Karen wants me to add my perspective, but honestly she covers things pretty well. I couldn't believe the Larsens told us to just "take our car" to get to the Reunion House (Baker House) on the main camp. We protested (they only have one car!) but they insisted and we've borrowed it twice. Debbie (who takes care of us like a Mommy) is one of 150 Aramco volunteers for this reunion and so we scheduled the bus trip to Khobar to be on her tour. She was the best tour leader we've had---just like a pro! She grabbed the mike, explained things as we went, answered questions and was just totally informative. I do appreciate the hard work of all the volunteers, but the others just sort of see to it that you get on and off the bus and tell you what time to return, etc. Deb made it interesting, upbeat and just more fun.
They have never rebuilt Al Shula Mall (we used to call it Al Shuler) which burned down, but some of the foundation stones are still there. Why they haven't built something else there nobody knows. We drove by the new Al Rashid and Dhahran Malls and there are others. It is just overwhelming to see all the new businesses in town. Not to mention North Park and West Park and a new Research & Development Center inside the Aramco compound. I mean these are huge office complexes---and we thought the Tower Bldg and Expec Centers were big.
Karen is the ultimate shopper and has picked up some beautiful pieces at great prices. I'm 16 years older than she is and in a different category. I'm in the "need to start getting rid of things and start simplifying" mode, so I think twice about buying something I might want to get rid of in a few years. Hey, I did buy a box at Desert Design for my collection, and ordered some silver jewellry for my sisters. I love the box because you can tell it is from here. It has a design with some rhinestone-like pieces on all four sides. The same design is repeated on the top, but noticeably off-center! Little imperfections (or obvious ones) are so typical of the Middle East. Karen will tell you about the sleeves on the abeyah I almost bought in Hofuf.
Walking into the AdDiwan building I had the same overwhelming feeling as Karen. Memories of craft fairs, photos taken by Bob Neff and framed by Chris on sale, the play "Cats" and the Garden Show where even the kids had flower arrangement entries.
About the evening at Sunset Beach, it was near the ocean, though we could not see the water at night, just the fountains and man-made water features. As we entered on the red carpet (first time I ever walked down a red carpet) there was a big building on the right with a lighted sign that said "Pearl Spa". I can't imagine the luxury inside that building, or the luxurious price tag for spending a day there. This was the Welcome Dinner for the Reunion and Aramco CEO, Khalid AlFadhli spoke. He talked about how each person there had contributed a thread to the tapestry of Aramco, etc. At one point Tina Light and I were sitting there brushing a tear away. Don't laugh! It was a very eloquent speech and evoked a lot of emotional memories for all of us. We sat near one of several big screens. The tables were set up on carpets which covered the sand, but there were intermittent squares inbetween (about 6 feet by 6 feet) so you could see the white sand. I guess you had to be there to get the feel of this but it was all very well done. Ali Baluchi, who is responsible for these reunions also spoke briefly. Biggest laugh of the night was when we got whisked away in a golf cart to go to the Ladies room!