‘Masterchef’

Yesterday the school hosted a take on the t.v. Programme Masterchef. I have a horrible feeling that we breeched all sorts of copyright laws in using their logo on our trophies and certificates but I suppose we have all become very lax about this living in Saudi Arabia where the government has only recently started to issue warnings against pirated items- mainly DVDs, CD ‘s and computer software.

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The trophies and certificates.
The very large cups were for the children and the more ‘tasteful’ Perspex plaques were for the adult winners.
One of my pupils won the savoury section and was well impressed with his trophy. Being 6 years old it was nearly as big as him!!
At the end of each term the school runs some sort of parent and pupil ‘fun’ event, sometimes opening it to the whole community. This was the case with Masterchef and there were a few entries from members of the community not directly involved with the school.
The entrants had to enter a dish, prepared at home, to either the savoury or sweet category. There were some very tasty looking dishes.

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Part of the children’s savoury table. The sushi came 3rd- and I was interested to see many of the children tucking into it afterwards! How tastes have changed in the last 10 years or so. The entry in the tagine was aThai fish parcel dish and it was the winner in this section.

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The adult savoury table.

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The children’s sweet table before it became totally decimated by eager tasters!
The chef from one of the compound restaurants was given the difficult task of judging.

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Perhaps the best part came next- the tasting of the dishes:) half an hour later there wasn’t much left- so I think it’s safe to say- it was a very successful and enjoyable end of year event for the school.

Gecko

I’m not much of a gardener but I do like to try to grow a few things in our patch of garden. It’s been very rewarding recently to go out and pick a few salad leaves, herbs and tomatoes to add to the salad for our dinner, and know exactly how they’ve been grown and enjoy the lovely, fresh taste. A small area of the veg patch had got past it’s best and after some procrastinating it was time to take action. My husband kindly cleared the old tomato plants and I dug over the area, adding some of my homemade compost. After rummaging through my bag of seeds I thought I’d try some beet root. As I said, I’m not much of a gardener so apologies to any knowledgable gardeners reading this who might baulk at the idea of planting beet root in July in Saudi! Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I will happily leave the results in ‘the lap of the gods’ or as they say locally- Inshallah.
When I went to get some shop bought potting compost to sprinkle over the seeds I was surprised to be met with this sight-

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2 tiny gecko eggs:)
I don’t mind these small lizards at all. In fact I think they’re quite sweet and am happy to have them live around our doorway as I’m sure they do their best to keep the mosquito population down. My husband likes them too, but has told me a few tales of Saudis at work killing them because they’re dangerous. Intrigued, I looked it up and found that it’s all tied in with Mohammed’s teachings. In Islam, the house gecko is regarded as a pest and like other pests a carrier of disease. Which, I suppose, equates to how mice, cockroaches, ants etc. are regarded in my culture. Here is the link for the info I found-
http://en.islamtoday.net/quesshow-152-607.htm
Have I changed my opinion of geckos? Although,yes, I can understand that geckos are possibly germ- carriers, I still think they’re cute and don’t really think that they should be killed so senselessly- but then I haven’t been brought up in the Islamic faith.

No change for me!

Well it’s a 3 day weekend for my husband and everyone else on the compound except for teachers and pupils. With only 2 weeks of the school year to go it was decided to carry on as we were until the new academic year in September.

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Of course this was met with mixed reactions and I for one will be a bit disgruntled on Saturday to have to get up for work while my husband still sleeps:(.
So with only 2 weeks to go the report cards have been sent out, most of the classes are finished their exams and already some of the children are leaving for the summer holidays. With most of the academic work behind us, my class is preparing for their class assembly- so we're pretty busy, but in a different kind of way. I have chosen to do a re-telling of the Julia Donaldson book 'The Smartest Giant in Town'.

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The children are loving it! Especially the part where the giant’s trousers have to fall down! The boy who is the giant is really hamming it up and hopefully won’t be struck with stage fright on the big day.
In school we’re also busy getting the stage and props ready.

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The children drew pictures of the houses for the town background and now the T.A and myself are enlarging their ideas and transferring them onto the walls.
Today at home I’ve been busy working on the socks for the play.

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It’s the first time my sewing machine has been out for nearly 2 years! Perhaps now I’ll get some other repair jobs done- ha! Ha!
So, with all that’s going in in my classroom the next 2 weeks will fly by and hopefully being out of step with the rest of the community at weekends won’t affect us too much.

New weekend!

