Going Down? Saudi Cultural Etiquette

elevator image

When growing up in an open Western environment so many small details and routine aspects of life are taken for granted and not given a second thought.  For example, I grew up in an environment where it is typical to make eye contact.  I also grew up where it would be considered rude and impolite if eye contact had been made with someone to not acknowledge them by saying ‘Good day’ or something similar.  However in the Kingdom it can be considered rude or forward for one to make eye contact or to speak to someone who is not known or has not been properly introduced.

  

The other day a male Western expat new to the Kingdom asked for some advise.  He is proud and happy to be working in the Kingdom and wants to always ensure that he has the right foot forward in every move he makes.  Unlike many western expats, he lives in an apartment complex in a regular neighborhood.  He has more Saudis and other Arabs for neighbors than westerners like himself.  His apartment building has multiple floors so it is common to use an elevator going to and from apartments if not on the lower level floors.

  

This gentleman, who is single, lives across the hallway from a Saudi family.  He believes them to be traditional Saudi family for the times when he has glimpsed them coming and going, the females are always covered.  One day when the gentleman was getting ready to leave for work the neighbor’s apartment door opened and a university-aged Saudi girl exited at the same time as the gentleman.  They were both headed for the elevator.  However since noone else was waiting for the elevator my friend was unsure what to do.  Should he enter the elevator (alone) with the young Saudi woman?  Would it be a cultural faux pas if he were to do so?  He was unsure what to do and rather than commit a grave error in judgement, he chose instead to take the stairs down to the street level.

  I welcome feedback and comments from those of you reading this blog and also familiar with Saudi customs and traditions.  I believe he made the right decision and applaud his sensitivity.

Saudi Arabia: Just Call Me the Housemaid

housemaid

I’ve written a number of posts since starting this blog about housemaids.  This can easily be an ongoing topic of itself.  In most cases in the Kingdom, a housemaid is not a luxury but more of a necessity.  The homes in KSA are considerably larger than ones in the West (North America and Europe).  Then factor in the routine dust and sand that makes it way through all the cracks and gets into the house requiring daily dusting and mopping.  Of course there are also all the daily household chores too.  And if a woman works in the equation as well, the time is very precious and the household tasks can easily pile up and become overwhelming.  The homes (and culture) are also conditioned for the majority to have a housemaid.  It is not typical to have a residence with a dishwasher like the majority of homes in the West.  And I’ve even noticed at the grocery stores, it is virtually impossible to find a ready-made veggie tray, cold cuts tray or fruit platter because it is expected that women will make their own and have help in the kitchen.

  

I will continue with a future post stating more views (and tips) about housemaids but thought this was also a good time to revisit an article which I wrote earlier when I was mistakenly identified (at least by voice) as a housemaid!

  Just Call Me The Housemaid… 

While there are neighborhoods with villas and apartment buildings, in Saudi Arabia it is typical for many residents to live in compounds.  These compounds are generally gated and maintained with security checkpoints.  At the moment, I am residing in such a compound. 

  

Women in Saudi Arabia are prohibited by law from driving.  As a result, many families will have a driver.  Otherwise the man of the house is easily performing triple duty so other non-driving members of the family can run their errands and do business.  I do not have a driver at the moment and rather than solely depend on the good nature of my husband, especially if I happen to have appointments during his business hours, I will rely on the services of a private taxi company. 

  

The private taxi company I happen to use has a competent staff of individuals from India who have been in the Kingdom for a number of years.  They all speak fluent English and Arabic and can be relied upon for dependability and professionalism.  I’ve been using the services of this company for the past five months which also coincides with my time in our present compound.  The security officials are aware of this service and typically would let the car and driver enter without further ado or delay.

  

Recently a driver was stopped and questioned in greater detail by the security as he attempted to enter the compound to pick me up for an appointment.  Just stating that he was coming to collect madame for an appointment was not good enough today.  The security official advised he must speak directly to madame to confirm the information.  I answered my phone when it rang and although my Arabic is fair where I can usually hold my own in a basic conversation, I could not follow one bit of the conversation coming out of my phone.  After my queries on first stating that I did not know who was calling and did they know English, the caller hung the phone up in exasperation.  I learned later that he then turned to the poor driver who was patiently waiting through this ordeal and told him “There is no madame at that number.  You are trying to abscond with a housemaid so I am not allowing you to enter.”

