The next day, Saturday, May 8th, 1976, started a new period in our life, though, that was different and stimulating for both of us. Oran didn't return to ‘Udhailiyah as usual, but started on his new job in Abqaiq teaching a class of 12 Saudi Arabs about the new Sea Water Project. He was very pleased to be "back in civilization", but a bit leery of teaching, as he had not done that before, and was not even familiar with the Sea Water Project. At first, he faked it, but was soon his usual cocky self and enjoying learning something new right along with his class.
I had to get used to having a husband around again all the time, and be concerned with having meals prepared, both lunch and dinner, on a daily basis. It was surprising how soon one got out of practice. There were social benefits, though. When people found out Oran was in town all the time, we were invited out to dinner a lot and then returned the invitations. In fact, before a week went by, we both joked that he would have to go back to ‘Udhailiyah to work for us to get any rest. So, on that first day, after Oran had gone off to work, I went back to bed for a nap to help get over the weekend activities before making an egg salad sandwich for Oran's lunch. At least I remembered how to do that, and he said he enjoyed having it in our home, in Abqaiq, a lot more than he would have enjoyed a full course meal in the 'Udhailiyah cafeteria.
We had already been invited to dinner at Barbara and Norm Wades that evening, so went there at the proper time, and had a delicious turkey dinner with their family. As Norm was one of Oran's bosses, they talked for awhile about his new assignment, and we visited in general before going home.
The second day Oran was in camp just happened to be Mother's Day, Sunday, May 9th, so I went to the Mother's Day Brunch at the Golf Club House at 9 o'clock. That year a Dutch theme was used, which was very nice. Some of the Dutch women and two men who lived in Abqaiq were in native costumes, and tulips flown in from Holland were everywhere. There was even an authentic-looking, small replica of a windmill. Each mother received one tulip, a small box of Dutch chocolates, and a handkerchief as a souvenir, as well as the delicious brunch. That evening, Oran even took me to the Dining Hall for dinner to celebrate the special day, so I'd lucked out, up to that point.
Monday would be the first evening meal I'd fixed during Oran's new work schedule, but it turned out to be a really weird evening. I had washed and rolled my hair that day and planned to comb it out that evening after it had dried naturally, but the electricity went off while I was fixing our dinner. We had to finish cooking and eating by flashlight and candlelight, then I had to comb out and set my hair while Oran held a flashlight for me to see by. By that time, it was beginning to get pretty warm without the A.C., so we walked down the street, to where we saw a couple of utility trucks, to check out the trouble. It seems some lines had gotten into some tree limbs, and they weren't sure when they would get the problem taken care of. But it was just in our end of camp, so we went to a movie, then right to bed as soon as that was over, as our lights were still out. The only nice thing about that evening was eating by candlelight.
We had invited Keith Kaul, his son, Randy, and Jerry King over to join us for a grilled steak dinner Tuesday evening. About the time we finished, Kathi and Harriet dropped by, so we sat at the table talking. It was a very fun evening, as a lot of impromptu things turn out. When Oran got home from work Wednesday at four we went to the pool, where we saw Estela and Avonie. We invited them to come when Bill got home from 'Udhailiyah. Avonie's husband worked in Drilling, so was away on the rigs. When they arrived at our apartment, we called Marge and Chris DeSantis to come over, too. We had slushes, then we all went to Syphers for Mexican food. Another fun evening.
I was finding out that when your husband worked and lived in camp, there wasn't going to be a dull moment, but I loved it. We went back to the pool for a couple of hours Thursday, which was very relaxing for Oran. He also had the use of a pickup while living in Abqaiq, even on the weekends, so we took advantage of that to drive out of camp on the main road west of Abqaiq, toward Hofuf, then on a smaller road branching off that. We saw a large herd of camels, which crossed the road in front of us, but I had forgotten to take my camera, a big mistake. When returning to camp, we drove through Madinat and stopped at the vegetable market there to get some tomatoes. That evening we were invited to the DeSantis' for dinner and bridge.
