08 August 2016

Transportation

So, there is one big advantage to being chauffeured about all the time and that's having someone in the car who knows what they're doing.  We don't spend any time lost or confused because all of the drivers provided for us are very experienced.  They can get around the construction and avoid traffic (sometimes) and are just very competent people.

But even better, they can answer all kinds of questions and give their perspective on life on Saudi Arabia.  All are expats* so they know what it's like to transition to a new country.  It's different from asking taxi drivers questions, somehow, even though it seems like it shouldn't be.  Today's driver commented that I ask a lot of questions, but he'd also volunteered to drive me again so he knew what he was getting into.  He explained the colors on the license plates to me.  Yellow is for taxis and blue are commercial vehicles. There are also some older plates that don't have English on them like the current plates do.  The vast majority of cars of newer plates though.  And we saw a car from Yemen.

Something that often comes up is the driving here in Saudi.  Everyone complains about it and I've been asking what makes it so bad here.  One man told me that a big problem is that there are so many inexperienced drivers on the road because drivers are necessary here for many families and it's only expats who work as drivers.  Another unintended negative result of the ban on women driving.

I can't remember if I've mentioned it, but there also a huge amount of construction all over the city because they're building a metro. It's a hassle, and it won't be finished before we leave, but I'll take any inconvenience necessary to make it possible for women to get around the city on their own.  It seems to me that a metro will be a huge change here for women.

And yesterday I discovered that they city government determines school start times, including for private schools.  Only Saudi children can attend local Saudi schools so there are many international schools here, both private and community (and I'm going to start asking the drivers about education here because I have a lot of questions about that, especially for expat children).  With so many private schools, there are major traffic problems in the morning and afternoons because few children can walk to school. So the city staggers start times which means that the Ethiopian schoolkids leave home at 6:10 to get to school at 6:30.  I wasn't happy about how early my kids are going to be picked up, but no complaining anymore.

*So far I've talked to people from Yemen, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, and the Philippines, if I'm remembering all of them. 

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