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Middle East » Saudi Arabia » Khafji
February 12th 2010
Published: February 12th 2010
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The Persian Gulf at SunsetThe Persian Gulf at SunsetThe Persian Gulf at Sunset

If you look carefully, you can see Edward
Written February 9, 2010; Published February 12, 2010

I’ve been in Saudi Arabia for 8 days now. We still don’t have Internet access at the villa. This is strange because there is a network/internet port on almost every wall. The client starting asking for Internet connections for our accommodation about a month ago. They have called the IT department daily since I got here. But still nothing. Every day we are told “tomorrow” inshallah (God willing). Apparently it is not God’s will that we have Internet access. This means we can’t keep up with our work email, personal email, sending reports from the assessment center and most importantly my blog!

Things move very slowly in Saudi. I came here a week before the assessment center started to get ready and it’s a good thing I did. I wound up working 12 to 14 hours a day, including the weekend, to get ready. And I only got ready because two of the people from the client’s staff helped me, even on the weekend (one is Indian and the other Pakistani). But even the smallest tasks took hours of effort.

One thing I needed to prepare for the Center was
The VillaThe VillaThe Villa

This is a bit nicer than the Rajan Hotel. This is the living room of the villa.
a room with 9 computers. This was located in the computer lab. However, when I started to check the PC’s, I noticed that half of them were unplugged and the Internet cables were not connected. When I started to plug stuff in, I found out that half of the electrical outlets weren’t functioning and finding a working Internet connection was a guessing game. I was told to go to the head computer instructor. He called IT. I kept being told, it would be fixed on Saturday (in shallah), but I was unwilling to wait until the day before our program started because once the PC’s were functional, it would take me about five hours to configure the PC’s. At my insistence, The IT guy finally on Wednesday. He came into the room and informed us that it “wasn’t my job.” We told him it was. He finally agreed to check all of the computers. When we returned, he was gone and the computers still weren’t plugged in! I escalated the problem and IT returned. When they left 4 of the 9 computers were still not working. On Friday, the holiest day of the week, I ran out of patience and
Near the VillaNear the VillaNear the Villa

We are located only a block away from the Persian Gulf (referred to locally as the "Arabian Gulf").
escalated the problem to one of the head people. He told me “wait until Saturday. It will be fixed then, inshallah . I told him it couldn’t wait. When the IT guy left, 8 of the 9 computers worked. One more IT trip on Saturday finally had all 9 PC’s working (at least temporarily).

We asked for a U-shaped table that seated 18 participants for the orientation. The table sat 9. We called the designated head of the building and spent at least an hour explaining what we needed. He told us to call someone else. The client changed the name of the company to be displayed on the manual. It took about 4 hours to have people agree to have it reprinted internally. We were prepared to drive to Kuwait (they have a FedEx/Kinkos there) to have it reprinted. And so it went.

The most enthusiastic and hard working person in the building is a guy who sits at the front desk. He is always offering coffee, tea, or water and willing to get any supplies or anything else we need (at least within the limits of what he can understand from our English). Edward speaks the
Rain in the Desert?Rain in the Desert?Rain in the Desert?

This is the villa where we are staying (actually our group has two villas). It was raining the first two days I was here.
same Indian dialect at Ahyub, so I asked Edward to translate some questions. One thing I found out is Ahyub’s working hours. Listen to this: he works from 5:30 am to 5:30 pm, seven days a week, 365 days a year!! That’s not a typo - he works 84 hours a week without a vacation or holiday for two years. After TWO YEARS, he gets a two month vacation of which one month is paid and the other month is unpaid. I’m sure I don’t want to know how much money per hour he works.

But there is good stuff too:
Tonight I walked to the grocery store with Werner. I enjoyed talking to the little girls playing in the street. When they see you, they say “hello.” When you start to leave, they say “hello.” The bravest one asked me my name and I enjoyed them thoroughly.

Our villa is two blocks from the Persian Gulf. It’s beautiful, even though I’ve mostly seen it at night. Today I saw it in daylight for the first time because Edward and I came back early to check for our promised Internet connection (and you know the ending to that story). From our vantage point, you can see Kuwait. We are about a two-hour drive from Iraq and across the Gulf is Iran. You can see the gas flames from the oil wells.

Another surprise tonight was that the sink from the bathroom was in the hallway. Every day, they have promised to fix the broken sink. I called housekeeping to ask them to remove the sink from the hallway and they said they would send someone over “right away.” They didn’t. I then asked (as I do every day) when the bathroom will be fixed. He then said, “It’s not fixed?” I thought that might be obvious because I just had said the sink was lying on the floor of the hallway. Actually, it was pretty funny.

The group of consultants is very international and that’s my favorite part. In my building, we have Michel whose father is from Lebanon and mother is Hungarian-American. Michel just moved from New York to Brussels and will be moving to Abu Dhabi soon. Jay now lives in Chicago, but I used to live in Minneapolis and we have worked together when he was there. Peng was born in China, went to high school and college in Los Angeles and has now moved back to Shanghai, China. (He’s Chinese, but is an American citizen.). Koji is from Tokyo, Japan. In the other villa is Peter, who lives in Geneva (but is American); Werner from Brussels, Belgium; Denes from Budapest, Hungary; Koen from the Netherlands, and John from Houston, Texas. I am and ex-New Yorker who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Tomorrow is the last day of the week and the end of the second assessment center. There is talk about us spending a night in a tent in the desert. I would love that and hope it comes to pass. Inshallah.

Be sure to scroll to the next page of photos



Additional photos below
Photos: 27, Displayed: 26


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The VillasThe Villas
The Villas

There are hundreds of nearly identical villas.
EdwardEdward
Edward

Edward was my client contact. He's from India and I couldn't have done this without him.
Everything but the kitchen sinkEverything but the kitchen sink
Everything but the kitchen sink

Actually, it\'s the bathroom sink. It was broken for four days and they promised to fix it every day. One day we came back and they had left it in the middle of the hallway.
Women's Living Room in the VillaWomen's Living Room in the Villa
Women's Living Room in the Villa

There are two different entrances -- one for men and one for women. This is the women\'s living room.
Men's and Women's EntrancesMen's and Women's Entrances
Men's and Women's Entrances

Here you can see the two different entrances. The one in the middle is for men and the one to the right of it is for women.
New VillasNew Villas
New Villas

This whole area is under construction
The Promotion of Virtue and The Prevention On VicesThe Promotion of Virtue and The Prevention On Vices
The Promotion of Virtue and The Prevention On Vices

Check out the bottom sign. Anyone care to visit THAT office?


12th February 2010

And....?
.....how's the food?? Sounds like between crises you probably don't have time to eat anyway! Or, do you have to prepare your own meals too? LOL.
14th February 2010

Food
The food is plentiful, but much the same every day: chicken, shrimp, and rice (plus side dishes). I have another entry coming with a desert feast (whole lamb). Stay tuned!
16th February 2010

GOVT.
How's the government there? and did you see religious police?
17th February 2010

Religious Police
The religious police are called "Mutauwa" I didn't run into any (except perhaps as Participants at the assessmesnt center), so I didn't have any problems. Actually, I have to say that I haven't had any problems with Mutauwa on any of my visits. They tend to hassle Middle Eastern people, but now Westerners. The biggest hassle I had was crossing the border between Saudi and Kuwait. I'll do a blog posting soon with more details.

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