  

To cut to the chase and make the long story short, the security official, on hearing a female voice speaking non-Saudi accented Arabic determined that the only woman he was speaking to had to be a housemaid.  Because we live at the moment in a conservative Saudi compound there were no foreigners residing except for housemaids – according to the Security official’s point of view.

  

Fortunately a phone call from my Saudi spouse to the security official cleared up any misunderstandings and the driver finally was allowed to enter to pick me up for my scheduled appointment.  However it should be noted that while it may have initially been an annoying experience, the security official should be commended for his vigilance and close attention.  It is a serious problem in the Kingdom for housemaids to either receive visitors during the working day if they are typically left alone in a house or for a housemaid to go off with someone unrelated to them for either a good time or an attempt to leave one employer for what they may believe to be a better opportunity.

  Ahhhh, life in the Kingdom.  It teaches one patience and the ability to always see the humor in any frustrating situation!

Saudi Arabia: A Glorious Morning in the Desert

desert serenity

I simply must share a recent weekend experience.  I had written earlier about friends of mine who go out and weekends and search for fossils.  (https://delhi4cats.wordpress.com/2008/03/09/fossils-in-the-kingdom/). 

 This past weekend I was lucky enough to be invited along on such an outing.  We drove on the Old Mecca Road towards a town called Dhurma.  Once we reached Dhurma, we drove through the town and then went onto some small side roads and eventually off-road into the desert itself.  The drive to our selected spot was a lovely drive and I enjoyed seeing several of the old traditional mud houses along the roadways as well as multiple herds of camels.  Along the way we had a few moments of trepidation wondering if the weather was going to be against us.  We drove two times through “mini” sandstorms where the moving sands sailed across the road and visibility was minimal.  My friends informed me such conditions would prohibit us from being able to get out of the car as not only would we not be able to see but the sand would instantly permeate every inch of our body to include inside the mouth, eyes, eyes…well, you can get the picture.  Fortunately the skies cleared as we were approaching our target area.

  

As we went off-road, we drove past a small herd of about 18 camels which included some young baby camels.  I enjoyed seeing them nursing from their mother as well as a few frolicking together similar in the way little puppies would play with one another.  We traversed maybe a kilometer into the desert, going over several rough dunes before we stopped.  I called the dunes rough for the area we were traveling was in no way light soft sands but instead packed sand with many small and not so small rocks strewed around.  It made for relatively easy but uneven walking.

  

We stopped the car and immediately on exiting one could easily see fossils of different varieties laying on the top of the ground for the picking.  I simply could not believe my eyes!  These fossils were in good condition, many complete and just ready to be placed into my bag.  I chose to just sit on the ground with my legs crossed Indian style and collected the fossils on all sides.  I had to pinch myself to believe it was true, especially as I recollected going fossil hunting as a young child in the States and usually coming home empty-handed.

  

I must also share the beautiful feeling of freedom while in the midst of the desert.   We had only driven one kilometer off-road yet the total privacy and utter stillness was a treasure.  I was able to remove the abaya and enjoy the desert sun on my neck, face and arms.  Of course I returned home with a sunburn but it was worth it.  There are very few places (outside of a Western compound) where one can go out in public and feel so unrestricted in the Kingdom.

  

When we tired of hunting for fossils (or to be more candid, when our legs and bottoms became sore from standing or sitting) we took a short ride across more of the open desert until we found a protective area from the wind.  There was an area with a built up ridge which deflected the wind.  Here is where we set up and had a refreshing picnic lunch of sandwiches, chips, iced tea and my favorite, m and m’s for dessert!

