I’m in Love with the Driver

I know it has been awhile, but I have been a busy girl :) This is one of my first fictional posts here, I am attempting to address the issue with the driver and passenger dynamic. Consider this my contribution to the Saudi Women Driving Campaign!

I’m in Love with the Driver

In the car backseat of your car I am free. I am not supposed to be. I am supposed to sit in the back my mouth locked up in black. One word answers should make up our language. It started slowly, a few kind words here and a giggle here. Eventually, I began to line my eyes to beautify the only part of me you could see. We are the same age and your energy is infectious; in sharp contrast to my older husband. He takes me for granted and barely looks at me. You notice my new abaya, my swapped handbag, the sadness in my eyes.

You know me, but you haven’t seen me, so you ask.

At first, I am startled because it has been so long since a man other than my husband has gazed at me, but then I remember that I am American.

Don’t I show my face in America?

I have been here too long; I justify away this act of intimacy in my head until it lies down flat. I show you a part of me and it shocks you. I realized you had been imagining my face for some time. A flush crept across your bearded face as you realize we both are in trouble. We have made a mistake and crossed some invisible line that can no longer be. I am no longer, “teacher”, a job assignment, a customer.

I am Kate*.

With that obstacle out of the way, our conversations proceed to more intimate details. Although we are still scratching the surface of what we want to say; we are growing. My Arabic reaches your English in a compromise of the most basic; that of need. We form our own language, one that only is decipherable to our longing ears.

That is how I ended up here, my back pressed up against the backseat of your car with your weight on top of me. It was only for a second, but it felt like a year that your lips brushed mine. You had spun around in your seat and set me down, forcefully but gently taking what you thought to be yours.

I let you for a moment; head still spinning from the sudden change of position. We both realized the car was still moving too late; several seconds later a loud CRUNCH forced our bodies to separate. Still shaking, from the crash and the kiss; you examined the damage while I buried my face in my hands. We had crashed into the guardrail slowly enough to damage the car, but we had been stopped from going over the edge. If only, this was the last time.

To be continued…

*This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to a person living or dead is purely coincidental*

Returning Prayer.

Mr. Ali Ilyas sums up my melancholy in a poem :) masha’Allah tabarak’Allah Mr. Ali!

Returning Prayer..

On the Surface

There are a few times during my stay here in Saudi Arabia where I felt like life was bursting with richness. Other times, like this weekend, I ponder how shallow life can be. This weekend I went to visit family member of my husband to congratulate her on the birth of her baby girl. After entering her parents over-the-top but not quite gaudy majlis (guest living room); I glanced around at the rest of the party. Everyone was dressed in formal evening attire in order to prepare for exciting night ahead. Unfortunately, the exciting night was essentially greeting everyone in the room then staring and waiting for the next drink or treat to arrive while silently cursing yourself for wearing your tightest Spanx. The babe was presented in what I call a “baby pocket” and was passed around to encourage the stuffing of money and gold into said pocket. Oh brother. The bathrooms were decked out in hotel style with amenities such as perfume, gum, mints, and other toiletries. Gold clad workers circulated, doling out tray after tray of expensive and tiny confections. Is this happiness?

Invasion of the Fake Friends

WARNING: THIS IS A RANT AND MAY BE TAINTED WITH BITTERNESS. DO NOT WORRY, I’LL GET OVER IT AS SOON AS I HIT PUBLISH.

When I think back to when I was living in the United States, I never think about the bad. Of course, everything is smashed together in a romanticized way in my mind and I only remember the fantastic social life that was taken away from me once I moved here. However, I do feel like I have encountered more social issues here in Riyadh that make me feel like a I am in high school again.

I am a very patient person, when it is important. However, I do not have patience for drama, gossip, pettiness or phoniness.

Unfortunately, being apart of the Western community here; it is not always clear if you are someone’s friend or simply a way to avoid being bored. Loneliness is an issue here in Riyadh of course, but I don’t like to fill my time with people that I would not be friends with back home in the States. I generally try and only spend time with people I feel value me as much as I value them.

