Sorry for the delay in blogging… I know you’re just dying to hear what life on the compound is like…
To put it simply, it’s as if you’re on vacation 24/7, and getting paid for it. It’s that random trip you took to Vegas, when you befriended absolute strangers, and instantly had yourself a party to remember. I’m sure for others, this may not be the case, but that’s how it feels to me.
The compound has a swimming pool, tennis court, basketball hoops, a theater room, pool table, gym, sauna, and a hot tub that lacks heat—but I’ve bugged Ali (manager of compound?) about it every day and I’m hoping it gets fixed…soon. The dynamics of the compound are probably the most fascinating, both socially and physically; there is the family section, single ladies section, and male section. Tracy and I are in the family section (not sure why), and the rest of gang (as I call us) are on the other side of the compound. It’s a 2 minute walk from side-to-side, but no one from the “singles” side makes the trip to our side. Also, the families don’t come out of their house… ever. Our area looks deserted, aside from a few bicycles hanging out on the side walk. Only two single ladies come outside to socialize, and three or four of the men will join us as well… That’s eight out of maybe thirty people who actually socialize and take part in activities on the compound… And seven people for me to see and interact with everyday. Just seven. Lucky for me, each of them are unique characters that I thoroughly enjoy spending time with. We are all very different, but living together with such limited options is an immediate way to bond and form relationships; I’ve only been here a week and a half now, but I feel like I’ve known these people for months. Strange how that happens.
So what do we do? We’re all usually done working by 5 (work is a piece of cake—easiest job thus far in my teaching career), and mostly everyone besides Jim, Tracy and I nap after work… for a few hours the compound is quiet and desolate. But usually I’ll seek Jim out and we’ll play tennis, pool, or just hang out and unwind from work. Izzi has a jeep and can drive, so he’ll usually suggest going out to eat, or running into town for something which is nice—gives us something to do. He took us to this one section of Tabuk which was full of small shops and restaurants—a bit grungy looking, but intriguing at the same time—so I bought a black skirt for work, had it hemmed for $3, and then we ate at a Pakistani restaurant, which was delicious. Another day he took us to an authentic Arabic restaurant where you can either sit outside and eat, or choose a small hut filled with pillows and a carpet to sit on. Since we’re westerners, we sit inside the hut, which gives me the freedom of taking the abaya off and relaxing. The food is dirt cheap, and afterwards you can order a Hookah for dessert. Sometimes you sort of have to be creative to pass the time here… One night we started drinking, blind folded ourselves, and competed with one another to see who could find the designated villa first. It was actually rather fun, aside from stubbing my foot on the curb, and Greg getting wacked in the eye from Jim’s blind fold when he took it off. We play spades, make fires and listen to music. We had a few movie nights in the theater room, and a UFC night. I’d like to think that I take advantage of everything here on the compound; I’m almost never bored—everything I enjoy doing is available here—and there is usually someone to do something with. It’s an easy adaption, and for all of you who think I’m crazy for being, I think you’re crazy for not taking advantage of such an awesome opportunity to make easy money and meet some great people!
Last weekend Sally, Jim, and Izzi created a “sports day” which was actually more of a family friendly kids day. We made a piñata for them to beat, had arts and crafts set up, and designed a treasure hunt for them. Everyone brought food and mingled. It’s definitely something we should try to do once a month so we get to know everyone on the compound, not just a few faces. We have to mix things up a bit or we’ll go stir crazy here (at least I will). I’m in charge of setting up “top chef on the compound”…that will be our event in our April.
Sally and I talked to one of the managers here about setting up a monthly trip for us to get off the compound, and he seemed to be all for it, but from what I hear enthusiasm is usually trumped by laziness, and nothing actually changes, or gets done on the compound. Perhaps since most of us are young and active, fresh blood, we’ll be able to change that. Inshallah! I was able to meet a couple from the British compound, Craig and Christine, who are friends of Izzi and sometimes come to our compound to hang out and drink (Chrisitne used to live her euntil she married Craig). We hit it off nicely and they invited me to their compound for dinner and to meet a scuba diving instructor so I can get certified.
On the British compound, they have several restaurants (loved the Thai restaurant), a few bars, a spa, a medical center, football field, mini golf course, an elementary school and day care, a massive gym, and I’m sure other facilities that I don’t know of. The security is high too since it’s actually a military compound, so that was neat to see. Loved the massive machine guns pointed at us as we drove through the checkpoints…The dive instructor said we could plan for the certification in May (it’s a 2 weekend process—one weekend in the pool, one weekend at the beach), and then I’ll be good to go! The certification is only 1,500 riyals, which is about $430 US dollars. Not bad. Christine said she would take me to get a wet suit and any of the other equipment necessary, and we’re going to plan a trip to the beach to go snorkeling before the actual dive session. I’m sure the whole gang will want to come too, so it’ll be a party on the beach!
Right now we are all on vacation (1 week off due to midterms?), so everyone has pretty much left the compound to go travel. Since I don’t have my Iqama or passport back yet, I have to stay here. I’m pretty lucky though; I’ve made friends quickly so I have options, and I’m not just stuck here on the compound while everyone else is gone. I’m going back to the British compound today, and Christine and I made an appointment to go to the Spa this week. Craig said he wanted to take us out to the desert this week too, which will be fun.
I probably won’t write as much as I was… Just once a week. There isn’t a whole lot to tell, but I should have at least one interesting story or event to report back on from the week! Like I said, we are all active and want to take full advantage of our time here, so I’m sure I’ll have stories to tell. I’ll post pictures of the compound, and when everyone returns I’ll try to get some snap shots of the faces you’ll soon know all too well from these blogs.
Miss you all! Summer break starts in July J Vegas with my girls, Arizona (Wendy and Dan!), New York, and I’m definitely going to go to another country for a week! I should have 6-8 weeks off if they don’t make us work summer school… If they do, then I’ll just have 4 weeks… but we’ll see what happens!
I’ll post my address on Facebook for those of you who want it!