  

By the time we left the desert it was about 1330 hours and the heat was much more intense at that time.  Not surprisingly, I returned home, took a long, cool revitalizing shower and then promptly fell asleep for about 1.5 hours!  Once re-energized, it was time to wash and then soak my two full bags of fossils in a water/vinegar mixture.  Stay tuned for I do hope to figure out how to upload some photos of my findings to this post.

  

In closing, my friends and I discussed among our ourselves whether there was enough interest in Riyadh to form a Fossil Club?  There are so many places abounding with fossils not only in Riyadh but actually throughout the entire Kingdom.  I have been informed that some of the best fossils can be found in Mecca, for example.

American Bedu Has Been Published

I wish to share with my readers that a selection of short stories I had written have been selected and published in an Anthology which is now available through www.amazon.com.  While full details are provided below, I wish to advise that the stories I had written were cultural and cross-communication experiences culled from my former diplomatic life as well as from time spent in Iraq and in Saudi Arabia.

For more details, following is the press release and links:

Announcing the release of
Bridges: An Anthology

 

Bridges: An Anthology  provides a collection of short stories, narrative essays, and poems by a group of eclectic authors from around the world who range in age from ten to seniors. Their backgrounds include a U.S. Marine who was mentored by Kurt Vonnegut while earning his Masters in English from City College; a memoirist and poet who was a recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Book Award; a former American Diplomat, who now lives and writes from Saudi Arabia; a ten year old poet; and many other writers who collectively have a special flare for the written word. Their prose and poetry is sure to inspire, provoke deeper thinking, and provide enjoyment to readers.

Heather Hummel, Editor, is an author who specializes in the genre of Body, Mind, & Soul. Her work includes: Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (McGraw Hill, 2008), contributing author to: Messages of Hope and Healing and Blue Ridge Anthology (Cedar Creek, 2007) – along side David Baldacci and Rita Dove.

Cover photography by Anne Cutler, Gecko Graphics

Bridges: An Anthology is now available on Amazon

  

   

About the Contributing Authors:     

Carol is a former American diplomat who after 20 years of service resigned to marry her Saudi husband. She spent most of her career in South Asia and the Middle East region as well as having traveled to more than 75 countries. She has also worked in the private sector in the area of strategic communications and public relations. She now resides in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with her husband and their 3 cats.

She immensely enjoys foreign cultures, customs and traditions as well as following international affairs and current events. She is a strong advocate for the education and empowerment of women and readily volunteers her skills to this cause.

In addition to native English, Carol speaks Arabic, Hindi, Urdu and Spanish. She loves golf as well as reading, hiking, traveling and making new friends.

Carol is the Expat women mentor for Saudi Arabia and also maintains a blog where she shares her impressions, views and experiences as a woman in the Kingdom: https://delhi4cats.wordpress.com. Carol enjoys writing. In addition to her blogs, she has short stories published on www.expatwomen.com.

Diana M. Raab, MFA is a memoirist, essayist and poet. She teaches memoir, journaling and poetry at UCSB Extension, UCLA Writers Studio and the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. She also narrates and teaches workshops around the country.  She writes a monthly column called, “My Muse” for Inkbyte.com, an online magazine for writers. She is also an active Friend of Poets and Writers.

Diana has been writing from an early age. As an only child of two working parents, she spent a lot of time crafting letters and keeping a daily journal. In university she studied journalism, health administration and nursing, all serving as platforms for her years as a medical and self-help writer.

She has one collection of poetry, My Muse Undresses Me, and her award-winning work has appeared in national publications. Her memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal was released in September 2007 (Beaufort Books). She is the recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Book Award for her book, Getting Pregnant and Staying Pregnant: Overcoming Infertility and Managing Your High-Risk Pregnancy which has also been translated into French and Spanish. Visit Diana’s website at: www.dianaraab.com


Heather Hummel is an author whose published work includes: Gracefully: Looking and Being Your Best at Any Age (co-authored with Valerie Ramsey, McGraw Hill, 2008), “Heart Strings” in the Blue Ridge Anthology: Poetry and Prose of Central Virginia Writers (Cedar Creek, 2007) alongside notable authors David Baldacci and Rita Dove, and “Signs from Mima” a featured essay in Messages of Hope and Healing (Sunpiper Press, 2006).

