The following list identifies some things I’ve learned during the time I’ve lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I don’t think there’s anything really cohesive or thematic in this list – just some things I’ve noted. I thought I’d share them. Why? I have no clue.
1. Top Gear – Top Gear is a British automobile show. Well, that is an understatement, isn’t it? Top Gear is the best automobile show that has ever been on any television channel in any country – ever. Period. If you like cars, then you should get hold of this show and watch it (check the listings for BBC America and Discovery Channel; it’s available on DVD if you are inclined). If you don’t like cars, then it’s worthwhile to watch if only because of the three hosts: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May. What other show offers you detailed assessments of cars from all parts of the world – then holds a challenge where the hosts must find parking places for two of the world’s longest cars, in London – or have a fox hunt, where the fox is a Nissan automobile – or have two guests come on each week and drive selected cars around a fixed track, in competition not only with each other, but with the hosts and previous guests? Last year, Richard Hammond was nearly killed in a car crash while filming the show. What did this shrinking violet do? He talked the BBC into devoting an entire episode to the crash, which he edited and presented. Seriously, if you like cars, you’ll like this show.
2. Multiple News Sources – Anyone who only gets their news from a single source is providing themselves with only one world view. Maybe that suits you; but, I like to piece together the real story – not the story some particular news organization wants me to see. If ever there was an argument against allowing the consolidation of news organizations, even for the sake of improving profits, it ought to be the current state of news gathering and reporting. The more news outlets, the more perspectives. The more perspectives, the more complete the real story. The more complete the real story, the more informed a citizen you become. Though it takes some work, there are many excellent news sources on the Internet. And, don’t just read those with whom you agree. Challenge yourself. Read those with whom you perceive you disagree. You just might find out you weren’t as right as you thought you were. I highly encourage you to select some news sources outside your home country, as part of this challenge.
3. Economic Literacy – Most people are ignorant of how economics works. I’m not talking about obscure trends in the Watusi tribe on the continent of Africa. Most people don’t understand the basic economic laws comprising what academics label as macroeconomics – something which EVERYONE should understand. Unfortunately, at least in the U.S., the only exposure most people get to economic studies comes in the form of a class during their senior year of high school, which seldom is more than a check-box that needs to be ticked prior to graduation. Real understanding of economic principles requires some personal effort, like reading. This is true all over the world, too. Basic economics is basic economics is basic economics. Language or nationality do not matter. Spend some time reading The Economist web site or magazine; or, listen to one of their fine podcasts, available via iTunes or Yahoo!. For the most part, everything coming from them is in plain, layperson’s English. Your perspective of world news, not to mention your daily life, will never be the same again.
4. The Embassy Social Scene – Although I’ve known they had some events at the Embassy, I never realized how often they hosted events for expatriates. At least once a month, often twice, the Embassy hosts Community Nights, primarily for American expatriates – but well attended by expatriates of all nationalities. Often, the number of Arabs attending rivals the number of Western-looking guests; of course, many of those Arabs hold American citizenship, too. Here, though, it’s hard to discern which Arab is American from which is Canadian from which is Saudi from which is of whatever national origin one might imagine. This doesn’t count the various special events the Embassy hosts during special seasons or during the Holiday season. The trick is getting on the email list where these events are announced…which is not as easy as one might imagine. The folks in charge like to keep the list down to a manageable size, which also limits the number of non-list guests who show. The big ticket, though, is the Irish Embassy. They pour freer than the Yanks do.
5. English Premier League Football – In America and Canada, we call it soccer. In Mexico and the rest of the World, they call it football. And, currently, the best of the sport is played in the English Premier League – and I have become an enormous fan of the most watched sports league in the entire world. Far from the game ridiculed in America and Canada as boring, world class football yields some of the most exciting sporting moments I’ve ever witnessed. Though some games do yield the stereotypical 0-0 or 1-0 scores, the game is seriously geared toward scoring, and several games this season have been very high-scoring affairs. Even the low-scoring games are often very exciting and shining examples of why football is called The Beautiful Game; it really can be most artistic at times. I go through withdrawals when I am at home – thank goodness for Fox Soccer Channel on Dish Network, which shows games early on Saturday and Sunday mornings during the season. The EPL may be the most addicting sports league in the world.
That’s five discoveries. I’ll post five more in the near future.