Saturday, February 26, 2011

Experiencing Riyadh (little by little)

Here’s a random list of my experiences during my first week in my new work and my observations of my new environment here in Riyadh:
  • My mom went to see me off to my new workplace which I find very sweet.  I wasn’t bother by it at all. I was like a kindergarten on her 1st day of school being ushered by her mom and telling her that she would do just fine only this time I am way too past my teens! I guess the fact that my mom was away with me most of my growing years, makes me embrace her being a stage mom today. She’d been working as a nurse here in Riyadh for almost 22 years! Imagine that.
  • The general orientation at work went on smoothly. Different people from different nations came to work here in Riyadh. There were those from the USA, France, Czech Republic, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, India, UK and two of us from the Philippines. It was a really diverse group with different reasons of why choosing the Middle East for work. Some of us were there for financial stability, others for change in environment, for adventure, and for professional growth. Whatever the reason is, it is a big change and challenge everybody was facing.
  • There is a transportation service for all employees going to and from work 24/7. You just need to know the bus schedule. There is also a bus schedule for SHOPPING trips! How cool is that?!
  • During my morning bus rides, the exquisite sunrise never fails to amaze me. Big, round and orangey is my best way to describe it.
  • I’ve experienced my first suuuper minor sandstorm. They say it gets very nasty sometimes…
  • Starbucks Coffee in the Philippines tastes better than here (at least for the caramel macchiato and cafĂ© mocha). Is it just me? I don’t know…
  • You have to be very careful when crossing the street. Saudi men are very fast drivers. We were also warned by a local, just so you know.
  • If we have Saturday and Sunday as weekend in the Philippines and for most part of the world, here we held our weekend on Thursday and Friday. We say: “Thank God it’s Wednesday!” instead.
  • For the ladies (kikay or not!), it is advisable to bring with you these MUST-HAVES always: Lip balm, Body lotion, Facial moisturizer (with a minimum of SPF 15), Hair conditioner. The season here is relatively dry (dry cold and dry hot), so if you don't want to look older than your age, you will trust me on this one. Chugging enough water would also help you hydrate yourself. ( I'll be making a separate blog about this later. So, watch out for it! =D)
  •  I would be able to continue my RUNNING! My housing complex has a 1 kilometer walking/jogging path! Imagine my delight when I saw it. In fact, I already run last Thursday. I only ran 5 kilometers before calling it quits. Sorry guys, I haven't yet taken a picture of it but I will! I promise. Besides having a walking path, there is also a tennis court, basketball court, a gym and a swimming pool. No excuse for me not to stay physically fit! =D
That's it! That's all I can write for now. Watch out for my future blogs on my mis/adventures in the kingdom!

      Friday, February 25, 2011


      Last February 19, I moved out from my mom’s housing to my own housing in the hospital I’ll be working with. And being such a supportive mom that she is, my mom even accompanied me during my transfer.

      I was filled with so much trepidation as to what to expect in my new environment. But it was not bad at all. The housing complex was filled with “kabayans”. Expats working in the same hospital I’ll be working with. It was a shared housing but with separate bedrooms (that was really nice and big) and bathrooms (we got one for our guest too!); A common living room, kitchen and laundry room; A really working fire alarm (trust me, it really works!). My bedroom has a really nice view from the window (a mini park with a fountain at the center). There were trees filled with birds perched on its branches like it’s welcoming me in my new home.

      My room mate is also a Filipina and is very warm and accommodating. She patiently orients me to my new home---the facilities and amenities provided in the housing complex.

