Pages of the Oasis

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

About the Dental Care in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Good news!

The dental care in Saudi was exceptionally good and affordable, and the service I received was excellent. With my health plan coverage, the portion I ended up paying for some high quality dental work was peanuts compared to what I had been quoted in Canada and Chile.

For example, I paid $25.00 CAD (Canadian dollars) in the end for a marathon session of dental work that included getting my teeth cleaned, a number of fillings replaced and cavities filled, and  a major tooth reconstruction / filling replacement and a coating like a veneer on one of  my front teeth so it matched a nearby bridge and crown that no longer matched my natural teeth colour exactly. In comparison, the tooth reconstruction /fillling replacement alone had been quoted in Chile to cost me $2700.00 Canadian dollar and the front tooth coating at least $500.00 Canadian dollars.

It wasn't hard to find a dentist. Just ask around or drive around and look for buildings that look like clinics but have a tooth on the sign.

The dentist I found had been trained abroad and he spoke excellent English.The clinic was clean and modern.

Maybe I was just lucky, but I got in to get my teeth cleaned the same day that I made the appointment, and the kind dentist made room to do the rest of the work I needed done (about 4 hours worth) within the next 2 days, before I left the country.

That was over a year ago and the dental work has still held, and other dentists back home commented on the high quality of the work I had done.

As a result, I wish I had gotten all my dental work done as soon as I was given my health card, instead of waiting until the last week I was in Saudi Arabia. I could have been pain and worry free months earlier than I was.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

More About Getting Around Saudi Arabia

About Bus and Airplane Travel

I didn’t try to buy a ticket from a bus terminal so I can’t give any advice about that.
I heard that you could buy seats on private charter buses going to specific destinations outside of Riyadh by going through a travel agency.

Buying tickets for air travel was as you’d expect, and easy to do. You can also book them through a travel agency.

It wasn’t acceptable for people, especially women, to go walking around by themselves.

You simply didn’t see people doing this.

This is a car culture and so hot outside that everyone drives around.

So there you have it: the transportation scene and getting around Riyadh and Saudi Arabia in general.

About Walking Around Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Walking around is not common. It’s not comfortable since it’s so hot, windy and dusty in Riyadh, and it’s not considered safe or well mannered behaviour.

When I walked to the local grocery store, I got honked at and sometimes men would yell ‘ haram’ (prohibited) when they saw me, even when I was wearing an abaya and hijab, especially if I was walking near sundown, or if a wind blew up and exposed my ankles.

And almost half as often, men would yell that they loved me as they whizzed by.

Some men stalked me (follow you in their cars) as I walked home. They were easy to ditch by changing direction, crossing the street, going back to a well lit major roadway, or going into a store.

For the most part, I think the stalking is motivated by pure curiosity. You just don’t see women outside of vehicles and malls or stores, and hardly ever alone, really so you really stick out as a foreigner if you walk around, even if you are just going a few blocks.

 I was used to overt sexual harassment after living for years in South America, where men of all ages routinely whistle, honk and tell you compliments as a matter of course, where ever you go. It bounces right off me.

But a lot of women I worked with were completely unsettled by any male attention and honking, especially if men yelled  ‘haram’ ( prohibited) at them.

There is an arm of the local police called the ‘mutawah’ whose job it is to ride around looking for people who are not following what they consider acceptable dress practices. They are especially on the lookout for women who don’t cover their hair adequately or have abayas long enough to cover up from neck to ankle and angrily react if they see this. They will approach you and  ask or demand that you to wear a hijab (hair veil) or fix your clothing to be more fully covered.

It’s helpful to know that all they can do legally is ‘advise’. You don’t have to get into their cars or let them cart you off to jail. Personally, I think it’s best to adopt the attitude of  ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’ as a sign of respect and to make it easier. You’re not going to change their culture. After all, it’s no secret that women are expected to wear an abaya and hijab and not attract attention to themselves.  I was surprised by how easy it was to get used to wearing an abaya and hijab in public, to be honest.

Once a man in a very expensive car followed me  as I walked home, right up to the door of my apartment-hotel and then politely but firmly lectured me for 10 minutes. He was very concerned for my safety and had followed me at a safe distance to make sure I got home without incident. He had excellent English and wanted me to know it wasn’t safe to walk alone. He had the best of intentions and I appreciated his genuine concern, although I was very surprised by his reaction and this turn of events. I admit that it made me think twice about doing it again.

So, to wrap up, to be safe and comfortable, always take a taxi. And use your street smarts if you decide to walk anywhere, just to be safe.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Some Great Photos Suitable for Teaching Activities in Saudi Arabia

Want some teaching materials that are easy to adapt to any level class, and works well for teaching men or women?

Try this photo pack I created while I was in Saudi Arabia for classes taught while teaching in Riyadh.

I made these photos because it is very tricky to find suitable visual images that would pass the cultural sensitivity guidelines I had to work within. And that I could get printed off (so get prints made  efore you go). Since they were given the green light where I worked, and were really well received by my students, they are likely to work well for you too.

 You can get the photo pack here: ( click on ' photo packs' on the left hand side and scroll down to ' Scenes from Saudi Arabia'.)

The photos are of a variety of situations in Saudi Arabia: weather scenes, shopping in a bazaar in downtown Riyadh, people meeting and talking in a hotel lobby (series of photos) and a woman teaching a class ( series of photos).

The photo series work well to teach a variety or verb tenses: present simple ( What`s the weather like? Describe what you see in this picture? stating the facts of the situation depicted, dialogues for role plays) the continuous/ progressive tenses (describe what is happening/happened/will be happening 10 minutes later) and perfect tenses (by the time this picture was taken, what has/had/will have had happened?) and perfect continuous/ perfect progressive ( by the time X happened [imagine an event depicted at some point in the photo series], what has/had been happening/ will have had been happening?)

You can teach all parts of speech with these photos, and adapt your dialogues and activities to suit the needs of whatever level of language learner you are dealing with.

Since photo are so versatile and are easily portable, working just as well in print an in digital formats (on your smart phone during a private lesson or when projected onto an interactive whiteboard) they are the perfect teaching aid.

Best of all, the students always responded to the photos when I used them in class. The glazed look of boredom passed from their faces, replaced by active interest. Once they perked up, they usually participated well in the next activity based on the photo(s).

If you want more ideas about how to do engaging interactive activities using photos, be sure to download the free ebook ''Using Photos to Teach English' on my site: ( click on ' instructional materials').