced, large in number and looking for answers that gel with the modern age.  In other words, such tactics don't work so much any more.

What the conservatives of this country also seem to have missed, which isn't so obvious unless you know where to look, is that the youth have quietly gone about advancing their goal of social modernization despite efforts to prevent it.  And they have, either cunningly or unwittingly, used the economic, political and cultural situation of the country to their advantage.  While the focus of the world, media and general Saudi population in recent years has been on the state of the Saudi economy, Saudi politics, Saudi oil, terrorism, Middle East conflict, new kings, Ministerial reshuffles and the Deputy Crown Prince as he pushes ahead with economic reform, the youth have been implementing strategies, presumably developed in youth based digital media circles that the old guard are deliberately kept out of and ably assisted by forward thinkers within the government, to create centers that are, well, modern.

There is no frosted glass.  There is no gender favoritism of space.  And the world hasn't ended.  More importantly the young people in that space are positive, energetic, happy in their work environment and getting things done.  Prior to discovering these bastions of progress I did wonder why there seemed to be silence from the youth sector regarding the economic reform plans and rather pitied the Deputy Crown Prince as without voiced support from the sector who will most likely, fingers crossed, benefit from his plan because many of his ideas include improvement for youth, his seems an uphill battle.

It was only while out the other day, chatting and laughing with some young women at a cafe while some from the old guard frowned at the fun being had, that I was reminded that cheering in this country, that emotively driven act of shouting for joy or singing praises, has been so completely discouraged in the past that the population is cautious about such expression in the public sphere.  It's ironic how advantageous that forced impassiveness has been for youth who, I sense, prefer to keep their cheering regarding social modification of their spaces to a minimum else it attract unwanted attention.

Here's hoping some part of the 2030 reforms include promotion of the normal human emotion of expressing happiness.

Change is not an easy thing to implement or to face and it has been interesting noting the two different methods for creating change in Saudi - one very public, the other quiet and steady.  Recent reform policies, such as public sector pay cuts and various price increases, have thrown up consequences that the Saudi population had not bargained for and the youth probably had not even considered possible in the bright future they dream of.  Should the reform policies begin to adversely affect their comfortable lives the youth may start viewing the nations makeover more seriously and vocally.  For now, being born into a life of plenty and having not had to face economic downturn before, coupled with that natural youthful optimism we of more mature years remember having but cannot for the life of us figure out where it went, the youth are keeping themselves buoyant, seemingly relatively unperturbed and quite upbeat because their desire for changes in the social arena is bearing fruit.  Long may their happiness last.



Ka Kite,
Kiwi



Monday, 26 September 2016

The Hunt For Vege Seeds in Riyadh


While wandering the street during salah one day a year or two after my arrival in Riyadh, I came across a Sultan Gardens store on Takhasussi St and decided to hang about till it re-opened.  Not because I wanted gardening supplies.  Because I was missing a garden.  A vegetable garden, that is.

Riyadh is the only place we have lived where we have not, almost immediately, put in a vege patch.  Perhaps it's because we were new to apartment living, or perhaps it is because we were living in the Saudi Arabia, renowned for its quirky rules, but I remember looking at all the other apartments in our block the day I arrived and registering the complete lack of anything green or plant like in their windows or on their doorsteps.  Maybe, I recall thinking to myself, other than the beautifully landscaped patches of common grounds with their arty seating and rocky rook waterfalls, gardening isn't allowed here.

It was a fleeting thought, chased away with a shrug of the shoulders as my mind set itself to other things about this new life that needed attention.  Eventually though, this green grass, country girl, while sitting on her front stairs, started wondering what that common ground would look like planted out in spuds with a bean runner at one end.

The Husband and I hail from rural NZ.  We're used to space - the quarter acre section with someones paddock over the back fence.  And within that space has always been a vege patch.  My father dug up a garden whenever the whanau moved homes.  And with nine mouths to feed, Hubsters father found a large garden made economic sense too.  I guess vege gardening is in our genes hence the reason we like them, much more so than the flower gardens that beautify our compound.


