Unknown to me, I had arrived in Riyadh during a holiday. The streets were fairly empty and I was whisked off from the airport by one of the school drivers, and delivered to my new apartment building.
I did not expect an apartment building. I thought I’d be living in a compound, with a pool, gym, and enclosed walking area. Compounds are typically like large apartment complexes with amenities, or like a small apartment complex with a central pool area much in the style of a Holiday Inn. I was to share an apartment with two women – one from South Africa and one from Walnut Creek, California. I was a little excited that another Californian was there. They were both on vacation when I arrived, so I was free to roam about the apartment as I pleased.
The building was typically sand colored, four levels (including the roof) and a guard stationed outside. There were cameras in the hallway, which I suppose recorded the occasional rule breaker trying to sneak a man inside (this never happened). The apartment was on the second floor, and had three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It also had a large kitchen, with a small 1 or 2 person refrigerator – certainly not a refrigerator built for three adults. In the fan of the bathroom, a group of pigeons had decided to nest, so there was the constant hum of the pigeons, with occasionally fighting over the limited space of an 18” by 18” fan area. Needless to say, I couldn’t really turn on the fan.
Did I mention that the building was directly across the street from a large landfill of dirt and garbage?
Each room, except the kitchen and bathrooms, had its own air conditioning/heating unit.
And I saw several dead, 1-inch+ cockroaches in the kitchen and bathroom.
Or, perhaps I should say COCKROACHES because I had never see such large cockroaches; they looked like something out of a horror film. I did not realize that cockroaches could grow to look like small animals.
But, at least they were dead.
My two absent roommates had left a bag of garbage hanging on the kitchen door, which had not yet started to smell, but would very soon. They’d also left a very full refrigerator and cabinets. I had to scope out a couple (and only a couple) of empty cabinets, and rearrange things for a little space in the fridge.
My furnished bedroom seemed pretty comfortable, so I settled in, did a little unpacking, and tried to relax in my new home.
Fortunately, my body had adjusted to Middle Eastern time while in Turkey, so I slept – of course with the air conditioning on because even though it was mid-October, temperatures dipped down to a cool 85 degrees or so at night. And, unless I wanted to wake up drenched in sweat from the heat combined with my own hot flashes, I had to turn on the air conditioning.
Because it was Eid, I would not actually report for work for a few days, and I had plenty of shopping to do before I reported for work.
Welcome to Riyadh!