Unlike the States where you have an infinite amount of companions to choose from, here the Western community is limited. Despite that, I still find that sometimes I invest a lot of time into a relationship here to have it dissipate in the wind. It really aggravates me.

I want to fill my life with people that value me and are not just using me as a placeholder.

Thank God for small favors, I don’t have time for this! Spending alone time is my preferred option to dealing with insincerity.

As always, salaam wa a alaikum.

Eid Al Adha 2014

Eid Al Adha 2014

Instead of updating you daily on this Eid I decided to try and cut myself off from a lot of stuff this vacation. I had two glorious weeks off after my return to the classroom and I decided that I would try and squeeze every last drop out of them. Due to my iqama issues, we did not travel outside of the country, but it was a very interesting vacation.

  1. I finally got to visit my husband’s hometown of Sudoos. I will make a separate post about my trip there. It was freaking fabulous, but I’m so tired and dusty I need to recover before I post about it .2014-10-07 00.45.40
  2. I met a blogger that you all know and love for lunch at Kitchenation. Lovely people are what make life bearable here!2014-10-02 15.10.36
  3. I have almost finished this semester of my schooling…which leaves one to go inShaAllah!
  4. Made real progress in my textbook contributions…
  5. Had a few family gatherings…more on those later..
  6. Really started hitting the gym (Zumba anyone?)
  7. Attempted to catch up on everything that I had put off since I started working.
  8. Met one of my coworkers for breakfast and solidified my feelings that I’m starting to get a handle on what I need to be happy here.
  9. Lots and lots of cleaning, sorting, laundry, etc. Trying to make things easier when I return back to work!

Catch you on the other side of the break ;)

As always, salaam wa alaikum

Agonizing over Fasting

Today has put my eemaan into perspective. Although I have felt that Saudi Arabia has taken the wind out of my sails as far as excitement about religion goes; I could never verbalize exactly how far. Last night, I was reminded about fasting today and the immediate sense of dread I felt was absolutely stunning to me. The days are shorter now and I am on vacation from work; what is the big deal? Why did this short fast seem so tedious? Three years ago, I was hastily finishing my TEFL certificate so I could snag a job here in the Kingdom. During my eight hour Saturday at the English institute; I fasted. I spent all day planning a lesson; watching others snack on sweets and drink coffee to get through the difficult weekend after working all week. I did it without complaint in such a way that no one even realize I was fasting. When I finally ran down the street to Whole Foods at maghrib time to grab a juice and a power bar; my colleagues realized that I had no eaten or drank anything all day. I came right back to class and got to work. I can mark those days as the last days I was really happy with myself as far as religion goes. I know that your faith waxes and wanes, but I feel like mine has been on shaky ground ever since I came here and was shaken up by this place. The question is….how do you get it back? When I was living in Washington DC, I could empathize with the poster boards that say “My hijab, my choice” because it was my choice. Now, I wear a black abaya because society nearly demands it. Now, I cover my face to avoid harassment and gossip; not because I believe it is obligatory. I think this will be the last Ramadan I will spend in Saudi Arabia. I think my experience was the definition of “going through the motions”. I miss the DC Muslim community, the excitement, the dedication, the joy. I miss people who were excited about being Muslims and did things to their own satisfaction. I miss being able to sit at a dinner table and listen to an educated religious debate without any hatred or bigotry. I miss it all.

As always, salaam wa alaikum

The Two Poles of Saudi

I might sound like a sourpuss, but that is just a risk I am going to have to take to get this out. There are two opposite ends of the spectrum present in Saudi Arabia and they both bother me for different reasons.

The Bitter Ones

I hate when people wallow in misery, oblivious to their abundant blessings. Some people will never be happy in Saudi Arabia, because they would never be happy anywhere else in the world. A few bad experiences have left a bad taste in their mouth and they are taking it out on all of us.

Please, enough with the negativity. I understand you hate it here. Please stop trying to make us all hate it. Don’t act like you don’t have a choice. We always have choices. We might not LIKE them and they might be difficult, but they are there. If you decide that you do not want to accept the consequences of leaving, then it is still your choice to stay here. Unless you are being held prisoner by the government or otherwise, do NOT say you are captive or stuck here. There are some people who actually can’t leave and I imagine your whining could be quite annoying.