Friday morning, we got up early, had breakfast in the Dining Hall, because we had decided to explore for sand roses. The kids had given us the directions after their trip with the returning students, so following those, we drove out of camp again on the main road west of Abqaiq. After the Hofuf turn off, we turned north on a small road that led to the village of Andar. When we reached that, we knew we had gone too far, but drove on through and continued on the other side for a way just to explore. The road, which wasn't that good to begin with, started to play out so we turned around and went back to Andar, a small, one street village, with a few cement covered, brick block buildings, some wooden shacks, a mosque, and goats roaming everywhere. We did find a small, open faced suq, so we stopped to have a Pepsi. I had my camera this time, so I took pictures of some children there. We told them what we were looking for, and two young boys offered to show us where the sand roses were. They climbed in the back of the pickup, and we drove back toward the main road. But they soon directed us off that, to the west, right out across the sand for a kilometer or two. Then, spread out before us, just lying all over the ground, either totally or partially exposed, were hundreds of sand roses. We were very excited and started picking them up and putting them in the pickup, with the help of the boys. But before long we were getting hot and tired, so we decided to quit for that day. Anyway, we knew where to go then, so we could drive back later for some more. We drove the boys back to Andar, gave them 5 riyals each, then returned to Abqaiq. That had proved to be a very interesting and rewarding trip. A couple of years later, these sand roses were declared antiquities of Saudi Arabia by the government, and we were forbidden to take them or ship them out of the country.
Back in camp that evening, we picked up the Steindorfs and went to a cocktail party at Norma and Ray Branches. We were still wound up after that, so we drove around camp awhile. I guess we were just enjoying the weekend activities so much, we didn't want them to end.
Saturday, May 15th, 1976, started Oran's second week teaching his class in Abqaiq, and things seemed to be going well. He was beginning to relax with them and was learning much more than ever before about the Saudi Arabs. He had a really great rapport with them, and utilized his knowledge of Arabic, although the students could all speak English very well. They had to be able to do that, or they wouldn't have been chosen for that special training.
During this time, Oran was invited into a number of their homes for the traditional Kabsa meal of lamb and rice that the Americans refer to as a "goat grab". It was always for men only so I was never able to attend, which was disappointing, but understood. As they would be going to Paris and the States after this training, they asked all sorts of questions of Oran about our customs (how to dress, how to meet girls, how to dance, etc.). It's probably a good thing Vicky wasn't still in Arabia, as she had been a year earlier for summer vacation. They would probably have gone crazy if they found out their "teacher" had a good looking, blond, young daughter right there in Abqaiq.
We had arranged to grill shish kabobs (lamb) on Jerry King's gas grill that evening as we couldn't find charcoal in the Commissary or the area suqs around Abqaiq. We had found all the other necessary ingredients, which was hard to do a lot of the time over there. So that afternoon I got the lamb, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and rice prepared, and when Oran got home from work, we took everything over to Kings. Jerry had made a cake, and Jan set the table, so we just visited while Oran grilled. This was our first attempt to fix lamb shish kabob since our return to Arabia, and I must say, it was delicious. Afterward, we walked up to the swimming pool and reclined on the lounges, just staring up into the sky. It was a beautiful, full moonlit night.
I had written several cards to friends back home, so Sunday, I took those to the Post Office and saw Estela there. We went to the Dining Hall for coffee, then to the Commissary before it was time to go home to fix some lunch for Oran. I was beginning to get into a workable routine. Although I went to a monthly Sorority meeting that evening, it was the first night Oran hadn't done anything since his stay in camp. But that was short lived. Sandy and Jack Adams called us over to their place the next evening for grilled lobster tails, so we didn't turn that down. We had drinks in the yard while Jack grilled, then we took everything up to their roof terrace to eat — very nice.
When we got back home we placed a call to Vicky in Provo, Utah with the Saudi operator. We were trying to reach her before she went on a survival trip. So much had taken place since we last talked, we would just feel better if we could touch base before her next adventure. One of the really frustrating things about being in Arabia was not being readily available for loved ones, sometimes not even by phone. So I didn't leave the house the next day just waiting, and sure enough, my call to Vicky came through about 2:15. However, the connection was so bad we could hardly hear each other and had to keep repeating things over and over. It was good to hear her voice, but very frustrating not to be able to understand her very well and visa versa. The phone situation, in those days, left a lot to be desired.
That evening Oran left as soon as he got off work to go to one of the "all men" Arab dinners for his class and the department bosses. It was to be held, "picnic style", on the sand out by Shedgum Gosp. The Recreation Department took all the necessary things out there for it, and the Dining Hall prepared and delivered the meal. That left me at loose ends, and feeling a bit down since the phone call, so I returned some plates to Estela and ended up spending the evening with she and Avonie.
Oran had promised to drive me to some of the Arab towns since he was living in Abqaiq, and had more time, so Thursday night, we drove to Al-Khobar. It was always so different shopping at night with all the Arab families milling about, and the street vendors selling both food and trinkets. It was almost like a social gathering to them. The women visited with each other while buying materials, sewing notions, and gold, and the men, when not shopping, visited, drank tea and coffee, and smoked from the hubbly-bubbly pipes at the sidewalk cafes. We walked up and down King Khalid Street enjoying the pretty night, the interesting sights, the smells, and even did a bit of shopping ourselves.