Our compound is lovely, it really is, and I often tell people we reside in a pretty compound.  But that's just it.  It's pretty.  And someone else maintains it.  Gardeners turn up regularly to cut grass, trim trees, fix the watering system, tend to the flower beds, weed, take out plants and put in plants. Granted they've planted a couple of herb bushes about the place, specifically Thyme (aka Zataar) which, along with mint, seems to be a Saudi herb staple, and it all works to make the compound pleasant to look at.  But I doubt that taking a spade to our landscaped compound lawn to stick in some rows of silver beet would have been appreciated by fellow tenants or the manager.

One day I noticed tomato plants coming up in the beautifully maintained flower beds and thought 'Wow, tomatoes. Awesome'.  A few weeks went by and the spindly plants had started bending toward the ground due to lack of supports and tiny yellow flowers could be seen, 'Cool', I thought, 'tomatoes soon'.  Shortly after, the garden maintenance crew turned up and ripped out the young tomato plants. and replaced them with pansies (or something similarly flowery).  This vege patch kinda girl spent the day feeling somewhat deflated.


Though I think the pansies (or whatever flower it is that is flowering in our compound right now, because flowered plants are simply not my forfeit), look lovely, having someone else stick them in the ground, then remove them as per the management gardening plan doesn't really soothe the soul like do it yourself vegetable gardening.

It was time, I decided, to start growing vegetables.

Potted veges at our front door, because we don't have a back door, (our compound was built at a time when OSH was a money making twinkle in somebody's eye), I told the Hubster my plan.  He reminded me that the lack of shade at our doorstep at heat battered times of the day (which in summer is pretty much all day), would only result in shriveled plants and be akin to plant abuse!  No matter.  I was on a mission.

Two places were touted as the 'Go To' for gardening supplies in Riyadh as I headed off in search of vegetable seeds to soothe my gardening soul - Sultan Gardens or one of the roadside nurseries that seem to be placed at random spots along the main roads.


Sultan Gardens has lovely garden decor for landscaping purposes - rustic iron seats, huge fountains suitable for family palaces, ceramic pots of all sizes, artistic stone ornaments and, of course, the outdoor flowers and shrubbery to go in them.  But no vege seedlings.

The nurseries had bags of soil, loads of potted trees and flowers, but no veges.  Why, I asked Mr Noor, are there no vegetable seeds in the gardening shops?  We concluded that the home vege patch isn't really a Saudi urban thing.

Chats with Saudi's friends when describing my mission at that time backed up that assumption.  Patches of dirt for vege gardens isn't really factored into the typical modern Saudi urban home design.  That isn't to say they don't eat veges.  They do.  But the growing of vegetables is somebody else's concern or takes place out of the city on the farm.  One Saudi friend noted, with a hint of sarcasm, that if the modern Saudi home design did include a garden it is highly likely the maid or driver would be put in charge of its care!  Okey dokey, I'll wait a year or two while considering how to put that into print - and there it is...

Suggestions that we move to a farm out of town a little, or simply lease a patch of ground someplace  nearby so I can get my vege gardening fix fell then, and fall still, on deaf Hubster ears.  (After much meditation it has dawned on me I am probably grasping at rather large straws with those ideas).

Another option for my vege patch fix was making regular visits to an organic garden owned by a local Prince who, I understand, is an excellent chef that I mentioned in my previous post  Organic Garden in Wadi Hanifah.  Any excess from his garden is sold to expats.  Having never had to travel huge distances to my vege patch before, stubborn, pouty old me didn't want to have to start that kind of nonsense back then.   I have since figured out that living in Saudi requires adjusting your mind set to doing things differently, if you want to do anything at all.


As you can imagine, the day I found packets of vegetable seeds in Lulu's I was totally stoked and bought more than a few. So, though it has taken a while, over the Saudi winter I have a range of vegetable plants at our front door - tomatoes, capsicum, and lettuce with mustard and radish - and I love them.  My eyes search out the green and growing plants each time I return home and evenings are spent sitting on the stairs beside the pots thinking how lucky I am to have them.  Just looking at them brings me peace.

