Black Friday

After last year when Thanksgiving was a strange celebration and Black Friday was non-existent, I found the madness surrounding Black Friday to be completely ridiculous.  I cannot believe that stores opened as early as 9 and 10 pm on Thanksgiving Day; it just seems so wrong.  Either way, I hadn't planned on doing any shopping on Black Friday, but then I ran out of quilt binding on Wednesday. Then Steve decided he needed a few long sleeve shirts for work and Kohl's happened to bless my mailbox with a coupon.  So after I rolled out of bed around 11 am, we ventured out and hit up some stores because there was no way I was going to face any of those crazy early lines.

Overall shopping was surprisingly calm, and we only got a few things beyond what was planned.  We ended up getting some Christmas decor at Joann's because they had everything 50-60% off, and I scored a great deal on a set of Wilton holiday cookie cutters!  I got 40 cutters for eight smackaroos!  After growing up with Mom's big red box of cookie cutters, I decided it was time for me to get my own, and hopefully I'll make some cookies in the next week or so.

The craziest crowds were definitely at Wal-Mart, but that's because there were just lots of people milling around shopping.  Steve even managed to get the new Zelda game for their doorbuster price even though we got there so late in the day.

Despite getting quilt binding last week, my quilt came to a screeching halt when I ran out of thread.  Sad panda, but hopefully I should be finished this week and will be able to show off the finished quilt!

What did you guys score for Black Friday or did you stay home away from the madness?

Kandy: Shopping and Sites

We spent a good deal of time wandering around the streets of Kandy and found quite a few interesting buildings and sites.

I feel like I shouldn't have been surprised when I found out this huge green building was a mosque, but somehow I was.  It's really different than any of the mosques I've seen here in Saudi Arabia, but it's definitely got some cool style and details to it.

 Equal opportunity blogger, just up the street we found a church!  One of the few we've seen this past year while traveling.  Somehow churches always end up on the list of must see sites, especially in Italy.  They were especially beautiful there.  In Sri Lanka, it was a much more subdued building as the standard of living isn't nearly as high as in Europe.

To continue with the religious theme, we also saw  Buddha statues and shrines across the city.  This was incredibly common everywhere we visited in Sri Lanka as both Hindu and Buddhism are prominent religions.  What stood out to us the most was the sheer amount of religious diversity in Sri Lanka.  For one I didn't realize that they had such diversity prior to our trip, but it was also refreshing after a long period of being surrounded by only one religion.  Not being a religious person persay, this really doesn't impact me personally, but it was interesting to observe anyway.

We wandered in and out of many shops one of which was this bakery/kitchen shop.  It's so unfair that baking items were so easy to stumble upon in Sri Lanka when these things are so hard, or even impossible to find in Saudi Arabia (they even had liquid vanilla!).  I didn't end up buying anything, but being able to browse the tiny shop was nonetheless satisfying.

Bangles were wildly popular in Sri Lanka and came in so many different color combinations, but unfortunately they were all of the 'one size fits all' variety, so a no go for me.  I've always wanted to be able to wear bangles, but can't remember a time when I both wanted to and could.  Darn you people with skinny hands. 

As part of the prayer process, flowers such as these are placed at the temples.  With such a large demand for flowers, these small booths were numerous and the men hawking them were quite persistent.  I'm not sure if these are purchased for the offering, but I'd imagine they are.   

The flowers on the table above are "bloomed" by hand from flowers such as these until they create the large stack of petals that are given as an offering.  Most of the flowers we saw were white, purple, or pink, but I'm not sure if that was a matter of tradition or availability.

Bird and fish feeding was also a popular activity in Kandy.  Instead of feeding the animals bread, we saw a lot of natives buying popcorn from street vendors and feeding that to the animals.  We decided not to feed the animals at this particular time because they were incredibly well fed from those around us, and I don't think popcorn is high on the list of food appropriate for fish and birds.
Check out the rest of our Sri Lanka travels:
Kandy: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, 2
Kandy: Udawattakele National Sanctuary 

Shopping in Italy

It’s interesting to see how being devoid of non-food shopping has affected us.  When we do go to Jeddah, it’s usually for many items; on our last trip, we got printer ink, a duffle bag for Steve, a mini Leatherman, and a root canal.  (Ok, that last one was free, but it was the reason we were in Jeddah)  As a whole though, we don’t buy very much.  I didn’t consider how appealing shopping would be in Italy after being deprived of genuine shopping for the last few months.