When we went into the drug store near the fountain, we saw Mohammed, the young Arab who had become acquainted with, and interested in, Vicky the summer before. That was the first time we had seen him since she left, but he recognized us and came over to talk. He was in his full Arab dress, like the first day we had seen him, looking very impressive. His hair was longer, but not extreme. He asked about Vicky and Keith, told us he never did get to the States again, as he had planned. Instead he went to London, but got very ill (he didn't say from what) and so he’d spent a lot of time there in the hospital. He said he would probably go to the States to finish his studies later, but we never saw or heard from him again. But that was one of our more memorable and pleasant nights in Al-Khobar.
We had been invited to the DeSantis' for brunch Friday morning as their sons, Mark and Mike, had just come back to Arabia from school for their summer vacations. We went over about 10 o’clock for that, along with Sharon and Axel Green.
Afterwards, Oran wanted to show me where he and his class had gone for the Arab dinner a couple of nights before. So we drove out the main road west of Abqaiq again, then turned south on a small road which led to the Shedgum Gosp (Gas Oil Separating Plant). The Kabsa had been held near it, with rugs and cushions spread on the ground, and a fire built from dried camel bushes to heat the coffee and tea pots. There was also a small pond of water nearby, which was runoff from the plant. When we arrived there, two camels were lying in the edge of the pond, with several others standing nearby. I was thrilled and immediately got out of the pickup, walked slowly toward them with my camera, hoping to get some good shots. Oran was taking movies of me trying to get close to them before they ambled off. The two camels in the water did stand up, but stayed there just long enough for me to get a few good shots, then all wandered off into the desert. But I was very pleased with the results.
The next day, Saturday, May 22nd, 1976, was our son Keith's 24th birthday, and the start of Oran's third week teaching his class in Abqaiq. During that period of time, we were wishing that both Vicky and Keith could have been there again, like they had been the year before. Most all of the summer kids were there by then, and it made us sad to think that we could have been tootling all over with them again, especially with Oran living in camp.
One day we found some okra in the Madinat vegetable market, so we bought that, paid 8 riyals for one half kilo, a luxury, but worth it. I knew Vicky would have loved that, especially since she was probably having to eat fried grasshoppers, lizard, or something equally delicious on her survival course.
We received a letter from Sharon and Jim Morris that week saying they would leave the States on May 28th for a business trip to the Middle East, which would include Saudi Arabia. They would definitely be going to Bahrain to live in September, as that would be the new location of the Santa Fe office. They were never able to get their shipment out of Beirut as the day it was to be moved from the port, the fighting started again, the port was bombed, and everything was destroyed. That must have been hard to take.
In a meeting that week, Oran was told there had to be a T & I on the Amine Plant south of 'Udhailiyah. Since he was technically still the foreman for that plant, he would have to go back to check on it. Although not happy about it, Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah Tuesday to attend to that.
I had made plans with Pat Smyth, so I caught the 7:30 bus to Dhahran, met her, then we caught the 9 o'clock bus to Al-Khobar. We shopped until Prayer Time, then ate lunch at a new restaurant out by Kamik Glass on Pepsi Road, called Marush. Close to that I found a grocery store that had charcoal, so bought and lugged a 15 Ib. bag of it back to Abqaiq on the buses. Oran was back in camp Wednesday, as usual, and on Thursday morning we went to the pool, as we tried to do both days of the weekend, and when he got off work at 4 o'clock every week day. I had gotten a lovely tan and was managing to keep it because of our frequent visits. That week it had begun to get extremely hot, though, (105 degrees), so I had to stay in the shade or the water most of the time, even in the morning.
To do something different, on Friday we went to the Dining Hall for breakfast. It wasn't the best food in the world, although we could still get pork products at that time, like bacon and sausage links. I asked for brown bread toast, but was given rye bread toast. At first, I was upset, but I discovered it was rather tasty, and asked for it a lot after that. All of the workers there were Saudi Arabs, and they tried very hard to please us, so I couldn't stay upset with them very long, anyway.
After breakfast we drove out the main gate and turned north for a ways trying to find the new road that was being built to the new Sea Water Plant being constructed on the Persian Gulf, about 30 miles east of Abqaiq. We never did locate it, so we drove back by Madinat, then west of Abqaiq again, just exploring. About 10 miles west, before you reach the Hofuf turnoff, we did discover a new road that was being built to the north. From what had been done so far, we could tell it was going to be a really superior road, so were curious about what or who was so important to warrant such a good road. We would have to keep our eye on the progress of that one.
