|Don't I look so modest?|
(Andrew's Note: By whirlwind, I think she means shamal. We're going to do this in two posts, partly to increase your daily level of suspense and partly because the past 48 hours have been something of a shamal.)
|Fig. 1A - A Shamal in Riyadh|
Our flight from Houston took us through Frankfurt, Germany. Getting our bags checked was a barrel of fun because we had failed to notice the 18lbs per carry-on rule. We tried to convince the check in attendant that 35lbs wasn't too far off from 18 lbs.... (it's what we tell Won Ton to help his self esteem).... She didn't appreciate our creativity in rounding up. Lame. We ended up having to check both carry-ons as luggage. And that ain't cheap kids. (Not to mention spreading your suitcase on the floor to repack stuff in front of the rest of the world.)
Having never flown on business class legitimately (meaning the one time we were slightly late for a flight and they had nowhere to put us but in Business Class) becomes embarrassingly obvious in about the first 35 seconds on the plane. We should probably back up at this point and mention that we got to fly on the Lufthansa Airbus A380-800....the largest plane in the world... Which had, coincidentally, arrived in Houston a day before we left. We were one of the first flights for the plane. Thanks Aramco.... ; ) Anyway, it was pretty obvious who the Aramco people were almost immediately, and specifically the Aramco teachers. Picture business men and women reading the Wall Street Journal. Then picture Andrew and I.... We were literally taking pictures of how many different ways you could move the chair flat or upright, posing in every position. Every few minutes we would be interrupted by a stewardess asking if she could offer us some champagne or wine or a hot towel.
|We're screaming on the inside.|
|Terrible picture. Wonderful seat.|
|We've never had a shower this nice in our house...|
The husband's mental health notwithstanding, approaching Saudi Arabia at night is like no other experience I've ever had on a plane. There are very few lights, you get the feeling your plane is about to land in the sand. Just a bit creepy. We made our way through the airport to imigration where we stood for about an hour in a silent line. Actually, there were probably 6 lines, all about 40 or so people deep, single file, and completely silent. We were ushered into a line with many other Caucasians... Kind of like it was the Aramco line! Officials in immigration would randomly get up and leave in the midst of processing people, and not return for 20-30 minutes. If you had no flexibility or patience you could have gone batty. (Some of you who know us...er..Allison... may be wondering, "How the crap did Allison stand in an inefficient line for an hour without A) causing an international incident, B) offending a large part of the Saudi population, or C) killing me", the answer is: she did great! Well done wife!!) ***Sigh*** MEANWHILE... our line was like the party line. Eveyrone was freaking out about how cool business class was.
(We managed to get through baggage claim and found all 6 of our suitcases unscathed. We then went to the dreaded Baggage Screening line, where they will search every ounce of your stuff and arrest you for possession of an Advil and.....OH WAIT, we breezed right through! They didn't even look in our bags! What were all those weeks of stressing for?!?) W.T.G. Aramco, W.T.G. (For those of you just joining us, that's an Allisonism for "What the Goat". Incidentally, the rules for the Ras Tanura beach state very clearly that goats should not be slaughtered on the beach. Not kidding. More on that next time.)
One of the cooler things that happened is that once we were done being processed, we were met by the superintendent of Aramco schools as well as a few of the principals-- Keep in mind it's almost midnight at this point. The superintendent actually gave me a batch of homemade snickerdoodle cookes "made fresh a few hours ago by my wife"... Yes please. Our driver then took us to Ras Tanura, our new home along the beach. (Luckily the cab driver had a Suburban, so there was just enough room to cram the three of us and our bags. After a RATHER BRISK drive, we managed to get to Ras Tanura. It was pitch black, but the drive was interesting... you could see exactly where the interstates were going in front of you because it's just a loooooooooong snake of street lights for miles, and no pesky buildings to obstructs your view. When we got near Ras Tanura, the lightpoles started having neon colors on them :-) At one point, the driver turned off his lights and slowed down for a checkpoint. We got a little nervous, to be honest. Turns out that the checkpoint is nothing more than something to make people slow down a little, and he turned off his headlights because that's the custom when you come up to gates and things so the workers aren't blinded. Perceptions... : )
I'll post MUCH more on Rast Tanura and our awesome new home next time... Jet lag is getting to me and Andrew starts work tomorrow. Which means I'll be up making him breakfast... don't laugh punks.
(I'll let you know how that goes...........................
And.... just to make you come back... here is a preview of our next post...
|Iran is to my left|