During the summer months, Hubster is right.  The summer sun glares relentlessly at our front door and, because we tend to leave the country for a week or three heading for cooler climates at that time of year, the plants don't stand a chance of surviving.  I have considered asking security to take up watering duties but, as they already look after Cat on our jaunts away, I don't think it fair to impose any more on their time.  So as the weather warms up, any remaining plants are turned into the soil until August when I can start my vege pot patch all over again.


Summer is drawing to a close now and I am eyeing my empty pots and planning another trip to Lulu's for seeds and the local roadside stalls for bags of soil and, wait for it....vege seedlings.  The roadside nurseries have got themselves up with the play and it is possible to find little pottles of tomatoe seedlings and one or two other vegetables.  I might pop into Sultan Gardens as well, just because.  Hubster has decided that perhaps my mission needs help, so he has managed to find a couple of guttering channels (a bit of a chore in a place that doesn't tack them on to building rooves because it rains so rarely) to put together a hydroponic system at our front door to complement the pot collection.  I knew he wouldn't stay out of the vege garden for too long.



Ka Kite,
Kiwi





Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Love London

 

It's definite.  I love London.  It's got lots of things to love - history for historians, old buildings for old building lovers, cutesy little green spaces all hedgerow and flowers, large green commons for walking the dog or playing team sport, young people dashing about going places dressed in their business suit best and many of those same young people overflowing out of pubs on to pavements at the end of a hectic day, cyclists merging with the rushing noisy traffic, the underground rumbling commuters from place to place, theaters with musicals, plays and orchestras.  It's just a happening place.  And I love it.  Now.

My first visit to London wasn't what I would call inspiring.  But that may be because we were travelling on a budget.  We arrived into Victoria Station all those years ago at rush hour with our overlarge bags (we weren't experienced budget travelers at that point) and were overwhelmed by the numbers of people hurrying down escalators, that we learnt quickly to stand to the side of, crushing onto the trains, that we found ourselves sweltering in, and racing through turnstiles, that we learnt just as quickly couldn't fit large bags.  Knowing I was holding up the hurrying, scurrying masses was an unpleasant feeling.

We stumbled out of the station thinking, 'What the hell was that!'  After catching our breath and regrouping we headed off to find our lodgings.  A boarding house.  A dirty, grimey, yukky place it turned out to be - much worse than what I expected from the word 'budget'.

We had a small room up a number of flights of stairs (not good with big luggage), with two single wire wove beds and flat, well used looking mattresses barely covered by old, thin scratchy looking bedding.  They were the sort of beds that made you lift up the sheets with the tips of two nervous fingers while holding your breathe to look for giant, scuttling bed bugs.

Having just arrived and in need of the loo I got my first look at the bathroom and went 'EEWWwwww'.  It was the size of a closet, smelled of something indescribable coming off the damp floor (having obviously recently been used), with soft, rotting springy floor boards that looked like, at any moment, you could fall through them.  And mold was climbing up the walls and literally hanging down from the ceiling. Peeing was put on hold as we decided the nearest pub would be a better place to find relief and refocus ourselves with a good beer or two.


We had a grand old time at the pub and felt like a bit of a stroll to get familiar with our surrounds before returning to our divey digs for a warm cardi (as the air was beginning to cool) and heading out for dinner.  Yellow police tape surrounded the property.  Fellow lodgers were sitting on neighbouring steps looking slightly shocked and bemused.   Apparently there had been an altercation in one of the rooms in our lodgings (possibly over the crappy state of the place) and one disputant had thrown the other out the window from the top floor.   Yep, we had picked a real doozy budget place to stay!

It was decided by the step dwellers, ably supported by The Husband, that we should head to the pub because no one in authoritative looking uniforms could determine how long we would be kept out of our rooms.  So we spent a good deal more of a grand old time down at the pub with the people we had  just met on the steps who hailed from around the world and who, like us, were on a budget, were only in London for a short while and were somewhat shocked by the state of the lodge and disturbed by recent events.


The next day while out sightseeing a group of men who were, I was told later by someone who was presumably well informed, likely gypsies from Europe, attempted to surround my husband and take his money while we were on a train.  He did not take kindly to that at all and they underestimated his athleticism.  After a push and a shove and a bit of attention attracting noise, they moved off while he kept a hold on our money.

