There’s weather again. Seasons! Rain! Yes! After four years of scorching sun and no rain, I’m back and with someone who obsesses over the weather forecast. It’s refreshing to factor in the weather into my plans. I nearly did not make the flight. The luggage story was the end. That was pretty much the prelude to closing the plane doors. In order to leave there is a list: plane ticket, exit visa, close your bank account, turn off your phone, hand in your work card – iqama. There is a dance. It’s choreographed so that the steps are defined. The exit visa and ticket are last. You get a ticket after you have a visa. You need to hand in your iqama to get your visa. But you need the iqama at the bank to take your money. Read slowly. You mess up and you are not leaving. Before that the hospital has its own list and each item requires a signature and a stamp. Yes! A stamp! Go figure: the mailroom, the library, security, etc., etc. Finally, there is a survey: did you enjoy your stay, and would you come back to work? I guess the wrong answer and you stay longer. Say nothing, do nothing to rock the boat. Of course, it was great. “Frosted flakes!!”
Can I make this story short? Yes, I got out. Stop reading here.
No one tells you the exact sequence. You sort of puzzle things out. There is an end of service pay mandated by the government. Calculations are made. Then the money is transferred to your bank account. The first week was haj – September 9 to 14. Banks and the government are closed. Don’t ask. Shutdown, closed, just stopped for five days plus the weekend on either end. I dove. Nice. I was on paid leave. Ok, but I’d rather have been home.
The new Saudi week starts on Sunday. I have till Friday to complete business and get on the plane. Monday – maybe the money will be in by Wednesday. It’s close but doable. Monday, the travel office tried to give me a ticket for Friday. Nope, no final exit visa. That comes after the bank is closed. Tuesday waiting. I went to stare at the finance lady who said Wednesday maybe Thursday. No! It has to be Wednesday! I received a helpless smile. She said she was trying. Wednesday morning, the ticket office called me in to take a ticket for Friday. They could not wait longer or it would be next week. Is it a joke? Finance says that they need a signature from housing. What! WTF! I already have all my stamps and signatures! Sorry, it won’t take long. Surreal? I need an entry exit visa. Get that and then transfer money from Saudi to NY by internet banking. Nope! I have to take a final exit visa. Rules! Shit. No bending the rules! I went up the line to the Deputy CEO. He mumbled that something would be done. So far, nada, nothing! It’s noon. I had just come from the bank. They were kind enough to volunteer that Thursday was Saudi National Day! That is the equivalent of Fourth of July here. No government or banking – it’s a national holiday! You’re kidding right!? At that moment, my money from the hospital hits the bank and I receive the text message. I cannot get to and from the bank in time for the government office to go and get an exit visa. There’s not enough time. Before a holiday everyone quits early. Does this country function? Not like anywhere normal, for sure! Solution? There’s a bank near the hospital. I rush over, break traffic laws, run red lights, cut off other cars and get there to the sound of the local mosques blaring out “prayer time.” Closed for 40 minutes, I was screwed! Sure enough the doors were locked and I was out of luck. Shit! An old Saudi man came and pounded the door. He was not waiting. I followed him in the back door. Cheated one more time. I had to check off a box for withdrawing so much money. “Which works?” I asked the teller.
“Medical,” he said. I figured, “mental” by way of insanity worked for me. Back to the hospital. Sami, government relations shook his head. Maybe, maybe not. What did he care? He was not staying an extra week. But… after a long pause on the phone several hours later… he reported… success! Visa, bank, ticket – done. Priceless! My phone is still not settled. The never did cut off my internet when they threatened. The bill is unpaid. I’m in the US and receive Arabic texts about my bill. Can’t read ‘em. Don’t need ‘em. Hey! I got weather again!
It rains in Jeddah and the city of 3 million or so people are paralyzed. Kids get sent home from school like a “snow day.” Traffic is snarled for hours. People don’t do weather here. Maybe they have never turned the wind shield wipers on? Whatever! It rains about once a year. It might rain for an hour. There is absolutely no drainage system for water to run off. Why? It only rains once a year! The rest of the time, why worry? Infrastructure! I’m told a prince stole the money earmarked for the drainage system. Ah! One part of the government stealing from the other. How quaint. It seems to be a habit.
