26 October 2016

How to Learn Arabic In Jeddah

Some expat postings are easy in terms of languages, some are more challenging.  In four of my postings  I have been lucky to speak a language that is either the national language or extremely widely spoken.  Others have required me to learn to communicate in another tongue. 

I tend to approach languages by getting an introductory ‘teach yourself’ book or app and then, when I have enough basic information, just start to converse.  In Venezuela my parents gave me a language book to read then told me I had ‘volunteered’ to translate to and from Spanish  for the English, German and Dutch children at company summer camp.  It was a real ‘in at the deep end’ moment but it did work, by the end of the week I had some basic facility in the language, albeit with a very strong local accent!  In fact I have always made the best progress in a language when living somewhere where people do not speak English (nowhere else really speaks Dutch!) as it forces me to learn.  I adopt a pragmatic approach.  I don’t need to speak a language perfectly but I do need to be able to communicate.  Once I can do that I can start to improve and find that people are generally happy to help.  One fruit stall holder at a market in Astana used to reward me with a piece of fruit if I had improved since she had last seen me.

Arabic has not been so easy to learn, partly because on a day to day basis most people we come in contact with speak perfect English.  Colleagues, all parents at school and most residents of our compound do, most shop keepers, Expat or Saudi, do too.  I have tried to learn using apps but the dialect here is very different to the language used in them and because of the way the letters of the alphabet change depending on their position in a word it has been almost impossible for me to self teach.
Confusing is not the word!
I was over the moon, therefore, when I found a language course offered by a local institute (The Jeddah Cultural Exchange Centre).  The course is broken into parts and I was able to register for the beginners’ sessions.  The aim of these was to gain familiarity with the alphabet and learn some basic vocabulary.  The course was quite intensive, three nights a week for four weeks.  The course was taught in English which was perfect for me although I have a huge amount of respect for the pupils for whom English is a second language!  Our teacher, a Syrian lady now living in Jeddah, started by teaching us the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet and how to recognise them, not just as a stand-alone letter but when we saw them at the beginning, middle and end of a word.

I thought Cyrillic, with its multiple letters for Y, was challenging but for someone used to the Latin Alphabet Arabic is a whole new level of difficult.  There are 4 or 5  different forms of the letter T, some are distinct but others are impossible for my ear to distinguish from each other, the two Ks are equally confusing.  The 2 (or 3) Ds are, at least distinct (in written if not in spoken form) as are the three forms of S, the two As and the two different H’s.  Yet more letters do double duty.  The Y can stand for Y or E and the W for W and O.  There are even more letters that are only used at the ends of words.  Short vowels (A, I and U)  are modifiers used above or below the word to change the pronunciation of a letter ie Ba, Bi, Bu, but these are not typically written so you just have to ‘know’ which vowel is used where.  A lot of the letters look suspiciously similar when written; a misplaced dot can mean the difference between a J and a K or a Z and an R and whether or not a loop is coloured in can change a GH to an F. 

It was enough to give me a headache, gradually, however, things started to make sense.  I have started to be able to read simple words (I was over the moon to read Balsamic on the vinegar bottle and Cocoa on the cocoa tin).  The course has been a success because it does not concentrate on the written form of the language to the exclusion of everything else (a common aspect of language courses here).  Our teacher has also worked hard to make sure that we are able to communicate.  The other day I clarified a measurement  length of an Abaya in Arabic and I felt ridiculously pleased.  The lady in the shop did too and gave me a huge grin. 

The course has a secondary benefit as well and that is the chance to get to know other people in Jeddah.  Participants registered on the course are from all over the world, India, South Africa, UK, Philippines, Turkey, US and Malaysia.  We have all come to Jeddah for very different reasons but it is lovely to get to know each other. 

There is a long way to go, building vocabulary (and retaining it) is challenging because I do not have to use the language every day.  I have registered for the second level course to try to keep the momentum in my studies.

For more posts on life in Saudi please click on the photo below

Ersatz Expat

13 October 2016

Revisiting Past (Expat) Lives: A Wrenching Echo or a Beautiful Swansong

Some postings are ones that you get to return to again and again, even after you leave.  Others you expect, for one reason or another never to see again.  Warri (Nigeria) and Maracaibo (Venezuela) are hardly tourist destinations to bring the family to for example.