One of the changes I had to get used to when I started living in Saudi Arabia was the different weekend. Here, if you’re lucky enough enough to have a two day weekend, you will have Thursday and Friday off work. The Sunday working was something even after many, many years I still felt cheated to have to get up and go into school for an 8 o’clock start! Sunday’s should be for lazy, leisurely mornings:).

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Most of the other Arab countries have Friday and Saturday as their weekend and find this more beneficial for doing business with the west. For many years now there has been talk of Saudi changing and in April this raised its head again when Oman announced it would be changing its weekend in line with the other Gulf countries. Being out of line with not only the west but with the other gulf countries meant that Saudi was falling short on potential business transactions but I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking things would just continue as they had. How wrong I was! Today this man

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King Abdullah announced that Saudi Arabia will be changing its weekend and they won’t be tardy in doing so! The new working week will begin a week today! We’re now all wondering if we will have to work a 6 day week this week or will we be given a 3 day weekend? Mmmm. …I don’t really want to get my hopes up on that one…. But one thing is for sure- I’m still going to be sitting in front of my class at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning feeling that it is just wrong that I should be there!

Desert Junkies!

It had been 4 weeks since we’d last been in the desert and the weather forecast didn’t sound too extreme- just a mere 36C! – so a desert trip was organised. We are hooked on exploring an area around the small village of Bajda, where the rockscapes are spectacular- so that is where we headed. Our first stop was to show one of the guys the interesting ‘alien’ rock art we’d found a few weeks ago.

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Sadly, some graffiti has been sprayed on top, which detracts somewhat from the 9 figures and other animals which decorate the rock face. It was interesting to see that where some people had been digging down in front that the art continued below what is now the surface. Obviously there has been a huge build up of sand, animal excrement and fodder over the hundreds of years since this rock face meant something special to the local people. The digging occurs because there is a belief that gold can be found and I suppose if the figures are indeed idols then I imagine some offerings would have been left but how much of it would have been gold I’m not sure.
As we lingered at this spot some camels approached and started to have dust baths in front of us- very entertaining:)

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I doesn’t matter how many times we see camels I can never resist taking a few pics.
Our exploration continued in and around the wonderful scenery and we were rewarded with the sight of quite a lot of small birds- rose finches, wheatears, Tristram’s grackles, and a few I have still to identify. The most exciting bird spot was an Egyptian vulture soaring above.

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Rose finches were quite abundant in a few areas.

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Tristram’s grackles seem to like this area.
Wadi areas criss cross this area and water obviously collects underground going by the large areas of plant life and the numerous herds of goats, sheep and camels that we often see. In an effort to collect some of the water we have so far found 4 man made reservoirs.

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This reservoir still had some water in it which had attracted a lot of birds and dragonflies.
The people who look after the animals are sometimes the local Bedouin but we have quite often met other nationalities- Somali or Sudanese who are employed to look after the herd.

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This open air camp is probably ‘home’ to a couple of animal herders who were out with their herd when we stopped by to take photos of a very nice stylised horse petroglyph we spotted.

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A very good day in the desert, indeed! I’ve had my ‘fix’ for a wee while and as we’re going back to UK on holiday soon we’ll miss a few weeks of the hottest weather:)

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My friend took this shot of the vulture with his mega-zoom lens.

Thinking of home.

The town taken from the beach.

The town taken from the beach.

‘Home is where the heart is’ is an often said phrase. For me home is where my husband is as that is definitely where I am happiest. So at the moment it’s here in Saudi! I can never actually remember ever feeling homesick for what is my real home- Scotland. I love being there and am looking forward to eventually returning there to live but at the moment living overseas is still enjoyable.
Yesterday, however, I was made aware of a new music video by the UK group ‘Scouting for Girls’, which had been filmed entirely on my ‘home’ beach. What a surprise, as my town in Scotland is not exactly high on the list of any film producers as far as I’ve ever been aware! It was a weird feeling to see somewhere that I have known all my life as the backdrop to a well known group’s music. But did it make me homesick? No. But it did make me very happy to think I will be able to walk on that beach in just 3 weeks when I go home on holiday.
Sadly, after trying for an hour to attach the video I have failed miserably. But here is the link if you want to take a look- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLgjs96kOhQ&sns=em
And here are a few pix I took last time I was there in February.

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Ma’asalama.

