February 27th, 1989
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
My 22nd Birthday!
Only got back to my room a short while ago after a very nice evening in the hotel restaurant with most of the crew. Typically on my birthday I wouldn’t drink tea and water with dinner but our options are somewhat limited here. Everyone sang happy birthday and I had the most delicious cake that apparently Meryl and Alan organized.
At nine this morning, after a very restless night, I met Meryl and most of our crew in the lobby. I expected to zonk out last night as soon as my head hit the pillow, but instead I tossed and turned and didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time. Of course half an hour before it was time to get up, I felt sleepy but didn’t want to miss meeting the others as planned. I don’t know if it was because of the excitement of the flight or being alone in a hotel room in a strange country but hopefully tonight will be better.
Within a second of going from the heavily air-conditioned lobby to the outside this morning, I thought I was going to melt. The heat hit me full on and I couldn’t wait to get on the shuttle bus. It’s amusing to think that just last month in Florida, I was on bad terms with air conditioning! Now it really is my new best friend.
All I saw on the drive to the beach club was a huge, open landscape, with some buildings that appeared clustered together every few miles or so. I had no expectation of the beach club and was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was.
The club was filled with airline crew from not only British Airways, but also Lufthansa, as well as a few expats who appeared eager to discuss anything remotely British. One English woman Meryl and I talked to told us she was “dying to know what was happening in Eastenders.” She was very disappointed to learn that neither Meryl nor I watch much tv at home. Her husband Bill joined us and felt the need to explain in great detail why they’re living in Jeddah (money!) Meryl and I excused ourselves and later laughed when we spotted them deep in conversation with Alan, our CSD.
The heat intensified as the day wore on and I wanted to jump in the water but I’m much too self-conscious about how I look in a swimsuit, so I sat under the umbrella with Meryl. She’s really thin, so I don’t know why she didn’t go swimming.
Andrew, the flight engineer on our crew, came over with a bottle of water.
“I hear you’re the birthday girl.”
“Happy Birthday,” he said, filling our glasses with chilled water. “I’m sorry this is all I can offer in celebration.”
The three of us clinked our glasses together and said, “Cheers.”
“Would either of you like to go sailing?” he asked.
Meryl said, “No thank you,” and looked at me.
The thought of being out on the water if not actually in it sounded appealing so I said I would.
“Great. Have you sailed before?” he asked.
“That’s ok. I’ll help you. They sell hats inside, you should probably grab one and make sure you use plenty of suntan lotion. I’ll meet you down by the water in a few minutes.”
“Have a nice time,” Meryl said.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come?” I asked her.
She shook her head no. “I have a bit of a headache from the heat,” she said. “But I’ll come inside and buy you a hat for your birthday.”
It was blissful being out on the water in the tiny boat (I think Andrew called it a sunfish) and even although I wore my new hat and was slathered in cream, I still managed to burn my shoulders.
When we got back to the hotel, I spent an entire day’s allowances calling home. I knew mum and dad would appreciate hearing that I was safe, plus I knew mum would be anxious to talk to me on my birthday.
“Who would’ve ever thought my lassie would be in Saudi Arabia on her twenty-second birthday,” dad said. Something about the way he said it made me feel a bit tearful but I think it’s just the fact I’m so far away from home on my birthday. Mum took the phone from dad and I told her I’d been sailing. She started telling me about how seasick she was when she sailed home from New York in the sixties! I hated having to cut her short, but I’ve heard that story a million times and the seconds were ticking by.
I really enjoyed my birthday and now I’m going to write to Ben and tell him all about it. I feel lucky and happy being in love with the most gorgeous guy, who just happens to be in Italy. Which, according to Andrew, is roughly two and a half thousand miles from here.