Thursday, May 17, 2007

How Am I Stingy?

This is me putting my literature degree to good use- my mock sonnet parodying Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How do I love thee?" Sonnet#43.

How am I stingy? Let me count the ways.
I am stingy to the depth and breadth and height
My salary can reach, when feeling funds are tight
For the ends of frivolity is just before paydays.
I am stingy to the level I rush to today’s
Most advertised sale, since full prices bite.
I am stingy openly, not embarrassed, I’m right;
I am stingy most purely, when prices soar like a kite.
I am stingy with a passion put to use
In the shopping mall, it comes from the depths of my heart
I am stingy with a tightfistedness I seem not to lose
With my pay raises- I am stingy, with money I hate to part,
Half price sale’s my soul’s delight!- and, due to lack of floos*,
I shall be stingy in the loading of my cart.

*money-colloquial Arabic

Driving Ms. Daisy

See what I gotta resort to!

Go to Sand Gets in My Eyes blog for an unbelivable picture on this same topic.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Hair, Hair, Everywhere

***to be sung to the tune of "Old MacDonald"***

In Dammam we have expats
Ee ei ee ei ooh
And these expats they show their hair
Ee ei ee ei ohh
With some blond streaks here
And no veils there
Here is hair
There is hair
There’s no Muttawa anywhere
EP is a laid-back place

Thank you Shaymaa for your inspiration in the car on our way from Dhahran Mall.

We don't have much of an western expat community in Al-Hassa, so the sight of all these uncovered white folks on my short trips to Dammam is kinda strange for me. I'm glad I live in the EP with our beaches, oases, and relaxed attitudes. Despite all the modern commodities of Riyadh, it sounds a bit too uptight for me with roving bands of Muttawa and "tribe pride".

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Topics of Conversation in the Magellat

What have women been talking about in our magellat*? Here's some insight from this weekend's conversations.

Body Image- It was being discussed how now when a wife gains a few pounds, husbands are dogging them to slim down. Some of these women there have taken to extreme dieting to loose weight.

Changes in Married life- women were reminiscing about back in the days. These women are aged mid-20's to mid 40's and are all worried about getting older and appearing less attractive to their husbands. The influence of media on men's perceptions of their wives was discussed heavily. Who can compare to TV women who never change poopy diapers or scrub a floor and have perfect make-up, hair and bodies? Their grandparents never had issues like this.

Misyaar marriage- it used to be that a poor man's wife could relax when it came to one issue, her husband wouldn't be able to afford a second wife so her position was secure. But now, with some unmarried professional women willing to give up their rights to support and housing just to get married, even the poor guys can get married again. Where western women worry about their husbands having affairs with their secretary or taking on a mistress, women here worry about a second wife.

I was a quiet observer during this conversation and just listened to what these average Saudi women had to say. Some are slightly more educated than others, none of them are professionals, they have never travelled except to Mecca and Bahrain, and the household income for all of them doesn't exceed SR6,000 ($1,600).

*magellat- women's parlor, a room in a house used to receive female guests.

Hangin at the farm

Eat your hearts out Najdis and Hijazis. Y'all have your fancy shmancy buildings and your glittery cities. You got your shopping malls and your restaurants. But how often do you get to see mother nature at her finest? We may be in Podunk, but we have miles and miles of green stuff. Here's how Hassawis spend there time:

We hung out the whole night and left at dawn. There was dancing, singing, laughing, swimming, and eating greasy lamb on top of rice. We aren't lucky enough to own a farm, this one was a rental, but we're gonna buy one Inshallah. These farms are what holds me back from running like a bat out of hell to a "big city". This is quality of life.

5 Words I Think I Use The Most

I've been tagged by Samia (sorry it took so long) in Denmark to write about the 5 words I think I use the most. This is the brainchild of my friend in the UK Hema. Samia has an interesting piece on her chat with a Nazi.

  1. "No" -I have small children.
  2. "Actually"- I start too many sentences like this during conversation.
  3. "Really"- my emphasis word. I usually stretch it out reeeeeeeally long for extra emphasis.
  4. "Shhhhh"- not really a word but I say it often. I value peace and quiet.
  5. "Sleep"- as in "go to sleep", "Man, I need some sleep", and "I'd do anything to sleep 6 straight hours".

