Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Back in the Kingdom

The view outside office window looks like a mixture of Iraq on during the Gulf War and Welkom. Everything is dull and light brown. Nothing escapes the dust. Even the sunset looks pale, like colour is only a faded memory here. At midday it go and sit on the steps outside to get some sun. Its a cold desert winter here and my fingers and eyes are beginning to hurt. The sun feels warm on my new jersey, the only clean piece of clothing I had for three days since the airline lost my suitcase. Some one starts riding down the wrong lane of the road in front of me, into oncoming traffic. No one stops they just hoot at each other and swear in Arabic. Its a country full of angry people.

The View From my office window

The Arabic restaurant that I used to eat at each day has closed. I cant understand why, last time I was there the place was constantly full, the had just bought big shiny new sign for there menu, when it came in I never had the heart to tell the proud owner the had misspelled description, spelling it "discription" instead. I see English everywhere, but know for a fact that most people can't read it. English on your sign raises the status of your shop, giving it a slick modern appeal.

With my old favourite eating house gone I am reduced to sandwiches for lunch and take out for supper. For take out I will go to one of the various Identically Huge malls that litter the city scape. Which ever Italian is selling marble flooring here must be a rich man. I try to have a different take out each night, its not a difficult task. Today I will have a subway sandwich, the polite Filipino at the counter will ask for my order, he will tell the Indian cook to prepare it, somewhere at the back a Bangaldeshi will be cleaning the floors. Everything will be conducted in a mangled dialect of English. I would like to say thank you in another language but cannot figure out what would be appropriate, I will retreat to English feeling sadly uneducated. I will walk through the massive marble interior of the mall slowly feeling more claustrophobic. I laugh to myself, the last time I remember when going to the mall was the only fun thing I had to do I was 12, I look around and see an ocean of veiled people that are still stuck in 12 year old me's idea of fun. Slowly a theory of about the arabic mall hysteria will formulate in my mind, When I think out my theory it will disturb me as being xenophobic and ill informed, but I wont be able to shake the feeling that I might be right.

Happy halloween. New years ticks by and I don't even notice, times and days have little relevance here unless you are trying to miss prayer when you go out to eat. Morning turns to midday turns to evening to night, work moves from the home to the office to the home. I think about starting an exercise routine, press ups in the morning and a run in the evening. I have delusions of coming back to South Africa sober,clean and healthy, primed to throw it away as quickly as I can.

Tomorrow I will investigate Saudi Arabia's second biggest industry. I will take an hour off in the evening and go try every type of date I can find. I don't even like dates. My grand father put me off them when he told me they were pressed by people squashing them under their armpits. On Friday we plan a clandestine operation to photograph the street signs of the city and maybe a few of the houses on millionaires row. we will have to wake up early, before the police. People here aren't big on cameras in public.

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