Colleen and Oran Wilson Colleen and Oran Wilson

January isn't the best time of the year to travel through Europe, but we didn't have much choice, so we started our third return back to Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the 16th, 1977 from Dallas, Texas.

By the time the plane arrived in New York, it was snowing so much we had to circle over the airport for an hour again before landing. It was almost an identical situation as last year, and we were able to catch the bus to the Swiss Air Terminal to make our flight to Zurich, Switzerland.

The flight across the Atlantic took a little less than 6 hours, and was much better than before though, as it was not crowded. When we arrived, Zurich was completely covered with a blanket of snow, which made it just out of this world, beautiful, at least to us.

Our enthusiasm was dampened just a bit when we discovered our luggage had not gotten on the same plane with us in New York. We were pretty concerned about that, as we didn't know what we were going to do if we had to spend a year in Arabia without any clothes at all, new or old.

We got a taxi on to our hotel, a Holiday Inn, not far from the airport. It was nice to be in a modern place this time, instead of one of those old, old things where you don't even know which fixture to use in the bathroom. We were put in a room on the 8th floor, and when we awoke from our nap it was snowing again, so the view from our window was a spectacular sight. We just stayed in our room for a long time, looking out the window, enjoying watching the large, white flakes floating down. It was extremely picturesque.

To make things even better, the airline called to say that our luggage had arrived on the next plane from New York. We got a taxi right then, drove to the airport to pick it up, then drove around the snow covered city and lake awhile. The taxi driver probably thought we were crazy Americans, but did his best to comply with our wishes

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed warming up with drinks, sitting by a fireplace in the lounge for awhile, then eating a delicious meal in their restaurant. It couldn't have been cozier.

It snowed all night, so there were at least 12 inches of new snow covering everything the next morning. We wanted to get out into it to enjoy it more, but didn't have a whole lot of time. It was so pretty, and we did enjoy seeing the kids skiing and playing in it as we drove back to the airport. It made us wish we could stay there longer, but as scheduled, we caught our Swiss Air flight on to Arabia.

So we arrived back in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, January 18th,1977, at 10 o'clock p.m. It took us another hour to go through customs and get our luggage. It was total bedlam, as usual, and we had to call a taxi from Dhahran to take us on the nerve wracking, hour-long ride to Abqaiq in the dark. We arrived there at five minutes after midnight, but it was so good to get back and settled again. We relaxed then stayed up a couple of more hours unpacking some things and checking the apartment, then slept until 11 o'clock the next morning.

Sheila and Keith Kaul Sheila and Keith Kaul

We went to the Snack Bar for breakfast, then to the Commissary to stock up again. Various people called to welcome us back. We tried to take a nap, but other people came by to welcome us home. It was nice.

That evening we went to Sheila and Keith Kaul’s for dinner, then to a dance afterward with all our group at the Golf Club House. There was also a performance by Sonny Turner and the Sound Ltd, which was entertaining. We were up until 3 a.m. that night, but took it easy and rested a lot the next day.

After our usual breakfast at the Dining Hall with the group on Friday, I caught the 1 o'clock bus to Dhahran with Sheila to take a look at some more of the new townhouses that had been completed. There was a particular one in this group she thought they would be interested in. It also gave us a chance to have some private girl talk, and get caught up on all the happenings in Abqaiq while I had been gone. It was a different and fun outing.

Oran had to get some things ready to go back to work the next day anyway, and I helped when I got back.

When we got out of bed Saturday morning we found our kitchen floor flooded. One of the pipes under the sink had developed a leak. Fortunately, we could shut off the water, but unfortunately, I spent a good hour on all fours mopping everything up with towels. Oran couldn't help as he had to catch the very early bus to the airstrip to fly on down to Udhailiyah. When he got there, he found out that he was being transferred to Water Supply, which is located in Mubarraz, a suburb of the oasis town of Hofuf, halfway between Abqaiq and Udhailiyah. He would get to stay in Abqaiq every night, but have to drive there and back every day, a distance of about 50 miles. So, here was a new job assignment on the Sea Water Project he had been promised and was waiting for, but not a very desirable one. But he didn't protest, just said he would give it a chance for awhile before making any decision about resigning. There was always a remote possibility he would like it, even though it wasn't the job he had hoped to get. He stayed in Udhailiyah the rest of that day to finish with everything there.