Our first purchase was a new pair of shoes for me, because my old shoes were absolutely uncomfortable when standing or walking for extended periods of time, which is the opposite of what you want when traveling.  We started looking for cheap shoes, but after visiting three or four stores, we realized that nothing worth wearing for eight or more hours a day was going to be cheap.  So on Steve’s recommendation we wandered into Merrell , which was shockingly expensive.  I ended up trying on the Men’s WaterPro Manistee shoes, and they felt amazing on my feet.  They are, at 90 euro, the most expensive piece of clothing or accessory that I have ever owned.  However, after wearing them all week in Italy, they are by far the best shoes I’ve ever owned.

My favorite part is that they are super lightweight, coming in at only 1.4 pounds!  It really does feel like I’m not wearing shoes at all.  It’s generally a pretty dumb idea to start a trip off with a new pair of shoes, but thankfully, I didn’t have any problems with blisters or foot pain from these dreamy shoes.

We also did a lot of window shopping while searching for shoes, and oh the envy!  Clothes were definitely more expensive, but Milan is hands down the most fashionable and beautiful place ever.  Had I realized how nice the clothes were going to be, I might have packed fewer clothes and more money!  While I didn’t end up buying any clothes, I did get a few cute accessories before we left Milan for Florence.

Shopping in Florence was less planned and more a result of wants not needs.  We ended up buying a new SD card our first day because I had left my 8GB card in the laptop back in the hotel.  Steve also decided to get a new wallet in Florence, since his, which I got him two years ago, is falling apart.

In Athens, we got

two beautiful pieces of art

, and we decided that we might get another if we found something we both liked.  Instead of traditional art, we found a beautiful series of postcards.  If I can find the right kind of frame, I’ll frame and hang them here, otherwise I’ll have to wait and frame them when we get back home.

Our finale to our buying extravaganza was a trip to a yarn shop in Florence.  I ended up getting three different kinds of yarn, two for me and one to make something for Steve as well as two pairs of needles.  The pink yarn was originally one large hank, but Steve helped me ball it into more manageable sizes while we were sitting in the Cairo airport, flight delayed.  All of the knitting needles we found in Italy were crazy long.  I'm not sure how Italians manage to knit with such long needles; they seem clumsy and awkward to me.

We certainly did more shopping than expected in Italy, but it was so much fun, and we found some things we most likely wouldn’t have found in Jeddah.

Follow our journey:

Travel Plans are Never Final

Different Ways to Travel

How We Get Ready To Travel

Italy Day 1

Italy Day 2

Shopping in Italy 

Keeping it Alive by Trying New Things

Italy Day 3: Part 1

Italy Day 3: Part 2

Pack and Move

Or check out our 



Kitty got a Present

Whenever we need to take Algebra out to visit the vet, she had to ride along in a modified cardboard box kitty carrier.  It did serve the purpose, but it was kind of embarrassing to take her out in a duct taped box.  While I was at the dentist, Steve went to Al-Ballad (Old Jeddah) and did a bit of shopping.  One thing he got was a proper kitty carrier.

This is the carrier Steve found in Al-Balad.  It's adorable.

Here's kitty checking out her new carrier. Umm, Algie, your body is supposed to go inside with your head poking out.

We also needed to have one so that we can take her on the plane when we come home.  We're a bit concerned about her traveling on an 11-13 hour flight so we're trying to be as prepared as possible.  Now that we've gotten this carrier, we aren't sure that it was the right kind.  The airlines are very strict apparently about how animals can fly, and we need to make sure that we know what is the right way.  Despite being strict, it hasn't been easy to find much information from their websites, and we don't even know which airlines we would have to deal with coming home.

I'm sure kitty will figure it out eventually, right?

Has anyone traveled with cats before and have advice to share with us?

Employee Mistreatment

The other day I was shopping at Tamimi (the grocery store on campus). I grabbed two bags of tortilla chips, noting the price marked on the shelf. I have recently started doing this because, as you will read, the prices aren't always the same at checkout. For about half of the things I grab, there isn't even a price tag, so I usually end up with two or three things to price check at the register before I buy them. So anyways, I saw that the chips were 8.25 SAR ($2.20) each. Don't ask me why they price things in portions of Riyals, even though Tamimi doesn't use coins.

