Vacationing American Workers Returning to Saudi with New Fears With AM-Gulf Rdp, Bjt
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) _ American workers are returning to Saudi Arabia from vacation filled with apprehension, but convinced the benefits of living in the desert kingdom outweigh security concerns.
’We’re going back to Jiddah for one week. ... During this week, if I don’t like the feeling I’m getting, I’m leaving,″ said Julie Hallberg of Balsam Lake, Wis.
Mrs. Hallberg and her husband, Monte, both work at the international school in this city, which is on the Red Sea, about 1,000 miles from where American troops are massing near the Persian Gulf.
Mrs. Hallberg, a physical education teacher, said she left her three children - ages 7, 4 and 1 - with her parents for the week. She and her husband will go back to the United States and get the kids if they’re satisfied the situation is calm.
While worried about military tensions in Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Hallberg said her husband, who remained in Jiddah this month, reported life was unchanged by Iraq’s Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait.
’The day it started, he didn’t really know that much about it,″ Mrs. Hallberg said.
Overall, Mrs. Hallberg said she would prefer staying in Saudi Arabia where the family has been for seven years.
’You make good benefits and we ended up liking it,″ she said.
Other expatriates on Saudia Airlines Flight 24 from New York to Jiddah on Friday said they would re-evaluate their status after being in the country.
For some, the arrival of thousands of American troops into the peaceful country represented the end of an era in which foreigners live a sheltered, comfortable existence mixing mainly with their own kind.
’I’ve been here nine years and now I don’t know what I am going to do,″ said James Green, an Englishmen who has a photographic studio.
Several major U.S. companies have flown dependents out of the country and suggested that women and children stay away temporarily.
Boeing Co. took women and children to headquarters in Seattle last week, and Aramco, the huge Houston-based oil consortium, has offered to transport dependents.
It was unclear how many Americans have left the country. But Bob Bonnette, a data processer with Saudia Airlines, said people living in the Eastern provinces nearer the Kuwait border would feel less secure.
The Arab News, an English-language newspaper, reported that flights into Dhahran that is the center of U.S. troop activity continue to bring foreign workers into the country.
It said air traffic - primarily from India and Pakistan - was unchanged from last year. Many workers in the oil fields are Asian.
James Byrne, 23, of Owego, N.Y., left his wife and 1 1/2 -year-old son in New York while he returned to Riyadh where he is crew chief working on the five Saudi-owned AWACS radar planes and the refueling tankers.
’I told her to register for classes in the fall,″ Byrne said of his wife.
Byrne, who earns $30,000 a year tax-free and lives on a Boeing compound where housing is free and amenities are plenty, said he couldn’t afford not to return for the second year of his two-year contract.
’I want to pay for college and law school - otherwise I’ll end up a bartender,″ he said.
Still, Byrne said he was concerned about the military situation and intended to ask his company if it would provide him with a chemical warfare mask.
For many the financial benefits of living in Saudi Arabia are paramount. Byrne said many of his friends were on the fence about leaving, but wanted to wait out the year to avoid paying U.S. taxes.
Nancy Bonnette of Austin, Texas, said she and her husband wanted to stay two to four more years in Saudi Arabia to build up a nest egg.