The next day, July 26th just happened to be our birthday, both Oran’s and mine coincidentally, but since we had done so much for the past three days, considered that to be our celebration. Sharon Morris had me over for coffee that morning, and the Kings had me over for dinner that evening. We all talked to Oran on the phone to wish him a Happy Birthday too, but he didn't get any of the cake Jeanine had baked. He did fly back to Abqaiq the next evening, however, and had the next five days off to make the switch over after weekend duty.
During that time, on Wednesday, July 30th, we went to an all day orientation in Dhahran for new employees of the past several months. We left Abqaiq at 6:30 in a taxi with the Kings and went directly to the Oil Exhibit building there, located, at that time, just past the hospital on the road to Al-Khobar. It started out with a series of lectures and films on, "What Aramco Is All About", with breaks in between for coffee and sweet rolls.
At noon we were taken to the Dining Hall for an Arab style meal, called a Kabsa, or as the American's called it, a “Goat Grab”. It was held in a special room devoid of furniture, and we sat on the floor on Persian type rugs in circles of 6 to 8 people. A large round tray with lamb and chicken on a big mound of rice was placed in the center of each circle. Tabuleh salad, Arab bread, bowls of fruit, and Arab coffee and tea were also placed around the trays. We ate with our right hand only, in the Arab tradition, had a lot of good laughs as a lot of the food spilled on the floor, which was to be expected. It was a lot of fun and interesting.
We were taken back to the Oil Exhibit Building after that for more lectures and films until 4 o'clock. Everyone was really keyed up by then, so we decided to go into Al-Khobar to shop. That was a mistake, as the temperature was 111 degrees and the humidity 100% right on the Persian Gulf. We were miserable and couldn't concentrate on shopping, so went to eat at the Floating Restaurant. As usual the food was good, but I didn't think I would get Oran to go back to Al-Khobar until it got cooler again. All in all, though, it had been a very enlightening and enjoyable day.
Although it was the actual weekend, and Oran was in camp for the first time on the weekend in a month, we didn't do anything special. There were more boxes from the shipment to be unpacked, so we did that, went swimming, rested, and saw a few friends.
On Saturday, August 2nd, the beginning of the work week, Oran started going to a special school in Abqaiq, so he stayed in camp. He was home for lunch every day between 11:30 and 12:30 and every evening beginning at 4, so our schedule changed somewhat. We did a variety of things - ate at the Dining Hall one evening, played bridge at the Morris’ another, had the only bachelor foreman in Oran's group over to dinner one evening, went to the Kings for homemade ice cream another. I did the usual daytime things – a coffee one morning for a woman moving to Dhahran, bridge one morning with "the group", newcomers coffee, etc. I just juggled everything in between Oran's new schedule.
At the same time, Arab workmen had been making some repairs in our apartment that we had requested – new faucets in the kitchen sink, including one that would hold the sweet water tap on, a new cabinet and sink in the bathroom, door-latches fixed, a leak fixed in the washing machine pipe, etc. (About the sweet water tap – every Aramco house had two water taps, one was a hot and cold combination, to do the washing and general cleaning, and the other, called the sweet water tap to use for drinking and cooking. It had been distilled and purified.) I was so pleased I offered the team tea, so we had a cup together. That seemed to please them, too.
I had continued to go around camp with Sharon Morris in her Austin-Healey. On Wednesday we were going to the Commissary, so we got in the car in their assigned garage and started backing out into the alley, but we were run into by a truck going by. It was impossible to see before the car got half way out of the garage. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but security had to be called and all sorts of people came out to investigate, including an Arab Government Relations man, another Arab from the local police station, and a Santa-Fe Representative, since Jim was the manager for that company. There was a lot of discussion while everyone stood around in the heat (121 degrees), but they finally decided it was unavoidable, so no one got a ticket or anything. Sharon was really lucky as her driver’s license had expired (Saudi), and she hadn't planned to have it renewed as Jim had been transferred to Beirut, Lebanon, and they would be moving there in October. We were really sad that they were leaving, as they had been such good neighbors and friends to us.
After breakfast the next morning Oran and I went to the suqs and Madinat to get some things we couldn't find in the Commissary. Back at the apartment, we worked on putting up the new drapes that had come in the shipment. Our friend, Jack Hays, was in camp from Hawiyah so he came by to visit before we went to the Morris' that evening for dinner and bridge. Jack came back over the next morning to have breakfast with us as he was still in camp. Then we finished hanging the drapes and took care of some errands around camp.
Oran was beginning to feel sad because he had to go back to ‘Udhailiyah the next day. His weeks in Abqaiq Camp were rare, so were treasured highly. After he left the next morning, Saturday, August 16, it was back to the usual routine for me.
I had Sharon over for coffee, then went to the Women’s Club Portable with Marge to work on the Newcomers Coffee. The next couple of days, I wrote letters, played bridge, and had more Arab workmen come to fix more things in our apartment. In the middle of Monday night, Oran called to talk about his work frustrations. I think things were beginning to get to him, which wasn't unusual over there, at times.
It’s beginning to sound like a broken record, but there was another bridge party for me the next morning. At least we could do this activity indoors. We couldn't even go to the swimming pool much as it was so terribly hot in August in Saudi Arabia. Everything you touched burned your exposed skin, as in Texas, but much much worse.