I don't as yet have too many established blog buddies so I'm just gonna tag DesertFlower. This tag isn't entirely without merit, it gives some insight into our lives. Don't worry Hema, I'll make sure in the future to tag you first in revenge for creating a tag.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Support Sisters, Saudi Heritage, and the Envirionment With One Transaction

I’m being teased mercilessly and getting called “Nakhlawiyya” (farm-girl) by my in-laws because of my choice in laundry baskets. Instead of buying one of gazillions of plastic laundry baskets, I went and ordered a traditional, woven basket to be made for me by one of the dying breed of basket weavers here in the city. It’s actually used for hauling dates around but I saw its value for hauling clothes around. Nowadays most of these baskets are woven from plastic so I had to order one made for me of old-fashioned, undyed palm leaves.

Um Ahmed is the lady who managed to solicit our patronage…and these are some aggressive saleswomen! They’re located at the Thursday Market in back of the Central fruit market every Thursday morning till noon prayer. Yes, I mean the now notorious fruit market which is in back of the Flirty-Go-Round (the Baladiyya-City Hall). Since this area is away from the main body of the Thursday Market I could get down out of the car and browse through some of the ladies’ goods on sale and have a chat with them without shaming my family for several generations to come.

Um Ahmed allowed us to take a few pictures of her wares, all stuff she’s woven herself, as long as she was out of the picture. A tiny man, whom I can only assume is Abu Ahmed, was happy to pose holding up some of the items on display in a bid for free advertising. All the while he was telling me about the value of these baskets and how strong they are…that’s OK, we’re buying them already.

Um Ahmed saw my dork husband coming from a mile away and talked him into buying some traditional fans, pictured perched on top of the basket in the handles along with the mat she convinced him we need.

These poor women could use an A/C. The temp was rising fast and it wasn’t even noon yet!
The only things they have to protect them are these little shelters.

If I’d chosen a plastic laundry basket, it would be around for hundreds of years after its job of carrying laundry was done. It would have probably broken and cracked, forcing me to buy another one after only a few short years. This adds another plastic laundry basket behind as my ecological legacy for future archeologists to find and speculate as to their uses along with millions of pampers, plastic shopping bags, Pepsi cans and legless Fulla ‘idols’ in a Saudi landfill.
You can find 'Um Ahmed's' in any country on this planet, struggling to preserve traditional crafts and bring them to market. By buying from Um Ahmed I’m helping to preserve a piece of heritage and history, I’m putting food on her table and clothing her children and I’m not polluting the earth. Also, I get to listen to my in-laws reminisce about their sweet memories growing up ‘before oil’, a history lesson triggered by the sight of my new laundry basket.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Flirty-Go-Round

A strange phenomenon occurs when you combine a city full of big butts, guts, and only one nice sidewalk: The Flirty-Go-Round.

Many people here would like to walk for exercise but, the lack of sidewalks can make this unpleasant. Some neighborhoods also lack sewers and there is sewage leaking from overflowing septic tanks into the sidewalk-less streets. Also, walking on the road can turn you into a moving target for this country’s unskilled drivers. Only recently has the city begun to create actual sidewalks on some main drags.

The first place to get a nice new brick sidewalk was the city hall building (Al-Baladiyya). It is very wide and completely encircles city hall and its surrounding greenery. There isn’t any houses close by, only the maternity hospital and a big post office building. People began to flock to the new sidewalk, which resembles a track, to get their daily exercise. It’s popular because of its nice wide circular shape, nice green scenery, its central location, it provides a measurable distance for the walkers, and it’s just become a “thing” to do.

Pregnant women, fresh from seeing a doctor at the maternity hospital, would go walking/waddling there to bring on or progress labor. Other women, who work at some of the neighboring hospitals, also started going there and would walk while chatting with their friends after their shifts. Some men, in full jogging gear, also began going there, weaving around the slowly walking abaya-clad women. More and more people came to walk and it wasn’t long before the young men of the town caught wind of this new place to go and potentially meet women on the move.

Recognizing the “danger” posed by all this gender mixing, the people inside city hall came up with a rule to help curb potential flirting. The rule was; anyone walking around city hall has to walk in a clockwise direction. This would help to keep men from “bumping” into oncoming women or vice versa. It would also curb any flirty looks at oncoming walkers. So, the walking continued, in a more orderly fashion.

One can come any day after ‘Asr prayer and see the clockwise walking continue right into the night. There’s usually a girl/boy order to the walking: a gaggle of girls immediately preceeding a flock of flirters in freshly ironed thobes and starched ghutras…yeah, they’re there to exercise...sure.

One determined young man decided to use his education to convince the government officials of their folly in deciding to keep everyone moving in a clockwise direction. He took an appointment with the highest minister in city hall and proceeded to argue logic.
He quoted from his science books:

“Sir, it’s scientifically proven that if a human being continues to move in a clockwise direction, his heart will explode! The rule that everyone has to walk in a clockwise direction will harm our health and should be revoked immediately.”