Nigeria was beautiful but not the easiest posting to return to.
My many postings fall into a variety of those two categories.  I go back to the town we lived in when we were last in the UK an awful lot because, by a complete co-incidence, we ended up living 5 minutes from where my parents had bought a house many years before and where they chose to retire.  These days, going back to visit my father and step-mother is strange, I was a local councillor there for 6 years so relatively well known to a number of people through my party and through campaigning.  I often run into old colleagues of my husbands or old pupils of his.  It is home (the children and I stayed there for a significant part of the 4 months we were waiting for Saudi visas), and yet it is not.  My mother loved the town, she was not English but it was where she chose to settle and live out her days.  This town was the place she returned to every year from around 1992 when my parents bought the house and we spent most of our short half term holidays there from around that time to leaving school, it is more home to me than any other place on earth ... and yet....  I see her ghost everywhere I walk and it is incredibly painful; harder now to go back than it was to live there after her death.  I love seeing my father and my step-mother and the children adore their visits there but I find it very, very sad.  I wonder if people who have lived in the same place all their life have a similar response post bereavement, do they suddenly want to move away or is it just my complete and utter lack of true ties to any place? 

Our beautiful old home town in England
I had a similar feeling when, following a visit to my Uncle and Aunt in their home town in the Netherlands, I drove to show Mr EE and the older children the place where Oma & Opa had lived.  I spent a lot of time with them as a child, living with them for long periods and often visiting them for short holidays when I was first in boarding school.  I was ok in the town, it was rather fun to walk in my old steps, but when we went to the building their flat had been in I broke down, racked with sobs.  I still don’t really know why (I don’t have the same reaction when I see my other grandparents’ house in Dublin or when I wander around Den Haag, the town where I was born and where I lived 4 times in my life), perhaps it was a realisation that a place that had been so pivotal, so important to me, now has no connection to me at all other than an ageing uncle and aunt. The ripples my life had made on the surface of the Assen pond have almost disappeared for ever.

Revisiting past pleasures in Ipoh
Other than that, by and large when I leave a posting I leave, I put it to bed in my mind and look forward to the next one.  I rarely hanker after the life that has been. I have been back to some of the other countries I have lived but never to my old homes (except on Google Maps) or even cities until last month.  When I had to rush back to Malaysia to see our very sick dog I ended up in our old town.  It was a strange visit because it has not been long since we were there, Ipoh was our home until December last year.  In between seeing to the dogs I revisited old hunting grounds, traces of our life there were everywhere.  My hair needed colouring so I went to my old hairdresser, I was still on record.  On the two evenings I was there I ate at two of our favourite restaurants.  I was welcomed back to both by name and asked if I wanted ‘my usual’, when I parked at the mall (I treated myself to a cinema trip, something we can’t do in Saudi) the mark made when our power steering fluid suffered a catastrophic leak in August last year could still be seen in our favoured spot.

Our old home had the most amazing view.

On a whim I went back to our old home.  We lived in a gated development with some beautiful park land and the guard, remembering me, waved me through with a big smile.  Our old house was occupied by a new family but I parked nearby and walked around the running track where we had walked the dogs every day (the plan had been to scatter Bessie’s ashes there if she had had to be put down).  The fish, the monkeys, the monitor lizards were all still there.  Sadly there is a lot of development going on at the theme park across the lake and I can see that we were lucky in our time there.  Unlike the feelings of sadness I have when visiting my old home in the Netherlands or the UK I felt a feeling of closure that I have never sought and had not expected to want or need. Our ripples are still there, though fading fast, they will be gone before long but, unlike Assen, I feel no sense of sadness about that.

We were happy to leave Ipoh, it had only ever been a temporary posting and had we remained in Malaysia we would have been in KL by now but we left with a short turn round, with Mr EE being asked to start his new job very quickly (6 months notice is more normal in education).  Whenever we relocate we try to spend as much time as possible fixing memories of our posting, memories that will last us a life time.  We do our favourite things and make the most of our remaining time there.  In Ipoh the time we had to do this was very short.  The little swansong visit was, in many ways, the perfect way to put that posting to bed.  

Have you ever returned to a previous posting?  How did it make you feel?

For more posts on Expat Life please click the photo below.

Ersatz Expat

Posted to the Expat Family Linky hosted by Seychelles Mama

Seychelles Mama

6 October 2016

Jeddah Corniche

Jeddah is a coastal city and, as such, has an extensive waterfront.  The corniche is divided up into a number of discrete sections, all slightly different in character and all equally charming and enjoyable.  One of our favourite parts is the Middle Corniche Park.  This is quite some way from our home and can take up to half an hour to get there but it is worth it. 

