Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

28 March 2010

As-Salaam Aleekum

In our quest to become bilingual, Dano and I began our Arabic lessons about three weeks ago. Dano works for just about one of the best companies. To help with our life-adjusting move, they are providing language training for us. Our instructor is from Egypt and is quite good with English, a necessity for me. He comes to our home twice a week for instruction. The first time he came, Dano was not home yet and I invited him in. He promptly asked if he could pray, as it was the beginning of saleh. He asked which way was East (as you may know they must pray facing Makkah). I had no idea so I pulled out my iphone and thanks to the handy compass app, was able to point him the right way. So each time he comes, he kneels and prays in our living room while Dano and I hang out in the kitchen for seven or eight minutes.

Dano is excelling at Arabic (over-achiever!) and I am doing my best to keep up! Hakeem has made mention that my ‘southern’ is affecting my pronunciation. (When we were receiving instruction while still in Ohio, Dano and I were practicing repeating the phrases of our tutor. I promise, I do my best to exactly replicate exactly what is being said. At one point, Naveen looked at me, appalled, and, raising her finger said, “No! That is Hebrew!” Mea culpa! I would not want to sound like I’m speaking Hebrew here! That would just not go over well!) All I can say is thank goodness I’m not a super-phlegmmy person! We have begun by learning the basic greetings. For Saudis, the first five minutes of their conversations are consumed by greeting each other in about five different ways, mingled with a little kissing exchange. Although Dano has done very well greeting everyone from hotel clerks to security guards to random Saudis who approach us, I have not seen him engage in any of the kissing. I am certain that some of his success comes just because he’s smart and quick, but some of it comes because he’s in settings where he is able to use it. He has impressed many co-workers as he uses it at work. As I mentioned, he also uses it wherever we go. I’m not able to because no one talks to me and I’m not supposed to speak to anyone. I get my practice when I visit the school, which is seldom (only on pre-arranged parent days). So, Dano is my practice and he’s very patient with me and likes my ‘southern!’

This past week Dano was in Riyadh for a couple of days so I received individual instruction which was very helpful for me. Hakeem came in and prayed as normal and then we began. As we sat there I noticed a large mole or birthmark on his forehead that I had not noticed before. After about twenty minutes, he rubbed his forehead (probably out of exasperation with my awkward pronunciation), made a little snort, and out of the corner of my eye I saw him remove a raisin that had stuck to his forehead during his prayer. (Have I mentioned that Abby loves raisins?) Apparently she had dropped one on our beautiful rug and he happened to kneel down right in the spot, bent over to pray and it stuck to his forehead! I really was torn between pretending not to notice, being mortified, and plain bursting out in laughter. Fortunately I leaned toward the mortified, apologized (through a slight smile I couldn’t help), and disposed of the smushed raisin.

Overall, I’m excited for this great opportunity. I’m excited to hear Dano use it when we’re out. I’m excited to hear the children use it (Hakeem was very impressed with Ethan’s grasp of Arabic). I just have to keep reminding myself that we’re learning it as a child learns to speak, first by learning the alphabet and numbers and then building up to simple, commonly used phrases. I am seeing the great effects of learning a language while completely immersed. Erin sings us little songs in Arabic. Kennedy is slowly being able to read signs while we’re driving around, while I am becoming more adept with the letters and numbers by translating license plates. I can’t help but think that years down the road this exposedness to Arabic will be a great benefit to our family. Ma as-salaama

19 March 2010

Mada’in Saleh and Al Ula

A couple of weeks ago we returned from a trip a little way up north. The latter part of the trip was spent in a small city called Al Ula. We had read about it before and were anxious to visit. First, outside of Al Ula about twenty kilometers is a magnificent place called Mada’in Saleh. It’s a collection of 131 tombs dating back to the children of Noah. Over time there were multiple civilizations that inhabited the area. The early history is sketchy but suggests it was founded as a Minaean town. Most renowned of its dwellers were the Nabataeans. This is the same civilization that inhabited Petra in Jordan.
(Have you se
en Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades?) Mada’in Saleh is referred to as the little sister of Petra. The people carved tombs out of the rock structures. Then they carved ornately decorated facades. The tombs are spread out over an area of at least ten square miles of land that resembles the southwest United States. There are tombs for people of lesser wealth, tombs for physicians (as marked by a sculpture of a person’s head with two snakes coming out of it – they revered Moses as a prophet and knew this story), tombs for plain ol’ wealthy people, and tombs for royalty.