A graduate with high distinction from the University of Virginia where she holds a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies degree with concentrations in English and secondary education, Heather is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Metaphysical Sciences. She has completed two novels and is working on other non-fiction, Body, Mind, and Soul based books.

Additionally, Heather is a member of the International Women’s Writing Guild, and is a writing coach to aspiring writers. Heather lives with her two dogs and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jim Kusnir grew up in New York City. A lapsed Catholic, he never realized his dream of starting his own religion. Nor did he live up to his father’s expectation that he pursue a career as a crooked cop, “for the pension and all you can steal.”  During a tour with the US Marines, he set a Corps record for continuous days on LSD (60). He later attended CCNY, where he somehow graduated with a Master’s degree in English. Mr. Kusnir was awarded a scholarship in film at London University, where he was “sent down” for refusing to participate in a seminar wherein Laurel and Hardy were being semiologicaly deconstructed by Marxists. Mr. Kusnir next accepted a two year teaching position in France. He is still being sought there by French police for assaults on snotty waiters. Mr. Kusnir, inspired by his role models, Sonny Corleone and George “Kingfish” Stevens, is ever ready to pursue a promising get-rich-quick scheme. And when he is not institutionalized, starting riots or traveling the world, he can be found at home on the couch in a deep depression.

Jeffrey S. Haynes is a writer and poet who was born in Philadelphia, PA and raised in New Market, VA. Little Odyssey is a recent piece that attempts to capture those special childhood moments that many of us can relate to. He wrote Recollection of Youth at the age of eighteen.

Haynes has completed his first novel, a commercial thriller titled, Call to Oblivion. His novel explores the extreme nature of corruption, betrayal, and violence preceding the fall of humankind as well as the prospects for hope and redemption buried within these desolate moments.

Haynes currently lives in Charlottesville, VA where he practices Real Estate and Medical Malpractice Law. He lives with his wife, Adriana, and his children, Sebastian, Cristian and Oriana.


Amanda Leahy
is the Humanities Chair at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, Colorado. CRMS is a private, boarding school that enrolls 165 students in grades 9-12. Amanda teaches Creative Writing, World Literature, and American history. When she’s not in the classroom, she leads students and brings her natural enthusiasm and athleticism to the Advanced Mountain Biking, Skiing, and Girls’ Soccer programs. Amanda and her husband, Jeff, along with their two children, Megan and Finnian, take full advantage of life in the Rocky Mountains.

Roman Mica was born in Prague in 1963. In 1968 he witnessed first hand the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia that crush the budding democracy and chilled the Prague Spring. He, along with his new wife, were lucky enough to return to his home country in 1991, and take part in the country’s transformation from communism to capitalism. He lived the sometimes painful, sometimes, funny, and always interesting birth of a new nation.

Mica’s first Book, My Training Starts Tomorrow, is available on Amazon and chronicles his journey from Everyman to Ironman. Visit Roman’s website at:
www.everymantri.com.

Jim Ramsey has been a writer and producer in television news and sports since 1986, working in Dallas, Sacramento and Charlotte. His flair for writing comes from being the son of an English professor, and his organizational skills are a result of being the oldest child in a large family. He is the creator and co-author of the book “Serious Slowpitch Softball,” and has had dozens of magazine articles published. Jim and his family live near Charlotte, North Carolina.

Susan E.B. Schwartz specializes in writing about the outdoors and adventure for magazines such as Climbing, Rock and Ice, Runner’s World and Outside. Her articles reflect her personal background as a scuba diving instructor, divemaster on North Atlantic shipwrecks, rock and ice climber, marathon and ultramarathon runner, skateboarder, snowboarder, and former competitive swimming coach.

A former member of the Board of Directors of the American Alpine Club, Susan currently sits on the American Alpine Club Literary Board, is a Partner to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, contributing writer to the Choate Rosemary Hall Bulletin, and a Committee member for the Mohonk Preserve (the largest outdoor non-profit in New York State). Susan’s first book, Into the Unknown (the biography of rock climbing and medical pioneer, Hans Kraus) was a finalist at the Banff Book Festival, won the 2006 Eric Hoffer Award, and was sponsored by the outdoor retailer, Patagonia.

