Sunday, September 16, 2012

Magda and Savanna

            In the Kingdom, foreign workers typically live in compounds. This was a tradition started by the first generation of American oil workers who came to the Kingdom in the 1930s. They built their accommodations the way they liked it – including the 110 voltage outlets – and basically lived in a Little America. Everyone in the Kingdom was perfectly happy with this arrangement and the practice is still around to this day.

            We are one of the few batches of foreign workers who don't live in a compound. Probably because the company we work for doesn't want to spend the money to build us one.

            On the other hand, the CEO seems very concerned with keeping us happy. Probably because he wants to sleep nights. So, he's been asking us what he can do to make the hotel we live in more suitable. We told him we needed a gym. He said okay. We told him we needed lawn furniture for the roof. He said okay. We told him we needed a lounge. He said okay. We asked for a computer room. He said okay. We asked him for a swimming pool. He said absolutely not.

            But, come on! We had to try.

            I really like where I live, even though I got electrocuted by my own kitchen (see previous post “My Precarious Position as a Cover Teacher”). I love it because the people who live with me are just a blast. There are two accommodations, one called Magda, and one called (let's say) Savanna. In Magda, together, we selected out our gym equipment carefully, we asked for rubber flooring in the gym to do yoga on, and mirrors on the walls. In Savanna, no one is taking responsibility for the gym and so they just have a couple ellipticals in an empty apartment.

            The girls of Magda are all nice and friendly, we band together in the face of adversity. In Savanna, which seems to be made up mostly of older women who complain a lot (note that we have people of all ages in Magda but we have the cool ones). And it's not the kind of 'squeaky wheel' complaining that is more or less necessary in this country, it's the grating, soul-crushing bitching that makes you want to jump out of a moving vehicle just so you don't have to listen to them anymore. Things that no one can do anything about – the weather, the abaya, the hijab, etc.

            We have dinner over at each other's apartments almost every night, and Savana girls go home and don't socialize.

            When I was having the trouble with being electrocuted – and I was complaining about it, like you do – it was suggested that I move to Savanna because they have much nicer apartments that don't have faulty wiring. This was an absolutely repugnant idea and made me think they were just saying that the way you would say 'would you rather jump off a bridge?'. Of course, that wasn't how they meant it, but it made me feel like they thought I was just being difficult. In the end, I got the electric component of my stove replaced – which was what was electrifying my entire kitchen (metal counters, you see).

            In Magda, we've been planning many events (including a Skype party with our cats. Not a joke.) and inshallah, we will have a barbeque on the national holiday coming up on Sunday (we get a four day weekend!) Savanna, well, I don't know what they do with their time. Complain by themselves in their empty rooms?

            Hey, I'm being really culturally accepting here, I have to hate on someone.

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