Like I said,  my first trip to London town did not exactly endear this city to me.

But I have come back since that first short visit, a few times and it has grown me.  I think it is much easier to appreciate the vibrancy of this city when you have a little more disposable cash on hand, are prepared for the multitude of bodies you will encounter as they go about their daily lives and you have whanau who don't mind a relative or two crashing at their place for a week or so when you're in town.  Or maybe I just appreciate the place and what it has to offer, warts and all, when I am on a break out of Saudi Arabia.


Ka Kite,
Kiwi





Monday, 29 August 2016

Awesome, thanks.

I got a message today from the MOI and I was impressed.  Not that the Ministry of Interior had sent me a message.  But that is was in Arabic and English.




For a struggling Arabic learner (and given I'm into my seventh year here and still can't string an Arabic sentence together that other Arabs understand entitles me to the label 'struggling', though I don't think it prudent as this point to debate the reasons for the struggle - they could make me look bad), it is fabulous that in a text message I could have a go at deciphering the Arabic text and check it against the English at the same time without having to copy and paste to Google Translate, which is usually what I have to do, when I can be bothered.

Sure, the translated English sentence may not have been perfect, (a better sentence would be - the MOI wish you a pleasant and safe stay), but I don't care.  What matters is that because the message was dual-lingual (is that a word?), the whole experience of receiving a message in Arabic was much less frustrating for me than usual.

The Saudi based telecoms or Banks that send me emails and text messages gave me the option, when I signed up, of receiving their messages in either English or Arabic.  And though I chose English, they send it in Arabic anyway.  All the other spammers don't give me options, they just blithely send me crap in Arabic that I'm fairly certain I didn't ask for and that I can't understand.  

If I do want to read lengthy Arabic messages I have to wait till I get to WiFi to copy and paste the text into Google Translate because accessing internet from my mobile via cellular data is ekky.  (Hang on, is that the mobile company's ploy all along - send me a message I can't read and have me pay extra to figure it out!)

Of course, if I don't get to WiFi till later in the day my motivation for Cut and Paste translation is fairly low, so often  Arabic only text messages are deleted without being understood at all and, depending on my frame of mind, with just a little bit of irritation that I'm receiving the stupid things in the first place.  

So thank you MOI.  I loved your dual language message.

It did make me wonder if English was the only other language you deliver your messages in.  Do you deliver in French, German or Chinese as well?  I'm aware there are a number of expats who hail from those countries living in Saudi right now who might also get a buzz out of receiving your message in their native language. 

Although I'm not going to Haj, I appreciate, along with all those who are going, the Ministry's concern and the fact they let me know in a language I understand and I just thought I'd let everybody know how ridiculously happy that made me feel.  Sharing the love.





Ka Kite,
Kiwi





Saturday, 28 May 2016

Arabic Language, Bedu Poetry and Frozen.

Arabic is quite a poetic language I think.  This epiphany was reached while visiting a Saudi friend one day and she was attempting to teach me Arabic via the phrase 'the sky is blue'.  Only the sky wasn't just blue.  It was shades of blue, depths of blue and sounds of blue depending on which grammatical notes, words or purposes were added to complete the idea of how blue the sky may be.  I might get the basics of this language while I live here, I thought to myself then and there, but it will take a lot longer to learn the poetry of it.

From discussions with my friend and tutor I gathered that poetry elements are mostly found in classical Arabic which is, as my friend described it, proper Arabic.  This comment naturally led to a discussion on the types of Arabic out in Arab world.  She speaks both Saudi and classical Arabic, her situation determining which and when - Saudi at home and with friends, classical for more formal times.

Within Saudi there are numerous differences  in the local language depending on what tribal region you hail from.  And there is also Bedu Arabic, different again.  She said Egyptian Arabic is the most popularly spoken Arabic outside of Saudi while Quranic Arabic is in the Quran.

 Added to that are the other regional differences in dialect - Lebanese, Syrian, North African not to mention the variations in Gulf Arabic and so on all with their own specific vernacular and it becomes clear, very quickly, to a Kiwi attempting to learn, and possibly travel the Middle East with my Arabic For Dummies book, (hailed in the book blurp as the only Arabic Language book you'll need), that the Arabic language is anything but standard.