Susan formerly pursued a corporate career in biotech venture capital and executive search. A Harvard College cum laude graduate (invited to graduate in three years), Susan lives in Connecticut with her husband and two young children. Please visit her author’s website at www.susanebschwartz.com.

L. Middle Carr rocks life as hard and as often as possible because she believes it would be a shame to waste time doing otherwise.  She lives in Charlottesville, VA with her amazing daughter. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, hiking, traveling, drinking good wine, and smiling.

Tyler Dederick is an old soul at the age of twelve. He writes poetry in memory of his mother, among other inspirations. Besides excelling in school, playing soccer, and being a Boy Scout, Tyler stays busy raising his father, Ken. They live in Connecticut.


Mandy Owens grew up in Columbia, North Carolina and currently resides in Hampton, VA.  Her rural roots had a profound impact on the subject and style of her writing.  She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and is currently working toward her JD at University of Richmond.

Michael Scott Stevens has four novels, numerous short stories and poems, and nearly fifty songs to his writing credit. When he’s not laying down the ink, he makes his living as a custom home builder in the Charlottesville area. Michael lives in Charlottesville, Virginia with his wife, Brandy, and his three children, Anthony, Joseph, and Lilah (aka Misha).

  

 

Heather Hummel
P.O. Box 302
Earlysville, Virginia 22936

 

Women Driving in Saudi Arabia: 1990 — Are We Still There?

Saudi women driving

On 06 November 1990,  Saudi women took to the streets of Riyadh during the first gulf war in their attempt for emancipation and to achieve additional rights.  47 Saudi women took to the streets of Riyadh protesting the laws which prohibited them from the right to drive.  Sadly, in retrospect, little forward movement or progression resulted from the actions of the 47 maverick trail blazers.  Instead some were arrested and most of them had their passports confiscated.  A few were ordered to close down successful businesses they had at the time.  The families and especially husbands and fathers were impacted as well.  They were publicly chastised and presented as unable to control the women in their family. 

 

Women driving in the Kingdom has hit the news again in the Kingdom and stories on this subject are being picked up and posted outside of the Kingdom as well.  Human rights activities, Wajeha Al-Huwaider filmed and posted a video of herself driving along the desert and isolated streets of a small village and then posted this video up on youtube.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54pRJkJ6B6E)    Her reason was to make a statement during the international Women’s Day that the women in Saudi Arabia and their rights and quests for further independence is not over.  There are some in the Kingdom debating on whether her actions have instead set back rights for women.

 

It is kind of sad and ironic when you look at it.  Here we are, 18, I repeat, 18 years later and there has yet to be real forward progress on the issue of women driving in the Kingdom.  If one reads the various Saudi papers there will always be ongoing articles indicating that the time is very near for women to be able to drive in the Kingdom.  If one does a search for Saudi women and driving there will be hundreds upon hundreds of hits over the years since 1990 – EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO.

 

Prohibition of women driving is not Islamic.  It is a Saudi cultural phenomenon.  In fact, I am not even aware of how the prohibition of women not being able to drive got started.  One can provide many valid arguments why they should be able to drive and some other reasons (I’m not saying necessarily valid) why they should not drive.

 

Most Saudi families are larger than the average western family and usually have a number of females.  When you think in practical terms and not even the “luxury, nice to have category” females need to be driven to school, to work, to appointments such as the doctor.  If there is not a husband, father, brother or uncle around who is able to drive them, then they must rely on the services of an unknown driver or taxi.  Think about it, when one engages a driver from abroad, this person is an unknown entity to whom precious female lives are being entrusted.  And what about in the case of an emergency?  What if the father or husband has a heart attack or seriously injured and needs immediate care?  Most families are reluctant to call an ambulance (that’s subject of a separate post I wrote if you want to learn why not).  Should a woman of driving age just sit by helplessly while her loving family member perishes because she is prohibited by law from taking him to the nearest place for medical care?