I guess there is nothing that beats the pleasure of riding your bike in the rain and raising hell with the puddles. After all isn’t that a basic rite of childhood?
Another year older. Last I checked Jules had a goal to visit 30 countries by 30 years old. And for a number of years we were in the Tyler Place on her birthday. She made out like a bandit. She had a party before school ended, another with the family, and the third in Vermont. Now, married. It still seems odd to me. She and Dave have had ups and downs. But they get better with time. I know that when I am with them it’s a lot of fun. But then, that is less and less. It’s nice to have some pics of them together. Funny. In all pics everyone is happy and it’s never raining. It makes you think that life is about sunny days. Well, if you recall, the wedding day it rains sideways. There was a drought in California. Sunny the day before and the day after the wedding, I don’t think anyone cared that it rained. But a lot of very nice shoes got all muddy.
You want weather? I saw weather. Unfortunately, I cannot demonstrate here how absolutely breathtaking it was to drive through. It was dusk. The rain all day lifted enough so that there was no fog at all. The air was crisp and cool. Moist. The sun peeked in from the right and shone under and against the clouds. How special? People were stopping to get photos with their smartphones. We got a full rainbow. I can only show you half.
The clouds were changing rapidly. The light was fantastic but only for a few fleeting moments. Free show! And then it was gone. The clouds were so ephemeral. Storm clouds were still gray with rain to my left. It was nature at its most awesome. Enjoy the show. I wish you were there.
Mission… be down at the entrance to the campground to pick up breakfast for selected close family and guests. Adults. The kids were asleep – too many smores, more likely too much beer and wine. Then someone walked back from the beach with an iPhone picture moments old of a sea lion. Gee! The choices! Luckily Stewart was there and we were released to head to the beach in the drizzle. Yes! Drizzle! A steady wet drizzle had settled in and it was guaranteed to make it a wet wedding day! Yes, nuts! I had moments before been up at the very top of the hill having a Father of the Bride moment. We figure this guy was ill. Or, his mom had been killed. He sat forlornly and did not move off as I approached. Stewart had raced up the hill to get his camera so I had a “sea lion moment.” He kept his eyes closed mostly. I actually got down pretty close. And once I had the shot I cast my eye toward getting a different image. Work the scene! Poor Stewart, the silly things we do to get the perfect angle. No, I did not get on my knees. But I got low and close. Breakfast was delivered. Everyone ate. I got my shot and breakfast too. Neat!
David Mike Josh – buddies since kindergarten. How about that? I’m not in touch with anyone from grade school to college to med school. Of course we moved about every two years. No Facebook, Twitter… well there is this one girl… Jules was kind enough to invite the guys. All single! Yup – “Wedding Crashers” on the prowl. Dave has a girl – sort of – and the others checked out the single ladies…not too many and not too available. Yes, right after the ceremony the rain let up for a moment. The mist or the water on my lens was still significant. Do you think they were happy? Yup! I do! Hey, they still say that phrase at the end of the ceremony. I heard it! We always joked that groom said, “I do.” followed by, “I did?!” But yes, Dave’s sister is still happily married! As for this crew, they will be buddies for life. It’s so nice to see them again. It’s been a while.
Did I mention it rained on the ceremony? Yup! Sideways! Can you guess from which direction? People commented that they were concerned things would blow over. Those are forsythias. Nice, huh? And it would have been the bright blue sparkling Pacific Ocean in the background framed between the mountains. Everything is now covered in picturesque mist. Actually, you cannot see the rain. Any worse and the image would have been lost in fog. And yes, it was a cold windy rain. Have I mentioned rain? I’m laughing hard now. But it was anything but funny then. It would have also been a great photo to hold an umbrella over their head during the ceremony. That suggestion was a nonstarter and vetoed out of hand as I struggled to keep the rain out of my own face. It don’t matter, I know it was cold in that dress. Eric did this shot. Remember? I was not permitted to hold a camera. Imagine that!
