Wednesday September 24th, 2008: My new international friends and I decided to go shopping for stuff that anyone who has newly arrived to a country needs (kitchen utensils, toiletries, food, etc ... ). We had been here for only a day and so we didn't know our way around at all. We met in my room because they were still in their temporary rooms and so didn't have Internet connection - Peter and I were the only ones who were able to move directly into our permanent rooms because Verena's and Fleur's rooms were not yet 'ready' (when I accepted my rent contract, I nagged Glen Eyre management to have my room ready before moving in and they made sure it was lol). We decided to go to a Tesco (some supermarket place someone suggested) which was supposed to sell what we needed so we got directions off google maps and decided to walk there as it was only about 2.0 miles away. We started walking there and it started raining and we were getting frustrated because when we would ask people how long it would take us to get to Tesco's they would say at least 2 hours (then 1.5 hr then 1 hr); so after about an hour - and Peter giving up and going back home - we decided to take a bus to where someone had given us other directions. We met a sweet lady at the bus stop and she told us that Sainsbury (another supermarket) is a better choice than Tesco because none of the Tesco's in Southampton sells the stuff we wanted to buy. She was very nice by giving us new directions (and later even getting off the bus with us to walk us to Sainsbury). I remember that when we were waiting at the bus stop my parents called and I was talking to my brother Tarek to agree on a time to meet him when he comes back to England. He then told me this: "Listen, I didn't tell you this when you were still here because I didn't want to say anything in front of your Mom so as not to scare her. Southampton is not a safe city so be careful where you go and how you go back. If you are outing at night never go back home alone; always go out at night WITH GROUPS and go back home IN GROUPS". I thought he was being overprotective but when I told my friends about it the English lady confirmed what Tarek said. She told us about a man who was stabbed two weeks earlier. She also told us that robberies and attacks are common at night and have a very high rate in some areas. (By the way, the University was very clear on that as they gave us THREE safety and security lectures during International Freshers Week and then ECS also gave us ANOTHER safety lecture during JumpStart Week!!!). So, anyways we finally got to Sainsbury's and then after shopping for our stuff we decided to take a cab back home as it was much less hectic than taking the bus since we were carrying heavy things.
Fast forward five months.
Friday February 13th, 2009: I decided to walk to the same Sainsbury's we went thru the huge hassle to get to on the second day for us being here. I needed to do some shopping but that wasn't the reason. The weather was very nice and I really needed to take a walk so I decided to get to know the city - more like my way around the city lol - and walk a very long way to get my groceries. I used to love walking around in Beirut and taking different routes every time to get to know new streets and sometimes even getting myself lost lol; it is very relaxing by the way - getting lost in the streets between people and their homes, the cars and the children, the trees and the concrete ... and then finding yourself in a very familiar place :). So, I printed the directions off Google maps and started walking. It took much more than the 38 minutes that Google had suggested :P but I didn't mind. I got there in no hassle (thanks to the map lol), went into Sainsbury's, and did some shopping. I was queuing to pay for my stuff when I noticed "Emergency Chocolate" bars LOL. I thought it was the FUNNIEST thing ever :D. I also saw girthControl Chocolate bars. I thought these things were the coolest things so I had to buy them (for myself and also to take pictures and show them to my friends). I then took the bus home and the next day I showed the bars to Sheena, Becky, Fleur, and Darko and they also thought it was the funniest lol :)
Thomas Friedman at the Saudi regime lobby
4 hours ago