Friday, December 21, 2012

Germany, part one

After a really long day of travel, we arrived in Frankfurt last night. We met a super kind young man on the train who helped us not only navigate but carry our luggage. Truly, we tried to pack light this time and were quite impressed with ourselves--that is, until we arrived in Europe and realized we had about 800 times more with us than everyone else! 

Sojo's somewhat desperate wish to see snow came true last night. We watched the rain come down and then turn to snow every now and then. When it became snowy enough, we put our coats over our pajamas and ran downstairs. She was downright giddy. 

We then came back upstairs and she sat by the window, wishing that all that snow would stick and she could make a snowball this morning (note the fingers crossed--toes were also crossed). No such luck, but she's still a happy kid. 

Off to a children's museum and the Christmas markets today. But first things first, I am heading directly to the amazing farmer's market right outside the coffee shop window, complete with bread stands and cheese wagons and huge trucks of meat. Loving every second of Germany so far! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More Life in the Desert

As we are getting excited to head to Germany and Arizona tomorrow morning, I also realize that I will miss our little space here in the desert. Tonight, I walked out the front door and soaked up the goodness that is our life. Crisp air, Christmas lights in the neighbors' trees, and kids playing soccer in the street. It made me tear up, knowing that in this window of time, my life feels so incredibly content. Unexpected contentment feels even sweeter somehow.

I thought I would share a few more photos of life here. I've been wanting to get a good camel crossing sign as they are cute, and we love camels. Dale pulled over on the highway so I could get out and take a few.

As I was taking photos, I turned around and looked at the car on the side of the highway. This is on the way to the city that is about 35 minutes away, and it definitely shows how there is truly nothing around. 

Sojo got some golf clubs for Christmas, and our backyard is perfect for practicing. She'll be playing on the sand golf course soon! 

Next stop, Germany!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Glimpse Into the Mall Life

A big part of entertainment in Saudi is going to the mall. I will say we are not hurting at all for shopping here and there are tons of great stores. Finally, after nine years in Asia, I can shop in the country where I am living.

A few interesting and possibly disturbing things about the malls:

1. Each restaurant or coffee shop has a family section and a single male section--each a mirror image of the other but with a wall down the middle. The idea is that single men and women will not even see each other as single females stand in the family section. I am forever forgetting about this rule here and standing in the singles line. Usually, people are cool about it and don't make a big deal as I am wearing the abaya. Only once did a man tell me I was in the wrong line, and he politely pointed to where the women's line was.

2. Let's just say you would be very surprised at how racy the clothes are that you see in the mall. And get a load of these shoes!! Whoa! 

3. Often you see women and children's faces blurred out in ads on the sides of stores. I find it slightly creepy. 

And not found in the mall but in our neighborhood is this mama and daughter. On our way to a softball game one night wearing a favorite hat that Popo gave her last year. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

An Artist's Life

Sojo has entered a new stage of art, one where she does not simply draw picture after picture in a sketchpad but instead finds something she loves and works on it over a few days. She adds backgrounds and details and spends hours doing this. Her newest Angry Bird obsession is the Star Wars game that came out, and this picture of Yoda took a few days and a lot of love and patience. 

My heart almost burst today when she walked around with rolled up artwork tucked in the side of her backpack. She talks of being an artist when she grows up, and I am tucking away certain pieces for her to remember in the future. Another burstable moment was watching her with her good friend from class. These two are silly and goofy and gorgeous together. They think they are twins because they have the same height, the same hair color and are exactly the same color of brown. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

'Tis the Season

We are headed to Germany and Arizona for the upcoming vacation. Christmas markets in Germany on the way over and a search for snow in the Black Forest on the way back. Nestled between is some quality time in Arizona to meet baby Augie and soak up family and my other favorite desert. We'll have our own family Christmas here before we go, mostly so we don't have to use valuable luggage space with presents.  Santa has agreed to find us in Arizona. Looking forward to every single thing! 

Saturday, December 01, 2012


Sojo is many things--beautiful, wicked creative, funny, and she is definitely quirky. This is what she does every day now as we walk to school after lunch. If you can't tell what it is, she is one of those Chinese lions guarding an entrance. Only this lion has a hunk of Arabic bread in her mouth. Mostly because she nearly always has a hunk of that bread in her mouth lately.

Definitely quirky, that sweet girl.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

As Luck Would Have It...

One of the many lucky things in our life right now is company-provided day care. Sojo gets out of school at 2:30, and we have to work until 4:00 every day. And, since we are still adjusting to life without the full-time nanny, cook, shopper, ironer, everything-er that we had in Bangkok, this is a real positive for us.

As luck would have it, the woman they hired to do this job is an artist. And so she and Sojo are kindred spirits who while away their time creating art projects together. She gets Sojo's love of 'found objects' (read: totally random things you find on the ground or in the garbage) and is a real inspiration for her. I love that the room she is in is right across from my K4 cuties, so she runs in every now and then to show me something. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life is Good

Zombie tag in the backyard with the steps as the 'safety.'
Squeals of joy from neighborhood kids. 
A community where older siblings gladly join in playdates with younger ones.
One groovy childhood happening right before my very eyes.

