Oran still felt terrible, but flew on back to 'Udhailiyah anyway on Saturday.
I met the girls at the Dining Hall at 9 o'clock for our "breakfast club". Sheila had received her film of our rug laying party at the Steindorfs, so we went to her house to watch that. It was really funny with everyone acting crazy, dancing, etc., but we wouldn't have wanted that film to fall into the wrong hands. It would either have been misinterpreted, or everyone would want to join our group.
When Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah that evening, he was still sick, but felt better because he had asked his bosses to take our vacation early again and they agreed. So we could look forward to being home for Christmas again and talked about our travel orders and the country we might want to see on our trip home.
It would help, too, that there would be another party in 'Udhailiyah that week on Tuesday, November 9th, 1976. Marge Williams, Kathi Steindorf, Doris Kent and I rode to the airstrip in a taxi together and caught the afternoon plane. When we arrived, we all went with our husbands to John Cochrane's (the party house) for drinks and food with the performers, Johnny Tillison and his group. Even though I had seen them already, I would enjoy these different circumstances, as well. Later we went to the pool to watch the performance, then back to the party house for more drinks and food. We were all in a good mood and had a very good time.
Our flight back to Abqaiq Wednesday morning included Johnny Tillison and his group. They were very outgoing, talking to us all the way, so it was disappointing they were flying on to Dhahran. We "girls" caught a bus waiting at the airstrip for the plane, joking and laughing together as we rode back into Abqaiq Camp. We were reluctant to have it end, so we got off at Marge's, rode in her car to the Dining Hall for breakfast and then went to Sharon Greens to get Kathi's kids. We had another cup of coffee while we told Sharon all about our trip.
When Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah that evening, we went to Norma and Ray Branch's for the farewell party for Johonna and Janus Verhoven, the Dutch couple who had been there for 19 years. There were cocktails and appetizers on the patio before a presentation of gifts. Card tables and chairs had been set up all over the lawn with a brass, filigree candle holder in the center of each table. That's where the guests were served the lasagna dinner that had been made by the DeSantises and Engleharts. It was all very impressive, and the weather was perfectly beautiful.
It was to be another full weekend. On Thursday night we went to a Mexican dinner-dance at the Golf Club House, sponsored by the Women's Club. The food was delicious, and something we always stayed hungry for over there, as it was not so readily available. We were invited to have dinner with the Williams and Kings Friday evening after they went to Dhahran to look at the new townhouses, some of which had already been completed there. I made some potato salad and a cold vegetable tray, and when they returned, we joined them for a very pleasant evening. They had been extremely impressed with the new townhouses, and everyone hoped to get one when they did get finished in Abqaiq.
Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah at the start of the work week, Saturday, November 13th, 1976. I went with Marge to the Dining Hall at 9 for our "breakfast club". The rest of the day I started taking care of all the things we would have to do before we left on our trip home, as it would be less than a month from that date. The most important thing, of course, was to see the travel agent, and he would be in Abqaiq that afternoon on his weekly visit. This had been such a sudden decision; I hadn't had time to make ticket reservations yet, and needed to talk to Kevin about possibilities.
At that point all that had been decided was that we were going to leave Arabia on December 9th again (our 26th anniversary), stay at least 2 nights somewhere on the way home, and I hoped it would be in Rome. We had decided not to go to Greece at that time, and after hearing about the kids trip to Rome, I was excited to see it again.
There was a special farewell breakfast in the Dining Hall Tuesday morning for Johonna. When I returned to my apartment, I discovered a leak in the pipe under the sink, so I had to call Community Maintenance for a plumber. When he came later, it was a pleasant surprise as he turned out to be an Englishman, Keith Harris.
Thursday, November 18th, 1976, was a bit out of the ordinary as Kathi and Roy Steindorf left again on their 2nd vacation, and Johonna and Janus Verhoven left for good, or so we thought.
Friday of that weekend was bit different as well, as the new road that went directly from Abqaiq Camp to Qurrayah beach and the Sea Water facility on the Persian Gulf was officially open. So we drove out through the back gate of camp on it for the first time. Up until then, that gate was used just for business purposes. It would take us about 30 minutes to make the complete drive from the camp to the beach. At one point, about half way to the gulf, there were some beautiful, smooth, large sand dunes right next to the road, so we stopped to take pictures.
Our friend, Jack Hays, had been transferred to the Sea Water Project there, but until the Bechtel Construction Camp could be built, he and the other workers were being housed on a huge, flat, four story, floating barge anchored on the beach. We saw Jack driving around just as we arrived there, so he showed us around and introduced us to his boss, who took us to have lunch in the barge dining room. Jack joined us later, and showed us the rest of the barge, including his room and the flat rooftop, where we were able to get a nice view of the entire area, including the location of our future beach facility to the north. The prospect was exciting.
After Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah Saturday, Marge, Sheila, and I went to the Dining Hall for breakfast, but we were the only three of our "club" left in camp at that time. The others had either left on vacation or for good.
That afternoon I went back to the travel agents to finalize plans for our trip with Kevin. We had decided to fly Alitalia Airlines to Rome, stay two nights there, then catch a Pan Am Flight at 12:30 on Saturday, December 11th, 1976. That flight would take us non-stop to New York, arriving there at 3:45 p.m., then we’d transfer to a Braniff non-stop flight to Dallas, arriving at 8:10 p.m., "enshalla".