Enjoying the scenery at the Corniche Park
Nestled at the end of Falastin (Palestine) street, this park is home to some quite tracts of grass, a walk way, some play grounds, sculpture and views over the King Fahd fountain.  We like to go down towards evening time, aiming to get to the park about 15 minutes before sunset prayers.  This gives us time to get a bottle of water or an ice cream from a snack vendor before they close up.

There are plenty of vendors selling treats for children
and picnic essentials like cushions and carpets.
As non Muslims we are, of course, not required to do anything other than not disturb those at their devotions.  All shops close down by law and restaurants close their doors to new customers.  In the park roll out carpets are available for those who wish to pray.  We tend to take the opportunity to walk quietly through the park, enjoying the scenery and the sunset.  The gardens are well maintained and full of sculptures although to my untutored eye they do not  appear to be the best quality.

The park is quiet during prayer time
But full of life at other times.
As prayers come to an end families break out picnics and barbeques on the lawns, children cycle or roller-skate down the path, married couples stroll hand in hand and hopeful young men cast their fishing lines.  In the cooler weather you see people out for a run, men in their sports wear and sometimes even the odd woman in her abaya (although given the difficulty of running in one women tend more towards power walking).

The park is a pleasant place for a romantic stroll

Strange sculptures abound

We are not even sure what these are!
Sunsets in Jeddah are often less than spectacular; we don’t get enough cloud cover for the really striking skies that I loved in Brighton, another seaside town I called home for many years.  Nevertheless it is the best time to enjoy the spectacle that is the King Fahd fountain.  Built in the 1980s it is the tallest fountain in the world, shooting seawater up to around 300m high.  It is so imposing that can be seen from the aircraft as they come in to land at the airport and it can be seen at the other end of town (if you are high enough).

Children play in the many well equipped parks

People gather to enjoy convivial evenings
This section of the corniche is only a few kilometres long so once we have walked to the end and back we just have time to nip into a restaurant on Falastin before they close the doors for the night time prayers.

Sunset is the best time to enjoy views of the fountain
It dominates this part of town

This park is, for us, a perfect example of how life here is like and yet unlike anywhere else.  People enjoy the seafront in seaside towns around the world.  Watching children eat cotton candy and learn to roller-skate on promenades (as I did in Brighton all those years ago) and seeing couples stroll and families barbeque it could be the seaside in Miri, the riverside in Astana; and yet… it is quintessentially Arabia.

Posted as part of the Travel at Home Blog Link Up

Ersatz Expat

For more posts on life as an Expat in Saudi Arabia please click on the photo below

Ersatz Expat

Travel At Home 9

Welcome back to Travel At Home.  The linky has been absent for a few months, firstly I was away, then I had internet problems and then I had to make a last minute dash to Malaysia to visit my dog. The linky is now back up and running and looking forward to your stories.

Wherever you are in the world there are probably so many wonderful and fascinating things to see.  If you are anything like my family it becomes all too easy to ignore the sites close to home, falling prey to the belief that they will 'always be there'.  Familiarity breeds contempt and we hanker after the exotic.  But the truth is home for one person is exotic to many others.  As an expat family we get to be at home in a wide range of different places and we try to make sure that we make the most of any place we are living right now, getting out and exploring as much as possible.  

Travel at Home is the linky for people who want to write about their home (or host) location and all the places that don't make it into a guide book (but really should).  You don't have to be an expat to participate, just someone with a passion for their local area.  The link will be open for a week so there is plenty of time to add your post (or posts).  If you notice that something does not work as it should or you think I could improve something please do let me know.

There are just a few rules:
  • Share your post - it can be a new post or an old one you want to share with a new audience.
  • You can write about anywhere you have a strong connection, home country, current host or former host.
  • Add the link up button and code to your post so that people can navigate back easily
  • Comment on some of the other posts on the link up (the more the merrier)
  • Tweet/share your link.  If you include me (@ErsatzExpat) in your tweet I will retweet.
  • Add your post to the Travel At Home Pinterest Board contact me via Pinterest and I will add you to the board.
  • Spread the word - the more the merrier and everyone is welcome.

