Greetings, loyal readers! (Or reader, as the case may be.) It's been about two months since I vented my spleen about the state of the world. Since I am easing back into this, I thought I'd catch everyone up on what's been going on these last eight weeks.
I last blogged from Tirana, Albania. I was there for work, as usual. Frankly, Albania ain't much too look at, but I was glad to get the assignment again since my brother and sister-in-law are there. I should amend my earlier statement. Tirana isn't much to look at. I'll bet there is plenty of beautiful Balkan countryside in Albania, I just didn't get to see it. If you are ever considering traveling to that part of the world, I recommend not going there in February. It wasn't particularly cold, but it rained nearly the whole time we were there (almost three weeks).
After Albania, I spent the rest of March stateside crawling the walls, waiting for my next trip. Luckily my next trip was a vacation to Brazil. I took my Mom down to Recife to meet my girlfriend, Ana Maria Bezerra Sales. I also delivered an engagement ring to Ana making her my fiancee. We spent four days in Brazil and had a really good time. I also took the Foreign Service Written Exam (the first step towards becoming a Foreign Service Officer) at the U.S. Consulate there. I was sorry to leave Brazil and Ana but my next trip beckoned.
I'm writing to you from my next destination, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This is my fourth trip to Jeddah. I have to confess: I pretty much loathe Saudi Arabia. It's hot and dusty and no fun at all.
What's to like? Not much. For starters, what infuriates me the most is how the Saudis subjugate their women. I mean, can you imagine living in the 120 degree heat of the desert and having to wear a long, black dress and a black headscarf when out in public? It's nigh on cruel and unusual punishment. Frankly I think the men here know that they don't have what it takes to truly love and please a woman and so they subordinate them. I gotta hand it to them, though. They've brainwashed the women into thinking it's for their own good, while the men walk around in their long, white dresses.
Your average Saudi doesn't work - at least not much. For that they have all manners of foreigners. From Americans and Europeans to perform the skilled labor (lawyers, engineers, doctors) to Pakistanis and Bengalis to do all the menial labor (domestic servants, food service, sanitation). They are obsequious towards the former and condescending, bigoted and cruel towards the latter. Again a reflection of their so-called "manhood".
You have to time when you go out for a meal because they close all the shops during prayer time. I would have much more respect for the Saudis and their puritannical culture if I didn't know it was rank hypocrisy. I mean, I would respect their piety if they all, or at least a significant number of them, stopped to pray during prayer time. But they don't.
As for the prohibition on alcohol, that's looked at with a wink and a nod. Everyone knows that in the homes of the rich and powerful and the royals, alcohol is consumed. In fact, it's rumored that it is the royals who are largely responsible for what traffic there is in drugs and alcohol in the Kingdom. And they are well-known party people as soon as they set foot outside the Kingdom.
In all, I highly recommend that you NEVER come to Saudi Arabia, if you can at all help it. Stick to Brazil. Better food, better weather, better women.
Luckily I am getting out of this gilded hell-hole tomorrow night. I fly from Jeddah to Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh City. I was there in 2004 and had a great time. I can't wait to get there. I'll write you once I get settled in.