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?
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
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.
- 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 .
- I met a blogger that you all know and love for lunch at Kitchenation. Lovely people are what make life bearable here!
- I have almost finished this semester of my schooling…which leaves one to go inShaAllah!
- Made real progress in my textbook contributions…
- Had a few family gatherings…more on those later..
- Really started hitting the gym (Zumba anyone?)
- Attempted to catch up on everything that I had put off since I started working.
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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
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
In exactly twenty seven minutes, I will reach my twenty-seventh birthday (at least the Saudi preview). Last night I waited to see the clock strike midnight and afterwards I tossed and turned for hours. All I could think about was where I have been and where I am going.
Last year, I was in a different city and had a different job. After a year of free-lance writing, Master’s course work, and housewifery; I am not the same person that I was 365 days ago. Last year at this time, I had just booked tickets for our visit to America. I was preparing for our vacation and laying the groundwork for my exit at work. This year, I have anxiously awaited a decision from the labor office in regards to my case, and have carried around the weight of the unknown.
I have also carried around the normal weight of the past, which typically makes itself known in the quiet of the night, whispers over the hum of the air conditioning or wraps itself around me; swallowing me like the darkness.
Every milestone, every year, and every birthday I wonder what could have been if reality hadn’t happened.
She would be twenty-four.
It has been almost ten years.
Would she be married?
Would she have children?
Does her brother remember the day I got knocked out? His motorcycle followed our car, weaving in and out of traffic, while you giggled in the backseat; merrily turning our makeshift ambulance into a treasured memory.
Does he remember house his voice sounded when he said my name at your funeral?
Were you there?
Did you see me?
I still see you in my dreams sometimes.
You are always playing softball; always happy and calling out to me.
Do I deserve the guilt I feel every time I remember that you will never get what I did? Every candle on the cake I have more than you? I don’t feel entitled to the guilt. In fact, I wish I could shake you.
I don’t think you mean to haunt me. In fact, I’m glad to have you there. You push me, because I know how quickly life can end. You shattered my illusion of youth and invincibility. I remember you and remember to hug my loved ones, to hold tighter to moments, and to never get into a car without realizing I might not get out. I remember you and my breath catches; baby’s toes, weddings veils, sparkles and sequins; do you miss those things? Do you even remember them?
The end of your life marked the end of my childhood.
As I add one more candle to my cake, you remain suspended forever in time at fifteen. I promise to never take those candles for granted.
P.S I’m sorry I broke your tooth.
As always, salaam wa alaikum
I am really sick of feeling like a cliché every time I do something. Simply because I am a Muslim woman, if I go out alone, ride a bike, or get a degree, I am a spokesperson for the entire ummah and suddenly circulating the internet on a MEME for woman’s rights and hastags like #LookMuslimwomenarehumantoo
This is one thing I hate about wearing hijab; people automatically make judgments about which camp to which you belong; normal human being or alien jihadist. Non-Muslims are not the only guilty parties by ANY stretch of the imagination; Muslims and non-Muslim alike judge women for their choices.
If I wear hijab, people view me as pious and conservative. If I did not wear hijab, people would view me as “less of a religious woman” and “open-minded”. If I wear niqab, people think I’m either crazy or “masha’Allah wearing true and full hijab”, despite the fact that I could be using my niqab to obscure my identity as a drug addicted, bank-robbing, tranny hooker that sells souls to the devil for chocolate bars and yoga pants.
Oh yes, I understand I am supposed to live outside the sphere of human relationships.
Just do what is right, they say!
Go forth with no thought of wordly consequences and you will be fine!
How many people are actually able to do that? Seriously, I know some of you are nodding your heads along with this!
And where am I supposed to get information on what is right…when EVERYONE thinks what they are doing is the right thing?
How do I know what is right?
How do I know if I will be ok?
I am so sick of everyone telling everyone else how to live their lives.
Why can’t people just “be”?
This morning, I read an opinion piece about hijab (abayas) in the Saudi Gazette (I know no one there is going to win a Pulitzer) and I found it to be a perfect example of irony and Saudi style ridiculousness.
The piece is titled, “What type of abaya do they wear?” and is an opinion piece from a Saudi national (man) who muses on about “Saudi women’s rights to choice in clothing”.
The main point of the piece is that Saudi women should be able to choose the abaya they wear without trouble from others. The funny thing is it doesn’t address a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wants to wear an abaya. So really, the fact that he is arguing for a women’s choice of abaya is similar to allowing someone to decorate their jail cell.
And no…I am not equating an abaya or hijab to a jail cell.
What I am equating to a jail cell a world in which women are forced to function within the confines of other people’s expectations.
This man-champion for women’s rights brings the rant home by spouting out this delightful piece of freedom fighting, “We should give women the freedom to wear the type of abaya they like as long as they stick to decency and observe social norms. No one has the right to select an abaya for any woman.”
Well thanks, honey, nice try. I’m glad you are a champion for my rights as long as they align with your expectations.
This is not exclusive to Muslim women or Saudi Arabia. When I visit America, I am also expected to fit into the niche society has carved out for a twenty-seven year old white American female. God forbid I make my own choices.
So there we have it folks, men aren’t allowed to select a woman’s outfit; they are just allowed to force her to conform to societal norms with said outfit.
Thank you and good day!
*This post was not meant to imply that drug addicted, bank robbing, tranny hookers that sell souls to the devil for chocolate bars and yoga pants should not be loved, harmed, or judged in any shape, matter, or form*
As always, salaam wa alaikum.