This morning I Googled Arabic Language and poetry (yes I'm at a lose end today), and came across a fair amount of information on the topic.  What I found basically confirms that Arabic has made use of  metaphor, simile and idiom to create verbal imagery, flowery phrases and even exaggeration - a.k.a. poetry - as a normal part of the language for centuries. There was an understanding, researched aeons ago by Arabic scholars apparently, of the relationship between words spoken or read and the pictures the brain could see if you were descriptive enough. 

It stands to reason that if poetics makes up so much of the Arabic language, that same emotion and sensitivity would spill over into the culture, though we expats tend to label a Saudi beating round the bush as 'avoiding the issue' or an emotionally charged conversation about something quite minor as 'typical Arab crazy'.   Who'd of thought it's all just poetry in motion. Compared to Arabic, English is quite literal and direct. Directness isn't a big thing in Saudi. 

One article I found says that as time marches on and as more western influences arrive and the world modernizes with language apps doing the talking the poetic language of Arabic is at risk of being lost by today's generations.  Language is a moving changing thing and one day if Arab nations aren't careful, much like Latin or even Shakespearean English, Classical Arabic could wind up a thing of the past, studied by the few. 


Another article said that Modern Standard Arabic (another name for classical arabic) is only limited in its ability to express everyday experiences but is perfectly suited to in-depth conversations on politics and philosophy.  I'm not sure how that works, but they are sure it does.  Basically, the feeling in this article was that, instead of linguists treating modern standard and vernacular arabic as two different things, they should look at them as supporting each other.  Modern Standard Arabic can be made more  relevant by incorporating colloquial words and phrases, colloquial language can have more substance and expression using Modern Standard Arabic.  A debate for the linguists that I'll leave right there. 


The other thing I found in my Google search was the song 'Let It Go' from Frozen.  Disney, or somebody, has recorded the song in numerous languages and Arabic is one those.  Elias Muhanna wrote an article in the New Yorker, 'Translating “Frozen” Into Arabic' that was an interesting read on the changing of Arabic in this modern day and age and how translating this movie using classical language instead of the more popular colloquial language somewhat shifted the experience of the film.  I'm presuming that means made it more 'stuffy'.  Sort of like the movie Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo Di Caprio, set in the modern age with automatic weapons as fire power, but spoken with Shakespearean English.  Not a movie I enjoyed very much I have to say.

Although all those years ago (six to be more precise) my friend had made me aware that Arabic oration is akin to poetry, I never thought any more of it till we met Marcel Kupershoek in Ha'il, at a celebration of his work.  He is from the Netherlands and, while posted to Saudi with the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office he fell in love with the oral traditions of the Bedu and spent a few years studying their language and poetry.  Then he wrote books on the subject, as you do. According to Amazon's synopsis of his book Arabia of the Bedouins'

...he was posted to Saudi Arabia where, 'he started exploring the country's vast deserts and hunting in the Rub 'al-Khali , the Empty corner. Three years later, having familiarized himself with the Bedouin dialect and poetry, he set out to do five months of fieldwork among the tribes of central Arabia, travelling the Saudi desert in search of the living chronicle of the Bedouins.

He established contacts with tribesmen and Bedouins in this remote corner of the desert and discovered the powerful tribes of Utaybah, Qahtan, Subay and Dawasir, whose poets celebrated bravery and feats of arms. His host, Khalid, a Utaybah Sheikh, told him all he knew of his ancestors' chivalrous feats and daring raids when the tribes were a law unto themselves. He also became the first Westerner to visit ad-Dakhul and Hawmal, two mountains mentioned in Imrul Qais' famous pre-Islamic ode. His encounters are recorded in this part travelogue, part book of poems and study of traditional Saudi society'.
There are actually five volumes of Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia. And you can find all of them on Amazon. If you want to listen to the poems on which these books were based, you will find the original recordings of the poets and transmitters can be downloaded for free as MP3 files from Brill’s web site at www.brill.com/kurpershoek.