Oran was working back in Abqaiq again, and starting his fourth week on Saturday, May 29th, 1976, so our social life continued. It was the DeSantis' anniversary and Chris's birthday, so we had invited them to dinner, along with Sharon and Axel Green. I had made a cake for them and finished getting everything ready by the time Oran came home from work. When the guests arrived, Marge and Chris opened their presents from both of us, before we had drinks, dinner, and the cake. It was a nice evening.
Sunday morning I went to Kathi's to talk about our Sorority float for the 4th of July parade. Sandy came over too, so we ended up talking about the foremen's party or dinner we were going to have on the weekend. On the way home, I stopped in briefly to see Jeanine King, who had just returned to Arabia the night before. She and Jerry came by our house later to visit and catch up on things, and I gave them the rest of the cake from the night before. It was good to have her back.
My doorbell rang at 8:30 Wednesday morning, June 2nd, and there stood Sharon Morris. That was a pleasant surprise. Even though I knew they were traveling to the Middle East, I didn't know exactly when. She stayed for coffee and the morning, and had lunch with Oran and I. We had time for a nice visit and a chance to bring each other up to date by the time Jim arrived from the business meetings he had been attending in camp. Then they left for Al-Khobar, where they were staying during that trip to Arabia.
The foremen's party I had planned with Kathi and Sandy was that night, so when Oran got home, we drove with the DeSantises to the suqs to get a case of Teem (like 7-up) for it. The Commissary was out of everything to drink right then. We took the Teem by the Adams’, where the party would be, then went back home to get dressed and prepare our food. At the appropriate time, we went back to the Adams’ for the party, which was held on their flat roof patio. We had drinks, snacks, and danced. A good time was had by all, a little too good for some of us. Guess we didn't mix enough Teem with our brown and white.
We were invited to another in-camp Arab dinner Thursday night, which sounded like an exciting prospect to me. But that afternoon, we went to the Adams’ to pick up things from the party the night before and ended up going to the Dining Hall with them to eat a bite. As Oran had a number of opportunities to go to Arab dinners, he didn't feel like going to the one that night, but suggested I go on to it with Estela and Bill Syphers. Not wanting to pass up an opportunity like that, I did go with the Syphers, and it was fun. The usual Abqaiq senior staff Arabs were there, some other American couples, and the usual sprinkling of bachelors. There was tea, coffee, and some other drinks served, then some dancing. By the time the kabsa was brought in from the Dining Hall about 10:30, I had worked up another appetite. The rules were more relaxed for the Arabs who lived in camp. They mixed openly with the Americans on a social basis and became good friends.
We went to the pool Friday morning with the Adams to swim and sun for awhile. They invited us back to their place for grilled shrimp, but before we went there, Sharon Morris came back from Al-Khobar. They had plans to go to a Santa Fe party next door, and wanted to spend the night with us afterward, so we gave her a key to our apartment, and discussed our arrangements. When Jim arrived, we all had a visit then went to our separate evening activities. It turned out to be a good arrangement.
After Jim and Oran had gone to their jobs Saturday morning, June 5th, 1976, Sharon and I had coffee, then went to Madinat to shop. After that, Sharon and some other Santa Fe wives decided to go to Al-Khobar shopping, as well, but I was just too worn out to go. The past weekend had been a doozy with all the activities. Also, I was beginning to feel blue and depressed, as we had been going through quite an adjustment having Oran back in Abqaiq all the time. We had to work out a completely new lifestyle, which had its compensations. But, even with all our activities, I was beginning to get a closed in feeling with our life there. Everything was so limited, places to go, different things to do. Even a trip to Al-Khobar or Ras Tanura didn't excite me too much anymore. They said you went through periodic slumps over there, and I think I was really in one then.
Oran was starting his fifth week living in Abqaiq, but it would turn out to be very different from the others. There was a tragedy involving Oran's class. He came home in the middle of Saturday morning and said three of his students had been in a car wreck going to Dhahran to get their passports, so he left immediately for Dhahran to find out the details of what had happened. After much inquiring, he found two of the students in the hospital in Al-Khobar, one with a broken leg, but they were either unwilling or unable to talk. It was a very serious thing to be involved in an automobile accident over there, whether you are at fault or not. They just throw everyone in jail, then sort things out later. The one who had a broken leg had been driving the car, and was concerned that he might still end up in jail, when he got out of the hospital. It took Oran another two hours to find out that the third student was dead and in the morgue. He was very sad and depressed when he got home that evening. He called his bosses, Ray Branch and John Brown, to tell them details of the accident and the results.