Monthly link ups will go in the main feed but will then be linked to a tab (see above) for reference.  Thank you in advance for linking up and participating in this venture.  I look forward to enjoying some vicarious visits in the next few days.   

Ersatz Expat

28 September 2016

Kismet Comes Home

I wrote, recently, about the awful experience we had with our older dog Bess.  She is still in vet care in Ipoh but is getting better and stronger all the time.  Our vet hopes to move her back to her own home soon. 

While I was in Malaysia I was able to spend some time with our other pets, with Perdie at the vet’s home and with Kismet just a few hours in an office in KL before her flight to Jeddah.  She flew a few days before I returned home and because Mr EE was at work she spent her first few hours in Jeddah in the corner of his office.  We were worried this would stress her but she seemed quite happy to be among people.

Kismet is settling in
We put all her things in a small room, our plan being to allow her her own space to settle in and get used to the family again without being overwhelmed by all the people in the house.  We had instructed the children not to fuss her and to leave her to settle.  We needn’t have worried one bit.  Kismet sniffed at a few bits and pieces that had been in the house in Malaysia and went straight to the sofa to sit next to Mr EE and lick him to pieces.  She clearly remembered him and was keen to re-establish family bonds.  She was happy to see the children but wary of Mini EE who has grown an awful lot since they last saw each other.

She has settled into family life as though she has never been away
When I arrived a few days later I found a house with a cat who behaved as though it had always been her home, which, of course, it has.  Our family has been her home since she was a little kitten and she clearly does not mind about the gap.  Within minutes of my arrival she was sitting on my knee and purring her distinctive, loud, motorcycle impression.  We know dogs remember people they love for their whole lifetimes, we were worried that cats would not.  Clearly and happily, we were wrong.
As the days have gone on Kismet has become more independent and less clingy.  She has always been a house cat and although she enjoys looking outside we are wary of letting her out incase she gets into a fight.  For her part she talks, through the window,  to cats that visit the garden but has not asked to go outside.  She slept on our bed the first few nights, chasing our toes as we slept and curling up in the smalls of our backs.  As time has marched on she prefers to sleep downstairs and do the rounds of all the bedrooms for a few minutes every night. 

She talks to the local cats

Keeps us company in the evenings
As a house full of dog people that just happened to find themselves with a cat Kismet has exceeded all our expectations as a pet.  Clearly, unlike the dogs, she is self sufficient and has not suffered from our absence in quite the same way.  She loves us but does not need us.  She is, however, genuinely good company.  She talks to us, sits with us, plays games and makes us laugh with her antics.  8 months older than when we had to say goodbye in Malaysia the worst excesses of kittenhood are past and she is a calmer (though still mischievous) cat.  Mr EE was away on a trip for most of last week and her presence in the house made the evenings far less lonely. 

Makes sure that we don't forget to pet her
and keeps us warm at night
People here, both expats and locals told us we were crazy to spend money importing a cat to Jeddah when there are so many here that we could adopt and then leave when we leave.  We don't agree, we made a promise to a little lost kitten that we took into our home, we promised that we would be her home for the rest of her life and nothing short of a disaster would make us renege on that promise.   Kismet has come home and her presence has, in turn, made our house feel more like a home.  We had not quite realised how empty it was until she came to fill the ‘pet void’.  We now need to try to get the papers in order for Perdie and, if Bessie is strong enough, get the certificate reissued for her so that we can finally be together again.  

For more posts on expat pets please click the link below.

The Ersatz Guide To Expat Pets

Posted on the Animal Tales link up hosted by  Green and Rosie Life.  Click the picture below for more pet posts.


17 September 2016

How to be an Expat in Saudi Arabia: All About Abayas and Other Clothes

One of the biggest worries many expats have before arriving for their first time in Saudi Arabia is the issue of clothing.  A lot of people assume that women have to cover up completely and that men can wear what the want.  This is not quite true.  The clothing rules are not quite as restrictive for women as many people think.

All women have to wear an abaya, this is close to a non negotiable. I have seen some women out and about in a long salwaar kameez but the only time I remove my abaya in public is when I get through passport control at the airport where the dress restrictions are more relaxed, even then I ensure that I am very covered.  