      I guess from all these things I could say there’s nothing you would or should worry about when there is support coming from your family and the people you would be living and working with. AND no matter how apprehensive you are, you will get along just fine because we pinoys are like social chameleons---we can easily adapt to a new environment, knows how to fit in and understand the culture of others and I am proud to say that we are WORLD CLASS workers.

      the view outside my bedroom window

      Saturday, February 19, 2011


      I woke up this morning feeling a little bit sore... What did I do last night that makes me feel this way today? Then it all came back to me... After 2 weeks of not doing much (though I do yogas and jogging in place---does this count?), I finally able to RUN! It was such a great feeling, REALLY! My mom and I were supposed to watch an inter-hospital basketball game held here in their basketball court. I was feeling really cold (I guess my body’s thermostat hasn’t yet adjusted to the weather) when I saw a track oval in the opposite side of the court. My eyes were twinkling literally! Hahaha! I saw a couple of people walking and jogging on the oval so I ask my mom if I could jog there as well too. After all, I am just a visitor so I thought I should ask for permission first. The next thing I know I am doing my warm ups---stretching and walking first and when I cannot contain myself any longer, I started running free! It’s refreshing to run with the cold breeze hitting your face. I find myself smiling and teary eyed, just like a kid given with some tasty treat! I find my rhythm as I run, welcoming the rubber tracks beneath my feet. Pounding my feet one foot after another as I go on and on…until I was catching my breath and felt the burning in my lungs! One thing I noticed though, you won’t get sweaty when you run here. You’ll just find yourself huffing and puffing and feeling a little bit warm.

      Running for me here is having freedom. For a moment, you feel free from the worries of the everyday life of an expat. Running is what I enjoy best before coming to this country and running is what I will enjoy in this culturally restricted Kingdom.

      In running, I feel everything is possible when I put my heart into it. In running, I could clear my cloudy mind and think things over. It rejuvenates my whole being and makes me feel like I’m a brand new person after…

      I am looking forward to my annual leave. And RUNNING in a foot race is what I have in mind when I got home. =)

      Running free! Grinning like a kid! =)

      Friday, February 18, 2011

      PARTY---the Saudi style

      Last night, I’ve got to experience how expats have their party the SAUDI style.

      Since I’m a newbie (a newbie starting to feel a little bored), hearing of a party got me all excited! My mom and her co-workers (5th floor health care team) organized a party for the birthday celebrants for the month of January and February. Every hospital employee brought food to be shared and “chipped in” to give each celebrant a gift.

      It was like a typical Filipino gathering. Although there were a handfuls of other nationalities: Malaysian, south African and Indian.  Everybody was in their best attire. They wear wearing dresses similar to what they use in their home country during special events and parties---a cool change from the abayas I have been seeing all week! And this time, men and women could mingle and socialize. The party motif was purple though I didn't wear one. The food was mostly filipino dishes (except for the turkey) and men, they were all delicioso! Each celebrants prepared their own ballroom dancing number.----> YES. Ballroom dancing is all the rave here. Everyone was having fun dancing the night away with ballroom. Some attempted to ask me to dance but I turned them all down. hahaha! Ballroom dancing is not my forte and I find the dance complicated unlike when you're in a club and you are just swaying your body and waving your hand to the rhythm of the music. And I still find ballroom dancing as a dance of the oldies (no offense meant!). But who knows, I'll be dancing ballroom a few months from now... (wink!*)

      ballroom dancing the night away...

      the crowd is getting loco over square dance!

      posing with the pinoy expats

      posing with a south African and Indian nurse


      Tips on moving about the kingdom for newbies like me:


      NEVER ever forget to wear your ABAYA when moving around the kingdom. Abaya is an outer garment worn by Islam women in some parts of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. It is worn over street clothes when a woman leaves her home, and is designed to be loose and flowing, hiding the "curves" of the body. Although some Saudi women choose to wear a face veil, expatriate women are not expected to do so.


      Always bring with you your Iqama. It is a small green resident booklet that says you are allowed to live or work in Saudi Arabia. It is somewhat similar to a green card in the USA. All expatriate employees with valid work permits are issued one.


