Imbolc Valentine Moon
Saudi Arabia. Mark has been there for well over a year, almost 2, so the day-to-day scene comes more and more into focus, even for me, 8,000 miles away. Perhaps the oddest piece of information so far concerns postal service. Addresses don’t work in Saudi Arabia. To this northern European mind, used to numbered homes and buildings, named streets and precisely divided zip codes this data fails to process. So much so that we insisted (I insisted) on sending Mark a package for Christmas to his school. Well, it hasn’t arrived quite yet.
Apparently the only solution to this problem is to use Fedex or DHS. Which begs the question of how they find a place, but they must have some kind of system. So, next time we send Mark a picture of Gertie and a book on the geo-political affairs of Saudi Arabia, it’ll go out Fedex.
Banking, too, has its peculiarities. You can’t get a bank account without an iqama, sort of a work visa, and Mark’s school has not been able to arrange iqamas for their first year employees. This is Mark’s first year working in Riyadh. An iqama is roughly equivalent to a green card in the U.S. Without it Mark has to go on a familiar routine for expats in many countries, a visa run. On a visa run you leave the country where you live, stay away a few days, then re-enter, starting the visa process again, usually for a period of 90 or 180 days.
Mark also reports that a few students watch jihadi videos and execution videos in his class. His afternoon classes have to stop for the afternoon prayer, then start up again. The priorities of other cultures, which seem obvious to them, often seem odd or at least unexpected to outsiders. Mark seems to have adjusted very well to the differences between his U.S. acculturation and the Saudi’s.