An American Experience

I think it is fair to say that Killing Time In Saudi Arabia was not quite what I expected. I have known several PMC’s (Private Military Contractors) over the years. They are a unique breed, often working at the behest of a government but somehow not quite getting the respect and protection deserved. It was with this preconceived notion that I started to read Killing Time In Saudi Arabia.

While names and places have been changed to protect those still in the region Matthew Heines maintains that the story is factual. The first thing I noticed was that Matthew Heines was not a wanna be Rambo, he is a teacher of the English language, a noble task and unfortunately one not often appreciated.

The book opens in a rather strange way, Matthew has completed a two year contract in the Sultanate of Oman, a place that he rather enjoyed, however, due to a non-compete clause with his employer Matthew is prevented from seeking employment in Oman for a period of two years.

Good at his job and few openings for his skills in his hometown of Seattle, he accepts an 18 month contract to teach English to the Saudi Arabia National Guard as an employee of BF Milicon a company that provides a number of services, mainly of the military nature in the country.

The terms of the contract seemed favorable, a decent wage, free lodging, use of company vehicles, etc, etc. Although Mathew plays it down somewhat he must have been impressed by the method of transportation to Saudi. A 747 in the livery of the Saudi national airline. While this in itself may not be strange, the passenger manifest certainly was. It was just Matthew and three other BF Milicon employees. Now that is what I call leg room on a flight!

I think it is fair to say that this was the highlight of the entire contract, once in Saudi Arabia life was not so exotic. Life in Saudi was completely different to Oman. In a strange way, it was not the culture difference between countries so much as the culture system inflicted by BF Milicon that caused most distress. At the apex of unreason lay a gentleman by the name of Garth Viller. Darth Vader oops Garth Viller seemed to have a particular dislike for English Teachers and one Matthew Heines in particular.

Killing Time In Saudi Arabia is billed as humor, and indeed there is a surface layer , a veneer that does indeed reflect that concept. Being an ex-pat Brit I love dry humor. However, when you strip that layer off a very different book is revealed.

The question becomes how do you maintain a sense of normalcy in an environment that is essentially alien to you? You can hardly nip off to the local bar for a couple of drinks and maybe find some female companionship. Dating local women is off the list, that will just get you on the fast track to a very short and unhappy life.

Matthew Heines took a different approach, he joined a local Hash House Harriers group. I have to admit that I had not heard the term for decades. At its most basic form it is a drunken treasure hunt. Purists may disagree and explain that it is all about cross country running crossed with a dose of cartography, although it has been my experience that the map reading was limited to the next place that had beer! Of course in Saudi such activities would have been frowned upon. For the Hashers however there was a silver lining, the Hash became a social event that western nurses would come and watch. Anything to get out of the city and enjoy both the rugged landscape and company of fellow westerners.

The Hashers are just one aspect of Killing Time In Saudi Arabia. The book is rich in strange tales. Many are humorous, but taken as a whole it is a book that anyone planning on taking a contract in the middle east should take some time and read.

You can order your copy from Amazon by using the link above.

Simon Barrett





Be Sociable, Share!