I admit I haven't yet read the books.  It just seemed a good idea, as we have met the bloke, and this post is about the poetry of Arabic language, to give them a mention here.  I did, however, have a quick listen to the poetry.  I find it helpful, while attempting to learn Arabic, to listen to people speaking to try and pick up on sounds and words or phrases.  It is obvious  I have a long way to go yet to learn Arabic.  

It's late and I'm rambling.

Ka Kite...



Kiwi

Friday, 20 May 2016

The New Improved Princess Souq


The Princess Souq has been moved and with its relocation has come a major upgrade.  Gone are the low ceiling and piece meal materials of wood, plastic corrugated roofing, canvas throw overs and rotting carpet that used to hold the old, dark, dank and dirty princess souq together.  The new location of princess souq, part of what is officially called the New ibn Qasim Market, is held up with high metal frames covered with large white sunshades and underfoot is a lovely patio type tiled floor.  We thought the move might hike the prices, but no, you can still buy garish gowns for next to nothing at the Princess Souq.

The other thing that seems to have been cleaned up at the new location is the D&D's (aka Dirty and Disgusting men).  You can read all about them in my previous Princess Souq post.  We spent a hassle free morning at the souq when I went with a couple of friends.  That isn't to say there aren't still men, but they seem reasonably sane and relatively capable of normal interaction with women.  And they were happy to go on my little Weehee (was meant to be woohoo, but really, it didn't come out that way) video.



The clothes are still hung in racks packed closely together so you feel like you're moving through an ocean channel of frills, tulle, silk and satin.  And that old second hand smell can still be caught when you are deep into the rows of hangers, reminding you that your purchase will likely need a good wash or dry clean when you get it home.  And when you pull a gown off the rack to assess it more closely, chances are high that baubles, ruffles and and diamantes will be present in excess.



The ladies found themselves a few goodies.  I just took photos.  Some gowns actually look quite reasonable in an overstated way and for less than 40 Riyals you could find yourself a gown or two.

Mrs B happy browsing.





It can be a fun rushing over to assess the costume discovered with calls of 'Come and look at this' and 'OMG - this can't be for real' to 'Wow, what a bargain.'  Some women head down to the souq on a very regular basis.  I am not one of them.  Hailing from the shorts or jeans with t-shirt brigade I don't have a lot of call for gowns so will go on the odd occasion if I'm feeling particularly bored, want to buy some princess dresses for the granddaughters or there is a nice lunch somewhere afterwards.

The new princess souq is south of the south western ring road.  One lady, in giving instructions, said it was just down the road from the old souq.  It's actually down the road, under the bridge, Turn left then, with the concrete works on the horizon, turn right and then.....oh never mind, here's a map.  Google co-ordinates are 24.568012, 46.745333.

Location of the New Princess Souq, Riyadh



Ka Kite,
Kiwi





Monday, 2 May 2016

Radioactive


I've been a bit under the weather lately due to a long term thyroid issue that, it was determined by my endocrinologist, needs to be sorted out once and for all because the plan, started almost two years ago, to regain normal function has not panned out.  More drastic measures had to be taken.  My options were surgery or radioactive iodine.  I chose the latter largely because I have a couple of friends who had surgery here in Saudi, and lets just say the scar they carry around as a momento isn't pretty.  Vanity, it appears, is a bit of a thing with me.

My doctor agreed the 'atomic cocktail' was the way to go, so I was sent to see the bloke downstairs (quite a young bloke and, if I was looking, cute as well) who talked to me about a thyroid uptake scan to test how functional my thyroid actually was and, therefore, how much radioactive iodine would be required to treat it .  My thyroid meds had to be stopped about five days before the scan.  I also wasn't to eat fish of any description for three days prior, and breakfast was off the cards the day of the scan.

On the appointed date I turned up at Radiation Reception and met a friend who was booked in for the same test.  We sat and chatted, comparing thyroid function notes, as you do, until I got the call to follow a nurse to a smaller waiting room.  The doctor came in followed by four women dressed in white medical outfits and black veils who I presumed were nurses.  The whole procession was quite intimidating actually because only one of the ladies nodded a hello and smiled with her eyes.  They stood fanned out across the room, reminding me of a defensive line prepared to tackle me should I do a runner.

