Odds and Ends

Some things not easily fleshed out into a full post…

Seems that Americans are the only people who call a cellular phone a cell phone. The rest of the world calls them mobile phones. The saving grace is that many people outside the U.S. (but not all) watch American television; so, they don’t look at you as if you’re a complete idiot when ask if they’ve seen your cell phone or if you can have their cell number.

Thursday nights and Fridays are Family Time, and it’s difficult for single guys to find a place to eat at on those nights. A friend of mine and I went to the Zee Noodle House, and they wouldn’t let us eat inside the restaurant. Instead, we had to eat at an island of tables in the middle of a mall concourse, which the noodle house shares with a steakhouse across the way.

I was considering purchasing a digital video camera, and I mentioned this to a co-worker. He told me not to do it. If I’d given it more than half-a-minute of thought, I would have realized what he told me. The Saudis use the PAL television format, the same as do the Europeans. We, in the U.S., use the NTSC format. He knew this because he’d bought one of the cameras and couldn’t view what he shot. Guess I’ll wait until I am back in the States.

Al-Jazeera, best known these days as the the Arabic satellite news service broadcast from Qatar, is actually a nickname for the Arabian Peninsula. Jazeera actually means island, and, with water on three sides, many people in the past thought of the vast desert as an island.

Saudis like gadgets as much as Americans do; but, by far the most ubiquitous gadget is the mobile phone. There must two of the things to every individual in the country. Even the tea boys and janitors have a mobile phone. Of course, long gone are the days when a mobile phone simply made phone calls. I am pretty sure that, soon, they’ll be replicating food ala Star Trek. Personally, I was seriously considering the purchase of a Treo, but the U.S. uses one mobile phone technology while Europe and Asia use another. There are phones that will work with either technology, but I haven’t done the research, yet, to know if the Treo meets that criteria. Somehow I doubt it.

Dubai broadcasts Dubai One each evening at 6pm. The show is basically a news magazine that is obviously and arm of the Emirate from which it is broadcast. The news is pretty solid, but has a distinctly U.A.E. (and particularly Dubai) slant…which means hardcore capitalist. The news presenter is a gorgeous Arab woman with a very distinguished British accent. Almost all of the presenters in the field have British accents as well, though a couple of them have perfect American accents.

While Dubai One is entertaining and informative, it level of propaganda does not come close to matching that broadcast on the 6pm news by the Kingdom of Bahrain’s official news service. The news contains facts, but it is geared toward pointing out what a wonderful person the King of Bahrain is and what good things he does for the people of Bahrain. The broadcast starts with a feature piece, which always centers around the King, then shifts to video footage of the King sitting in his throne/chair at some official diplomatic audience he has granted…there is no narrative, just stately music and video footage for a solid, uninterrupted 3-4 minutes.

So, the story goes (unverified as it may be): Way back in the days of yore, the Brits and the Americans came to Saudi Arabia and entered into competitive negotiations for rights to drill for the oil beneath the desert sands of the Arabian Peninsula. In hopes of getting in the good graces of the King, the Brits gave him a Rolls Royce. The King enjoyed the automobile immensely and, much to the horror of the gift givers, he took it across the desert sands in much the same we he might have taken a camel across the dunes during the war that culminated in the establishment of the Kingdom in 1932. The condition of the car was shocking, but these men held their tongues. In the meantime, the Americans put an elevator in the King’s palace. As history shows, the Americans won those negotiations and Aramco was established. You see, the King was wheelchair bound, and it was a tough endeavor to get upstairs at the palace – especially for a very proud warrior.

To drag out a trite cliche – last but certainly not least – I have now had an encounter with the Saudi health care system. I have to be honest and say I found it a very positive experience. Last week, I found myself at the end of an extremely robust session of vomiting brought about by an acute case of food poisoning. At the end of 10 hours, I realized I needed to a doctor, and one of my friend and next-door neighbor carted me over to Kingdom Hospital’s Emergency Room. The doctor was Arabic provided a very professional and thorough examination. The male nurses were Filipino and Arabic and did an excellent job of taking care of me and putting in the IV lines. There were a couple of female nurses (Indian, I believe). The hospital is one of the few places you’ll see men and women working together. After three bags of fluids and two shots for nausea and hyper-acidity, I stumbled out the door 30 Saudi Riyal (US$8.00) lighter in the wallet and on my way to recovery.

Until next time…ma’asalaama.

Copyright, Greg Hubbard, 2007.

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