Tuesday, February 11, 2014

6 Months in Saudi

 It is hard to believe this picture was taken 6 months ago when we first arrived in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia.  The place seemed SO big.  Everything was SO new.  And we knew NO ONE.  It amazes me that in such a short amount of time ALL of those feelings from day one have changed.  Camp is small... at times it feels REALLY small.  While we are still learning things, I don't walk around my day so dazed and confused.  And now when I walk/ drive around camp I am constantly stopping to talk, wave, or smile to someone I know.  It is also interesting to look back on the post "Living Our Dream" I wrote 10 months ago to announce to our family and friends we were moving to Saudi Arabia and why!  To look back on what was a vision of ours that was slowly becoming our reality, not knowing what to expect outside of what we had learned on the internet, and coming with our list of goals and places to travel.  And now to sit here and type that this IS our reality, we ARE living our dreams, we ARE fulfilling our goals, and we ARE checking off places as we travel.  There are days I'm still in awe of the whole situation and that THIS is our life!
When we planned on moving here the perks/ our goals were more family time, adventure, and our financial future.  As we deal with some of the daily "discomforts" of living in second world country I have to keep in mind the reasons why we choose to move here and that those goals are being met which means that all-in-all this journey is a success!  As part of my fun in looking back on these past 6 months I wanted to come up with a list of "success" or things I like and a list of "discomforts" or things I don't like and see how these things change over the next days, months, and years to come.
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The success, things I like, things I don't mind that I thought I might-
-abaya- I honestly don't mind wearing the abaya (and after some of the feedback I got from my last post I figured I should start with that).  I love living like the locals, if I wanted to live like I did in the States then I would have stayed in the States!  I especially like the abaya when I can wear shorts and a t-shirt underneath and don't have to worry about changing for a last minute trip into town.
-shopping- I love shopping for fruits and veggies here!  We always go to the same stand and the guys love us!  We have tried SO many new things, even the kids, and doing so have found many new favorite foods!
- hired help- hiring people to help you do things from cleaning your house to watching your kids to painting your house is SO cheap!  It has made it easy for us to bring daily help in guilt free and date night is also guilt free because we aren't spending as much on a sitter as we do on dinner!
- family time- Brad and I have never spent this much time together in our whole relationship!  Also, he has never been around for this many of the kids functions/ special days much less daily lunches and bedtime routines!  It is nice to not worry about what he is going to be missing out on when he goes to work!
- free time- I wouldn't really say there is a lot of free time, for some reasons our days stay pretty busy but it is a good busy!  I have had time to make really nice lunches/dinners from scratch, exercise, and enjoy kid activities.
-living on a camp- I thought I'd miss the big city with lots of things to do and miss date nights out on the town but I've really come to enjoy it.  I really like our evenings at home, playing outside, having a drink, waving to neighbors.  It is relaxing and enjoyable.  I've become a bum and spend most of my time in t-shirts and comfy or exercise pants (I need to work on that part).
- small camp- everything is very close and compact so I don't spend a lot of time driving which has freed up many hours in my day!
- friends- we have made some really amazing friends on camp!  Because none of us have family here we all are surrogate family!  If I need something, need help with the kids there is a list of people I can call and often people are calling on me before I even have the chance to reach out to ask!  I think of making relationships here a bit like on the Bachelor!  It is such high emotions in such a closed space and short amount of time that things blossom fast and furious!
- good education- the big kids go to a great school that has amazing teachers and amazing teacher support!  They have both grown so much this year.  Not only is the teacher support good they also have great financial support so we don't have to worry about doing fundraisers!  No door-to-door selling!!!
- financial goals- we own our car out right!  That is amazing to say!  We've always had a car payment!  We are also saving for our retirement as well as life back home if and when we choose to move back to the States!
- adventure- I have been so proud of all we have done in 6 short months!  People are often surprised we've only been here such a short amount of time and have yet done so much from a day with the bedouins in Saudi to crossing the border into Bahrain and reliving those memories to watching baby sea turtles hatch by the light of the moon in Oman to spending Christmas in Germany with my host family.  Not only that but trips into Khobar to go shopping or out to eat is also an adventure!
Discomforts, things I don't like, things I'd like to do without
- shopping carts- all 4 wheels on the shopping cart move and it is SO frustrating to shop trying to push around something that you can't steer.  It really makes me crazy!!!