After checkout, while going over the receipt, I saw that the chips had rung up as 10 SAR ($2.60) each. So I went over and grabbed the tags off the shelf and took them and the chips over to the manager. The date that it was made is printed on the price tag, and I noticed that it was made the same day, so I assumed that their check out system had screwed up. But no, the price had changed. Yes, the price changes here more than once per day. The manager told me, in pretty okay English, that the person who is supposed to change the price tags whenever the price changes has had problems before and he will punish him and give me the 4 Riyals. I mentioned to the manager that they really need more staff, but he said that they were just lazy. He said that the employee would not be paid this week because he screwed up. Maybe he was trying to show me that he was doing something about it, but it really made me uncomfortable. I told him that I didn't want that, and he seemed to understand me.

After hearing rumors of Tamimi and Saudi Oger not paying their employees and holding their passports hostage, I don't doubt that he would have followed through on his threat. For the most part, the workers here are really nice, and they really should be treated better.

Sadly, in Saudi Arabia this is not uncommon at all.  A large percent of the expatriates here are foreign workers from South East Asia and other Middle East countries.  These workers are primarily here to do the work that Saudi's deem below them such as maintenance, cleaning, cooking, and driving.  Many instances of abuse have made it to mainstream news, although I'm sure many more do not.  As to the passport issue, this a widespread practice here in Saudi Arabia and is used as a way to prevent workers from switching employers or returning home. The employers who are responsible for obtaining the iqama, or residence card, for the workers have also been rumored to not do so, thus further preventing workers from leaving, as they would be seen as in the country illegally.

Even here on campus, life is not rosy for domestic workers.  Some families have brought domestic worker (think nannies) with them from their previous home, and as domestic workers, they are not permitted to travel off campus without written permission from the family employing them.  So even a short trip to Jeddah, or nearby Thuwal requires a signed permission slip.

Do we continue to fight for accurate pricing, knowing that it is the responsibility of the store to honor the prices listed?  Losing 4 SAR at the store is a pittance for us; it's just over a dollar, so is the knowledge that a worker will lose a week of pay worth an extra dollar?

Undoubtedly, he needs it more than we do.

Minor Clothing Crisis

I'm having a minor clothing crisis here lately.  When we packed up and moved to Saudi Arabia, we both had to pare down our clothing significantly so that we could fit everything into two suitcases plus one carry on each.  For me this ended up being about 25ish shirts and tops, 5ish jackets/cardigans, a dress, two pairs of jeans, a couple pairs of shorts, and some capris along with some other minor items.  I got a few of the shirts in Jeddah when we were preparing for our trip to Athens.  This is significantly less than I am used to having and quite honestly I have become so bored with the clothes I brought.  This was rarely if ever a problem back home because I didn't actually wear all of my clothes on a regular basis whereas here, the few dress shirts I brought are the only ones that I don't wear regularly.

At this point, I really only have two options: suck it up and deal, or go buy some new clothes.

Suck it up and deal
I really can live with what I already have and I just need to accept that being slightly bored with clothes right now is temporary and will most likely go away once we're back home and I can cycle clothes less frequently.  This is definitely the easier option, since it just requires that I get over myself and stop whining, but might not be so easy to accept.

Go buy new clothes
The other option is to try and add a few items into the mix.  If I want to be able to try on the clothes before buying them, that means I'm limited to the one clothing store on campus.  This pretty much limits the options to solid polos or screen printed tees.  I've never actually been a huge fan of decals and decor on the front of my shirts because it flat out looks funny when curved around boobs.  So, not so much a super option.

Route two is to haul down to Jeddah and hit one of the nearly five million malls that grace the metropolitan area.  Downside is buying clothes without trying them on, scurrying to the bathrooms to try them on, and then returning anything that doesn't fit or is ugly.  This also means I need to check out the store's return policy before we go buy anything, because when we picked up some clothes for our trip to Athens, one of the stores overcharged us and it was a bit of a fight when we went back and pointed it out because apparently their policy is not to give cash returns, just store credit. Obviously I don't want to get stuck with store credit when returning clothes, so this might be tricky.

I wish this country could give their men some credit and trust and then realize that every man isn't going to go stark raving crazy knowing that women might be changing in a dressing room.