07 November 2013

Arabic, Wahbah Crater...Thank You!

To be clear, it is entirely possible to live & work in The Kingdom without more than a handful of key Arabic phrases.  At a minimum, you could even get by with 1 word - Nsha'allah - which means, "God Willing."  It is used profusely - and appropriately - in almost EVERY conversation, regardless of how brief.  Once in your vocabulary, this word will probably never leave it.  So, whatever possessed me to take a proper, structured Arabic class is beyond me.  Glutton for punishment I guess!  For those of you who are aware of my relationship with "the French lady,"...well, you are probably sympathizing with my Arabic teacher already.

I still have no desire to learn or comprehend the (literally!) backwards squiggles & dots that somehow coalesce into a functional language, but it is proving beneficial to sputter out a few more phrases to my patients.  Most laugh & love the attempt, some are clearly not impressed and continue to ramble on & on despite my blank stare.  Then there are a few that demand an Arabic-speaking nurse - surprisingly only a few!

Because we are learning phonetically, challenged spellers can be pleased as we spell words however we want and are not wrong :)  Instead of Standard Arabic, we are focusing on the dialect most commonly spoken here in Jeddah - a fab decision since we are working with the general public.  Despite being from Egypt, and speaking his own dialect, our instructor is Fantastic & incredibly patient.  We are 7 (semi) stubborn nurses: 2 Americans, a Canadian, a Kiwi, a Brit & 2 South Africans.  The S. Africans have a slight advantage as Afrikaans also uses the back of your throat lugi-hawking sound.  It will continue to be interesting... nsha'allah I can at least learn some basics.  Although I won't need to know how to order a beer in this country, knowing the word for bathroom is handy in any language!  (Hammam, if you ever need it :))

Wahbah Crater

The same handful of gals joined a larger group trip to spend the night in the desert.  All-in-all not super exciting, but I figured a trip to the desert is compulsory while in the Middle East.  Somehow a 5 hr bus trip turned into 7...making multiple U-turns in the middle of the desert at night was slightly disconcerting, but eventually the driver figured it out.  Luckily gas is cheap.  How cheap?  Are you ready for this?  Petrol here is 25 Halalas/Liter.  There are 100 Halalas in a Riyal, 3.75 Riyals in $1 US.  There are 3.8 liters in a gallon...which I will round up to 4.  Math has never been my thing, but I think that's about 27 cents/gallon!!

Anyway, I digress.  We finally made it to our destination and crashed for a few hrs in a flimsy sleeping bag on large carpets under one big open tent.  We got up early to beat the heat (make an attempt anyway) and hiked down into the crater.  Whether formed by a meteorite or an underground steam explosion, it was pretty neat to see.  It was nice to know the desert wasn't ALL flat sand & tumble weeds for miles & miles.  Once we hiked back up it was Hot-Hot (as opposed to just HOT) and tootling around on old lava by the camp was even Hot-ER, so we just simmered under the tent until it was time to eat & sleep.  We slept under the stars that night...you can imagine how Amazing the view was far, far away from any light pollution.

Hugemongous Thank You's to those who have added postcards to my fridge door & an extra hug to the Boisvert's for the Fantastic care package - I almost did a cartwheel in the hallway, but remembered my abaya & thought better of it :)  The sticky ghosts are on my mirror, the mustaches are going to prove Awesome, and the puzzle will help me practice my new Saudi-appropriate cuss words!  Thank You!!

Oh!  A few ppl have asked about Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.  Muslims can travel to Mecca at any time, but if they go during this particular week they get bonus points :)  [I intend no disrespect with that description, just breaking it down...and I'm secretly jealous since non-Muslims cannot even enter the city!]  For us, banks, businesses, the administrative part of the hospital (including clinics) shut down for 10 days...the ER was, for the most part, nice & quiet...and now we are paying for it!  Busy, busy!