- waste- there is SO much waste associated with shopping.  So many things get put on styrofoam trays and/ or are covered in plastic wrap.  It is rare to see anyone bring their own shopping bags, the running joke that the national bird of Saudi is a SACO bag (SACO is a big shopping store like Walmart without food).
-dirty- most of my experience in Saudi has only been in the town outside of camp and the town 45 minutes away.  I find that it is dirty.  Trash is thrown on the ground even if a trash can is just steps away.  There is no regard to trying to keep places nice and clean.  It is gross!
- napkins at restaurants- or lack thereof!  When you go out to eat you are given a box of tissue to use as napkins, which are about as useless as winter coats in Saudi!  I'm ready for a nice napkin when I go out to eat this summer!!
-public bathrooms-  Between the "butt spray" water everywhere and the lack of Western toilets or Western toilets that have a seat, a trip to the bathroom is my worst nightmare in town!
- lack of consistency- Trying to get things done is SO hard.  The rule here is it takes 3 times to get something done and that is so true.  It depends on who is working and the mood they are in on what your experience is going to be like.  I find there is little work ethic here or lack of motivation or something.  I can't even explain it.  But getting things done is frustrating.  Take for example the chairs from Pottery Barn the kids got, that took me 5 trips into town on that dangerous highway before all 3 chairs were done properly and ready for me to pick up!
- Prayer time- You'd think we'd be use to it but we are not.  There are 5 prayer times and some stores open up after the 11am one and some stay closed until after the 4pm one.  It makes it SO frustrating when we drive to town to get things down and are faced with prayer time.  I honestly wouldn't mind if they were off praying but often the store worker is sitting there
- driving- It is scary and I hate it.  This is another reason why I don't mind staying on camp.  Camp life is easy and we don't have to deal with the scary drivers as we try to go shopping (although I have to say that some of the drivers on camp are not as kid-safe as I'd like.  At home we make sure to drive around kids to give them plenty of room in case something happens, not here.  Here they will drive right beside the kid with no wiggle room and it makes me crazy!)
- lack of wildlife- I really miss sitting in my back yard and watching squirrels, deer, a variety of birds, and all other kinds of wildlife!  Here you see a few species of black birds on camp and lots of bugs along with the stray cats.  Out in town you can see camels, goats, and sheep but that's all we've seen so far.
- camp life- while there are perks to a small town there are also down sides.  Sometimes I wish there wasn't the drama associated with small town life but I guess you'd get there anywhere!
-kids home at lunch- while I LOVE having my family home at lunch it was really hard in the beginning to get use to.  Having to shop for, prepare, and clean up after 5 people 3 times a day was a lot more work than I was use to.  Thankfully a couple of months ago we hired a houseboy to come 5 days a week and I just asked him last week to start cleaning up after lunch before he leaves and that has really helped!
- Friends and family- while it has been amazing to watch our relationships here grow so quickly, we miss our friends and family back home.  I have realized that the time difference and all of our activities has made it harder for me to keep in touch with those back home.  I didn't expect this.
- Internet/tv- We haven't found a good solution for tv which has been good on one had, we watch little to no tv during the week.  However, at the end of a long day Brad and I like to sit down and watch a show and that is impossible here.  It is constantly cutting out because of our internet connection.  We usually give up and go to bed by 8:30!!  It is also frustrating when the internet goes down which means my email and our phone go down and we can go hours or days without being able to call anyone back home!
One day when the pool hours had changed because of lack of life guards I got really angry, we had gotten dressed, the kids were excited, lugged all of our stuff to the pool to just be told to go home. This was in the beginning, back before I was use to the way of life here, and I was SO frustrated.  I went to my friends house complaining, angry, done.  Her husband said, "Are you getting what you came here for?"  "Yes"  "Okay then.  That's really all that matters!  If things were easy.  If things made sense then 1) everyone would be signing up to live in Saudi and 2) they wouldn't need our expat expertise here SO, some of the things that frustrate you are the reasons why they have us here.  You get the good with the bad!"  And that conversation helped me change how I view this second list.  My first list is what is important!  It is the reason we are here and the things I enjoy about our adventure.  The second list.  Well, that's just the add "bonus" that helps us get our expat bonus.  It is all a package deal!
 All in all, it has been a roller coaster of fun, adventure, sad times, lonely times, exciting times these past 6 months.  We are all in a really good spot now and are looking forward to what the rest of our first year in Saudi has in store for us!  Thank you for following and coming along for the ride!

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