Geocaching

About 10 years ago I read an article about geocaching and thought the idea of using a GPS to look for a hidden ‘tub of treasure’ sounded fun. Really enthusiastic I went on the website to see if there were any geocaches in my area of Saudi Arabia. Alas, not a one! And that was the end of my geocaching for a few years.
Going exploring in the desert has been a weekend interest of my husband and I for so long and it was on one of our expeditions a couple of years ago that I thought – ok there are no geocaches here but what’s stopping me from hiding some? Confidence for one thing as I’d never even seen a real life Geocache to get an idea of what to do. Luckily, by now the Internet was on hand to glean some information and ideas.
I set about collecting a few small items to put in the ice-cream tubs that I had decided would be a reasonable size of container for my ‘hides’. Pencils and notebooks were also searched out in the local stationary shops and I put together my first few boxes ready for our next desert trip.
I always try to find a place of particular interest so that the person finding the cache won’t just find the ‘treasure’ but actually experience something more.
After my 7th hide I was surprised one day to receive an email telling me that someone had found my geocaches! He had travelled up from Jeddah – a mere 11 hour drive!- for the weekend just to ‘bag’ them! Since then he has returned on 2 more occasions to search for my hides and always gives me good feedback on his experience – mainly positive but a few times critical of my inaccurate co-ordinates! Now, each Geocache I set up I take special care as I do not wish to disappoint my keen follower who travels so far just for my geocaches!

20130430-204456.jpgMy last Geocache- my 30th:)
Have I ever found one for myself? Yes I have found a grand total of 11- 3 in Jordan, 1 in Saudi Arabia and the rest in Scotland.
Interested? Check out http://www.geocaching.com

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Sand dunes in the desert?

Before I came to Saudi I didn’t really give the country much thought, but then my husband to be went there to work and it had a lot more meaning for me. All this was before google and the Internet so in my mind’s eye my image of Saudi was very much the terrain of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ ie. a succession of sand dunes.

20130426-215834.jpgThis was what I thought Saudi Arabia was like!
I first came to Saudi in 1986 and it wasn’t until I travelled nearly an hour outside the town before I saw my first sand dune.
Now I have travelled around in the desert quite a lot and I never fail to be amazed by the diversity of the landscape and probably more accurately – the desertscape! Yesterday I spent the day exploring an area I have been to a few times before and was still stunned by the sheer beauty of what some might imagine is a barren, dry country.

20130426-221020.jpg stunning rock sculptures!

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20130426-221428.jpg evidence of those who lived here before

20130426-221655.jpggreen places in the wadis.

20130426-221826.jpgand like all countries less breath taking scenery.
Yes, it didn’t take me long to discover that Saudi Arabia is certainly not one big sand dune!

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New sock:)

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Chuffed with completing my last pair of socks I’ve wasted no time in starting a new pair. The lucky recipient is to be my Dad. It’ll be 13 weeks till I’m next home so I hopefully won’t fall by the wayside like before. I’m actually finding the knitting process very relaxing and a great way to wind down my brain after the slog of study and writing university essays!

Cloudy skies, cool wind and university English language essay.

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The last few days have been cloudy with some sunny spells and a cool breeze which was a bit chilly if you weren’t in a sheltered place. In fact probably more the kind of weather you’d expect in cooler climes like UK – in the summer!
However, I haven’t had much time to worry too much about the weather as I’ve been trying to focus my thoughts on my next Open University assignment. I enjoy the study part but always seem to get myself into a panic when the deadline gets nearer and what I thought was going to be straightforward turns out to be a lot more demanding. It’s weird how it all sounds so perfect and logical in my head but as soon as I try to start writing it all my ideas become as solid as the clouds that have been in the sky this week!
Anyway, this essay is all about the way English is used in higher education around the world and it got me thinking – how many people writing and reading on this blog site are writing in English as a non-native language? And if they are do they also contribute to another blog site in their first language.
Certainly since starting this course about the place of English in the world today it has made me realise that as a first language English speaker some aspects and opportunities are easier for me but my life would be much richer if I was competent in another language as well. And more than this I am totally in awe of the thousands and thousands of people who every day are studying, working and living using English as a foreign language.