To lessen the tension, I asked the doctor if these young ladies were trainees?  It turns out they are employees at the hospital.  OK then.  This must be an awfully important part of the process to have this many in the room.  When the doctor left to get something he'd forgotten, the Line Up were just standing there, doing nothing at all, so I decided to speak with them starting with Smiley Eyes who was perfectly happy to chat.  She said they were all on placement in the radiation department and would be there for maybe a year.

On his return the doctor explained the process for the day.  I would be taking a tablet with a small amount of radioactive material and was to return four hours later for the actual scan.  Food was still off limits for another 2 hours.  Mentally calculating the time, that would make it midday before I could eat.  Eating, for me is a necessity.  When my blood sugars drop I can very quickly become an unhappy chappy.  Would I make it?

Doctor handed me a paper cup with a tablet and a bottle of water.  The Line Up gathered around as I took the tab.   All the heads turned my way and, as the masked faces watched me drain the water bottle, various horror story plots flashed across my mind complete with accompanying dramatic music - Invasion of the Body Snatchers was one plot, Hitchcocks Psycho provided the musical score.

Steak dinner at Gala Steak Inn.
You'd have thought with four hours to kill I would've managed to eat but the time seemed to disappear, lost in the drive home, the need to open the computer and answer a few emails and preparing a stacked lunch.  I was about to bite into my succulent, juicy, perfectly cooked steak with a side of creamy mushrooms, when the phone rang. The driver was here to take me back to the hospital.  He had come a little early because he had another pick up.  Sugar Plum Pie!  Stuffing food is not lady like, so instead I sliced off a piece of meat and carried it to the waiting car saving the rest for later.

The Dr told me the scan would take around 20 mins.  It is easy to feel quite claustrophobic when the huge scanning machinery starts whirring and thick slabs of metal descend toward your face while you're lying prone on the table.  I figured there is nothing I can do about this.  Might as well have a nap.  Sleep is a great healer for me.  If I can get myself to sleep, I can get through anything.  So I dozed off.

When I woke I was told all was done, and to come back again tomorrow.
What?
They have to compare scans, so you have to come back tomorrow.
Well, that was news to me, but what choice did I have.

It was after three by the time I headed out the door and, without having had anything substantial to eat all day, a migraine was threatening with the headache throbbing at my temples.  I knew I had to eat.  And not just anything.  I had to eat fries.

For some reason fries help to settle my headaches. And I mean fries, not crisps or baked potatoes.  Not sugar or chocolates either.  Fries.  Just down the road from the hospital is a burger joint and it was to there I rushed, ordered my meal and then sat upstairs in the almost empty dining area, closed my eyes and waited for my fries.

They arrived with a burger and thick shake.

I ate the fries, looked at the burger, sipped the shake.  When food is not appealing, I know I'm in a bad way.   Shutting my eyes again and leaning back in the booth, I waited for the effect of the fries to kick in and the headache to subside.

When my eyes reopened the only other people in the diner were a young Saudi couple sitting across the room having a bit of a snuggle.  It was cute.  The blinds on the windows were being wound up signalling the end of salah which meant I had dozed for at least half an hour.  The young couple stood and left.  My headache had eased slightly, but not gone.  It was time to go home, lay on my bed in a dark room with a cold cloth on my eyes and sleep.

The next morning I ate before going to the hospital.  Repeating yesterday was to be avoided.  It was a good call as we had to wait quite a while before the scan. (My friend was back too, so we chatted till scan time).

A week later it was time to receive my dose of radioactive iodine.  The Nuclear Medicine anteroom was crowded so I got stuck in a smaller side room, more like a closet, which might have bothered me except there was a dental chair in there that just begged to be played with.  Fiddling with the controls, lifting myself up and down, and laying myself flat and back again made Hubster, who had come with me on this trip, look on with disapproval at my childish antics.  (As I get that look quite often it tends to have little effect these days).

Soon enough we were led off to chat with the Radiation Doctor who went through the list of do's and don't's related to taking radioactive iodine.  He mentioned the ability to set of airport alarms.  I thought that was cool and asked Hubster if we could fly somewhere.  He gave me one of those disapproving, don't be ridiculous looks.