There w
ere two meeting houses that we saw. One was small and carved into a single standing rock. Another was quite large and carved at the opening of a canyon, called The Siq meaning corridor or passage. After passing this gathering room, the canyon opened up to include multiple levels of ritualistic areas. The meeting room was the first level. Then it progressed to a cistern that had a very intricate water canal built to feed water to it. There was an altar with another meeting room that opened toward it. One of the rooms had three distinct seats for the officiators. We hiked up steep stone stairs and crevices for about five hundred vertical feet. Dano expertly did this with Abby in the carrier on his back. Our climb culminated with reaching a large rock which was identified as a sacred altar. This alter was larger than the previous one and overlooked the entire valley of Mada’in Saleh. The canyon was riddled with inscriptions. The guide referred to this whole area as a mountain temple. We have our speculations of who could have worshipped here and were very humbled to be on such once-sacred ground.

We spent quite some time exploring the city of Al Ula. Al Ula was originally Dedan, the same that is mentioned in the Old Testament. It was inhabited by the Dedanites. As the local history tells, in approximately 500 B.C. the Dedanites changed their name to the Lihyanites (pronounced le-hi-an-ites) after one of their great leaders who dwelt with them for some time. The city of Al Ula is one of the major stops on the frankincense trail used by travelers for hundreds of years. Upon entering Al Ula we left the vast deserty land and were greeted by lush green date palms and thick green foliage, most definitely a “fertile part of the land.” The vast fertility has been attributed to the massive lava flows in the region thousands of years before, creating very rich soil. One morning we drove up the western side of the city, up the mountain through tight switchbacks a thousand feet. The top of the mountain looked like, as Dano described it, the moon; just flat and covered with black rocks as far as the eye could see. We drove to an overlook from which we could see all of Al Ula. The distinct difference in vegetation could readily be seen from here. From here, only with binoculars, we could look across the valley and see, at a slightly lower elevation, the noted Lihyanite sanctuary. This is on the side of Um Daraj mountain. At the entrance of the sanctuary there is a large rock with an etching on the face which clearly showed two people, a man and a woman, with a snake over their heads and two trees. Our guide said this was dated back to prehistoric times. Around the mountain we came upon the sanctuary. Unfortunately it has been closed off due to archeologist exploration. We were able to view it from the fence and saw the several tombs marked with lions etched in the fa├žade. Here there is also a large basin or cistern that would have been for ritualistic washings. At the top of the mountain, which again we were unable to access, there is a Lihyanite temple. We could view this with our binoculars from the overlook I mentioned. Here there are steps carved up the mountain leading to amphitheater-like seating that would have held hundreds of people. There is a place carved in the ground believed to be used for animal sacrifices. There is another washing area with another basin. There are remnants of statues. The temple was multi-level with the highest being the most holy. The temple has been mostly destroyed. According to the Qu’ran, the people fell into idol worshipping and disgraced the temple. God destroyed it with a mighty gust of wind and killed the people.

Inside the city of Al Ula there is a large (am I using that word too much?!) ancient city formed out of mud walls. There are hallways that connect each home. From the outside, one would never guess that there are over eight hundred homes in this area of less than one square mile. It was built with fortress in mind. The homes are connected in a way that would make them nearly impermeable to invaders. Most of them are two stories. There are fourteen gates to the city and two mud buildings dedicated for worship. There is also a fort on the north side of the city. We enjoyed climbing the 193 stairs to the top from which watchmen could have the advantage of seeing any oncoming forces. Adjacent to the homes there was a large farm and agricultural area with mud walls separating the farms. The people of Al Ula appear to have been very industrious people.

The final part I want to include about our visit to Mada’in Saleh is the Hejaz railway. For those of you familiar with Lawrence of Arabia, it is the same railway. It was constructed in the beginning of the 1900s by the Ottoman Empire as a defensive asset bringing in Turkish soldiers, and also to transport pilgrims to facilitate performance of the sacred Hajj in Makkah (Mecca). The train ran from Damascus to Medina. It was later sabotaged during the First World War by raids of the Arabs led by T.E. Lawrence. There still remain abandoned forts all along the railway. The one in Mada’in Saleh had several buildings associated with it. They have somewhat refurbished it but the original locomotives are still housed in the train station. There is also a prison and execution chamber. In its nearly ten years of operation, it is recorded that the railroad transported 1,311,907 passengers. On our drive home we followed the abandoned train tracks for at least 100 kilometers noting the small fort remains. It’s funny to think that although this rail system is over a hundred years old it is the most modern part, by far, of the region.

