Saturday, August 21, 2010

First Impressions

I have been in country nearly 3 weeks now and let me tell you, its been quite the experience so far. I am still processing into the system here and am waiting for some paper work to clear before I can start work so I have a lot of down time.

Trash: There is no recycling and you simply throw your garbage on the street in many areas. The city has a team of East Indians who patrol around in green jump suites with garbage cans.

Class System: Is very much alive and as a white American male I am almost on top. I have been ushered to the front of several waiting lines.

Women: Have to be pretty much completely covered up and there is no interacting with them in public really. They also are not allowed to drive here.

Co-workers: The guys I have met so far have all been cool. I am meeting people from all over the world including, Australia, South Africa, England, Saudi, Egypt, and more.

Driving: Everyday we leave the hotel we place our lives in the hands of drivers who make demolition derby look like a safe driving course. Here are a few examples of what I have witnessed so far off duty around town. Cars stopping in the middle of a 4 lane 1 way street then reversing against traffic over 40 MPH for several city blocks because they missed a turn or exit. Motorcycles driving on sidewalks, cars doing doughnuts in the middle of busy 4 way intersections, cars drifting in and out of traffic at speeds over 100MPH, several car accidents outside our hotel and down the street. Today our emergency support vehicle was rear ended in front of me by a driver at night with no head lights. Everyday 18 people die in this city from car accidents. I asked my taxi driver the other day if he had ever hit a pedestrian and he said yes, 4 over the years which included 1 death. Saudi Arabia is #1 in the world for car crashes and vehicle related deaths, and I can see why. When I do start working it will be a very dangerous job responding to emergency's.

People: Everyone has been nothing but nice so far. What little exposure I have had in country has been positive. All the locals are have been very friendly to me so far, many are happy and excited to see an american. Most speak only a little English, some speak none. I have already picked up several words in Arabic and plan on buying a book so I can communicate a little better with everyone. When you get a crowd together usually someone can speak English, but certainly not everyone. Many of the Saudi Locals wear the traditional thobe and checkered headgear, others dress more western. However there are still strict dress codes enforced in public. I cant wear any of my sleeveless shirts or really tight stretch jeans. I guess Ill invest in some Fred Perry's and braces.... 

Food: Still getting use to this part. We have been eating a lot at american restaurants like Apple Bee's, Tony Romas, The outback, TGIF, ect. There is no kitchen in our hotel and its difficult to eat healthy but I am doing my best. The breakfast buffet the hotel gives us is pretty good. We get outside food delivered for lunch and dinner, but often its very bad for you and poor quality. They are working on fixing this for us. The local food is not so bad and consist of  humus, kabobs, lamb, strange paste like things, and Shawarma. We have Safeway here so I invested in some weaties and fruit the other day which should help. I also have access to a personal trainer and gym which I plan on utilizing soon. The personal trainer is from the Serbian military and is a professional body builder. He does not speak a word of English, but he is very good at showing you what to do and helping you with fitness goals, so long as your good at charades or have a translator handy.

Well thats all for now I hope all my paper work clears soon so I can start working. I miss all of you back in Portland! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ramadan and my first week

It has been 1 week sense I have arrived in Riyadh. Ramadan started today which is a Muslim holiday. During Ramadan(which is 1 month long) Muslims can not eat or drink during daylight hours. All restaurants and many shops are closed until dark. Non Muslims may not eat or drink in public, sooo... this is going to be an interesting month.
So far this week I have got to know the other Paramedics, went out to dinner with most of the guys, exploring around the city, visited a couple of our ambulance stations and a helicopter station. Everyone has been very friendly, including the locals. I am meeting people from all over the world. I am still processing in for the next 2-3 weeks before I start work.

I have been ushered to the front of several waiting lines at hospitals, embassy's, and admin lines simply because I am American. Hopefully this does not go to my head :)

The hotel I am staying in is nice, but its boring and does not have a kitchen in my room. Its also not within walking distance to much. I am looking into compounds to live on but they are all full with waiting list. Bordem can set in easily when there are no movie theaters, clubs, pubs, dancing, censored Internet, 2 English channels on tv, no interacting with females, and everything closes 5 times a day for prayer.Nothing opens until 4pm because its so hot during the day.. We will see how next week go's.

      Once I get my living situation figured out I can pick up some hobby's to keep myself busy, find some good coffee shops, build  a group of friends to do things with, and start going to a gym. I might even get a  a big SUV because people drive insane here and gas like 30 cents a gallon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I have arrived in Saudi Arabia

       Today is my 3rd day in Riyadh. When I first arrived, after being picked up from the airport I was driven to my hotel at speeds of about 90MPH. As we weaved in and out of traffic I looked out the window at a large hurd of camels. Once we reached the hotel I was shown to my room. Its pretty nice and has all marble floors, a 42 inch plasma screen tv, Persian rugs, an oversized California king bed, a huge wardrobe and a really nice living room area with a big couch some nice oversized chairs and large coffee table.

        At this point I met with a couple guys from the SRCA, one of which was wearing the traditional robe and head gear here called a "thobe" I believe. He pointed to the large fruit basket, platter of pastries, bottles of juice, and water that was prepared for me. "Is this to your liking?" "Is everything satisfactory?" he asked. They both explained to me I was welcome here in Saudi Arabia and they where very excited to see me. One of them kept calling me "Mr. Mike Paramedic" which I thought was pretty cool.

        After being properly welcomed they left my room so I could rest after my 24 hour plane ride. A couple hours later my door bell rang, I opened to the door to find room service guys with bow-ties delivering my lunch and also a 2 pound box of dates to snack on. I met with my friend Aaron and the other U.S. Paramedics and 1 UK Paramedic yesterday. So far they all seem like nice guys. There are only about 10 of us right now, and half of them are being transfered to the Helicopter for flight, so that only leaves me and a few other guys as the only ground Paramedic service for a city the size of LA. Hopefully some more guys arrive soon. It is currently the weekend here and I will start processing in within the next couple days.
Ill keep you all up to date often. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.