a filipino overseas foreign worker was found dead inside the lavatory of a ‘gulf air’ plane the other day. that plane is the same one i take every time i go home for days off. i read he took his own life while the plane was preparing to land in manila, using a ‘clothing article’ to asphyxiate himself by hanging.
it is not easy being away from one’s family. here in the middle east, there are instances that one will be assigned for work remotely, with limited ways of communication. i have been working here in saudi arabia for five years and have seen co-workers who were in the brink of ‘losing’ it, specially when there are problems back home with their families.
i remember way back, my ma never tells my father who is also in saudi arabia any ‘bad news’ as much as possible. she even warns me and my siblings not to write or call about to him anything that might make him worry or make him sad because she said being away from us is already hard for him and it will just leave him feeling helpless. i followed my father’s footsteps of working here in the mideast, it was then that i appreciated my father more, for i clearly saw the sacrifice he did for our family.
i am thinking of the man on that plane. is it self-sacrifice or his last resort to escape? his exact reason no one will really know for he has brought it with him to his grave.
one thing i love in al-khobar, saudi arabia is when the big stores like mall of dhahran and rashid mall go on sale. the only chance i get to visit the malls is when i am to go for days off, a day before my flight going home to manila whilst coming from my remote area assignment where i work.
so after arriving in town from the heliport and checking in at the hotel, i went straight to the mall to hunt for my bargains. i had good finds of shirts and denims from topman, zara, next and shoes and accessories from aldo. there were a number of security guards that i noticed roaming around so i was not able to take photos and i didn’t want to risk myself ending up in saudi jail for snapping a picture (you know how paranoid they seem to be sometimes).
i had a bad encounter though at zara wherein a denim pants (which took me half an hour to choose!) was tagged with a deducted amount but when i paid for it (including the shirts i got), i noticed that they charged me for the original price! i told the cashier that the item is on sale and i showed him the tag – then he said it is a new collection and not included as a sale item as he removed the sticker on the tag that says 120 riyals! WTF! i knew i turned red and told him i no longer want it and asked for a refund for the pants! he then printed another receipt, let me sign in my name and mobile number and was trying to explain to me the receipt that just made me confused. he then proceeded on the next customer and noticed i was still at the counter and told me, “you don’t understand?” i told him as calmly as i could (the last thing i would want is to create a scene inside the store), “you still have my shirts.” this time he was the one who looked confused as i pointed out at the black zara plastic bag beside him at the counter and said, “i paid for those shirts.” he hurriedly handed me the bag and i exited the store feeling shitty.
anyway, i got good deals from topman like a 40 riyal pants and 20 riyal cotton shirts, which was not really that bad. shopping for bargains is supposed to be a fun thing to do for me and i did not let that moment be ruined by that incident at zara’s.
just recently, i was able to visit mall of dhahran, a 1,000,000 sq. feet single storey shopping mall. i considered it as a ‘paradise’ to shoppers for it offers a range of retail international stores. almost all the stores were on sale the day i was there, offering up to 70% off on some items. armed with a few riyals (haha!) i started my “bargain hunting” . .
i never realized until i checked my watch that i have walked for about four hours already and i have not even finished checking the other stores. one thing i noticed was some of the stores have no fitting rooms (like the gap) and all the sales people were all men (even on lingerie stores!), the shops also closes during prayer time so you just have to patiently wait till it gets done.