      Be aware of the prayer times or the Salah. Everything in Saudi is regulated by the 5 daily prayers: fajr (dawn), dhuhr (noon), asr (mid-afternoon), maghrib (sunset), isha'a (nightfall). Non-Muslims aren’t expected to do anything in particular during prayer times, although you shouldn’t watch or pass close in front of anyone who is praying or step on his prayer mat. All shops and offices close during each prayer for a period of at least 20-30 minutes, and the religious police patrol the streets and pack loiterers off to the mosque. However, shopping malls, hospitals and airports do stay open (but with all shops inside the shopping malls closed) and taxis and other public transport continue to run normally. 


      Do not do anything that would anger or call the attention of the Muttawa- the religious police. They have the power to arrest unrelated males and females caught socializing, anyone engaged in homosexual behavior or prostitution; to enforce Islamic dress-codes, and store closures during the prayer time. They enforce Muslim dietary laws, prohibit the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages and pork, and seize banned consumer products and media regarded as un-Islamic (such as CDs/DVDs of various Western musical groups, television shows and film).

      which leads us to

      RESPECT the beliefs and feelings of Muslims. Be culture sensitive. After all, we are but guests in their country. There are RESTRICTIONS on certain items both when coming into and living in the country and it is better to take note of that in order to avoid penalty or punishment.

      Forbidden items include alcohol, narcotics, weapons/ammunitions, pork, religious icons and pornography.

      The Saudi drug laws are very strict. Anyone convicted of smuggling drugs will face death penalty. The penalty for illegal possession of drugs is 5 to 10 years in prison and a fine of SR 10,000. The penalty for illegal use of drugs is 2 years in prison. 

      If you are found guilty of drinking, possessing, manufacturing or distributing alcohol, the penalty is a fine and jail term, and afterwards, DEPORTATION to the country of origin.

       ***These are the helpful tips that I could think of for the meantime. I do hope these would deem helpful for newbies like me. In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy the experiences I have in the kingdom--- a place where the sun shines all year long...

      Shopping in Riyadh

      I’ve been here at Riyadh for more than a week and since my work will start not until the 20th of February, I have lots of time to relax and prepare for what is in store for me in my new work. Little by little, I am exposed to the Middle Eastern life…

      This past week my life has been circling only between my mom’s house and the mall. I am not yet brave to really been going out and wander around the city. My mom has work most of the time so I couldn’t do much but to stay at home. My Mom works as a nurse in one of the hospitals here in Riyadh and was provided with housing inside the hospital premises (that goes the same with me when I start working). When one wants to go somewhere else, limousine or taxi (as what we call them in the Philippines) is the main mode of transportation. But if you are going to the mall and the souk and you wanted a free ride, the hospital has a free transportation service for women. Scheduled buses run and drop passengers to different shopping areas, you just need to be aware of the pick-up and drop-off time.

      Just like a kid, I look forward to these shopping trips. As I’ve said, there’s nothing (yet) much to do but to window/shop. =)

      My first shopping trip was in Hayat mall. I was to meet 3 of my former colleagues in my previous work in the Philippines who are now working here in the Kingdom just like me. Luckily for us, we were still  able to avail of the season ender sale. Oh how we love sale! And when you say SALE here, items are in super marked down prices.And since arab women are much bigger in size than we pinoys are, chances are you can get what you want in your size---be it in shoes or clothings. These are the few items that I have bought: 

      a checkered top from terranova for only 30 SR

      Stradivarius Denim Pants for only 49 SR

      Bershka pants for only 49 SR


      Terranova tube top for only 30 SR. Original price: 120 SR

      Studded cuff from terranova. Only 10 SR

      I still have lots of time to do my shopping spree and so many shopping malls that I have to visit. But for now, that's all that I bought. And since I am being sensible from my purchases, I will only buy things that are in sale or if not, I will only buy what I needed most. =)

      Monday, February 14, 2011

      RUNNING TO MY FUTURE---my life as an expat

      It’s been a week since my first day here in Riyadh---the capital city of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The place I will be working as a nurse for quite some time. I now belong to the hundreds of thousands of expat pinoys working in a foreign land in hope to bring a better future for their family.

