[Travel snippets – TS – a series of reflections on past travels and adventures]
Before I head off on my next travel adventure, I thought I would share some Travel Snippets (TS) – things that I have learned on personal and business travel.
It was 2004. America had been struck by terrorism in 2001. America had retaliated by invading Afghanistan and Iraq. Their was domestic terrorism occurring in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), including attacks against “Westerners” on the streets of Riyadh and at complexes. One of the attacks on a complex had left 22 people dead, just before I and a colleague left for Riyadh.
While there we stayed at the Sheraton Hotel, which was surrounded by barricades. At night, I (ir)rationally worried if domestic terrorists had access to the guest registry of the hotel, and I planned my escape options. During the day, we avoided standing near windows when working at the client’s office. We worked in the middle of the office, drinking mint tea and injecting second hand smoke 😉 We were there working for a KSA consortium that was applying for a new license. I was in charge of the IP and Optical architectures for a proposed national network submission to the regulator. I have some recollection of doing some market survey/definition work as well. The consortium was awarded the license, so a happy professional outcome. We performed well under the circumstances, we were committed to not letting the client down.
One day, on Saudi Sunday (Friday at the time), I went down stairs to grab brunch at the Sheraton. To my surprise, the area I was sitting in, was full of families. Talking, laughing, having a good time. I remember thinking this could be a scene, in spirit, from any Sheraton in the world. It was the first time in my life I remember having the conscious thought “families are the same everywhere”. When you see people enjoying life in a family setting, it connects you with our shared humanity, it leaves a much different impression than the one you get from the nightly news, or even normal business interactions.
I have had other experiences at homes in Saudi, but that experience, at the Sheraton brunch, is one that left a lasting impression. I don’t have a digital image of it, but the image is seared into my memory, and I am as sure as I can be, that it is a real memory.