The Green Ones

The new fresh faces I see every day here or meet online. Those girls who are recently married or are seeking the marriage permission always have a spirited viewpoint on Saudi Arabia. Most believe that there husband or husband-to-be has prepared them to live their life here. The trust that is put into these Saudi men to prepare these women for a life they have never lived themselves is ridiculous. Don’t feel bad; I thought my husband prepared me as well. The thing is, what I didn’t understand is how Saudi Arabia truly consists of two worlds; the man’s and the woman’s. If your husband has never been a woman, he really can’t accurately prepare you for life in Saudi Arabia.

I understand you have studied about Saudi Arabia and listened to all his stories. I get that you have a million Saudi friends back home and you already wear an abaya. Perhaps the culture of your parents is even similar to Gulf culture. Maybe you have been to Dubai or Bahrain, lived in a conservative Christian camp, observed Catholicism as a nun, or just escaped prison; but that is still not living in Saudi Arabia.

I hate to tell you that will not prepare you for living here. Your experiences will contribute to your experience here, of course. However, regardless of whatever preparation ritual you went through in your country, living in Saudi Arabia is an experience known only to those who have done it. I’m not saying you will hate it. You might love it. All I’m saying is don’t kid yourself into thinking that knowing ABOUT Saudi culture is practice for living here.

I don’t hate Saudi Arabia. I am here because I choose to be. I just wish that I could find more balance here. I’m trying not to sound bitter. I’m just tired of the back and forth, the up and down. I am not a fresh newbie or a bitter oldie. I am just trying to live my life and be productive while I can.

As always, salaam wa alaikum

Respect Me, Don’t Objectify Me

Respect Me, Don’t Objectify Me.

Difficult Choices and Questions of an Expat: Surviving Abroad

Everyone in life has difficult choices and questions about how to survive abroad. However,  usually the choices and questions of expats are exacerbated by their dealings with foreign cultures, governments, and laws.

Should I visit home this holiday or push on to make more money?

Should I forgo comforts in the country I am living in order to save for when I return to my home country? Do I stop “living my life” here and crawl into a dark hole and return with a large bank account or do I truly embrace my experiences here and perhaps return slightly less better off?

Should I immerse myself in my host country’s culture or should I build walls to ensure I won’t be “corrupted” by this foreign culture?

Should I compromise and follow the “laws of the land” or should I march onward because, “I’m an American” or “I’m a Canadian” or “I’m Indian” or “I’m British or “I’m Afghan”.

Although all of these questions have answers, the answers can vary from person to person. What is right for me and my family might not be right for someone else’s. One expat’s positive life-changing experience is another person’s spirit-breaking negative one.

How do we maintain our lives and sanity abroad, while simultaneously maintaining relationships and ties to our home country?

Is it better to lose our sanity than our identity?

How do we cope with the loneliness that comes with experiencing a world outside of our own?

Can we explain the changed viewpoints we have when we return to our lands?

Is it realistic to think you can just “work and make money” somewhere and exit unchanged and unaffected?

Where does the law of diminishing returns take effect to tell us when to pack up and go home?

Will I ever be the same? Do I want to be?

As always, salaam wa alaikum

Social Networks

I think one of the reasons why Saudi/non-Saudi marriages fail is the lack of support a wife receives upon entering the Magic Kingdom. When dizzy and giddy in love with her Saudi, she blissfully thinks “He is all I need”. However, eventually reality gives way to “Oh my God what have I done”. Although for some it is much less than earth shattering (and for others it is burn the house to the ground-oh my goodness); every expatriate in Saudi Arabia has suffered from the cultural restrictions and changes required to live here. The lack of support is by no means all upon the Saudi himself (he is only one person after all). However, most Saudis expect their social lives to continue on as usual and to not have to put out extra effort in order to “make-up” for whatever friends, relatives, and hobbies you lost from your move. In fact, I would say that a lot of Saudi men do not even consider it a responsibility of theirs to “be-it-all” (actually, probably most men). So why do we women move halfway across the world and expect them to be our everything?

When I figure it out, I will let you know.

As always, salaam wa alaikum

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