      The day before my departure had been a very busy one. There were last-minute papers that need to be processed. Blood work-up that needs to be done. And to top it all, I’ve only been aware of my departure flight that afternoon. Luckily for me, I’ve been preparing for this kind of incident. I already have a half-filled suitcase lying in my room for quite some time. I’ve been also talking to my daughter-trying to condition her that mom would be away for quite a while, long before I was sure I would be accepted in my work abroad. But still, we were all caught up by surprise.

      After I left the agency handling my papers, I was frantically texting and calling my family and friends about my impending departure. I’ve been in a state of panic as I do my last minute shopping! (I need winter clothes because this time of the year the temperature could drop to 6 degrees! And right now, I’m freezing cold in here). I had my send-off dinner with my family in Chef’s Quarter that night and my friends invited me for a send-off drinking spree in Cubao expo and food trip in Banchetto.

      The day of my departure, I was acting cranky and finicky-a product of staying up late, booze in my system and the stress brought by my impending departure. Mind you, I was not good at saying goodbyes. I can’t handle dramas well. So, after giving last minute instructions to my siblings, daughter and a friend and after hugging and kissing them all, I hastily went inside the airport to keep me from bursting into tears tugging along with me 2 suitcases which weren’t enough to pack a whole lifetime…

      Yes, it’s been only a week since I left my hometown in search for a greener pasture, but it already feels a lifetime of being away from my family and friends. One thing that’s keeping me sane though is the idea of doing all these for my family---in hope of giving my daughter a better and brighter future. And it helps a lot that there are social networks and online communication that keeps me abreast with what’s happening with my friends' and family’s life. =)


      ***My running blog would take a backseat for now...but as soon as I settle in my new environment and if I could be able to continue my running adventures here, I will resume my blog gladly. But for now, I will write about my experience/s and my mis/adventures in this foreign land I now call, my home. 

      Wednesday, February 2, 2011


      Since I was a child, I've been an asthmatic. Asthma was an inherited illness from my paternal and maternal side of the family genealogy. I grow up frail and always carry with me an inhaler to control sudden attacks of asthma. Dust, Animal hair or dander, Changes in weather, Mold, Pollen, Chemicals in air or food and Strong emotions (stress) are the triggering factors of my asthma attacks. But as I grow up, my asthma attacks lessened and I was your typical, normal individual. There were two things I discovered that controlled my asthma attacks: Running and Coffee. Yes, you heard me right. Those things really worked for me. But in this post, I will focus on COFFEE as a beneficial drink to ward off asthma attacks.

      There was a time way back, when I joined my father’s company outing. We went to a private resort in Bacon, Sorsogon. Before you reach Sorsogon, you have to pass by Legazpi, Albay. That was the time when Mayon Volcano was on its active state, spewing volcanic lava and ash. The ashes (mainly because of the sulfuric gas accompanied by it) must have triggered my asthma attack. When we arrived at the resort my asthma got worst and I haven’t with me my trusted inhaler. One of the mothers recommended that I should drink black, strong coffee. And so, I did. True enough, my asthma attack subsided. So, whenever I started to feel an asthma attack is coming I would drink my brewed coffee strong and black.

      There was this article from The Harvard Crimson: Can Coffee Help Asthma Sufferers? that tackles about coffee and its role in asthma prevention. Here is a summary:

      A study was performed by a Harvard physician regarding asthmatic suffering nearly one-third FEWER symptoms of asthma than those who live without java. Dr. Scott T. Weiss concluded from a study of more than 20,000 patients that caffeine might serve to relax the constricted lung tissues which cause asthma. In asthma patients, the muscles surrounding the bronchial passages constrict, blocking the passage of air and making breathing difficult. Senior Environmental Protection Agency scientist Joel D. Schwarz, who collaborated with Weiss on the study, explained that caffeine is chemically similar to theophylline-a bronchodilator and an asthma treatment. It is effective against such constriction because it relaxes these muscles.

