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Friday, May 14, 2004

 

Roman Holiday

Girl, Bike, Spanish Steps
More photo archeology last night. This time, I dug much deeper, back down to 1978, and found slides from one of my stays in Rome.

And why was I in Rome? I have the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its policy of anti-Semitism to thank. This may be one of very few instances in the Twentieth Century where a Jew actually benefited from official anti-Semitism.

You see, at the time, I was a project engineer for the Internation Projects Department of General Electric Company. IPD's mission in life was to design and build turnkey powerplants overseas, the idea being that in order to sell GE equipment, you often had to provide the whole ball of wax.

As luck would have it, most of our business those days was in the Arab world, and so this nice Jewish boy got assigned to a number of projects in Saudi Arabia. The problem was, I had trouble getting a visa, because of the Kingdom's policy of discriminating against Jews.

We worked closely with a construction company called Sadelmi in Milan, and during one trip there, our host offered to solve my visa problem by sending me to their office in Rome to let them handle it. So I traveled to Rome a few days later, arriving in the evening. I hit the office early the next morning, and they were expecting me and treated me so nicely. Then they happily told me that it would be a day or two before the visa would be ready.

Huh?, I thought. Damn! I had figured on a few hours turnaround max, and here I was, stuck in Rome for a few days. It took a few seconds for that last thought to sink in... I'm stuck in Rome for a few days, with no work to do, and on the company's money!

To make a long story short, I had a great time seeing the sites over the next few days, then flew back to NYC with my visa. I visited our job site in Saudi Arabia a few weeks later, and my boss had me stop in Rome on the way back to pick up another visa! Same story, only better, this time a three-day Roman Holiday. I got to do this another three or four times over the next two years.

More on my exploits in Saudi Arabia another time. Meanwhile, back to photo archeology.

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