I bought some cheap abayas before leaving Malaysia and they have been honourably retired having done their job of getting me from the plane to the house and out to the abaya shop.  Made of cheap polyester they are hot beyond belief.  They were sold to me by a very fashionable young Malay lady who spent most of the time trying to persuade me to buy the neon pink and bright purple offerings instead of a black one and a navy blue one.  I resisted but I need not have been so conservative.  While hot pink might be pushing it a little the women here in KSA do not always wear black (at least in the costal cities, in Riyadh and other more conservative places black is, I understand, still the norm). 
Not only in black 

When you go to the abaya shop you will be faced with a bewildering array of options to choose from.  Here in Jeddah white and cream abayas are popular as are shades of blue and purples, many are decorated with floral or geometric patterns.  There are a huge range of different styles to choose from, open front, wrap, butterfly, cape, umbrella, the list is endless.    During the summer  light cottons, linens and georgettes are more popular than the heavier fabrics.  You can buy an abaya for no more than about $20-30 but the quality of the cheaper ones is poor and they tend to be made from very very hot material.  Designer offerings in silk are astronomically expensive but a good variety of mid-range stuff is available in cool fabrics and pretty designs.  Abayas are sized by length in inches from your shoulder to your ankle (or the floor).  Most shops stock 58 as standard but will order in a shorter one for you (or have it altered to your specification).  Being short I take a 53 so I tend to have to get them altered, this is generally done at no extra cost.

You can pick one up in a market shop for a reasonable price
but prepare to boil
Most of mine are ‘open front’ that close with popper buttons and a belt.  They look a little like a cross between the academic gown I wore at university and my dressing gown which is a strange thing to wander about in in public! Open abayas work well for malls and air conditioned places and seem to be the most popular with our local friends, that said I tend to prefer dresses to trousers so I have to make certain that Mini EE does not indulge in her favourite hobby of popper button opening when we are out and about. I have invested in a large volume of  replacement poppers as the dratted things come off  and roll away if you so much as look at them.   I have also bought some long dress like cotton abayas that I can wear on their own or with just light cotton trousers when walking out and about. 
Abayas are a way to showcase your sense of fashion when out and about
(NB the shops are shut for evening prayers hence the shutters)
A quick look at Saudi women shows that the extent to which they wear what westerners would perceive as a ‘traditional’ abaya varies quite a lot.  The colour issue aside some women’s abayas are not much more than a long, light coat in an array of colours and left completely open while others are completely covered in black from head to foot, even wearing gloves.  Many expat women dislike the abaya.  I don’t resent wearing it as such, (it means I am not going to get sunburn) but I do resent the fact that I have no say in the matter  (though I would probably wear an abaya or other similarly modest clothing as a matter of courtesy even if not required to).  That said everyone who comes to KSA knows the rules and accepts them when they arrive.  Even Saudi women have a love/hate relationship with their abayas, embracing what is good about the garment while struggling with the problems it can create (tripping over, catching in escalators, trailing sleeves, overheating etc). 

As soon as you are through a door and into a private space it is perfectly acceptable to remove your abaya as long as invited to do so by your hosts (be guided by them).  Most women here will choose to do so although some will prefer to retain their headcovering and/or their abaya, it is all a matter of personal preference.  It can be very strange to step through a door and remove it only to mingle in a large open space that is perfectly visible from the ‘street’.

Men also tend to dress conservatively and traditionally.
Head coverings are not obligatory for expats (Muslim or otherwise) unless approached to cover by the muttawa (religious police), I try to remember to always carry a scarf in my handbag so that I can cover up in the event that I am asked but I have never yet been approached to do so.  I know one long term expat whose husband was approached and told to get her to cover her head, once in the many years she has been here.  As soon as the people who approached her had gone some local women approached her, apologised and invited her to remove it if she so wished.  Saudi women wear a head covering, ranging from the full niqab to a light scarf pushed back on the head. 

Young children are not subject to any clothing restrictions and wear pretty much what they want.  Like women men are also required to dress ‘modestly’ but the interpretation of ‘modest’ is much more fluid.  The majority of Saudi men wear the traditional long white thobes together with headdresses (thrown up on the head or behind the neck when indoors and used to protect the face when out in the sun.  On special occasions the ensemble is topped with a light cloak known as a bisht with sumptuous gold embroidery along the edges.  Some Saudi men prefer to wear western clothes, particularly at the weekends and t shirts are not uncommon.  Expat men are fine to wear normal suits or typical leisure clothing.  Western style shorts are not considered acceptable, you do see the odd western expat (and, very rarely, a Saudi man) wearing them out of the house or compound but it is very much the exception.  

For more posts on life in Saudi Arabia please click on the picture below.

