Monthly Archives: February 2016

Uncloaked and Vulnerable

Getting robbed is a bitch.

This is the second time I’ve been robbed in less than two years. Both times in the good ol’ USA, both times in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2014, someone broke into a house I lived in. They took my computer (and those of my housemates), and a lot of my memories. Notes I made in a phone book, an old address book, a really, really cheap cell phone that I used in Saudi Arabia with names and phone numbers of friends there. Some inexpensive costume jewelry that I had collected from around the world. Oddly enough, they left the gold jewelry – I guess it wasn’t shiny enough. Note to thieves: you can’t sell memories.

This time, someone broke into my hotel room, while I was there sleeping, and took my purse. Now, I have no driver’s license, no passport, no medical card, no social security card, and no employee ID card. My car key is gone, my house key is gone, and pictures that I’ve carried around of my children and grandchildren are gone. And, in that passport is an active Saudi visa.

Right now, I have only a replacement debit card – which isn’t working. So, I’m carrying more cash than I’ve ever in my life carried. But, even that’s not the kicker. I reached into my bag for tissue – but the thief had taken that. I reached into my replacement bag for a pen – but that also was gone. I have no chapstick and no lipstick. No telephone numbers scrawled on the backs of business cards. No earphones for my cell phone. No IPod (which was a gift from my children) and is so old that probably no one would buy it. Gone are my bobby pins and the hand sanitizer that I’d picked up in France. Gone is my almost used up eyebrow pencil. Gone is the little change purse that I paid next to nothing for in Egypt. The cancelled passport with my Egyptian visa and stamps from all of the countries I’ve visited over the past three years. Note to thieves: Memories don’t sell.

What did the thief get of value? Well, maybe the bag itself, which is a nice leather bag, but well worn, so it probably won’t fetch any money. Maybe the leather wallet – but I seriously doubt it. I did have $4 or $5 in my wallet, my debit card (which I cancelled) and my credit cards – also cancelled, but they did manage to buy a hamburger and some Starbuck’s coffee with one credit card.

I placed an alert on my credit reports, and notified social security of my missing card. I will notify the US State Department and DMV that my ID’s have been stolen. But, it’s hard for me to imagine that a thief who buys hamburgers and coffee will cause an international incident with my Saudi visa.

So, basically, my memories were stolen, I was inconvenienced, stressed out and violated for what amounts to about $20.00 for the thief.

Welcome to America and welcome to urban life. My friends and family said “thank God you were sleeping.” They said “At least you’re safe and weren’t hurt.” Yes, I am grateful that I was asleep and couldn’t confront the thief, who may have had a weapon. And, yes I am grateful for my family and friends. But I was hurt, not outside, but inside. Having your memories stolen hurts. Having things that you’ve gathered for years hurts. I will heal, but I won’t forget. I will get past this, but some things cannot be replaced. I am grateful for my memories – those that I hold in my head and in my heart. And, I am immensely grateful for digital photos, and virtual storage.

But, being robbed is a bitch.

**Update: The hotel contacted me and said that “a gentleman dropped my purse off” at the hotel. My daughter has collected it, and it’s on its’ way back to me, sans my credit cards, cash, iPod and earphones. I’m grateful to get it back. But, being robbed is still a bitch, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

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Decloaking

I think that I’m slowly, and sometimes almost imperceptibly, taking off the layers of Saudi Arabia.

There is, of course, the obvious: I no longer have to wear an abaya; I no longer wear the hijab that I wore because I wanted to respect the culture and cover my head (I also didn’t want the Mutawaa yelling at me).

I’m uncovering and discarding the mental layers that had almost unconsciously cloaked me.

I can talk about religion without those within earshot becoming offended. I don’t have to monitor my environment to make sure the religious police, or a fundamentalist Muslim, will overhear what I’m saying. Realistically, I’m in Texas and there are a lot of fundamentalist and born again Christians here, but not everyone is, and not everyone is touting the benefits of Christianity. No one has yet given me a Bible. By week two of arriving in Riyadh, I had at least four copies of the Quran.

I don’t have to hear the call to prayer at 4:30 a.m. and groggily try to sleep for another hour before getting up for work.

The stores are open all day. If I’m inside and shopping, I don’t have to rush through my shopping because prayer time is coming up, or schedule my shopping time around prayer.

I can drive myself wherever I want to go. I’m no longer dependent on a driver to take me and pick me up.

I can sit in a public place with men: airport waiting rooms and restaurants, bus stations and snack bars. I don’t have to worry that I’ll be kicked out of a restaurant because it only serves men.

I work with men and women.

I work Monday through Friday, not Sunday through Thursday (although that really wasn’t bad; after all, five days is five days).

I have to say that I found it interesting that at a recent staff meeting at my new job, the women sat at one table, and the men at another. Of course I commented about the voluntary segregation. But it was voluntary and this soon shifted.

I am again dealing with racism, but I’m much less offended by it now. And, being in Saudi Arabia reinforced my belief that racism is artificial. Being there reinforced my belief that racism is a practice of the ignorant, and a tool of the wealthy. Class divisions of any kind are artificial. We are all human.

I can talk with my family without having to wait until 7 a.m. and hope that they’re available. I no longer have an international calling plan on my cell phone.

The internet is reliable and consistent.

And, I’m paying sales tax – what can you do? Freedom has a price tag, but so does restriction. I’ll pay the price here in the USA – at least for a while.

Women use their mobilephones to take pictures outside the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque as residents perform Eid al-Fitr morning prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
Women use their mobilephones to take pictures outside the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque as residents perform Eid al-Fitr morning prayers to mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, in Riyadh. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)