Expat life is filled with positives and negatives. One of the great things is the selection of people you get to meet. Even here in a compound for a British company there is quite a range of nationalities. Mostly the men are British or Australian but their wives come from a diverse range of countries- Thailand, Poland, Czech Republic, Somalia, South Africa – to name just a few. The reason for this is partly to do with the itinerant nature of the men who have sometimes worked in a few other countries before ending up here or a result of both being expat workers here.
Over the years I have therefore had the pleasure of getting to know some really lovely people and becoming great friends with many of them. However an inevitable part of expat life in Saudi is that none of us will ever make it our permanent home and so there comes the time that we will leave.

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This past week has been a week of ma’asalamas or goodbyes as 3 different families have been preparing to move on to new ‘adventures’. All 3 have been in the community for a number of years so it is sad to see them go and I’m sure I won’t be alone in remembering them fondly.
Having been here for nearly 28 years I have had to say goodbye to many people and only kept in touch with a few, but now with the ‘miracle’ that is Facebook I have become reacquainted with so many. Somehow, the parting of the ways to whatever far flung corner of the world that is involved is not so sad anymore and

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as the time comes closer for my turn to ‘leave on that Saudia jet plane’ I know that keeping in touch will be so much easier than it ever was before.

School visitor!

Look what visited us in school today!

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And it was alive!
One of the teachers spotted this scorpion crawling up the outside wall of the building this morning. She fetched another teacher to catch it in a jug- brave, foolhardy people!
All the classes had a visit from it and in my class we had a great nature & keeping safe lesson from the experience. I was pleased to hear from the 5 and 6 year old children just how much they were aware about the dangers of some of the wildlife here and how to keep themselves safe.
For the adults I think it definitely made us think how close we are living to nature even although we don’t encounter it very often on our concrete walled in compound!
After we all had a good look, and no doubt planted an image that may well be the source of a few nightmares, the headmaster took it outside the compound and released it on some waste ground. Lets hope it will live happily ever after there and not feel the need to revisit us again!

Brussels sprouts in June!

What is it about brussel sprouts that they always seem to get such a reaction when mentioned? They definitely are a vegetable that you either love or hate. I fall into the love camp and have been that way since I can remember- in fact I am so weird that for along time they were my favourite vegetable!
Living in Saudi has meant that many winters and therefore Christmas meals have come and gone without a single brussel sprout to be seen in the supermarket. Occasionally there is talk of some being available in Riyadh and then if you are fortunate to know of someone visiting there you might be lucky enough to have some brought back for you.
Imagine our surprise when shopping on Thursday to see these in the veg section!

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We have no idea where they have come from as they are just labelled ‘imported’ and for a change as imported goods they aren’t horrendously priced- 8 sr. Which is about £1.30- not cheap I know but compared to paying £5 for a small tub of blueberries or £5 for a head of celery, not bad.
Were they worth it- definitely. I blanched them earlier. Counted out 5 each for my husband and I to have for dinner and froze the rest for another time. They were sooooo good:)
Okay so we live in a desert etc. so having to have lots of fruit and veg imported should be expected, but this is a little known fact. Flowers are grown in this this area using hydro culture and are exported to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to sell in the flower market there!!
As well as our imported brussel sprouts and blueberries we also bought this bunch of beautiful Saudi grown lilies!

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Something to ponder next time you’re buying flowers- they might have been grown on a farm in Saudi Arabia!

Another week bites the dust!

It’s the weekend again in Saudi:) this week seems to have flown and now our lovely relaxing weekend in Aqaba seems ages ago. This week has seen a return to school and the dreaded report cards to write. My class is the biggest in the school so I have the marathon task of writing 11! Compared to being a teacher back in UK a dawdle but here I envy those with 6 or 7 children in their class.
Anyway before last weekend fades into the dim and distant past here are a few pics of ‘in and around’ Aqaba.

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Evening view of the hotel pool.

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Watermelons for sale.

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Nets around the dates to stop the birds having a feast!

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Shop goods are commonly stacked up on the pavement.

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The remains of the ancient city, Ayla.

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Brewing up Turkish coffee for my husband.

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Sand bottle art is a popular tourist buy.

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Parasailing seemed popular this weekend.

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Enjoying a Lebanese mezze.

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Camel on its way to the public beach to give ‘rides’.

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Travelling to the ferry.
So and what of this weekend?
Finish my reports. Relax. Catch up with some knitting and reading for pleasure and on a sad note go to a ma’asalama party for a friend. (ie leaving party)
Enjoy your weekend whenever it comes:)