Ersatz Expat

13 September 2016

Pet Nightmare

I have not written a post about our pets for a long time.  Bessie and Perdie the dogs and Kismet the cat had to stay in Ipoh, Malaysia when we moved to Jeddah and live with a friend, our vet, while we waited for import permits. 
Bessie, our oldest dog is a loved and loving member of the family.
We have missed her terribly.
A few weeks ago we got some excellent news, Bessie and Kismet would be able to join us at the start of September.  Perdie is still waiting for an import permit.  While we were a little sad that our reunion with Perdita would be delayed a while longer we were over the moon at the prospect of seeing Bessie and Kismet again.  Bessie because, at 15 years old we know she does not have much longer with us and Kismet because she was only 6 months old when we had to leave her and we were worried that she had forgotten us. 

Bessie before travelling to KL,
old but strong and healthy
 We had some problems with Bessie’s export clearance.  The government vet in KL reported that she had ticks and needed to be cleaned.  Given that she had left our vet’s care tick free she can only have got them at the very expensive and apparently recommended pet hotel in KL.  We thought nothing of it as the handling company said they would arrange treatment and it should not impact on her travel date.  The weekend before the pets were due to arrive was hectic, our daughters celebrate their birthdays on 1 and 2 September so I had two lots of cupcakes to bake for the girls to bring into class and then two cakes to bake for their joint birthday party.

After just a few days in KL, this is the photograph that gave us nightmares.
Tick fever was slowly killing our beloved dog.
During the party on the Saturday we got some very disturbing news, Bessie had become very sick with an infection and was being sent for blood tests.  They sent us a photo of an open and infected wound that had developed on a patch of dry skin on her elbow.  Stuck thousands of kilometres away from our pet we started to become very worried.  At this stage, however the handling company were still talking about her recovering and being well enough to fly with a few days delay, we thought they were being optimistic given the photographs but we did not think the condition was too serious.  By the following day, however, her condition had deteriorated very badly and the emergency vet said she would recommend that Bessie be put to sleep. Our older children were distraught, Bessie has been with them all their lives,  friend and confidante.  Mr EE and I were heartbroken, Bessie joined our family when we returned from honeymoon, our first ‘baby’.  I know owners are partial but she has always been a very special dog. People who are scared of dogs still want to pet her, with her fuzzy face she looks like the eponymous hero of the popular Hairy MacClary children’s books.  She has comforted us and our family members during the hardest times of our lives and given so many people so much joy.  She deserved much more than dying alone in a hospital in a strange city.

The so called luxury pet hotel ha allowed Bessie's
elbow to get wet and infected.  How long did they wait
before seeking treatment for a wound to get this bad?

Without another thought we booked a last minute flight to KL, I packed a carry on and went straight to the airport.  Given the time difference I would be landing late afternoon on Monday 5 September, the 15th anniversary of the day Bessie came to live with us.  I emailed the hospital to ask them to do all they could to keep her alive until I arrived.  Our vet in Ipoh said she would drive down to KL after work so she could also say goodbye to Bessie.  I spent the flight alternately watching rubbish to try to keep my mind off things and scrolling through photographs of Bessie praying that I would get there in time.  The flight was almost empty which was a good thing because I must have looked demented with tears streaming down my face the whole time.  Without luggage I was able to speed through immigration.  Not knowing where the hospital was and almost dropping with exhaustion I decided to get a taxi instead of a rental car.  The hospital gave him directions and told me that Bessie was still holding on.  They also offered to suspend their normal 15 minute visiting restrictions and allow me to spend as much time as I needed with Bess.

Bessie was very sick and struggling to respond
when I found her.
When I arrived she was hooked up to a drip in a ward kennel.  She was very sick but  made an effort to lift her head when she saw me, it crashed straight back down to the floor.  I crawled in there with her, stroking her head and holding her paw.  Her breathing was shallow and laboured and her heart hardly beat.  She snuffled at the old socks I had brought from Mr EE and the children, we wanted her to know that even though I was the only one there, the others had not forgotten her and when we called Jeddah  she stirred at the sound of the voices at the other end of the phone. 

