a short story

In our compound we have the Farm Store, a small grocery store that sells basic foods and supplies with a very limited selection of fresh fruits and vegetables. Local supermarket chains put small stores in the different compounds for convince. The Farm Store has many larger outlets in the Khobar area, it could  be compared to a Safeway or Albertsons.

When we arrived in January of 2014 we met Lloyd the man who runs the store. It is a one man job. The store is open from 8 to 8, 6-1/2 days a week and he is there every day. No days off, no back up help.

It is hard to tell how busy the store is with only 75 people living on the compound. I am sure that many hours go by between customers. Some of the expat men living by themselves or with their wives away for weeks at a time frequent the store, often after work to buy dinner or supplies to hold them over for a couple of days.

Lloyd is a very nice guy, if the store does not stock a particular item he would order it in for you to arrive the next morning. He would also deliver items to your villa and if you used a lot of bottled water he would bring it to you weekly. Nothing is a problem, he is very accommodating to all of our needs.

Lloyd recently left us. After being here for over two and half years he is now returning to his home country the Philippines. He does not expect to return. This is a brief background on Lloyd.

He is in this early 30’s, married and has a 2-1/2 year old daughter which he has never held. He went to high school and learned about computers. Life in the Philippines is hard, like many of the countries in this part of the world. These countries have high unemployment, are overcrowded and offer very little opportunity. Employment comes and goes.  He worked for sometimes several weeks to several months at a time and then was off, unemployed for weeks or months at a time. For most of these folks there are no long term jobs and no job security. You would pick up jobs as they come along and make the best of them.

Several years ago Lloyd ended up in an office that looks for people to work in other counties with promises of more long term positions and better pay. He ended up signing a contract with the Farm Store in Saudi Arabia. I am under the impression that once arriving in KSA his passport was turned over to the Farm Shop with a small part of his pay for the first several months. But Lloyd could make and save money working in KSA and send a lot of it back home to his family.

You read too many articles of how deplorable the work is for many of the migrant workers here in the Middle East. Because of very little job opportunities in their home countries they are forced to move aboard to find work to be able to send money back home for their families to live on.

Lloyd was one of the luckier persons finding employment in Saudi Arabia. Somehow he ended up in an small outpost store catering to western expats. Even though there were long periods of boredom during the day, he dealt with folks more understanding to his plight. He even developed some personal relationships with some of the folks here on the compound.

A week before his departure $750+ was collected and given to him. He will be returning to the Philippines, we hope is the next few weeks, once his papers clear, to be united with his 2-1/2 year old daughter for the first time. We wish him all the best.

There are nine million migrant workers living in Saudi Arabia, here is the list.

Indian                   1,300,000

Pakistan                  900,000

Egyptian                  900,000

Yemeni                    800,000

Bangladeshi             400,000-1,000,000

Filipino                     400,000-800,000

Sri Lankan               350,000-850,000

Jordan                     260,000

Indonesian              250,000-500,000

Sudanese                250,000-900,000

Syrian                     100,000

Turkish                     80,000

Westerners             100,000

the little grocery store on the compound

the little grocery store on the compound



3 thoughts on “a short story

  1. Susan

    This post is amazing Bob. It provides insight into the difficult lives of immigrants. I am surprised that you had the freedom to publish it…..

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