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BY old dog

04/01 Direct Link
Ah, dinner theater in Dhahran. It is organized and performed by the expat employees and/or family members - just the regular employees, no professional actors or singers. We know a few of them. For a short time we were in a Western establishment witnessing Western entertainment by people with (mostly) Western names - bits of opera, operetta, broadway, ballet. We sat at a table with people we knew and with whom we are relatively comfortable - all of us were dressed up. The food was good, Western (not cowboy). We stepped outside at the end and returned to normal life in the kingdom.
04/02 Direct Link
Another vacant stare. I try again using different words. The stare remains. I take him by the hand and move him to the spot. He stumbles along as I walk. Surely his face hasn't frozen like that, has it? I make motions, tying to get him to understand the movement I want him to make. The "no"in the "no vacancy"sign must have burned out. I reach into my pocket, feel for the piece of paper I want, pull it out, and look at the list. I say the foreign words. No movement. Soccer with the five-year-old Saudi boys.
04/03 Direct Link
He reads; then he reads more. Again he reads; again he reads more. I envy him the time he has to read, but I can not allow the insubordination, the whining, the repulsive howling. Others need to use the bathroom. There are other places to read. The rest of us wait while he bargains - finish the chapter? No. Finish the paragraph? OK, but quickly. It is time for dinner. It is his turn to clear the table and wash the dishes. NO! he screams in passionate protest. I want the time to read! Sobs, sobs, sobs. Time to get tough.
04/04 Direct Link
Another baseball game. I stand apart from the other coaches. I look at the ground and shake my head. Once again the pitch was wide and skipped past the catcher. Lucky for us, no one on base yet. This will happen often during this game as it has during all the previous games. Soon an opposing player will be on base, the ball will be poorly thrown, and the runner will prance merrily around the bases until, again, the pitch goes wide and the catcher chases the ball. The runner will hurry home. Will we get any hits this time?
04/05 Direct Link
He has watched too many nature shows. He informed us that the babies of wild animals are referred to as their young so our new baby is our young. He was including himself in the our. We had to inform him that our young is not his young - it is his brother. He is one of our young, too. I found him asleep on the couch a few minutes after that. Our young has napped. He slept for about two hours. I is now well past my bed time; he is up and at ‘em. We might not sleep tonight.
04/06 Direct Link
They had arrived at 6:30, but they wouldn't begin to work until 7:00. Sometimes one must go when the bus goes. When I returned home from work that evening I expected to see furniture and old carpet in the yard; I expected to see the largest room almost entirely tiled. I slowly entered the house, peaking around corners before moving ahead. I expected to run into a barrier telling me that I couldn't walk on the new tile. It took a long time to get there. The room was only about one-quarter tiled. How will they finish in a week?
04/07 Direct Link
The three older boys and I are on Hawar Island. We had to drive to Bahrain, then across Bahrain, then ride a boat for about 45 minutes to get here. I'm not happy about it. The rooms are fair, no decent TV channels, and the food is marginal. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the five-year-old over here for two days. Martha and the three-year-old stayed home because the workers will be at the house to work on the floor. This place is trying to be a resort. It is a flat rock in the Persian Gulf.
04/08 Direct Link
Still on Hawar Island. We went to the swimming pool today. I had filled my pockets with a wallet, passports, keys, notebook, ... . Ethan was in the water. He said he was able to touch the bottom of the pool (he doesn't swim well yet). He wanted me to watch him slide down the slide. I stood and watched him splash into the pool, surface, tread water, go under, then back up. I jumped in to snatch him - still wearing my shirt, hat, and the stuff in my pockets. The water was deeper than he thought; he had panicked.
04/09 Direct Link
We left that flat rock in the sea today - finally. I've had a cold the whole time. Unfortunately, I didn't get my name in for the early boat soon enough so we had to stay for an extra couple of hours. The drive home was much less painful than was the one to get there - I was following someone who knew the way. On the way there someone lost the leader and we were lost for quite a while. The boys are very tired. Maxwell is paying for his independence and feelings of immortality - I warned him to apply sunscreen...
04/10 Direct Link
Others who have had their floors recovered here have had it all done in a week. I see no way for that to happen here. The living room isn't even almost finished, and the upstairs has not yet even been begun. We're stepping over newly laid tiles onto those done the previous day. The two youngest boys are having fun running around on the new tile. We're eating out tonight - off to the Hobby Farm. It has the best food here on the Aramco camp in Dhahran. I really don't like to go to the Dining Hall. I avoid it.
