Sunday, June 22, 2014

Aramco - the dream

While we love our life here in Saudi, there is one thing that would make it better, Aramco.  Working for Aramco would be a dream come true.  The pay is insane, the benefit package is unbelievable, and the facilities are amazing.

Aramco is Saudi Arabian Oil Company and they know how to take care of their employees.  If one is so lucky to get a job there, you are put on one of many camps that are more like mini cities.  Each camp has everything and more that you would want in a community.  Golf courses, pools, parks, walking paths, restaurants, grocery store, fitness centers, schools, hospitals, medical offices, beaches, motorcycle tracks, yacht club, horse stables, everything. They even have their own fire departments and EMT ambulance drivers.  You don't ever have to leave the camp if you didn't want to.  Each camp has their own schools with top notch teachers who teach an American curriculum.  Teaching at Aramco is the best teaching position in the world, or at least one of them.  It's like living in mini America but in Saudi Arabia and making more money then you possibly could need.

Here are just some of the things you would find on Aramco.

Ariel view of part of the Dhahran Aramco Camp

Private Beach

Private Beach at the Yacht Club

Sailing the bay from the Yacht Club 

Green belts around the housing (remember we are in the desert)


Another Porche

Well developed neighborhoods with nice tree lined streets

Parks with fountains

Never ending walking and bike trails

Parks, Parks, and more Parks

BMX track

Skateboard Park

Yet another park

8 field Soccer/Football Park (there are several smaller ones throughout the camp)

One of many Softball/baseball fields

Well groomed areas

Full track with soccer pitch

Clean streets

Nice houses

Residential area

Another residential area

Ariel view of Ras Tanura Aramco camp on the beach

AND....a full 18 hole golf course for only Aramco.

These are just a few of the benefits from working for Aramco.  Life on these camps is awesome.  They all have their own recreational facilities and clubs for the kids.  Lots of activities and plenty to do.  These are just the facilities on the camp, but the main pull is the money.  Very high pay, with retirement and an easy way to save money.  AND Women can drive on the camps...No wonder people who work for Aramco don't ever want to leave.

Although we love working at ISG and our situation here in Saudi is ideal, this is our dream that we want to make come true.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why Saudi Arabia? Part 1

People always wonder what the appeal to living in Saudi Arabia is, well honestly it's the money.  Jobs here tend to pay WAY more than any place else in the world, AND, they usually include a very sweet benefit package.  We were very hesitant in moving here three years ago, but the money was just too appealing.  We researched and talked to people who lived here, and learned that most people who come here don't leave.  WHY?  Probably mostly the money, but also the standard of living.

Yes, we have to put up with lots of inconveniences, such as women not being able to drive, but honestly I don't think I would want to drive here.  The roads are like a crazy Mario driving game.  Laws are enforced only part of the time so people drive very fast and crazy here.  As a woman, I haven't found the non driving much of an issue, except when I want to just get away by myself.  Going to the grocery store has become more of a social event.  Every Thursday afternoon I board a very comfortable bus with several other people from our compound and am chauffeured to Tamimi's, which is basically Safeway, where they have just about everything any expat would want, well except bacon.  I am treated like a queen when we go.  My groceries are not only bagged quickly, but are then loaded on and unloaded off the bus for me.  I don't have to lift a finger.  I get to ride on this comfortable bus, sit back and relax while socializing with my friends.  What's so bad about that?

Yes, I have to wear an abaya whenever I go out in public but that's usually just to go to the mall or out to dinner.  I don't have to wear it on our compound or at our school so I probably only spend about 20% of my time here in an abaya.  Not a big deal at all.  The benefit of wearing it is that I don't have to worry about what I have on underneath.  If I want to wear my pajamas to dinner, no big deal because they are covered by an abaya.  The only things I need to make sure look good are my hair, makeup and maybe my shoes.

Rachel sporting the Abaya

Life can be a little boring here at times without much to do, but I'm perfectly fine with that.  I get to spend lots of quality time with my family.  We have time to actually be together, rather than me being a taxi driver or trying to keep track of all our different schedules.  Our life here has become centered around our family.  Again, what's wrong with that?

The amount of money that we make and save here is the real clincher as to why we chose to live here.  We would never be able to have the life style we live here and be able to save the amount of money, if we were back in the States.  Our income is tax free and our expenses are extremely low in that just about everything here is provided for us.  We live in a nice three story, 3000 sq foot villa for free.  We have the convenience of a pool and fitness center, free.  We don't have to pay any utilities, other than our internet and cell phones.  We don't have to worry about health insurance, it is completely covered both here and in the US.  No premiums, no copays in the States, 100% prescriptions included.  We are given a home leave package to pay for flights home for our family every year that more than covers the actual cost of our our airfare, so we get to fly home, free.  Why would I want to give any of that up?

Our compound villas

Our villa

Vika at the pool

My kids are getting a world class education at an excellent private school for free.  They are experiencing the world and getting see things most people can only dream about.

Life in Saudi isn't perfect, but it is way better than most people think.  Our reservations about living here when we first came a few years ago, are completely gone.  I feel safer here then I did back in the States where you would hear of shootings, robberies, murders, etc.; everyday.  I may live in a little bubble here, but I'm perfectly happy in my bubble and have no intentions of leaving soon.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nicole's 8th Grade Graduation

Nicole graduated from 8th grade today at DEMS.  She worked hard this year and made honor's all four quarters.  This is a great group of kids.  Her class had about 65 students that represented about 20 different countries.  Most of these kids were my first group of 6th graders here at DEMS.  It's been fun watching them grow into these amazing young adults.

Nicole and Max Whittaker

Nicole receiving her certificate from Mrs. Barnhouse, the principal.

Sharing her diploma with Chewy

We are so proud of Nicole

Nicole and her BFF Kayla.

The Girls SAIKAC Champions

 This year Gavin and I coached the girls middle school basketball team.  Gavin brought his expertise to the court and took our A team girls to the championships.  The girls worked hard all season perfecting their defensive skills and along with their amazing unstoppable shooters, were undefeated the whole season.  Most teams weren't able to score with our defense.  The girls only gave up an average of 5 points per game during the SAIKAC tournament.

Basketball has become a major part of our lives with all our kids playing.  Gavin is a great coach and is well respected by all at our school.  Every team he has coached here in Saudi has won the championships.  I'm lucky to be able to coach with him on and off the court.

Nicole and the girls showing their defensive skills

Jonny was a little bored watching but was a good supportive brother.

The gold!!!!

Both our girls and boys teams took the gold this year which was a first for DEMS.

Nicole and her gold medal

Vika, the future gold medalist.