I talked to Pat Smyth on Monday and made plans for them to come down to visit us on our last weekend in Arabia. I spent the rest of that afternoon writing everyone about our trip home, so I got all of those letters in the mail Tuesday. I also went by the housing office to inform them of our vacation and sign the papers for the Kings to watch our house while we’re were gone.
But first, there would be the Thanksgiving weekend. That started off with dinner at Jeanine and Jerry King’s Wednesday evening. Then on Thursday, we ate the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with our neighbors, Cissy and Bob Mitchell, a very nice young couple from the New Orleans area. Our 7-unit apartment building had congenial people in all units at that time, so we spent a lot of time socializing and enjoying them, as well.
On Friday we drove out the back gate of camp, on the new road to Qurrayah again with Marge and Marvin Williams, Sheila and Keith Kaul, and their dog, Sammy. In the area that would be our new beach facility, we waded in the Persian Gulf and walked along in the damp sand. On the drive back to Abqaiq, we stopped to climb the large sand dunes we had discovered. It was a different, fun, relaxing day.
Oran stayed in camp Saturday morning for a dental appointment, but I went on with Marge to the Dining Hall for our breakfast, as usual. Avonie Long and Estela were there, as well, so we sat with them. Oran joined us there later, then he went to the Clinic for his vacation physical before flying back to 'Udhailiyah on the helicopter. I worked on Christmas cards and went to see our travel agent again to get the tickets for our trip to the States.
Tuesday, November 30th, 1976, started another five-day holiday. Oran was still in 'Udhailiyah that day, but would be back in Abqaiq for the next four days, and Pat and Guy Smyth would be visiting us for three of those. It would just be a casual get together and started out with Mexican food at the King’s the first night. Then we entertained everyone at our house the next night.
On Thursday, we looked at the new townhouses that had been built in Abqaiq already, and visited Estela and Bill Syphers, as we had all known each other in Ras Tanura.
We had breakfast at the Dining Hall Friday morning before Pat and Guy left for Ras Tanura after wishing us a good trip home. The rest of that day and the next, Oran and I rested, packed, and worked on last minute things to be done before a vacation. That would be the last weekend before we left on our trip.
Sunday, December 5th, Oran flew back to 'Udhailiyah for his last partial week of work before our trip. I continued to go to my breakfasts with the girls. That was an activity I would really miss while on vacation, even though I would be eating breakfast at the real "Dennys".
I went on one last trip to Al-Khobar Monday to get everything I wanted to take home as gifts for family and friends. The rest of the time I had friends over to visit, or called or went by their house to say goodbye. Oran came back to Abqaiq Wednesday, finished packing, and we got to bed very early that night. We also got up very, very early the next morning, Thursday, December 9th, 1976, took a taxi to the Dhahran Airport, and left for vacation at 7:45 a.m. on Alitalia Airlines.
We flew first to Kuwait, landed there and were on the ground about an hour, although we never left the plane. Then we flew on to Rome, landing around 2:30 p.m., their time. It was the first time we had flown Alitalia, and it didn't turn out to be a bad flight at all. The Italians on the plane with us kissed the ground when they debarked in Rome.
We went through the passport check and customs, then took a taxi to the Forum Hotel, which was a relatively small, ancient-looking building, but located right in the area of downtown Rome, and best of all, in the Forum ruins. It was hard to imagine that Julius Caesar had once stood among those fallen and broken marble columns. But the uniqueness of Rome is that the ruins are just left amid the majestic, old-world architecture of the rest of the city.
After resting, we started walking around the streets of Rome, going into several bars looking for wine. We thought surely there would be a lot of wine in Rome, right? But the bars turned out to be more like snack bars. We finally found a sidewalk cafe where we could order wine, so we sat for awhile sipping that while watching the Italians going about their daily business. It was an interesting sight. We continued our walk, then, along the narrow, winding streets, found the Trevi Fountain, where we threw in our coins and made a wish.
After walking a few more winding, narrow blocks, we found the Spanish Steps leading up to a majestic cathedral. We took pictures at the exact same spot on the fountain, at the bottom of the steps, that we had taken pictures in the spring of 1953, when Keith, our son, was 10 months old, and we were going on vacation from Arabia to the States for the first time. It really looked about the same to us. Some things are timeless.
The famous shopping avenue, Via Venita, led away from the fountain in the other direction, so we wandered down it for awhile, then on to other interesting looking, narrow, winding streets. On the way back to the hotel we got lost though, so we had to get a taxi.
That evening we ate dinner in the hotel dining room on the very top floor (6th, I think) with partial, glass-enclosed windows overlooking the lights of the city of Rome, very beautiful.
The next day we explored more of the city, which included the fascinating Coliseum ruins, just several blocks from our Forum Hotel. A day time visit to our hotel roof top restaurant allowed us to enjoy the open air portion of it, and a panoramic view of the Forum ruins and majestic church domes and statues in that area. It was such a thrill to be able to visit there again, and another extremely wonderful wedding anniversary.
The rest of our schedule went as we had planned it, and we landed in Dallas at 8:10 p.m. December 11th, 1976, to start our second vacation in the United States after our return to Saudi Arabia to live and work for the Arabian American Oil Company.