After my mopping, I took our passports to the Administration Building, then went back to bed for a couple of hours. Boy, did I need that. When I got up again, I ate breakfast and started washing and unpacking, but noticed a catch in my back. It was very painful when I moved, so had to start creeping around slowly and keep my back very straight. Estella Syphers came over to visit, then Oran came home from Udhailiyah. We talked about our new situation, ate supper, then went to bed early. I was really tired.

Oran went to the Southern Area Producing Office in Abqaiq the next morning, Sunday, January 23rd, 1977, to find out about his new job from Ray Branch and Abdulla Saif. I slept until 9, then got back in the swing of things by going to breakfast at the Dining Hall with Marge Williams, then to the Post Office, Housing Office and the Commissary. Oran came home for lunch, went back to the office after. I wrote Vicky and worked around the house, slowly, because of my back. That evening, Marge Williams came over and stayed for dinner of leftover meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans. Her husband, Marvin, was in Udhailiyah. We read after that and went to bed very early again.

Jerry and Jeanine King Jerry and Jeanine King

Monday morning Oran was picked up by Said Abid to go to Mubarraz, where the Water Supply Office and plant were. I slept until 8, when the plumber woke me up to fix the leak under the kitchen sink. I sat in a chair with a heating pad and had coffee while he did that, then slowly cleaned up the mess, washed and rolled my hair, and ate lunch. Estella came over, so we visited. She was still there when Oran came in, so he joined us. When she left to go bowling, we had soup for supper, watched some TV, and went to bed early.

The rest of that week went much the same way with Oran getting acquainted with his new job in Mubarraz, and me slowly doing the necessary washing, ironing, meal cooking, unpacking, etc. My back was getting better each day, but it put a little damper on my enjoyment of getting back to Arabia. I was still very glad to have the nice warm, sunny weather, though, and my own king size bed, and my privacy, etc. I think I was getting too old for all that world travel and temporary uprooting. It took me longer to re-adjust each time.

The lifestyle hadn't changed much, so Wednesday evening we went to the Dining Hall to eat fried shrimp with Marge and Marvin, Jeanine and Jerry King, and Sheila and Keith. Two of the couples, the Williams and Kings, started square dancing lessons afterward in the East/West Lounge, so we went there with them to watch awhile. Sandy and Jack Adams had just been assigned one of the new townhouses to move into, so we walked there to see it. The men helped lay rugs with Jack, and Sandy showed us all through the place. It was really something else, especially after having the only type of living accommodations in the Aramco camps in Saudi Arabia for the past 40 years. They had brought drink fixings, so we all had a drink to help them christen their new home. It didn't turn into a rug laying party, though, like it had at Kathi and Roy's.

Townhouses The new townhouses, Colleen Wilson in the top one.

After breakfast Thursday morning, Oran went back to help Jack and Sandy move furniture and their things into the new townhouse. We would miss their old rooftop parties, but this place had a large connecting balcony off of their upstairs bedrooms, so there might be possibilities.

That evening the group met at the Kaul’s with food each had prepared, then we all went to the Kings to surprise Jeanine for her birthday. We had drinks, then the delicious food – ribs, potato salad, beans, and regular salad. I really relaxed and enjoyed myself as I was beginning to feel human again.

Saturday morning, January 29th, 1977, was the start of another work week, so I went to the Dining Hall for our breakfast club meeting with Marge, Kathi, and Sharon Green. Sandy didn't show up, so we drove to her new townhouse afterward, but she wasn't home, so we went to Sharon's for more coffee. Mary Lou Love joined us there.

The rest of that day and the next, I just rested and prepared the evening meal when Oran drove in from Mubarraz each day. I was having to adjust to doing so much cooking again, as well as recovering from the trip, but I felt more rested, and my back seemed almost normal. So things were getting easier every day, even with all the social activities. For Oran, too, although he was really tired from driving so far each day. I even got up at 4:45 to fix Oran coffee and juice for the first time Monday morning before he left for Mubarraz, but slept again until 7:40, then went with Marge and Kathi to breakfast. Sue Todd, Joyce Kirkpatrick, Bob Howie, Estella Syphers, and Avonie Long joined us at various times – very nice. We drove to the Cash Office, let Kathi off at her house, went to the Post Office, then went out to Sandy's new townhouse again. She was home this time. Trish Miller came over while we were there and took us to see her new townhouse. Marge and I got confused, then, about which new model we liked best.

Back to Chapter 24Chapter 26