Friday, August 22, 2008

So, Tom, What Junk Food Do You Eat?

Ramadan is coming up in September so the stores are selling special products. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during day light hours and then celebrate during the evening. To break the fast, they enjoy a fruit flavored drink. Vimto (not shown), Towt, and Tono are three popular products used. They are concentrated syrups added to water (or bubbling water or other liquid). It is very sweet. Vimto has a web site where you can Shlurple the Purple and read about the health benefits of their product.
Frito Lay has some flavors we just can't get in the US. Vine Leaves. The bag states it "is a traditional Mediterranean tasty dish for all occasions. Rich in several important nutrients, vine leaves can also be savored along with yogurt." If you have had Greek grape leaves (dolmades) stuffed with rice (and/or lamb), there is a suggestion of that flavor. To me, it tasted tomato-ey (even though there is none), vinegary, olive-y. It wasn't bad and I may have it again.
This, of course, is Indian-based but quite popular here in Saudi. Again, the flavor is not strong but there.

Maybe Frito Lay should sell an international flavors pack.

New Apartment

The first apartment I was in was temporary until the Fluor apartments were ready. The first one was provided by Sipchem and is for a married couple.
This new apartment is half the square meters with no floor to ceiling windows or balconies, which I miss. I am fortunate, though, to have a single and not have a two bedroom to share with someone who may smoke, be noisier, or messier. The gentleman next to me smokes and comes through the walls or HVAC ducts or some gap I cannot find. This photo is how the living room was arranged when you step into the apartment. The sofa is long enough to nap on. The TV is flat screen which is nice. I have been watching the Olympics when I am home before and after work and today, Friday. The dining room table is right there.
Take two quick lefts and you are in the kitchen. The cabinets and drawers are about 3 inches shallower so dishes and boxes (aluminum, saran wrap) don't fit. Microwaves are not provided because they are considered unsafe here.
Step out of the kitchen and take a left and you are in the bathroom. The hand sink is in front of the toilet and the washer/dryer are to the left behind the door when facing the toilet. You can get a lot of business done in this one room!
Step out of the bathroom and left one more time and you are in the bedroom. I walked to the far wall and took this photo. You can see the refrigerator door down the hallway. The bed is a regular; in the first apartment it was a king. i do have a reading light and am reading "Blood and Thunder" by Hampton Sides. It is about Kit Carson and America's manifest destiny to the Pacific.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Quick Trip to Bahrain

I had my first trip outside of Saudi. Jorge, Khalil, and I drove to Bahrain across a long cause way. Normally it takes 2 1/2 hours. It took 6 hours. There are many stops to get across (in the order I remember and may not be the actual order)"
1. Toll
2. Car ownership
3. Saudi immigration
4. Bahrain immigration
5. Bahrain customs
6. Bahrain car insurance
7. Bahrain visitors bureau (to get hotel reservation)
We left Jubail at noon and arrived at the hotel at 8:30 pm (including lunch in Khobar, KSA).

The hotel didn't have any reservations for us but we could get a deluxe room for 90 dinars instead of the 67 we had already paid. Khalil talked to the manager and told him we were going out for dinner and expected our rooms to be ready at the first agreed to rate.

We ate at an Italian restaurant that Jorge liked because they had good wine (and food). It was good.

We stayed at the The Regency Intercontinental which is a 5 star Holiday Inn brand. It was not as nice as the other Intercontinentals I have stayed at though we did get rooms at the lower rate. It may because it was older. The staff was a mixture of Indians, Chinese, and Lebanese.

The lobby was decorated with beautiful statues.

Looking straight up in the main lobby was like looking ouside.

The next day, Khalil took us on a tour of the city he grew up in. We drove to an island north of Bahrain and I stitched together this view of the city.

We visited the old Gold Souk (market) and drove his Denali down a road where I could reach out and take stuff off of tables. We could not have sped away because too much foot traffic. I saw a mosque and church near each other. The church runs the American Mission Hospital.