We are so grateful we had this opportunity to explore this very historic part of Saudi Arabia, a part of history our children would never have learned about in school, a part of history that, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has given us a thrill as well as an appreciation for the first family of the Book of Mormon.

12 March 2010

Hooray for Kennedy!

No it’s not a birthday party invitation! Kennedy surprised us by setting the dinner table with a paper at Dano’s seat and mine. The paper at Dano’s seat was a certificate for the Headmaster’s Award of Excellence. She received this for earning her bronze and silver medallions. In the grammar school they award merits rather than house points for outstanding work and behavior. These merits are added up and awarded with medallions the students wear on their ties. On average a student working well will receive all three medallions during the school year. Students who work hard earn them quicker. Kennedy managed to earn the bronze and silver medallions over the course of her first six weeks here. She is very pleased, as are we. The paper at my place was a card from the keystage head (person over years 7-9). Kennedy then surreptitiously reached back into the china cabinet and produced a trophy. We all joked about her being invited to a birthday party! She laughed and told us she had been named the outstanding year 7 girl, meaning for the past month she had scored the highest overall of any girl in her year. (One is also awarded to a boy.) As always, we’re so proud of our children’s accomplishments and hard work (like most parents). So, please pardon the horn-tooting. This post is mostly for doting grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, and for teachers who have worked with and inspired Kennedy.

11 March 2010

School's In

After much thought and research we chose to send our kids to Jeddah Prep and Grammar School. It is a British/Dutch school that was established in Jeddah in 1967. It has received recognition as being the best international school. The curriculum is challenging and the rules a little stiff, but it has proved to be the best option for our kids. The British educational system begins schooling at age four, making what we call kindergarten Year 1. So Erin is in Year 2, Ethan is in Year 4, and Kennedy is in Year 7. Ethan and Erin attend the Prep school and Kennedy attends the Grammar school, both of which are on the same campus.

The school divides their students into houses with each house competing against each other all year to earn points. At the end of the year the points are tallied and the house with the most points wins the coveted House Cup…sound a little Harry Potter-ish? Apparently this is common in the British school system. The kids take their house points very seriously. They earn them for outstanding work, behavior, and overall excellence. They are also earned at in-school activities such as field day and interhouse sporting and intellectual competitions. Fortunately the school was wise enough to put children from the same family in the same house, thus dispelling any rivalries at home. Our children are in the Farasan House with the shirt color of blue. Farasan is a group of islands in the Red Sea off southern Saudi.

The children are adapting to the British way of spelling and picking up some more-British used expressions. Ethan is the only one, though, who has picked up any change in his dialect. It has been funny to watch them with their spelling of words such as ‘favour’ or ‘centimetre’ and not correct them. Their math problems dealing with money are also in pounds and pence. I realized the other day that Erin was not quite solidly grounded in the U.S. money system and has forgotten what a nickel and dime are and their value. Oops. Guess we need to be working on that at home. Kennedy is becoming quite knowledgeable in English history. She’s not very pleased, though, that the school does not recognize the Fourth of July and they still have to go to school. Dano and I asked her why they would want to celebrate our independence from them!!

A bonus of the school is that they offer after-school activities. The bus even brings them home when they stay. The older years are allowed to participate in more activities than the younger ones. Erin is taking ballet. Ethan is involved in prep choir, basketball, and cricket. Kennedy participates in a current events/cultural discussion group, girls taebo, choir, and horseback riding. The horse riding is given at an off-site location. They spend half the time receiving riding instruction and the other half helping disabled kids ride horses. Kennedy loves this as she has wanted to ride horses for quite some time (must be in her blood) and she loves helping children. The activities change each term. The school is on a trimester schedule with three terms each being twelve weeks long. School is in session from mid-September through the beginning of July. They rarely have any days off for…well, anything. We certainly don’t have snow days here! They do receive three or so days off at mid-term and at the end of each term is a two-four week break… usually a long one for Christmas and two weeks around spring break time.

