Sunday, August 11, 2013

Abaya Shopping

 Our morning activity was Abaya shopping.  Really, we had planned to do a lot of shopping with the Abaya shop being our first stop but that plan quickly got derailed after our first shopping adventure off camp.  Here's how it went.  I got dressed to go out.... well not really the best outfit for either fashion wise OR per Saudi standards but I tried my best.  I had a loose skirt... but it wasn't to the ankle... and I had on one of Brad's tshirts... so it was big and baggy... and then a jacket to cover my arms... by the jacket was tight and didn't cover my bottom.... but I was trying my best.  Brad commented on my outfit not "looking great" but really, what did he expect.  I was trying to make it to where we could make it to the abaya shop without being confronted..... and it worked.
 Our next part of the adventure had us leaving camp.  This was our first time to go outside of the gates since arriving the other day.  It really isn't that big of a deal but we had NO idea where we were going.  I probably should have asked the ladies on camp the other day where the store was but I wasn't really think we'd leave camp this soon.  So here we are driving just down the street from our camp towards the town of Rhima.
 The directions we got from a neighbor went something like this- Go to the "Perfume Bottle" (it is a big statue you pass right as you drive into town and it looks like a perfume bottle), take a right, and take your next left, and it is somewhere there... I'm not really sure where.  Well my husband, who is (not so) great with directions second guesses the directions, take a wrong turn, ends up on the "men's street" and then turns the wrong way down a one way street, and finally makes it to the women's street... towards the end of it.... driving slow to look into the windows of the shops to try to figure out which one sells abayas... we were going to slow for the Saudis so some guy passes us on the right hand of us... in between parked cars and our car.... GASP!...... Anyways, we make it to the end with no luck, have to drive back down another street so we can start over at the beginning of the street (the streets here in this town go one way).... and finally......
 We found what we were looking for!!!!  And what a selection I had to choose from!!!!!
The trick was finding one that was "right for me".  I wanted one that zipped but none of them here did that.  I also wanted one with a high neck so I didn't have to worry about trying to wear a proper shirt underneath.  I wanted one that went all the way to the floor so I didn't have to worry about wearing pants or a long skirt underneath.  And I wanted one with fitted sleeves that stayed in place to my wrist again so I didn't have to worry about wearing a long sleeve shirt underneath and I didn't have something flowing for the kids to get tangled up in.  After many questions, the store worker left and came back with someone who spoke more English than he did.... although neither really spoke English... I did a lot of acting out, pointing, and saying "yes" "no" over and over again.
 But finally, for 150sr (about $35) I found the perfect abaya for me!  At this point, we were WORN out!  The stress of driving, wondering if we are following appropriate social norms, dealing with the kids who are feeding off of our stress, and not knowing where anything is in town.... we went back to camp... forget eating out or doing any more shopping.  We were DONE!!!  We got to security at the gate and the guy said "You guys look tired!"... he thought we had been out shopping at the big mall.... he'd laugh if he realized that our little shopping tired wore us out!  We decided to go eat at the Horse Hobby Farm on camp... somewhere we knew where it was and I could take my abaya off and a place a little like home.  We've got to ease ourself into this experience!!!
 But really, we didn't waste much time.  After nap, we headed back out.... to continue one with our original plan.  We headed to Khobar to go shopping at the big mall and Ikea.  The mall opened at 4 so we left the house at 3:30... it was suppose to take about 30-45 minutes to get there..... but I think it took close to an hour and a half.... because we got lost... and do you know how frustrating it is to get lost... in a town you don't know... where not many speak English... where every turn the road was close....every other turn you were facing a one way street..... I think we were about to loose our mind.  The GPS didn't know where we were or where we were trying to go... we were lost.... getting honked at... getting passed... and it was getting late.... it gets dark here around 7 and Brad wanted to be home by dark but at this point it wasn't going to happen.  The only way we finally made it out of here was by following a local who took turns into places we wouldn't have because we were trying to follow road signs.  We are soon learning that lanes, blinkers, road signs.... all just minor suggestions and rarely used/ paid attention to.
 I'm happy to report we never gave up..... we continued on and FINALLY made it to Ikea!  This was my first trip to an Ikea... funny that it took me coming to Saudi to visit one.  And what an experience.  We probably should not have been shopping today... it is the end of their holiday week... so it'd be like shopping during Christmas break... everyone is out and crazy!  What an experience.  We were here much longer than planned but we ended up having to sit through 2 prayer breaks so that extended our trip... that last break happened right before we wanted to check out so we had to wait 25 minutes for the registers to open back up!  It was here that I also realized that I needed to have a zipper put on my abaya... the kids kept stepping on it and unsnapping the bottom of it which revealed my legs... because I was wearing shorts underneath.... OOPS!!!!!  Oh, the things I have to worry about here.  And things like this is what make it more stressful for me to go out.  I am in constant worry about not trying to offend anyone and I want to make sure we don't get called out by someone... so my mind is constantly on "over drive".  I'm sure as I get more use to things, this will become less of a worry for me... but for now... I'm on high alert!

After Ikea, we went to the mall to Pottery Barn and Seco (like a Walmart) to pick up a few things... and then we headed home.  What a trip!  The trip home was so stressful... I seriously can't even stand to look out the front window.  I told Brad I'm going to sit in back and look out back so I can warn him of oncoming crazy drivers!  The upside to the trip... we filled up the HUGE SUV for 49sr.... about $12!!!!!  That would have cost $150 back home!!!!  And I came home to a clean house because our house boy was here today.... so there were some upsides.  However, the stress and anxiety of shopping and driving in Saudi had me so wound up I couldn't fall asleep until almost 1am... and we got home at 10:30.  And to think... we are going back to Khobar tomorrow to go car shopping... wish me luck!  I'm hoping it will be a bit better because the Eid holiday is over and people go back to work tomorrow so hopefully during the day it will be a bit less crowded.  Stay tuned to find out how our next adventure goes!!!


Julie Keller said...

Wow! Is there a reason they are all black? Color not allowed? Do you HAVE to wear that every time you leave camp?

Is there no police to enforce the driving laws? Why does GPS not work? Driving sounds so frightening!

Victoria Thurman said...

Oh Ambre! These are very exciting times! Hang in there my friend, and keep us posted xx