Friday, May 30, 2008

I Have Committed My First!

Yep, it’s true. My first feature film screenplay is up and running on InkTip. If you are a producer/director/entertainment person, who is interested in a film about a single Saudi girl hitting rock bottom in the States, please check my “Untwisted” out. The logline goes “A Saudi student in the States has a month to pay off a huge debt, but can she do it legally?”

The screenplay is my thesis, with the defense scheduled for June 6th,
Diana Abu-Jaber (English, Writing) as head, Charles Deemer (English, Writing) and Karin Magaldi (Theater Arts) as members.

At first, I dreaded the idea of defense. However, after a student reading at
Black Fish Gallery in the Pearl District May 27th I viewed thesis defensing under a much positive light. Interacting with an audience which have spent considerable amount of time reading, understanding, analyzing and dissecting your work is not a bad idea!

Reading (fiction) to a group, on the other hand, merely allows for communicating a fragment of an intricate piece to an audience that attended out of politeness and good heart. Such audience can only smile at you while you read, chuckle on occasions and complement you with a pat as you exit. Reading nights have the ability to make you feel weird, because while they offer the immediacy of communication, they compensate the quality of it.

It is true as well, that I’m gaining a departure momentum with our dearest Toyota Avalon sold on the morning of June 27th, preceded by a month notice to the lease office. I am fragmented, horrified, happy, ecstatic, confused and everything else. But I know for certain that righ now I wish for nothing but to return to Saudi Arabia and WORK BABY WORK!

On a personal note, thanx
Murtadha for being my Saudi audience, documenting the event! Frogman, Trev, Ahmed, Arwa, Nouf Al-Wadi, Ayman Allam and Hadeel for being first to read and critique.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How Can Families Improve the Now and Future of Maids & Drivers in Saudi?

A few years back, my family and I went to Indonesia for the holidays. My dad saw to it that we experienced the rural villages, hills and farms of Indonesia rather than the polished up touristic sights. With the primitive beauty of the villages came the rubbing against people who previously worked or have relatives who work as maids and drivers in Saudi Arabia. Many of the villagers were not happy with us, to say the least. They gossiped about us while trying to sell us things. Whether we chose to buy or not, the unspoken curses chilled us at the spine; damn you and your riches!

In that environment my dread of having maids multiplied by the hundreds. The maids and drivers were no longer a minority, they were a majority. They became the owners of the land and my family became the visitor, vulnerable at any moment to receiving punishment for any Asian helper who was treated harshly in Saudi. Those who worked and were treated fairly are not expected to be grateful because they received money for services they provided. But what about
the mistreated? Anger speaks with such an infectious energy that it becomes the only voice audible.

Three years married, most of it in pursuit of education abroad, I have not yet settled in my natural habitat, an owned villa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In a couple of months, hubby and I will be returning home with a child. Going back, getting jobs and enrolling our child in school will naturally mean resuming our social role as a family that entertains relatives, in-laws and guests.

Beside the question of which job, preschool, furniture and car, there is the question about whether to hire a maid or not. With the amount of guests, dust, house size and the time spent at work, the answer is most probably yes; we will need help at home. If so,
what type of a maid should we hire? A fulltime (live in) or a part time (local)? Which nationality, age, religion?

From years of getting to know myself, I know two things: I cannot order people around, and I don’t feel comfortable living in the same house with a person who does not have the same rights I do. Having a maid could possibly weigh me with too much guilt that I begin to help the maid instead of accepting her help.

Choosing not to hire a maid will be a personal choice. However, if it were adopted by a large percentage of Saudis such a choice (might) not work for the (economic) benefit of countries which continue to export helpers. But are economic interests on the level of governments be sufficient enough reason for Saudi families to continue importing “Asian” helpers with a sound heart and conscience?

In accordance with the May 14th
Bloggers Unite for Human Rights, I would like to collaborate with you all in brain storming practical plans for improving the situation of maids and drivers in Saudi Arabia. Things that a common Saudi family can do to make the life of imported helpers better while they're in Saudi, and after they return home.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Confusing Rights with Pragmatism?

Saudi Family Faces Threats to Funding & Family is a story which ran two weeks ago by the Barometer about a Saudi family consisting of husband, wife, a 4 y.o. and a baby who is due soon. Shortly after the family arrived in Corvallis, Oregon, a physical quarrel took place between the husband and wife, resulting in the involvement of American authorities and a warning by the Saudi embassy to terminate the scholarship. The wife, who is the only one interviewed in the story, remains in the US while her husband returns home. She is requesting her “right” to pursue her scholarship, divorce her husband, keep her children and be allowed to work with her F1 visa so she can support her family. She is also seeking “asylum” from the American government.

Two days ago, the same story was forward to me by an American friend. She asked hubby and me if we and other Saudi students can support this family in a time of hardship. I read, and reread the story, without being able to make up my mind about it. It is clearly biased, and takes the stand point of the wife alone. We do not get to hear much about the husband who already left to Saudi Arabia, nor is the Embassy giving out any statements because the information they have, as they were quoted, is what the wife had told them.

I could not help but wonder, is the wife truly a victim here? Is she asking for her rights, or is she a pragmatist trying to get the benefit out of Saudi and American system both at the same time?