Like father like daughter – Jules confided to me the next day – “Dad, I got all concerned. I wasn’t going to see you and mom walk down the aisle. You went before me.” Details, right up to the last second… Jules was still sweating the details. Yeah… alike.
I never cry. Well, once in a while…but today… I cracked up when Jules walked down the aisle. She started to cry… that cracked me right up. But in the rain, who could tell! Even Louise (that’s her in the background) cried and had to pause and compose herself during the ceremony. It was her first. Can’t you tell? She’s the one that got the guests to walk down the hill in the mud. And this kiss? They were leaning over just to stand straight. Misty. Foggy. Priceless!
I’m stuck by how surreal the wedding day was. Yes, I’ve been party to a series of events large and small in my kids’ lives. But this is a first. And of course, nature threw in it’s opinion. It never rains in sunny California. There’s a drought. Jules hasn’t washed her car in months. She’s a good environmentally aware daughter who’s marrying a like minded liberal democrat. I might parenthetically add that the new mother in law is a Fox conservative. And the other mother is a far left liberal. Oh boy! No political talk around here. There’s a blanket on the ground. See it? Nope, that dress was doomed. Mud! It was an outdoor ceremony. Drizzle all day long, the rain stopped just before the ceremony. It was a tease. The rain blew sideways as soon as the bride walked down the aisle. Cold driving rain! Sideways! Frizzy hair! Yes, cold.
Hey! I got a great photo! The day before – Dave went to the dry cleaner and got his suit and shirt pressed. $30. Wrinkled in an instant. Me? Nope. I was wash and wear. Saved $30! If it hadn’t rained this picture would have never happened. Serendipity!
Well, the big event! Yup, there’s a drought in California. But it rained – poured – when I visited Jules in July last year. And we presumed that there would be no rain for a March wedding. There’s a drought! The venue was all brown back then. Now it’s lush with spring flowers. Ah! The forecast was for cooler weather and …rain! Ten degrees cooler! And rain – about 70%. Ok! Everything got changed up. It was an outdoor wedding in a campground. And the weather report kept getting worse. In fact California is currently having tremendous storms. Great! Everything got an alternative plan and the reception was moved indoors. But the ceremony was to be on the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Yes, romantic! But, you can’t see the ocean when there’s rain and fog and mist! What can I say? An umbrella as an accessory to a wedding gives you a stunning background. And the humidity immediately will frizz any woman’s hair. That seemed to be the chief topic among the ladies. It’s not sweat. Among the Southern ladies that would be called, “glistening.” And the mud! There was a path down the hill that became pure mud in the rain. I heard, but did not see, the mud poured into an around the toes of the open toed sandals. Ha! No one was worried about the cold dampness. Me, I took a ride in the shuttle and kept my shoes dry and my toes warm. Yes, the wedding happened. It was wet! No, the event was not canceled on account of rain.
There is something to be said about a bride: They glow. No matter what – they are all beautiful. But this one’s special! She’s my favorite daughter… Yeah, Jules noticed too – “But Dad! I’m your only daughter.” (As in… if there were another daughter? Hmmm, get it? It’s a joke.) Ya gotta admit, she glows!
It’s November. It’s Jeddah. It’s raining! First rain for me here this year. Yes! First! It’s panic time. Parents were told to keep their kids home from school. Really? Why? Well, it’s like this.
There is no provision to deal with rain water run off. Why build a sewer system for rain once a year. It works…until it rains. A leaky roof never leaks in bright sun. Then there is no where for the water to go. Before I got here I was told about water rising and cars floating. Rain equals panic around here.
It’s like a couple feet of snow in New York. It’s a mess. Cars immediately stop and traffic jams appear everywhere. Water overflowed the curbs. And it came as high as the bumper. I actually considered that getting home might be a challenge.
France is in the news but the US Embassy sent the weather advisory to my email instead. It was bright blue sky in the morning. An hour later it was raining and by afternoon it was over.
One day a few hours, no more rain till next year. I don’t think there will be a sewer system either. Rain is for fable and legend. It’s not a lot of water unless it has no where to go.