04/11 Direct Link
What has happened to my son? Maxwell has typically been steady, responsible, generally obedient. He has begun to behave like a sloppy teenager. He is only twelve, but he thinks he can sleep as long as he wants to sleep, stay up as long as he wants, ignore chores, ignore many other things. We've typically pushed him along a bit, but now getting him to do his scouts stuff and music practicing is very sticky, not to mention the dishes, he bedroom, the dog. He just isn't the sweet young brute I've played with all of these years. Come back.
04/12 Direct Link
Will these guys ever get the floors done? At the end of week one less than half the house is finished. It shouldn't be that bad, but it disturbs everyone's schedules and is simply destabilizing. It is unsettling having a bunch of guys you don't know, many of whom you can't understand, bopping about the house all day every day (except Friday). The kitchen has been torn apart so tile can be laid beneath the refrigerator, shelves, dishwasher, and stove/oven. We've been eating out much of the time for the past few days - and there aren't many convenient choices here.
04/13 Direct Link
Look at that kid - just look at him! Ah, gee. That just can't be comfortable. Why does he do that? Oh, no. He reached up, and the bottom of his shirt has been cut off. What makes him think we want to see his underwear? They're really dopey-looking. At least he didn't bend over - oops, spoke too soon. That is sickening, just ridiculously repulsive. It simply can't be comfortable to have your trousers hanging on to your rear end by a thread - the belt must be helping, but how can you move properly? No dignity - looks like a complete freak.
04/14 Direct Link
I have been reading Fforde's Thursday Next books. They are pretty good - not great, but quite enjoyable. There was a load of hype when the first one appeared. I bought it, but I didn't read it until just a couple of weeks ago. I was about to read it at one point, but Martha's cousin, Jane, told me about a book called To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Wills and said it was much more of a romp than was The Eyre Affair. I enjoyed the Wills book very much - somewhat reminiscent of PG Wodehouse. Jane was correct.
04/15 Direct Link
That three-year-old of mine is a kooky young pup. He pretends to be a puppy from time to time. He gets on his hands and knees and bounces about barking softly - with a bit of a grin on his face. I like to listen to him laugh when I toss him in the air or swing him around and toss him on the bed. When he tries to tickle me I grab him, hold him tight while tickling him, and listen to him laugh. He can be soft and affectionate, but he can turn and be that euphemism called strong-willed.
04/16 Direct Link
I'm driving myself crazy. Martha plays a few of the games available on Yahoo Games. Most of them don't interest me. I saw her playing one of them from time to time that looked interesting. It was a word game. I like words. I began to watch more closely. I began to try to help from time to time. I decided to try it. I wasn't very good at it. My vocabulary is larger than Martha's, but she is quicker and more perceptive at puzzles and other games. I've practiced. She's still better. I'm addicted to this blasted Text Twist.
04/17 Direct Link
My youngest turned three today. I'm not sure I will survive his formative years. Much of the time he is sweet and tender, but he already seems to be more inclined to mischief and violence than the first three combined. He thinks he is the ruler of the world; in some ways he is correct. He is a kooky guy. He is skinny, but not quick. He is tremendously funny at times, and I enjoy picking him up and tossing him in the air or onto a bed. However, with some behaviors we need to do a bit of in-the-bud-nipping.
04/18 Direct Link
They started to work upstairs today. One bedroom and part of the hallway are finished - but it stinks up there. It stinks like crazy! Whatever adhesive they used must have something in common with paint. I'm allergic to something in the fumes. I'm congested and my head hurts. I'll be sleeping downstairs on the couch tonight. What a difference there is between this linoleum and the tile downstairs. I don't think this soft stuff will last long with the boys the way they are. They won't put tile upstairs. The houses weren't built for it. The floors are too weak.
04/19 Direct Link
The workers are finally gone. No more will I get to greet them standing outside our front door at 6:30 as I burst out to chase the bus to get to work. Only the smell of the adhesive continues to be an irritation. It has been a long two weeks. Those guys do good work. Unfortunately they are paid next to nothing for it. It is sad to see them work so hard for so little. All around the compound men have left families and have come here to work. I guess a bad job is better than no job.
04/20 Direct Link
Most laborers on the compound are paid by the company. We pay for some services, but if anything in the house needs to be fixed or replaced - even when the time comes for new flooring - these sorts of workers do it and we don't have to pay for it. Some exceptions are if we want paint, flooring, or something else in a color or style they don't carry, or if our personal electronics or other stuff breaks. We give them food when they work for us, give the house boy paid vacations. We sometimes donate money for other workers' vacations.
