Posted in ex-pat confidential, livin' in the kingdom

transportation woes (again!) and other stories

It didn't quite go like this:

Dear Family Who We Didn't House on the Special Compound

In order to give our employees and their dependents the best-ever bus service between where we've housed you and the place where you work and your children go to school, we're eliminating the bus services at 3 pm, effective the week of those afternoon parent/teacher conferences. To make this the most convenient for you.

K. Thx. Bai. 

But it's not too far from reality.

It really is the week of parent/teacher conferences, and the the bus at three that I had counted on when I scheduled my interviews at the elementary school and the middle school has been eliminated from the schedule. 

So that the kids and I aren't stranded at the elementary school – which is near nothing unless you happen to live in that part of the Dharma Compound (because then it's near your house!) – for three hours until the next bus appears, Chris is going to pick us up in our rental car. 

We have a rental car, and it's totally a big deal! Sure, it's one of those Toyota Fortuners that I came to loathe during our time in Thailand because ours lacked any sort of feature to make it compatible with my children's car seats and the lap-shoulder belt loved to cut into my neck in the most uncomfortable way, but it's also given us a lot more freedom to do things on the weekend that we didn't think that we missing out on before! We zoom on over the causeway to Bahrain, and have bacon with our breakfast, see movies at the cinema, and shop in stores that stay open all day. We drive to Tamimi on Friday mornings and bring home a trunk full of groceries instead of lugging them home on the bus. Even going into the compound to do whatever – check email, return library books, grab a burger at the eatery that is actually good (but otherwise inaccessible) – is so much easier when we can do it on our own schedule. 

You all know where this is heading, right?  

Yes. Ten months after arriving here in the Kingdom, we bought a car. Well, Chris did. It's a cute little Hyundai with cranberry-red leather seats. We should have actual possession of it sometime next week. 

We aren't exaggerating much when we say that we bought our last car, our Subaru, over the internet. Our experience buying our desert-mobile has been nothing like that. The drive out to the car dealerships has been a bit harrowing, even early on Saturday mornings when the traffic is "light". It seems that the best time of day to buy a car is at eight at night when the traffic is the heaviest. Chris took a GM Acadia out for a test drive one night a few weeks ago and passed a seven-car pile-up. The rule-of-thumb on the road here seems to be "if there's half a metre between your car and the car in front of you, you aren't following close enough." You can understand how things get dicey so fast here.  

After several false-starts and plenty of fretting, a winning model emerged, and Chris drove the rental car to the Hyundai dealership. How would he like to pay for the vehicle? Bank wire transfer. "Sir, can't you pay with your credit card?" 

Yesterday, he returned to Hyundai once again to fill out more paperwork, and one of the employees led him to a place he called "Auto Chapeau" so that Chris could hand-pick out the window-tinting for his new car. First question, "Would you like legal or illegal?" For serious.

If we'd known that buying a car here in KSA was going to be such an amusing experience, we would have done it months ago!



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