The next day, Sunday, Oran and the remainder of his class went to Sufwa (the small village close to Quatif that you have to pass through the edge of going to Ras Tanura), to pay respects to the dead student's family. They were received in a building in the spring-fed, date palm oasis area that evidently serves just that purpose. It was church-like, but not a mosque. The student's father, father-in-law, male children, and all male members of his family were there, but no women were ever seen. Tea and coffee were served, then the traditional Arab kabsa for lunch. This usually happy meal that day was a very somber occasion, as you can imagine. After eating and paying their respects, Oran and his class then drove to Al-Khobar to visit their member with the broken leg, who was still in the hospital. These two were later replaced in the class. That was a very sad experience for Oran, very unusual, but enlightening and something that very few Americans working in Arabia were ever involved in.
As we usually did most days after Oran got off work at 4 o'clock, we went to the pool Monday afternoon. It started out as a routine visit, swimming and sunning on the lounges, but for some reason very few people were there, yet one of them was one of Oran's bosses. So Oran approached him to talk seriously about just what would happen to him once his class left on their trip. He was becoming increasingly concerned about this, and although he didn't get much information, it helped to have brought up the subject. Anyway, we went to a movie after supper, then the Snack Bar, where we saw Sandy Adams. She told us about a lot of unusual things that had happened at 'Udhailiyah during that week. Her husband, Jack, had asked for a transfer back to his parent company, Harvey Pederson had had words with their boss, Roy Steindorf had words with another boss and almost quit, and some Arabs had beat up the cooks in the Dining Hall because the food was so bad. After hearing all that, Oran really wasn't too thrilled about having to go back into that kind of atmosphere.
He was late getting home from work the next day because he had another talk with one of his bosses about the situation. There had been an indication from him that Oran may be kept on the Sea Water Project, and that's what he would like, so he was encouraged.
Kathi and Sandy came over for supper that evening, so we rehashed all the things going on in 'Udhailiyah again. There had been all sorts of rumors flying around about what would happen to the men working there. Of course, there were always lots of rumors making the rounds in our camps, so not a lot of stock could be put in them.
Wednesday morning, when Oran arrived at work, he had a surprise waiting for him. His class presented him with a complete, authentic Arab outfit, tailor-made for him to wear to the airport to see them off on their trip to Paris and the States. It was the thobe, ghutra, agal, and sandals. He put it all on that morning, and his class wanted him to go home to show me. It was really quality stuff, and I was impressed. Oran was really pleased at this indication of how much they liked him. He felt like he had a very unique experience with this class of Arabs and had gotten to know them as a class of people, like he would never have been able to do otherwise.
After Oran went back to work, I got things ready for our meal that night. It was the beginning of the weekend, so we had Jack and Sandy, Kathi and Roy, and Estela over for a shish kabob dinner. Bill was weekend foreman in 'Udhailiyah that weekend. There was a lot of talk about the situation there, naturally, and our husbands weren't in the best of moods, but it was good to be together.
There was a bowling banquet and dance in the Golf Club House Thursday evening. We had Estela, a British couple and three British bachelors, who bowled with us, over for drinks before going to that. At the banquet we had a very good meal and then elected officers for the fall leagues. (I was elected Secretary-Treasurer.) The band started playing for dancing then, but not too many people had stayed for that. So we called the Kings and Adams to join us, even though they didn't bowl. In spite of everything, we all had a good time and stayed until the band stopped playing at 1 o'clock.
Surprisingly, we got up early Friday morning and went to the Dining Hall for breakfast. Later, we went to the pool where we saw Estela and the British couple, who were just leaving, so they gave us their lounges right by the diving board. As it turned out, that was the best seat in the house, as we were treated to a most interesting diving display. Our camp had been inundated with bachelors, who seemed to love the pool, so what a view from the side we had as each, obviously British, bachelor performed his acrobatic dives in his skimpy, tight, bikini, bathing trunks. Even Oran got a kick out of it.
Saturday, June 12th, 1976, Oran was starting his sixth and last week of teaching his class. Things were getting pretty tense as the end of it approached, and we were trying to remain hopeful. Then, on Monday, Oran came home for lunch after a meeting with his bosses, and we knew. He had been told there was just no one else to run the Amine Plant at that time, and he was needed there. As compensation, he would be allowed to fly back to Abqaiq a couple of nights during the week, get a 10% raise, and he still might get a transfer to the Sea Water Project later. He was quite depressed about it, but went back to work briefly after lunch to take pictures of his class and finish up everything.
We went to the pool one last afternoon. Marge Williams had just gotten back from vacation, so we had her over for dinner that evening, and filled her in on all the 'Udhailiyah happenings while they had been gone. Sadly, Oran packed for his return there before we went to bed.