      Weiss stressed that while caffeine can relieve some background symptoms of asthma, coffee is not a substitute for appropriate therapy for asthma.

      "If you took away coffee, more symptoms would be reported," said Weiss. "If you've got asthma, see a doctor and get the right medicine." 

      Here are some Coffee Trivia you might find interesting:

      • A scientific report form the University of California found that the steam rising from a cup of coffee contains the same amounts of antioxidants as three oranges. The antioxidants are heterocyclic compounds which prevents cancer and heart disease. It's good for you!

      • Dark roasted coffees actually have LESS caffeine than medium roasts. The longer a coffee is roasted, the more caffeine burns off during the process. 

      • Large doses of coffee can be lethal. Ten grams, or 100 cups over 4 hours, can kill the average human.

      • Milk as an additive to coffee became popular in the 1680's, when a French physician recommended that cafe au lait be used for medicinal purposes. 

      • Retail espresso vendors report an increase in decaffeinated sales in the month of January due to New Year's resolutions to decrease caffeine intake.

      • Special studies conducted about the human body revealed it will usually absorb up to about 300 milligrams of caffeine at a given time. About 4 normal cups. Additional amounts are just cast off, providing no further stimulation. Also, the human body dissipates 20% of the caffeine in the system each hour.

      • The word "tip" dates back to the old London coffeehouses. Conspicuously placed brass boxes etched with the inscription, "To Insure Promptness," encouraged customers to pay for efficient service. The resulting acronym, TIP, has become a byword. 

      •  Coffee's main benefit comes from its wealth of antioxidants. In fact, the coffee bean, which is technically a berry, has one of the highest antioxidant contents of all berries, says Tomas de Paulis, Ph.D., formerly of the Vanderbilt University for Coffee Studies.

      • 2 or more cups of coffee per day can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 25%.

      • The likelihood of developing gallstones is decreased nearly 50% by drinking at least 2 cups of coffee per day.
      • Coffee cures or diminishes some types of headaches.
      •  The risk of liver cirrhosis is reduced by 80% with the ingestion of 2 or more cups of coffee each day. 
      •  6 studies have found that regular (caffeinated) coffee drinkers reduce their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by as much as 80%.

      • A compound in coffee called Trigonelline has anti-adhesive and antibacterial properties, which helps prevent cavities.

      • A Harvard longitudinal study of 126,000 people found that 1 to 3 cups of caffeinated coffee per day can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by less than 10%, while 6 or more cups per day reduces women’s risk by 30% and men’s by 54%. Drinking decaffeinated coffee reduces the risk for diabetes by approximately half that achieved with caffeinated coffee.

      • There is evidence that caffeine can benefit athletic performance by increasing endurance in the short term, so much so that the Olympic Games Committee had designated it a controlled substance until recently.  

      On regular days (that is, when I have no asthma attack) I like my brewed coffee strong and with creamer... how about yours? =)

      MultiSport Mag January 2011 Edition- You made my Day! =)

      My free subscription of MultiSport Magazine arrived in the mail today. My brother grinningly told me: "You'd be really happy when you see this!". I blurted out, "Si Coach Rio?!" I was thinking there was a poster of Coach Rio inserted as a freebie. haha! =) But it was not the case.

      Anyhoo, MultiSport featured The Pink Run: D'Feeting Breast Cancer (held last October 17, 2010 at McKinley Hill) on the second to the last page of their mag and a picture of me running was posted right beside the very brief article regarding the run. I was laughing out loud because my brother was teasing me of being a celebrity when in fact, the photo was of me running with my back on the camera. Really, for a moment I was on a high! hahaha! Thank you MultiSport for making my day and thank you Pink Run for the photo. ;) By the way, it really was nice even if it's only a back view. For a moment there, I look like a pro. =)

      my celebrity (back) running photo as dubbed by my brother. =) this is also the image I placed on my blog header ^^