24 hours since landing in Riyadh after nearly 16 hours of airtime with a brief 6 hour layover in Paris has been eventful and eye opening. Even though it’s the weekend today on Thursday, we all got up and went to Al Yamamah Hospital to get oriented and settled into our new work surroundings. The hospital is an old hotel that has been converted to a healthcare facility. The layout is very hotel-esque with semi-private rooms with 1-6 babies in each “room” depending on acuity. Though this may sound inconvenient, it serves them well to have some isolation between babies. We met Dr. Yousef who is extremely friendly, kind and wise beyond his years. It was very clear from the beginning that the medical staff knows how to take care of babies with the best of them, but are limited by the available resources. I was impressed by the nurses (they are called “sisters” here) and everyone wants to serve their babies in the best way possible.
After leaving Al Yamamah we all went out with our coordinator Randi to an amazing lunch at a Lebanese restaurant on Talia St. (the Las Vegas Boulevard or Rodeo Drive of Riyadh). Honestly the best hummus and pita any of us had ever eaten. We also went to a grocery store where I was busy taking photos of Arabic food and signs until I was kindly reminded by a gentleman who come running up to me shaking his finger saying “no make pictures”. Fear of being arrested quickly put my iPhone away (fake texting was not so fake after all). I got some Coke Light (diet coke) in glass bottles to keep up my caffeine habit so I am happy. We didn’t make it to Hyper Panda (the super Walmart of Saudi Arabia) but I hear it’s an experience like no other from the girls who have been there. I wonder if there is a peopleofhyperpanda.com?
The group also got to go shopping with Dr. Latifa at the Souk, a collection of outdoor markets by “old town Riyadh”. We all got some jewelry boxes and camel windchimes from Dr. Latifa, and the girls got tapestries. I went back to photo taking in a more conspicuous mannger (these are posted on Facebook). The ruins are old buildings that are crumbling (literally as they are made of mud) into piles. The modern buildings of Riyadh are beautiful and show signs of a very modern and vibrant city. I am amazed at how much dust and sand is in the air and covering everything. The car is dusty, stuff in stores is dusty, my eyes feel dusty. It was 90 degrees today and sunny, but you can’t see the sun because of the blowing sand. I am hoping the sand will help keep me from getting sunburned.
We saw our coordinator Randi off to the airport tonight meaning we are going it alone without her for the next 3 weeks. The week will start on Saturday after a day of rest tomorrow, and we are excited to get started at Al Yamahah.