Oasis

18 years ago the compound I live in was built on the edge of town in what had been a farmer’s field. The area is blessed with underground water reservoirs so there are a lot of fields in the surrounding area.
Initially, the compound was a concrete, soul-less place but over the years trees have been planted, grassy areas, flower beds, bushes and hedges added. Most people spend a little time on their gardens and there are various garden-styles to be appreciated as you walk around.

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It has been interesting to observe how the bird-life has grown over the years. In the beginning there were some pigeons and sparrows resident on the compound. Now, there are lots of bulbuls, spur-winged plovers, hoopoes, bluethroats and palm doves regularly in the gardens.

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Hoopoe.

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Spur-winged plover.

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In Spring and Autumn migratory birds including bee-eaters, parakeets and various birds of prey can be seen flying around the area. So now, our compound has become a welcome haven for many varieties of birds, big and small.

Abayas, Gahwa and dates.

This morning was craft morning. So I got myself organised quickly, grabbed the new sock on my knitting needles and wandered across to ‘Bunnies’ to see who was there. It was busy!
One of the ladies had completed a beautiful handmade quilt and had brought it to show. It was her first ever quilt and it was certainly a quilt to be proud of. It made me determined to get one of my long term quilt projects out of the cupboard soon and restart the process as I really love this craft.

20130408-231500.jpgGahwa pots and old Gahwa cup.

We were all having a chat and catching up with people who had just come back off holiday when Kate mentioned that an American woman who is married to a local Saudi was coming to join us. She did not come alone but brought some Gahwa (Arabic coffee) and dates to share:) so lovely. I think she finds it a bit lonely at times and although she loves her husband dearly, craves some ordinary chat with other English speaking women. She is pregnant with their first child so will be travelling back to U.S for the birth next month. I certainly didn’t expect that as I would have thought that she would have been obliged to have the baby here.
She also brought 4 abayas with decoration to sell. I got the idea that some of the others had been expressing difficulty in getting ‘nice’ abayas. She certainly came through for 2 of the women as they quickly ‘snapped up’ a couple of the abayas for 300 SR each. I heard a while back that many Saudi women were getting hassle for wearing abayas with adornment on them by the matouaya (religious police) down in Riyadh, so it will be interesting if any of the ladies have any problems here.
All in all, although I came home again without knitting a stitch, I had a very enjoyable couple of hours and a very interesting time meeting another ‘western’ woman who lives in Tabuk under very different circumstances to us other ex-pats.

Escape to Jordan.

As a non-Muslim living in Saudi can be a bit restricted at times so it is thankful that only 3 hrs and a border crossing is the more relaxed beachside resort of Aqaba, Jordan. A few times a year we make the trip for a weekend of r&r i.e. a few alcohol drinks, some nice food and if I wasn’t a vegetarian that would not doubt include some pork products.

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The first evening it’s just so lovely to sit on the balcony with a wee drink and watch the sun set over the Sinai. Aqaba is in an interesting locality with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all within view!

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Although the hotel is a lovely place to spend the day lazing on the beach or by the pool we always take a walk uptown to check out the couple of food shops that tend to stock some imported goods that we often can't get in Tabuk. This time I also hoped to bag a new Geocache that had been set up in a very public park area in the centre of the town.

20130406-224055.jpgIt proved impossible to find as there were so many people in and around the water feature area and sitting on the benches eating and drinking late breakfast, early lunch or just snacks. Being the only non-Arabic people in the whole park we were a bit of a novelty and were well observed by everyone!

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I love the sand bottle art that is so much a part of the tourist scene in Aqaba. It is quite skilful and although the coloured sand isn’t natural after visiting Petra and seeing the amazing range of colours in the rocks there it is quite believable that many of the colours could be found in nature.

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In the evening we enjoyed a mezze style meal in the hotel Lebanese restaurant. It's ages since I had tabbouleh, moutable and stuffed vine leaves and they didn't disappoint sooooo yummy:)

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After a stroll around it was getting a bit chilly so it was time to head back to the room and crash out after an enjoyable day.