The minister sat, and let the earnest young man complete his spiel without objecting or saying a word. Little did the young man know but this particular minister was a science major himself. After he was done the minister showed the young man out. He informed him it was doubtful any of the walkers could attain such a speed, only attainable in a centrifuge-like device, so as to cause their heart to explode and thanked him for his concern.

I guess he’ll have to find another way to meet women.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

If you loved me you'd cook me rice

He: The house is a mess, and I’m hungry
She: I’m so tired, I have a project I need to do.
He: That’s enough, I’m sick of always coming after your schoolwork. When was the last time you cooked?
She: Buy something from outside, I’ve got too much stuff to do. I also need to get the kids bathed and put to bed so I can finish my work for tomorrow.
He: If you loved me you’d cook me rice.
She: That’s the measure of love? Everyone else I go to uni with has maids, I’m the only one who doesn’t.
He: So I’m supposed to get you a maid now? We don’t have any money.
She: That’s not what I mean, can’t you be patient and understanding a little?
He: You’ve been going to school for 6 years already. I got married to have a wife, not to live like this.

This couple almost got a divorce last week. My husband was called in to intervene and talk to the man. I talked to the woman to get her side of the story so when my husband was talking to the man, he’d have more of the facts. We’d already gotten the cliffnotes version from her father who gave us the call and we were discussing the issues in the car on the way to meet them. Being close to the woman I knew more background on the story than my husband did so I asked him to pass on a few morsels of counsel to the man. I wanted him to tell the man about our life when I was a student in England.

We were both studying but of course (as is the way it is in most of the world, wrong or right) the housework and childcare were my responsibility. My husband’s degree took precedence over mine because although we were both on scholarship, his career and consequently our future, depended on HIS doing a good job.
· Remember my bouts of crying because I had too much on my plate?
· Remember how I wouldn’t sit down to eat with my family because I had to start on the cleanup?
· Remember how I had to choose either attending lectures or studying, I didn’t have time for both?
· Remember how I was the only Saudi female student we met who had small kids but no maid?
· Remember how I could only do my uni work after the kids were fed, bathed, played with, sent to bed and the house cleaned?
· Remember how I had to base what lectures I chose on the timetable and how it fit around my kids being home, not on the quality or content of the lecture?
· Remember how when I had essays due, and there’d always be three or more due at the same time, I’d have to do a housework and children strike for almost a week previous to the due date, not sleep for 3 days previous to the due date, and once again cry because I can’t do the good job that I wanted to and I know I’m capable of and I was so stressed out.
· Remember how skinny and sickly I became because of the pressure? I spent second semester of my third year in and out of the hospital with asthma, many attacks were triggered by stressful situations.
· Remember how we had to put off having more children because there’s no way a baby could have fit into the chaos?
· Remember how I had to do my grocery shopping online because I could point and click and Voila! It was delivered for a fiver.
· Remember how I’d go months without talking to some of my friends because I didn’t have time?
· What beauty regime? Oh yeah, every week I’d clip my nails. I had an annual hair trim immediately after taking the year’s last exam. Good thing I wore hijab AND nikaab at uni! There were days I had on my PJ’s under my jilbab.

I regularly talked with this woman about her struggles while trying to finish university. I already knew of her husband’s attitude towards being “neglected”. She confides in me since many stay-at-home old-school Saudi women don’t understand the pressure she’s under. She’d gotten married, had two babies, underwent a major health scare and spent much time in the hospital with one of her children all since starting her studies.

This could be any couple, any where in the world. Although some western men may help somewhat around the house, I’ve heard statistics which suggest that women in two-income families still do upwards of 80% of the housework in America and England. And even the 20% SOME of them do is praised unnecessarily! Don’t be surprised a Saudi man sits around like King Farrouk waiting to be served by his frazzled wife because unfortunately, they’re not the only ones as I’m sure we’ll hear about in the comments section. I remember some of my Eastern European relatives bitching because their son was washing the dishes after getting home from work: his wife had three kids under the age of 5!

Rather than relating more sad stories of female oppression via housework, I want my readers to feel how universal this situation is. Did it make any difference that it took place in Saudia, in Arabic, and with two Saudis in an Islamic marriage?

Analyze this!

Hema tagged me...
I can't analyze handwriting, but I'm sure mine speaks volumes. Most men write more girly than I do. I'm constantly criticized about how ugly it is and I should take more pride in it. I couldn't care less.