 

One will read of various proposals about “when” women drive in the Kingdom.  Some proposals state the woman must be over 35 years of age.  Others will state there will be restricted hours based on school and work schedules.  One far-fetched proposal even stated there would be “women only” roads. 

  

Some women do drive in Saudi Arabia and I’m not referring just to Wajeha Al-Huwaider or the 47 mavericks of 1990.  One will see many cars on the streets of Riyadh at night where even the dashboard window is so darkened it is impossible to see who is driving.  In some of these vehicles, it will be a Saudi woman behind the wheel.  In other cases, such as described in the “Girls of Riyadh” a Saudi woman will simply dress up as a young Saudi man and go “cruising” on Olaya and Tahlia Street with some of her friends.

  I think one Saudi man summed it up well when he observed Wajeha’s video on youtube by simply commenting “Are we still there?”

From USA to KSA – A Saudi Woman’s Journey

usa to ksa                       veiled and unveiled women

All too often one has an internal perception that Saudi women always remain veiled and in the background; that they do not speak out.  They do not travel.  Their life is to be subservient to their husband and family.  The reality and truth could not be further from this.  One independent, well-educated and well-traveled Saudi woman spoke with me and is happy to have her views and experiences shared with others.  And through her words I certainly learned we are really not that different at all with so many of the same thoughts, fears, desires and quests in life.

From USA to KSA:  A Saudi Woman’s Journey

  

How long have you been outside of the Kingdom?

  

2 ½ years.

  

Can you provide a generic description about yourself, such as your marital status and circumstances while in the USA?  Did you live alone?  Have a mahrem?

  

While in my 8th month of pregnancy, hubby and I arrived at the States to pursue our Master’s degree through a scholarship program offered by the Ministry of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia.  Hubby is Saudi too, three years older than myself; we had met through forums of “common interest”, but arranged our marriage so it follows traditional procedure and does not cause either of our “conservative” families any sensitivities.  He proposed through my dad.  My dad was very hesitant because my husband-to-be is labeled as liberal and belongs to another region in Saudi, which made him harder to track and investigate through common acquaintances.

  

So, 8 months pregnant, 8 months married, our trip to the United States was not just about studying in another country.  It was about achieving our individualism as a couple who lived all their lives in their family’s house, under the head of the family’s rules, plans and vision of the world.  It was also about opening up to the other, his religions, values, traditions, politics, and life style; empathizing with the other; understanding through first hand experience if that other is any different from us.  We had seen enough change in faiths, ideologies, politics, that we wanted to find something more permanent than all of this.

  

Whilst in the States, we experimented with various cuisines and drinks.  We mingled with people of as many various backgrounds as possible.  We celebrated other religious as well as cultural holidays.  And for a while, we kept many windows that connected us with local Saudi gossip shut.  We wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the new experience.  When someone is learning a new language, there is a point where they have to stop using a dictionary and find meaning within context.  We tried to do that — find meaning to the West through its own context, rather than through a long process of translation.

  

Right now, our little family is getting ready to head back to Saudi.  Hubby and I with an MA degree.  Little 2 year old with a certificate in counting up to 20, reading the English alphabet, dog hugging and obsession for Dora and her primo Diego J


 

As you look back over the years you spent in the USA, what kind of changes and transitions did you go through?  Please share your earlier memories as well as other special moments that stand out during your times in the USA.

  

My greatest struggle in the States was financial.

  1) Not enough saving:

Both hubby and I were employed before our scholarship.  We had good income.  We had some savings.  We had a lot of money invested in Saudi stock market.  However, as we arrived in the States the stock market fell tragically. 

  2) Low stipend:

Moreover, the governmental stipend (which had not changed for over 15 years) was not compatible with the rise of prices worldwide.  It took a year for Saudi government to reconsider the stipend, and increase it by 15%.  Still, it wasn’t enough for students who do not have other sources of help, and especially for students with children.  The stipend does not cover child care.

 hubby stipend           my stipend

  3) Strict Homeland Security regulations on work with F1 visa:

If both parents are on a scholarship, they are required by homeland security to be enrolled fulltime in their program of study.  That, besides strict regulations concerning work with F1 visa, results in two things: that students do need babysitting for their children, and that students can hardly afford to work to cover up shortage in their income.