I also saw how boats were made in the old days and where the city has expanded by reclamation from the sea (like the Dutch have done). We also drove by the royal palace and parliament building. The city is all new with lots of skyscrapers and glass.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Contact Info - Just in Case (revised Aug 8)

Mail address (for envelopes):

Murjan Village
Apt F19 - Woodbury
Post Box Number 11721
Jubail Industrial City, 31961
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Street address (for packages):

Murjan Village
Apt F19 - Woodbury
Fahad Road (Highway 2)
Al-Khafji Street, Fanateer, Jubail
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

It is recommended to use DHL, UPS, or FEDEX that have package tracking systems. One person here used USPS priority postal service and has received 1 out of 3 boxes. The 2 missing boxes had tracking numbers but their whereabouts is unknown.

Fahad Road (Highway 2) is the road that runs east-west and parallels the water. Al-Khafji is the nearest cross street to Murjan Village. Fanateer is the neighborhood we are located in, kind of like The Plaza or Highland in KC. Jubail is the city. Jubail is located in the Eastern Province (which is not part of the address). And Saudi is a monarchy family name in the area of Arabia and hence the Kingdom.

Murjan Village phone number (from USA):

011 966 3 347 7777 extension 235

The phone system is like a hotel system where you dial the main switchboard and then the extension.

During daylight savings time, Jubail is 7 hours ahead of the East Coast so noon in Greenville is 7:00 pm here.

On Skype, my search name is olander11.

Night at Murjan

The lighting here at night is quite dramatic. The photo to the left is the front of my building. I used the ISO setting so it is "grainy" and no flash.

There are a few fountain around along with lots of shade seating areas. You can see the red, green, blue, and yellow lights in this shot. Everything is well landscaped with lots of flowering bushes and perennials.

Some of what I thought were palm trees are actually date trees. i had my first "fresh" date today, straight off a tree. The appearance reminded me of an acorn except it was not anything like that. The bottom half was ripe and colored a dark honey brown. The top stem half was a white yellow custard color. To eat, I bit the ripe part off and it was very sweet and creamy. I then extracted the seed out with my teeth and spit it out. Then I extracted the rest of the sweet meat from the middle leaving the white hull that was very fibrous which I did not eat.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Travel Route

This is one route we take some mornings to work. We vary it per Fluor rules.
There are several layers of security. once off the main highway, we first proceed through a checkpoint manned by the Saudi Marines complete with rifles and side arms. Trunks are opened. We navigate through concrete barriers past a bunker with machine guns.
The next stop is at the jobsite gate. This is run by a different group. Supplementing them are more Marines in another camoflauge house.
After work, returning back to the village, the car bottom is inspected with mirrors and the trunk is opened. There are concrete barriers and steel gates to slow the traffic. The opposite lane has tire puncture spikes.
The bay side of the village has a barrier to slow/stop boats. Rumor has it that there is a laser detection system like in the movies. At each end of our beach is manned and gunned observation tower.
We feel very safe and have not had any problems. It is reassuring that the Saudis protect their visitors so well.

The Weekend

I have been wondering if it is the weekend if it is one day long. It is better than no days off.

Last night Alex D. had his birthday party. He is the Process Control System Lead for the client. He had his party catered outside of the Murjan Village restaurant. There were about 20 people including Alex' wife, her sister, and another wife. Alex provided all the food and adult beverges, grain and grape varieties. The breeze died and it was very hot. We ate after the sun set and had grilled steaks, bar b q chicken, bar b q lamb chops, potato salad, cole slaw, other salads, vegetables, and desserts. It was all very good. Most of the people there were from South Africa and most were instrument engineers like me. There were a few of the client higher ups there. Of course I forgot my camera. I left at 11 pm exhausted.

So I have this photo instead to show the next day.

I didn't have a cuerveza for this shot. Those are some ugly hairy legs!