Isolation from the elderly, the very young and the pregnant was a must, according to Dr Radiation.  And Hubster and I were to keep our distance as much as possible too, so for three days he slept on the couch and wouldn't let me in the kitchen near his food.  He prepped all the evening meals.  There was no complaint from me.

The radioactive iodine came in two tablets which were delivered in two thick metal containers.  Dr Radiation used his gloved hands to tip them, one at a time, into a paper cup then stood well back, out of my way, after I had downed them.  It appeared that staying away from people was to start immediately.

My doctor did say that hyperthyroid symptoms would get worse before they improved - but that little tidbit of info didn't really register at the time.  Naively I presumed that health improvement would be almost immediate once the weekend long stand down period for being radioactive was over.  So I planned a trip to Made'in Saleh with a Kiwi friend and his visiting parents for the following weekend


It turns out that climbing up mountains and rock hewn stairways, or anything remotely resembling an incline, to look at the view was not the best plan at this point.  It had been three weeks since I'd been off my thyroid meds and the doctor instructed me to keep off them for the next month.  My heart obviously hadn't received the message that it was to supposed to start behaving after a dose of radiation and was objecting to excess effort.  (In fact, by the end of the weekend the heart and body were objecting to any effort at all, which was majorly annoying and ever so slightly frightening).

Any normal person would have said, 'It's OK.  I don't need to come look at the view with you today.  You guys can tell me all about it when you get back'.  It seems 'Fear of Missing Out' is also a thing with me.  Buggered or not, I was going.  So I'd hang on to the Hubster's belt and he would drag me up the hills and stairs.  Slowly but surely, like a couple of aged tortoises, we got there.

The doctors instruction to revisit him a month after taking two nuked tabs for a blood test to see how things were going was welcomed gladly because it didn't feel like there had been much improvement in my thyroid function at all.  I was actually feeling like crap.  The heart was doing flip flops even with the Beta Blockers, I had internal tremors, the body temp was all over the place with subsequent sweating being very unlady-like, and the bowels had a timetable all of their own, usually marked "URGENT!"

When I called the doc for my blood test results his exact words were:
Are you sure you had radioactive iodine?
Yes
Was there a period of isolation?
Yes
Mmmmmm...I'll have to call the radiation department to see what they gave you and how much because according to the blood test, you are still very hyper-thyroidic.  Do you still have thyroid tablets, he asked.
Yes I said.
Go straight home and take some now.  Take four a day. Call me next week.

Oh great! (which is not exactly what I was thinking, but you get the point).  You mean this treatment hasn't worked!  Well, at least there was a reason for feeling worn out most of the time for the past month and wanting to do very little except lie on my couch.

What tends to happen when I'm not feeling the best, is that I go into what I call a 'Caving Phase'.  I like to hide in my home, go nowhere, do nothing, and see only a select few people.  Me and the cat just hang out, him sleeping on top of the back rest of my couch, me surfing the net or dozing.  Going out to do anything, even shopping for supplies, takes a huge force of will.

The husband tends to get concerned when I Cave.  He thinks it quite unhealthy.  I beg to differ.  I know what my mind and body needs, and when I'm off color rest and a certain amount of isolation are what is called for.  It's the isolation that makes people think I'm terribly unsociable and possibly depressed.  I prefer to call Caving my way of looking after myself.

Except for my little jaunt to northern Saudi, and occasional forays into the office to show I'm still alive, I'd been caving quite the month after the dose of radiation.  Hence my lack of blog posting.  I just couldn't seem to get my head into it.  But I'm back on my meds now and feeling so much better.  Provided the country doesn't run out of my meds again (and you can read about that on my post 'Riyadhs Run Out Of My Meds'), everything should be fine.

Eventually, one way or another, the thyroid will get sorted and this time I'll be prepared for the effects.  Hubster see's this as a time for us to stay put until my health is 100% improved.  I think that's nonsense now that things are looking up, so am attempting to talk him into a trip next weekend - to a mountain with rock pools.



Ka Kite,
Kiwi





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