  4) Readjusting spending habits:

Our greatest mistake was going for new furniture when we first arrived at the States, as well as shopping from grocery shops such as Safeway.  It took us a while to learn the spending habits that are compatible with our budget, such as buying grocery from Costco, Wal-Mart, WinCo, and buying secondhand furniture through advertisements (eg, Craig’s List).  We also learned that with our budget, we were eligible for parent support from our State University, which paid a fair percentage of our childcare expenses.

  5) Vegetables are more expensive than Fast-food!

My greatest shock in the States, was that it costs more to eat healthy than to eat fast food.  Lately, however, my mother in law tells me vegetable prices in Saudi are rising too. 

  6) If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.

It took us a while to become smart consumers and understand how the marketing business works in the United States.  Ex, there’s nothing for free.  If an offer sounds too good to be true, there must be a disclaimer at the bottom explaining the real deal.  Also, product providers are clearly aware of the distinction between “crappy service” and “breaking the law”.  If a product provider does not care to keep a person coming, but want to make a one time deal out of them, they can cut the cost by offering you crappy service in a way that does not allow you to sue them.


 

Naturally everyone will want to know what you liked best and least about life in the USA and why!

I liked how spontaneous I can be.  I can open the door of my little apartment whenever I wanted and hop on whichever bus I wished.  I could enjoy laughing, giggling and acting silly with my child at the mall.  I could wear what I like without thinking if it is appropriate or not.  I can look pretty on the streets without delivering the message that I am “slutty”!

  

I loved how moody the whether is, changing by the day.  That there are four seasons in a year.  Trees change colors around the year and so do people.  When it is cold, people layer up.  When it is hot, people strip down.

  

I liked how the news would be fired up in Saudi, or that a bad argument would strike between me and my family back home, but the minute I cut my internet connection or close my cell phone it would all disappear.   My ability to shutdown the outside world, and break free from emotional pressure, allowed me several times to view seemingly explosive incidents within its right size.

  

How can I explain this further Carol?  When a Saudi girl gets married, and starts doing things that contradict with her family’s upbringing there starts to arise a power struggle.  Her family readily assumes the husband is “brainwashing” her, not that she had developed ideas over a long period of time but could not practice them out of respect or fear of her family.  The family’s mission, then, becomes about how to bring their brainwashed girl back to the “original programming”.  Because the girl is now married, limitation of privileges cannot apply.  The girl cannot be grounded, or forced into anything.  The only available tool is emotionally pressuring her by saying things such as “you are hurting the family’s name, you are stabbing us in the back, EVERYBODY is condemning your actions, you are walking to hell with your own feet, etc.”  Those words are so destructive and can fill a girl’s heart with insecurities and doubts.  They are as alarming as a fire siren.  Once silenced, a girl can realize that no real danger exists.  There is no fire.  The danger exists in the sound alone.

  

What do you think you’ll miss the most when you leave the USA?

I’ll miss the three of us: hubby, baby and I, leaving everyday through the same door, riding the same car, and singing the road away.

I’ll miss the normality of having common friends with hubby.  Inviting couples over, and being invited as a couple.

I’ll miss being honest about what I’m thinking, feeling, and what I believe in.

I’ll miss being openly critical without being interpreted as rude.

I’ll miss getting my shoes and socks wet.

I’ll miss the liberty of not being judged!

  

What are your feelings on returning to KSA? 

         Excited to work, build a good career, and make good income. 

         Looking forward to my child being around his grammas’. 

         Dying to have the liberty of scheduling my life without constantly tripping over an umbilical cord!  I miss girly time; having special occasions to dress up for.  I miss hubby having guyee time too.

         Yearning for authentic versions of shawarma, falafel, mutabbag, kabsa, jareesh, saleeg.

  

When was the last time you were in KSA?