Life is good. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Belated Birthday Bash

Between conflicting party dates and no shipment with all our goodies, it was a whole month after Sojo's real birthday that we had her party. Thankfully, it wasn't a big deal to her because the party was such fun. One of the many benefits here is that you can have your party at the Splash Park. The recreation department sets up a bouncy castle and provides helium for balloons. You just provide food and the kids!

She had a blast, the kids were great, and I have to say it was a super easy birthday party on the parents. Although I hear from Sojo that next year we are back to Angry Bird parties...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wiped Out

Let me tell you, between the life of a kindergartener and the life of a PreK teacher, we fall into bed almost every night, happily exhausted. Dale came to my class after school one day last week and found us like this around 4:00. Even for us, that's pretty early to sleep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Slightly Chilly Weather

We had heard that the weather in Saudi is downright gorgeous most of the year--that is, once the 120+ temps leave. It's now the middle of November, and mornings are downright chilly, while the daytime is still super warm. In essence, Saudi is like Tucson--gets a bad rap about being so darn hot, but if you stick it out long enough, you get months and months of awesome weather.

Sojo picked out this sweater the other day (she loved the foxes on it) and decided it was perfect morning attire. And our favorite green bench has found a place outside, perfect for soaking up these gorgeous mornings with a cup of coffee. We shipped a fire pit as well, and I can see where it will be fabulous in about a month's time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


44 trips around the sun for me today.

New land
New language
New learning

Same gratitude for all the love in my life.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Desert Campers

Our school hosted a staff party in the desert last weekend, and we were keen to head out on our first 4 wheeling trip into the sand dunes. These were the dunes just like you see in photos--wavy lines carved by the wind and nothing but sand for miles. Walking across that sand was one of those moments that made me stop and revel in gratitude. Roaming the Earth while truly trying to understand the various people that make up this amazing world is what makes me a better person, a more understanding person and it brings me such joy. 

There were camels...

and sunsets...

and camel bone discoveries... (they were so bleached that they appeared to be painted white)

and cool morning sand between my toes while walking with my man. 

I am finding that the desert demands a state of mind that is peaceful. The vastness of it all is overwhelming to me at times, but when I take the time to be quiet and accept its emptiness, it envelops me with peace. It feels like there is a lesson in this desert for me. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Qatar Trip

Last weekend, we took our first road trip here on the Arabian peninsula. It was only three hours to Doha, Qatar, but with literally nothing to see but camels, the drive felt longer. One lovely thing was that when we entered Qatar, the customs agents gave us each a long-stemmed rose for Eid. Great way to enter a country! 

We played in the pool, enjoyed an amazing travelling exhibit at the Islamic museum, and spent some time at a local market/souq. Of course, camels are a part of every experience we have here in the desert, and this was no different. We saw some gorgeous ones getting fancied up for some celebration at the souq. 

On our last weekend of the vacation, we headed to a beach a few hours away to meet up with some friends we worked with in Bangkok. The weather here has now hit a crazy beautiful temperature, and the day was such fun.

And this is how we know we are almost home. Oil burnoffs (is that what they are??) in the desert. It's our landmark, and we hit it right around sunset this time. Even from our backyard, there is a faint orange glow from these. We joke that we are lucky to have a perpetual sunset from our yard. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween here on camp was exactly as I remember it as a child growing up in New York. So incredibly safe, tons of kids running around having fun, and knowing almost all the kids by name who came to get treats--it was nothing short of magic for us. Sojo, the same as every other Halloween, had little interest in trick-or-treating for more than 4 houses. However, she did love getting into her vampire costume. And even better was her good friend leaving this secret note at our house the other night.

how I love early writing! It says, 'sojo, I'm going to be a vampire, too.'

So, the two of them were vampires, she ran around the neighborhood for a few minutes, and then hung out with us on the porch giving out candy until we ran out. 

Our Halloween preparation the night before was nothing short of a comedy of cultural errors. In the past, we have not lived in countries where that beautiful orange carving pumpkin can be found, so we have carved watermelons or painted green, hard-to-carve pumpkins. This year, we decided to fork out 30 US dollars* for a real American pumpkin to give that kid some American tradition! Yea, well...that didn't really work. She hated the whole process (let's be honest--it is rather gross) and basically Dale carved the pumpkin while she watched a movie. It felt weird to force a child to scoop the pumpkin guts out just so she could have the same childhood experience I did. At least she enjoyed The Great Pumpkin, and that is totally a part of American tradition. 

not a staged photo at all! This was her true reaction. Ha! 