Erin’s teacher is from South Africa and has been warmly aware of Erin and her transition. Of the three children, she has had to stretch herself the most. Her weekly spelling words have included words like window, because, thought, brought, suddenly, and thirsty. In addition she has weekly dictation that includes sentences such as ‘The silver monster hid under the rock during the night.’ This was quite surprising for us as it’s a little beyond what we’re used to in first grade. The first two weeks were a struggle for her, but she works very hard to study her words everyday and has earned silver and gold stars on her tests. The third week she brought home dictation sentences, there was an addendum to learn 2X tables and 5X tables. I have to say I was a little astounded and worried. She knew how to count by twos and by fives so now I just had the task of explaining what multiplication is and how 2x8 is 16. Again, after a long, stressful week she could manage through both times tables and did quite well on the assessment. Then they were skip-counting by 3s. She had been doing this at her school in Ohio so she was familiar with it. Then I again explained how skip-counting leads to multiplication. The following week she was to learn her 3X tables. When I asked her one night how math was going at school she replied that it was fine, that she hadn’t finished the workbook problems but her teacher let her go out to break anyway. I asked how many she had not completed and she told me she had finished 3 of the 6 pages. (Surprised again.) I asked her if it was multiplication problems. No, it was subtracting double-digit problems and she had gotten stuck on 80-53. What? From what we’re used to that seems so much more like second grade work. I asked her if everyone else had finished and she replied they had. While I was thinking about needing to work extra on double-digit subtraction and learning to borrow, she sighed and told me, “But everyone else is faster because they use their abacus.” (However, she pronounced it like her teacher…abbycus.) Hello? How come it had not been mentioned before? I asked her if she knew what an abacus was and how to use it. Yep. She knew. I didn’t know anyone still used abacuses to do math. We proceeded to locate an abacus and will be interested to see how she uses it. After talking with other parents I have found out that many children who move in at this age have many, many nights of tears and frustration…sometimes for a year or two and then everything clicks and they’re right with everyone else. Hopefully this will prove to be a strength of Erin. If nothing else, she is learning to work hard and see the fruits of her labor. We are so proud of her determination and good work.

Ethan has enjoyed his class even though his teacher “is fierce.” (I think that means very strict.) She has told us on a few occasions how much she also enjoys him and his endless enthusiasm. He continues to excel at spelling and has been the star pupil in math several times. As a prolific writer he is loving all the writing opportunities he is having. His most recent assignment was creating a strange planet. Dano and I continue to be amazed at his creative mind and fantastic writing abilities. His writing structure is like nothing we produced in third grade. He still loves to read and has recently become hooked on reading classics such as Treasure Island, White Fang, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Wind in the Willows, and Around the World in Eighty Days. He reads like Kennedy, totally absorbed and unaware of anything else. It’s been fun to watch him read some of the same books Kennedy read and hear them discuss them. It’s like their own mini book club! He is thoroughly enjoying Arabic and picks up on the language quickly. The kids can all greet someone, ask them how they are doing, tell them their name, and say goodbye. Ethan has been very quick to pick up on some Saudi history and shares it with us frequently, such as why there is so much green in everything and what the symbols in the Saudi flag represent. Ethan was very pleased to pass off one of his scouting electives (though we’ve amped it up a little) of counting to ten in five languages. We haven’t yet found a scout troop (I know there’s one here) so Ethan and I do scouts together one night a week. (Knowing this might be the case, I purchased the scout leader info before we left.) Ethan loves learning and seeing his progress and successes. He continues to be super competitive, but thankfully he is most competitive with himself.