Summer of 2007.

  

What kind of changes do you expect to find while you have been away?

-Increase in prices.

-Increase in malls.

-Increase in women not covering their faces.

-Increase in work options for women.

-Launch of a theater or two.

-Increase of universities, and specialization options.

-Increase in industrial cities.

   

What kind of adjustments will you need to make on return to the Kingdom?

Not being so spontaneous.  Adjusting my outfit to the type of people I will be mingling with.  Putting my skinny jeans on hold.  Buying more skirts.  More long shirts.  Being eventually distanced from hubby.

   

And naturally, what advise, recommendations and suggestions do you give to other Saudi students who plan to study in the USA?

         Be prepared financially.

         Try not to have children until after you’re almost through with your programs of study.

         Do not come to explain Saudi to people, but rather, come to understand American people.

         Get involved with the community you are in.  Search theaters, museums, historical sights, sport events, etc.  Think: what is a college experience that is out of the ordinary?  What is an experience that is so enriching that it can almost be included in a resume?

         Please, please, please: take at least one class of philosophy and another in psychology!

         Watch local news.

         Take the time alone and away.  Sipping coffee.  Observing people.  Reflecting on your life.  Yourself.  Your path.

         Make use of public transportation.

         Try weird food/cuisines!

   

Thank you so much for allowing me not only to ask you these questions but for the opportunity to share them with others through my blog!

 Thank you Carol.

A Typical Day in Saudi Arabia

I received a query by email asking me if I would simply describe a typical day for myself in KSA.  I hope this post will not disappoint many for it is probably kind of boring and very routine!

  

Due to the working hours in the Kingdom I start my day relatively early, before 0600 hours.  I am normally awakened by the natural alarm clock of the call for the morning prayer.  Right now since the weather has been mild and not too hot I will have a window open at night and when the call to prayer starts, I can easily hear the addan from at least 20 – 30 mosques.  It sounds like quite a cacophony with the different tones and rhythms.  This call prompts me to get up and start my own day.

  

I’ve never been a big breakfast person if it is very early in the morning so it’s usually get up and get ready for work.  Of course I will feed the cats and make sure they are attended to.  Then, an important part of my morning, before leaving for the office, I’ll post my daily blog posting.  If time permits, I’ll also check and respond to emails.  Once the transport service has called me indicating the car has arrived and waiting outside, I don the dreaded abaya and head out the door.

  

Depending on traffic it can take me anywhere from 30-40 minutes to arrive at my office.  During this time I’m usually in a semi-vegetative state in the back seat of the car.  Sometimes I doze off!

  

I am typically the first to arrive at my office and enjoy this quiet time to meditate before starting the work day.  I’ll fix a cup of coffee and view my emails during the quietness of the morning before everyone else arrives.  I will also review my calendar and agenda for the day.  I enjoy the solitude for once others start arriving the phone does not stop ringing and there are few chances for a quiet break.  The day is a long day, especially when factoring in commuting time as well, but as long as it is a busy day, the time passes quickly.

  

Once work has concluded, it’s back in the car for the ride home.  Due to the traffic patterns at the time, the road home usually takes twice as long as the ride in to work.  So this is when I either take a cat nap, read the newspaper or a book or talk with a friend on my mobile.  On arriving home, I make the transformation from working woman to wife.  My spouse and I will catch up with each other but then it is usually to the kitchen to prepare a dinner for us.  By this time it is almost 8pm.  This is not my preferred time to start a dinner but just the way the time works with our schedule.

  

My spouse and I will use our dinner time to have in-depth conversations with one another.  We’ve always believed it is important to maintain the connection and have a time set aside when we know we will share views and thoughts.

  

Weeknight evenings are usually pretty quiet because of our work schedules.  And also with prayer times, one would not usually go out until after 8pm.  But if it is a weekend evening we will either have someone over, go out ourselves to see friends or in some cases, choose to leave Riyadh for a weekend break away.

  So as you can see, my days are pretty routine.  And of course, I try to find about 20 minutes each day to type a blog posting and check out what’s going on with the blog!

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