After lots of cuddling (I lay in the cage with her)
She finally managed to take some water from her bowl.
I sat there for about 4 hours and in that time she seemed to perk up a little.  She was able to take water from my hand and made small movements to try to push closer to me.  It broke my heart, left for 8 months and she still wanted nothing more than to be with me.  By the time my own vet had arrived Bess was able to lift her head enough to take water from the bowl.  We looked through the medical tests, Bessie’s exposure to ticks had resulted in the infection which was causing her organs to shut down, alone in a strange place she had not had the will to fight.  Our vet thought that in more familiar surroundings Bess would perk up.  She offered to take her back to her own surgery and nurse her there,  I could visit until my return flight.  While she was sick the vet thought the move would not distress her any more than being alone and would give her a chance of recovery, if she did not get better we could put her to sleep in comfortable surroundings.  Mr EE and I discussed it over the phone and decided that if the vet thought it worth a try we would give it a go.  Suddenly a funeral trip had turned into a rescue mission.  We put Bessie on some towels in the back of the Drs car and she dropped me at a hotel before heading north.

I was relieved to see Kismet had not
suffered from her time in the hotel.
The next morning I found a hire car company and headed to the handling company offices.  Kismet was there ahead of her flight and given the condition Bessie had been in I wanted to check that she was ok, luckily she was fine and remembered me.  The visit also gave me a chance to go through a timeline of events and work out exactly what had happened as I want, eventually to put in a complaint about the pet hotel.
Bessie still sick bu looking brighter for being with loved ones
By the time I got up to Ipoh Bess really was a lot brighter, able to twitch her tail and take some liquid food.  After spending some time with her the vet took me to her home to visit Perdie, she had been a little down since Bessie (who she sees as a mother) and Kismet left but gave me the most rapturous of welcomes.  She climbed in my lap, licked my face and feet and pressed and leaned against me as though she never wanted to let me go.  If the hotel had allowed dogs I would have taken her with me.  
Perdie was over the moon to see me again
The following morning at the vets and Bessie looked like a different dog.  She had crawled off her bed in the night to do her business which was the first time we had seen her interested in self care.  She had taken her cannula out and was licking the paw it had been in.  Seeing her looking so much better we decided to try her on solid food and gave her a meal of steamed chicken and rice.  She was clearly hungry and I felt rather mean limiting her to a few bites so as not to upset her stomach.  Perdie was also happy to see me and we spent a happy few hours playing and throwing balls and I spoiled her with the biggest bone I could find.  

Wednesday morning, moving around and with
some light in her eyes.
Perdie still happy to see me.
When I got back to Bessie she was well enough to lick my hand and actively snuggle in to me.  What a difference a few days and some love can make.  We don’t know yet whether she will recover enough to be able to fly but if she does not our vet (who loves her almost as much as we do) will keep her for us for as long as she lives.  Hopefully being in a loving environment and having Perdie around will work wonders.  If she does fly, and when Perdie does, we will pay to have the pets transported to and from Ipoh to KL for vet checks and for the final flight, there is no way they will ever go to that pet hotel again and I will put in a formal complaint to the Malaysian authorities, the vet, who sits on several animal cruelty advisory boards will help me. My pet may be 15 years old but she is still loved and her life still has value, they neglected her until she became sick all the time charging me money for their ‘care’. 

Brighter by the minute
I almost did not want to leave on Thursday as I could see how much my presence meant to Bessie but I had to leave to get my flight.  Just before I left she stood up and was able to take a short walk outside to do her business.  An improvement beyond anything we could have hoped for.  We are not stupid, we know that at 15 Bessie could go at any time but we want her to be with people who love her and to give her every chance.  We are beyond grateful to the vet and so thankful that this happened in a country we could get to without visa problems.  Had this happened in Saudi, for example, or Kazakhstan we would never have been able to get to the dog.  I am also so proud of Master EE who, without prompting or rancour, gave up is chance to join his school trip to New York, so that I could fly to Malaysia to be with Bessie.  

Saying goodbye to Perdie
Just a few days after we thought she
would need to be put to sleep Bessie can stand!
The house in Jeddah is lovely and we are turning it into a home but it has always felt as though it is missing something.  Being with the dogs again made me realise that we are missing them, we have always had dogs and I don’t think any of us feel that a house can really be a home without a pet in it.  They clearly feel the same way about us.  That feeling was somewhat tempered when I walked through the door to see Kismet playing with the children, she makes the house a happier place by her presence and we hope one or both of our dogs can join us soon.

For more information and stories on expat pets please click the picture below.

The Ersatz Guide To Expat Pets

Posted as part of the Animal Tales blog link up.