Kennedy is undoubtedly the busiest. She has a total of ten classes! A couple of weekends ago she had homework in nine of them! She loves each class and has never complained about the homework load. Her classes include ICT (informational computer technology), English, History, Arabic, French, Art, LCT (local cultural training), Maths (this is not a typo-it is how they refer to the American class of Math), Science, and Geography. She has produced many exceptional projects which have received recognition from her teachers and even department heads. I’m just hoping at this rate she doesn’t hit burnout before college! Again though, she thrives on producing wonderful work and learning is enjoyable to her. She has amazed her teachers with her Power Point presentations and ability to create incredible charts and graphs on the computer. I’m amazed. She gets it from Dano. The first week of school I was in her room looking for Abigail’s puppy and came across her science notebook. As it had been a whirlwind week and we had not talked much about each class, I opened it to see what she was doing. In science they were discussing health and she had notes and paste-ins about the reproductive system. What?!! I thought that may not come until seventh or eighth grade! We haven’t even had the “truth about Christmas” talk (not for lack of trying – Kennedy is just a believer in all that’s good. I’m not sure if she refuses to believe anything else or is just sparing our feelings by letting us know she’s onto us!) As I showed it to Dano, he was just as surprised. We wondered if we would win the awful parent award if we had a special dinner out with Kennedy and had the “Santa” talk and the birds and the bees talk at the same time!! It didn’t help that a few days later when the kids were telling us some more school supplies they needed, Ethan listed off “pencils, a ruler, pencil sharpener, and a rubber.” What!!! Sixth grade I could understand, but what exactly are they covering in third grade?!! Trying not to let him on to our unbelief in what we were hearing, we just asked him again, “A what?” “You know, a rubber. It’s the same as an eraser.” Oh, thank goodness. I still do a double-take when I hear my children say, “I lost my rubber.” or “Someone took my rubber.” I didn’t understand why (on earth)they called it this until Erin was working one day, made a mistake and told me she needed to rub it out. Oh, well, that does make sense, I guess. It still doesn’t sound right and I have often imagined what will happen when we return to the states in a couple of years and they innocently ask their teacher for a rubber or ask their friend to borrow a rubber. Or, when Ethan talks about wearing a jumper (what they call a sweatshirt). Again, we were caught off guard when we were taking a walk and Ethan told us he’d lost his jumper. Dano doesn’t care for this one either as it just doesn’t sound masculine at all.

Overall, we are very pleased with and grateful for the education they are receiving here. I am appreciating the challenges they are receiving, and seeing them face them and tackle them brings me great joy.

08 March 2010

The Royal Treatment

This past week we ventured up north about six hours to the Red Sea town of Al Wejh and a little more inland to the city of Al Ula and Madain Saleh. It was a very interesting drive that I’ll write about later. We arrived in Al Wejh on Tuesday evening, checked into our hotel, and headed to the beach. In Saudi Arabia just because a beach is public doesn’t mean it will be populated as many people don’t don swim attire. We found a nice beach, parked and began to play. Not long after, a policeman drove by and signaled to Dano to come talk. I was worried that perhaps they didn’t want us on the beach. He checked Dano’s iqama (Saudi resident ID card) and Dano came back to playing. A few minutes later another policeman drove up. He also checked Dano’s iqama and inquired about our plans in Al Wejh. Dano again came back but the policeman stayed parked. As we ventured up the beach to find somewhere to watch the sunset, the policeman stayed parked, watching. As we reached a small mountainous hill, we climbed it and enjoyed the beautiful sunset. As we began making our way back to our car, we saw our policeman friend, still watching. Dano stopped to help some local men out of the sand…he’d pushed many cars stuck in the snow but never any stuck in the sand. (These same men had earlier asked us to join them at their picnic.) Our policeman friend watched. As we got in the car we waved and drove off. To our surprise he followed us…all the way back to our hotel. He waited until we were in the hotel and left. We laughed about our escort and thought nothing more of it. When we woke up the next morning to leave, our escort was outside waiting for us. We were escorted all the way out of town. As we laughed about it again, Dano explained to me that our security advisor had told him that if any harm were to come to us while the police knew we were in their town, they could be held accountable and could subsequently lose their life. That made it a little more surreal and we appreciated his faithful watch over us.

We entered the city of Al Ula Wednesday afternoon. We met up with our guide and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon in Al Ula. The next day as we met our guide we were also met by the local police who again queried Dano about our plans in Al Ula. We were escorted all the way to Madain Saleh with our guide in front and our policeman in back…a regular entourage. We had become such a spectacle in this small city! When we left Madain Saleh our friendly policeman (Khalid) was there at the gate to escort us back to our hotel. Once again, they asked about our plans for our stay. When we went out the next morning to explore, it was not long before our escort caught up with us. I couldn’t figure out how he knew where we were. He followed us around everywhere we wanted to go that morning. When we ventured out to explore that afternoon we made it all the way to the end of town without finding what we were looking for. We asked the policeman at the edge of town (there is always one parked there) where the old train station was. He didn’t really understand English. We headed back into town and eventually happened upon it. While we were taking pictures, lo and behold up drives Khalid. I really wondered how in the world he knew we were out driving around and where to find us! They must be so networked in following us. He escorted us back to the hotel. He was very friendly and patient through everything. I thought for sure we must be an inconvenience for him. When we finished our hike up the mountain outside the hotel we were met by the manager of police. He asked Dano for his detailed plans to leave. Dano told him our route for the next day. He kept asking “Medina?” to which Dano kept telling him, “No, Jeddah.”