Sharon was selling her large plants, so I bought four of them and hoped I could do something with them. Plants were a premium item in Arabia at that time, especially large ones, so they were in great demand when someone left the Kingdom. That was one thing you couldn't ship out with you as you left. Of course, I sure didn't have a green thumb, in fact, even my air fern had died, but I was going to give it a go.
That evening my phone was out of order again, so I was frustrated, too. The workmen were finished repairing, but started painting the next day. I had lunch at the Dining Hall with Marge Williams, then we went to buy some more plants from another woman leaving Arabia. I was a glutton for punishment.
Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah for the weekend. He had had a terrible week and almost quit. To help cheer him up, we called Jeanine King over for drinks and dinner and repeated that the next evening to include Jerry and the Morris'. The last day of that weekend was very casual with general duties, rest and relaxation. We went by the Kings to help them "babysit" a still, and visited the Kauls.
Saturday evening there were enough gals in camp without their husbands to have a bridge get together, so I went to Marge's and met Kathi and Sandy there. We had a bite to eat and started to play cards, but then there was an explosion at the LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) Plant. We all walked to the clubhouse patio to see as much of that as we could, but when it looked like they had it under control, we went back to play bridge.
Later that week, Oran called to say he had been told we could take our vacation to be home Christmas. Maybe that would help. Thursday, August 21st, there was a performance and dance at the Golf Clubhouse, so we went to that with Sharon, Jim, Jeanine and Jerry, then to the King's house after for more drinks. It was an enjoyable evening.
The Morris' furnishings were being packed the next day, and when that was done they came by our apartment for wine before going to dinner at some other friend's house. We took some enchiladas I had made and went to Steindorfs for a Mexican dinner with the foremen's group. Everyone made a dish, and it was so successful we decided we would have a get together regularly.
Marge, Sandy and I bussed to Al-Khobar the next morning, Saturday, after our husbands had gone back to 'Udhailiyah. We ate lunch at a neat, new Chinese Restaurant in the Al-Kharja Hotel on 1st Street downtown. Everyone was so thrilled when a new eating place was opened, and this was different and nice. We had to take a "Kamakazi" local Arab taxi back to Dhahran to catch our bus back to Abqaiq, but it was worth it.
Rumors started going around camp the next day about a bad fire that had taken place at Compressor Station 961 on the West Flank of the Water Injection Project south of Udhailiyah. Of course, all the wives whose husbands worked there were frantically trying to call to find out if they were all right, so it was pretty tense for awhile. As it turned out, five men were burned badly – two Englishmen and three Arabs. The wives knew that any one of their husbands could have been at that station for one reason or another, so it was a relief to us all to find out they were all right, although we were very sorry about the men who had been injured.
On Monday I had a going away coffee for Sharon and some of her friends, then cooked dinner for her and Jim that evening. She and the kids, Jay and Lisa, would be going to the States on a vacation while Jim would start winding up things before joining them there. Hopefully, their shipment would have time to get to Beirut before their return.
Oran came home from 'Udhailiyah Wednesday evening still very upset with his job and the situation. Jeanine had given me a container of "slushes" (blended frozen lemonade and white lightening) that helped a little.
We tried going to the swimming pool again the next day in the 111 degree heat. There was still no pool in 'Udhailiyah and Oran did enjoy swimming. That evening we went to our first movie since arriving back in Arabia. This one wasn't too bad, although most turned out to be in the triple "B" class and anything remotely interesting in them was censored by being bleeped out, such as certain dialog or a kiss.
Although not happy, Oran flew on back to 'Udhailiyah the next morning to start the work week. He had a talk with his bosses about the job situation, which was not encouraging, and he almost quit again. I continued my usual activities during the week, worrying a bit about what might happen. But when he came home on Wednesday, his attitude about work had improved almost 100%. He had decided to stop fighting things so hard, just accept the situation, and do the best he could – give Aramco a decent days work, speak up when he thought something was too out of line (instead of suffering in silence), take advantage of and ask for some of the good things being offered, such as getting our vacation in December, being able to return to Abqaiq most Monday nights, and a 5 day holiday the first part of October. He seemed so much happier, and, of course, so was I.
It was now Thursday, September 4th. We had been invited to Ras Tanura again by the Smyths, so decided to splurge and ride up in a taxi – what the heck. Upon arrival, we were served Bloody Marys and a delicious brunch, then played bridge with Pat and Guy. Later Rose and Jack Mowbray, Ann and Bob Gulovensen, and Sheryl Thole came over for drinks and snacks. We all decided to go swimming in the gulf, then went to Sheryl's for more drinks. There was never a dull moment any time we visited in Ras Tanura.
The next morning, Oran and I went back to the beach before the others even got up. We walked to the north, as far as we could go to the perimeter fence, saw Art Gasperetti and Vic Reese, then turned around walked to the south. We covered all the area in front of the Recreation Building, Theater, Guest House, all the beach houses, and half way down to the Refinery area to a secluded area of the beach. There wasn't another person in sight. We swam out from shore for a distance in the beautiful, blue green, calm waters of the Persian Gulf. It was moments like that in Arabia that helped make up for all the bad things.
When we got back to the Smyth's, we all went to breakfast at the Dining Hall, then to Rose and Jack’s to play bridge all afternoon. About 5, we started our drive back to Abqaiq in a taxi, and on the way saw a lot of Arab families out enjoying the weekend evening. It had started to cool down a wee bit in the evenings. We also saw two wrecks between Dhahran and Abqaiq, but all in all, it had been a very enjoyable and relaxing trip for us, which we really needed, especially Oran, so things were beginning to look up again.