I’ve got a year-long gig in Saudi Arabia, subcontracted by Aramco Oil, to make slide/tape training programs, which means I fly around in helicopters taking pictures on oil rigs and at gas-oil separation plants. American tinkerers have been taking apart radios and cars and putting them back together for fun since the dawn of the 20th century. In 1983 the Saudi’s don’t yet have a comparable background in technology so we take their money and teach them the blue-collar and computer skills that will eliminate their dependence on us. They don’t want us there. Too many American expats are assholes, especially in a country where everyone is of a darker complexion and doesn’t speak English or wear pants or worship Jesus.
I live in a camp a few kilometers inland from the Persian Gulf with about 3,000 men, most of whom are third-world worker bees with long contracts and shit wages. The few hundred Americans are paid high-end blue-collar tax-free wages and housed in long trailers with six rooms and three bathrooms on either side. My room has a single bed, a wardrobe, a desk and chair, a sink and a mirror, a small fridge, and a black and white television. I share a bathroom with the guy next door.
Women are not allowed in the camp and an outbreak of the clap in the Filipino neighborhood has been traced back to a blow-up doll named Farrah. Alcoholic beverages are illegal and possession could mean jail time and lashes. I favor a clear moonshine called sadiki, which I mix with Pepsi. The kingdom has no Coca-Cola. When opening a new bottle I pour a little puddle in an ashtray and set it aflame. If it burns blue it’s a good batch.