Meanwhile Abby had her own little entourage growing. All the Filipino hotel workers adored her. They pushed her around on the luggage cart and took turns passing each other’s cameras to take a picture with her. By the time we checked out they all knew her by name and she loved them. We had also met a small group of men in Madain Saleh who were from Tabuk who also happened to be staying at our hotel. (They were there celebrating their friend’s taking of his fourth wife! In case you didn’t know polygamy is allowed in the Muslim culture.) We met them in the hotel lobby one afternoon when we were coming back. They hollered over to Dano to come join them. They were smoking and drinking fancy coffee. Dano had a good time visiting with them and they loved talking with an American. Ethan joined them. They even invited me, but in a society where men and women don’t intermingle, I think they were just being polite and kindly declined and sat in the dining room until they were finished. They exchanged business cards and asked us to notify them if we were ever in Tabuk (which may come in handy since one of them is the advisor to the prince).

In Madain Saleh, after a long day of driving and climbing Erin’s poor legs were hurting again and she and I opted to stay in the car at the last tomb. We were doing Brainquests when soon about ten Saudi girls beset our car door. Half of them wore an abaya with the hijab so only their eyes were showing. The other half was little girls, ages five to twelve. They all giggled as we greeted them. A couple of them just sighed and said, “You’re so beautiful.” It was probably that they may never have seen blue eyes or maybe even a Westerner, but what person given that compliment would it not make their day?!! Humbly flattered I returned the complement only to catch myself thinking, ”They’re going to think that’s dumb. I can’t even see them!” So I quickly changed it to “beautiful eyes.” We talked the best we could for a while, finding out about each others’ lives. I gave them each a penny to keep as a token of remembrance. One of them ran to their car to get a riyal to give to me. When Kennedy and Abigail walk over they swarmed them and rubbed Abby’s head and pinched and kissed her cheeks. Really, Abby has been treated like a celebrity. They asked me if Kennedy went to school. When I told them she did, they asked, “Why?” The veiled girls were young teenagers, thirteen to fifteen years old I’m guessing. None of them were still in school. I got bold and asked if any of them were married. They didn’t understand and their families were coming back before I could expound. Regardless, I look back on our meeting with great fondness and am glad my girls had an opportunity to have that exchange.

When we set out for home the next morning, the police manager was waiting for us. Another police officer arrived and they went back and forth across the language barrier with Dano about our trip home. “Medina?” “No, Jeddah.” Finally, via a hotel worker’s translation, we learned that they were trying to get us to go the Medina route because the route we had chosen, though shorter, is believed to have Yemenis of questionable intentions…even the federal authorities don’t drive in that area. Sold! We’ll go by way of Medina. Dano could even sense the tension in their voices just speaking of that area . We were escorted to the edge of town where we thought we’d thank them and continue on. Nope. We were escorted for another hour whereupon we met up with another policeman. They were given the copies of our iqamas (which we still don’t know how they got), signed papers, and transferred duty of us. We continued on, enjoying our drive, sure the escort would only take us to Medina to make sure we didn’t enter Medina (only Muslims are allowed), and would let us on our way. Nope. We were transferred between assigned officers all the way across the desert, switching escorts ten times before reaching Jeddah! That was eight hours of driving with an escort. Fortunately one of them asked us if we wanted to stop to eat, motioning with his fingers to his mouth. “Yes, yes!” we nodded. That was the only stop we got. However, Dano didn’t mind the fact that these escorts were flying…reaching speeds across the desert of 100 mph…sometimes we travelled with the police lights on, sometimes just lights flashing, sometimes no lights at all. I still cannot figure how they so quickly organized all of that since our departure that very morning. We decided we didn’t envy anyone whose life is encircled by an entourage, who can’t travel unknown, who can have no personal, private agendas. That said, we were so grateful for all of our kind escorts who went to great extremes to ensure our safety. After several days of what to us was royal treatment, we were happy to arrive home (alone) at our compound and enter our villa unaware and sneak back into our simple life.