04/21 Direct Link
What am I doing? I've been here for nearly two hours; I've not done much of anything. I look at the project and something sloshes about in my head and makes me feel dizzy. If I drank alcohol perhaps I could understand this feeling. I don't drink - never have. Why can't I focus? I'm tired of this; tired of the project, bored by the project. If I had any real hope of the actual result being anything close to our vision of the result perhaps I could be excited, at least interested. I've tried music and chocolate - can't wake up.
04/22 Direct Link
Martha's birthday. It is more difficult here in Dhahran; very limited choices. It is hard to project what she will want nearly a year ahead when we are in the States in Summer. What I know she wants now is either not available here or would cost too much. What I have for her is nice, but given the changes since I made the purchase it seems inadequate. Now I know of something I'm sure she'd rather have. I'm tired of these frustrations. Let's just forget such days and move ahead. I have things to do - a job to keep.
04/23 Direct Link
Martha's birthday. How can I make this day even somewhat decent for her? I'm at work; the boys are out of school. The three-year-old has a cold and is cranky. I'm very happy to be simply left alone on my birthday without its even being acknowledged. We are very different in many ways. Martha would like to be taken care of - pampered. She deserves it. It would be nice to be able to do it. The work project deadline hovers. These days it is difficult to know what to give to her - what to have the boys give to her.
04/24 Direct Link
The temperature begins to climb here. It has risen to the mid- to upper nineties. It isn't very humid right now - enough to make walking at a quick clip a bit damp, but not so bad as to soak one by simply walking outside. This year continues to have strange weather. The temperature isn't unusual for this time of year, but it varies over the period of a few days. Two or three days will be quite warm, then the wind will change and cool down by 10 degrees - but the wind brings very dusty air. Bad for the allergies.
04/25 Direct Link
Alexander and I are working on his last Pinewood Derby car. This is his fourth; Maxwell had four. They can take as much or as little time as you want. I've typically felt that they've been a nuisance, but they'd be more fun if I'd allow them to be. After this one I'll have a year off, then Ethan will begin Tiger Cubs. We didn't have Tiger Cubs where we came from so the two older boys didn't begin Cub Scouts as early. That means five cars to be made with Ethan and five more to be made with Miles.
04/26 Direct Link
A road trip to Ras Tanura for meetings - a bit of an adventure. I checked out one of the company cars (the U Drive pool) to drive four of us up there. I can't believe I didn't have one of the Saudi guys drive on the way there - let them deal with their insane countrymen. Several times I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a car speeding up to us. Sometimes I had nowhere to turn to get out of their path. At least twice speeding drivers used the shoulder of the road as a passing lane. Dangerous curves.
04/27 Direct Link
We went to watch Alexander play baseball tonight. Maxwell was playing in Ras Tanura. I was asked to be the umpire. I don't mind much - it gives me something to do. I've found fewer things more boring than one of these baseball games - and I've two boys playing in different leagues. Too much baseball. The two younger boys were there with Martha. One of Ethan's friends bounced along this time. Miles skinned his knee and screamed like a maniac for a long, long time. Martha finally took the younger boys home - I ejected Miles for making so much noise, haha.
04/28 Direct Link
I went to the office today - our Saturday. I'm struggling a bit with this project. I'd have gotten more done, but they changed the baseball schedule at the last minute. The games are all in Ras Tanura, and they are beginning much later in the day. Martha was going to take all of the boys on the bus (she isn't allowed to drive off the compound), but when it was going to be so late we decided that the younger ones would have a difficult time. I have a hard time working at home. I got next to nothing done.
04/29 Direct Link
It is the Sabbath, but I went to the office for a few hours. This project at work has a short deadline and high exposure. The problem is that we don't know how bold we should be in our recommendations to management. What we'd like to do wouldn't necessarily be a large deal in the States, but here it is a frame-breaking change. We need more and different employees for what we want to do. One can find anything in the States - the guys for the positions we recommend aren't required to be Saudi. The whole mindset is different here.
04/30 Direct Link
My head hurts. Interesting storm we had last night - lots of wind and rain. Some thunder and lightning bopped along for some sensationalism. So much for the somewhat clean car. The rain gets the car wet, the wind blows the sand, the sand sticks to the wet car, and more rain makes the sand adhere more strongly to the car. I feel sorry for the guys who spent the weekend scrubbing the stone walkways. Now they'll have to sweep away the dirt, leaves, and other debris. My head still hurts. I wonder if I'll get any sleep tonight. Good luck.