* This was the exact same price as a glass of wine on our recent trip to Doha. In hindsight, we should have spent the money on wine. Living in a dry country makes one spend any amount of money for a nice glass of wine. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chapter Book Love

Sojo is in love with the Magic Tree House series, and Dale happily reads her a few chapters each night before she goes to bed. I love that we waited for chapter books until she was really ready for them, and now she is on the edge of her seat (bed? bathtub?) each night, waiting to see what will happen to Jack and Annie in their latest adventure. Lucky for us, we even had a Scholastic book order all the way over here in Saudi. We figured that while living in the middle of the Arabian desert, it certainly makes sense to buy the whole set of books! They look awesome on her shelf, all just waiting to be devoured. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Three months into this move to the Middle East, and I am enchanted. Not to say the transition has not had its share of bumps, because it most certainly has.

Nonetheless, I am enchanted.

Enchanted with crisp, white robes and red-checked gutras set perfectly atop mens' heads.
Enchanted with roadside family picnics and hookah smoke in nearby parks.
Enchanted with the Egyptian women I have met, so vivacious and glamorous with their double kisses and colorful headscarves.
Enchanted with lines of camels far away in the desert.
Enchanted with the discovery of how much one can connect with people, even if you only see their eyes.

This poem by Naomi Shihab Nye called Red Brocade has been a favorite of mine for a long time. It is even more poignant now that I am living in this land of graciousness. 

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.
Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.
No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.
I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Creativity, 21st Century Style

Nothing like a little iPad app creativity for our iPad lover. Sojo got so into this project that she spent about an hour creating her own iPad app, explaining it to me along the way. In her words, "you have to shoot a letter and then the B does 'bombing' and the C does 'clamming'  like that." I love, love, love that she gave her own app a 5-star rating (we always read the reviews together before we buy an app).

My task was to then take her ideas and truly turn them into an iPad app. I investigated how to do this, but it was way beyond my tech capabilities. Perhaps I should patent the idea, though...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dipping Our Toes in the Gulf

This weekend, we took our first trip to the Persian Gulf, which I believe is called the Gulf of Arabia here in Saudi. There was a company-sponsored raft race, and so a bunch of girls in the community joined. Families were welcome, so we all piled in a bus and drove about two hours to another camp to spend the day. It was beyond wonderful to be back at the beach after our beach life in Thailand. Sojo was in the ocean all day long, and the gaggle of teacher kids who were also there made it extra fun.

The raft race was a ton of fun. They had welded together old oil barrels, and we rowed like mad. This is one of the things I love about our camp--there is a big fitness group here and lots of events are organized.

Since this is a company-owned beach, the rule is that women can wear swimsuits, as long as they are one-piece. Well, walking around in a one piece with shorts on was horribly uncomfortable for me. Since Saudi women are required to wear the abaya at all times, most young men never actually see a woman in real life. The only way I could feel like I wasn't totally exposed was with a t-shirt and shorts on. Even with that, the teenagers were trying to find ways to get photos of us. Quite comical that 15 year olds were scamming photos of 40-something women in t-shirts and shorts. 

This will be the first of many beach days, we hope! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More T-Ball

This week, I went to T-ball practice to help out and take some photos. Dale and a few other teachers are the coaches, and they did such a great job organizing all those kids. That is a lot of little people--a bunch of whom are in my K4 class where listening to instructions is something VERY new! *

We got there first, and Sojo graciously took the time to explain how baseball works to me. Um...thanks. It was hilarious as she stood on home plate and walked me through the whole thing. Here she is showing me how you run to first base.

The best part, of course, is watching these two together. Something I could do all day and want to do forever. She's such a good listener, and I know that Dale adores being her coach. My heart might just burst with how I feel about these two being my family. 

*Dale asked me to be a helper this week and be in charge of the throwing station. Of course, I agreed. However, after spending an evening herding small children after a whole day of herding small children, I politely offered to be the cheerleader and photographer from now on. Thankfully, another parent was hoping to be a helper. Whew! 

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Six was a different kind of birthday. A transition birthday. Meaning that we have no shipment yet that has tons of birthday fun toys and goodie bag stuff. Meaning that we truly live in the middle of nowhere with no car at the present moment and no way to go birthday present shopping for the gorgeous child. Meaning that popo and gong gong were not here to make the birthday super fun and much fancier than this mama ever does. Thankfully, we were still together as a family and Sojo found a remote control dune buggy one day at our small store on camp. We bought that right away, knowing that the surprise element is not that important to her. Whew!

At the end of it all, she had a good day--we had cake for breakfast and went to the dining hall for lunch. Sojo loves Saudi food so much and finds that she can eat more of it with her allergies. There was so much soy sauce in Thailand that it left her little to choose from. Here she is in culinary heaven, munching on turmeric chicken and wood-fired bread. Just today she said to us, "You know, if there was a cooking contest between America, Saudi and Thailand, Saudi would TOTALLY win!" Too cute. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Someone had a blast on her first night of baseball practice! Even better, her sweet, sweet baba is the coach of the little ones. I skipped the first night, but I was told I missed out so I'll be there with camera in hand for this week's practice.