Travel “journal” bought.

On a whim, I just purchased a small travel notebook for the upcoming year from Anthropologie in Tucson, Arizona. It is a small notebook with blank cream-toned pages inside, in a leather covering with magenta velvety flowers carved on it. The woman covered the notebook in crisp paper and taped it in a felt sticker, like one wraps meat at the counter in the grocery store. The purchase made me just a bit more excited (thus warranting its own entry here) because it makes my whole trip to Bangladesh that much more real.

I don’t use my travel notebooks to record my days- that is what the blog is for. Rather, I use it to write down notes, directions, phone numbers, observations, words and phrases, and other information. The one I have from Cairo is a small black leather-bound book filled with phone numbers and ways to tell a taxi driver how to get from one place to another, and yell at them too. The one from India includes phone numbers of delivery places, Hindi phrases for numbers that were used when I needed to haggle, and names of food. Both contained drawings of architectural pieces around the city. I like to compare these kinds of notebooks because you get a feel for what you were doing in that moment, and what was important and not important becoming a foreigner in a country.

I can’t wait to fill this new one.

Over a week in Saud Arabia…Marina Mall, Shoes, Pizza Hut.

Visiting Saudi Arabia always makes me want to look for trouble because of the pure controversial nature of the country, and the contradiction that I have to face everyday. But every time I come here I realize how much it has changed, aka became liberalized. Going through immigration for me in KSA is much easier than other places, because they have everything in record and they see that I have been here seven times in three years and my dad works here. The guy at the boot just looked at me, my passport, made a comment about the amount of pages I have to make me laugh (I just got bunch of pages added to my passport because I ran out of visa pages due primarily to KSA’s entry and exit visas) and let me go without ever looking at my immigration card I had to fill out, and gave me a nice smile. Yes, you can get a smile from the opposite gender a single woman in this country.

Jubail looks as beautiful as I left it in June. Average temperature of 75 degrees, beautiful beaches, summer shwarma stands still open, and soccer games being played late at night, still. It is nice to watch international cabel, like BBC World, Al Jazeera, cricket channels, MTV Arabia, and all the Lebanese music channels and Italian fashion shows. Clearly I do not get out much.

Yesterday me and my family went to Dammam, first to Marina Mall, and then to the city to look at some gold stores. The mall like other Saudi Malls had an indoor amusement park, restaurants, prayer rooms, and lots of couples pretending to be siblings so as not to get caught. At Marina Mall, I found nothing interesting except avoiding men who freely smoked inside, trying not to get mad at rude salesclerks after refusing to buy their knock off Gucci heels, and avoiding religious police. The shoes are quite amazing, I will say, and there were so many that Lady Gaga would have much appreciated (five inch wedges made out of white lace all over, and a hot pink four incher with rhinestones on the heels and gold spikes). And Saudi women DO actually buy them. I almost bought suede grey booties covered in metal belts and random zippers but then walked in them and realized they would only enjoy the interior of my closet if purchased.

At the gold stores, I had to step out of the store with my sister because the smell of incense was a bit much. Outside, people do look since there we are, two girls, by ourselves, without headscarves, minding out own business. These two boys, probably 13 years old walked by and I guess I was not in the mood and yelled at them to stop staring. Response: “You shut up”. My sister: “Asshole”. Them: “Arabic gibberish”. I don’t think they knew any other English. They may have attempted to use the F word. I am not sure. But we sure did stop getting snickers after that. Seriously, if more women just simply yelled at these men in the middle of the street there would not be such a problem with street harassment. I learned this in Morocco where I was taught that all you need is to embarrass these men in front of people, because that is exactly what they do not expect.

We also went to eat dinner at Pizza Hut last night, which in Saudi Arabia is a big deal. Like most American chain fast food places outside of America, they are fancy, huge, usually two stories high, and have real menus and cleanly dressed waiters. This one had glass doors separating the “single section” and “family section”, and had a play station room for kids. We had a booth with our own divisions so it was like our own little room. And the food included these amazing pasta and halal pepperoni and yellow cheese because they have not caught up to the U.S. in using artificial flavor and products. Needless to say it was delicious. Reminded me to when I was in Delhi two summers ago and me and another intern went to Pizza Hut because we were tired of vegetarian food and ordered the meat lovers pizza that had every kind of spiced chicken and mutton possible. Ah, love.

Passanger Bill of Rights

The federal government will impose big fines starting this spring on airlines that keep passengers waiting on the tarmac too long without feeding them or letting them off the plane.

About time!

Cannot tell how many times this has happened where I get on the plane eagerly and then we don’t leave for 2 or even 3 hours…though by the time it hits 2 hours I pass out. And then when I land I have to run to catch my next plane wich is not always pleasent when you have carryones (thanks airlines for charing me $20 for bags to be checked.). Getting fed- good idea too.

Airlines that let a plane sit on the tarmac for more than two hours without giving passengers food or water, or more than three hours without offering them the option of getting off, will face fines of $27,500 a passenger, the secretary of transportation.

I wonder how they got to $27,500 as the value of a passenger’s time wasted in a plane but…how about I get that money as compensation? Great. (Yes, aware it won’t happen).

To read more on Obama’s Passanger Bill of Rights click here.