Friday, September 28, 2012

Saudi National Day

On Monday after school, I heard all this honking outside our house. I went outside to find a string of cars with kids hanging out the windows, waving Saudi flags and making a general ruckus. Seems it was Saudi National Day, and there was a party going on in a nearby park. I quickly called my friend Kate, and we headed off to check it out. Needless to say, it was a blast.! They loaded us down with Saudi swag, the kids were dressed all adorable in their green, and they had the local musicians back again. I love that no one blinks an eye that two American girls are laden with Saudi hats and flags. My thought is it makes the Saudis happy to see us participating as there were not that many foreigners there. 

Another beautiful moment was seeing two younger people in wheelchairs. The last two countries I have lived in have been very secretive about their disabled, yet Saudi seems to embrace them. There was one teenage boy who was rocking out to their music, so the musicians had the boy's father bring him up on stage so he could be right there with them. It was very poignant. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Our artist is still going strong with her insane passion for drawing, and she is at the table doing just that as I write this. The detail is astounding to me, and I watch in awe as she never gets frustrated--it literally seems to flow from her fingers onto the page. Just recently, she learned how to draw eyes in her art class at school, and she came home so proud to tell me that she can make the little points at the sides of her eyes. Dale and I were beaming since we always make sure to tell her how beautiful her eyes are.

Now, every single day, I walk down the hallway at school and see this picture she drew of herself on the bulletin board. As she says, "I'm very artitistic!" Can't argue with that. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Livin' on a Prayer (Time)

As many know, Muslims pray 5 times a day. Living in the Middle East means that you live by the prayer times, which change depending on the sun. Most stores close during prayer time, and the midday prayers normally mean stores don't open again until late afternoon because of a rest time during the day. What this means to us is that if you are in the grocery store, you are timing your entire day to get in and out before the store closes. 

just in the nick of time!

My recent trip to the big city (they have a Safeway there!) meant that we needed to be shopped and paid for by 11:38 a.m. prayer time or else we'd be up a creek. By 11:30, I was in line, but when I looked back at the remaining shoppers, the place looked like an old episode of Supermarket Sweeps. There were people rushing up and down aisles to get all they needed and then running to the front to add it to their carts. Add a gazillion foreigners and the fact that everyone is completely dressed in black, and it made for some hilarious people-watching. 

Driving two hours for a proper food shop was a bit much, but the cultural experience (and the awesome food choices) made it worth it!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Out and About

At the moment, we are not leaving our camp very often. Having no car makes this tricky, but every now and then a friend will offer to take me somewhere. We don't all fit, so there won't be many family pictures. However, every time we leave, I realize just how in-the-middle-of-nowhere we truly are. It is not much but sand dunes with an occasional Beduoin tent and camel herd. The nearest city is about 40 minutes away, and they have a nice mall, a McDonalds (and a Cinnabon of all things!) and a well-stocked grocery store.

the souk (market) in a nearby town

stacks and stacks of carpets

One of my favorite experiences thus far was walking into The Body Shop last weekend. A veiled woman came up to me with very good English and we started talking. She was so outgoing and asked me to join her for a coffee on her break. Unfortunately, I could not since we had to go, but we made a raincheck for another time. Seems like nothing much, but until May of 2012, women did not have the right to work in Saudi Arabia. So, my chatting with this woman felt deeply historic to me, and I noticed that there were a few more shops with women working. Having said that, the shops all had signs that said "Family Only" as single men are not allowed to enter these shops. Progress is progress, though. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Tooth

Just yesterday, a wobbly tooth was found, and the joy that came from that discovery was all we talked about last night! And then today, after lots of wiggling it around (and so many trips to the mirror to check it out), out it came. Good thing she and Popo made a special tooth box this summer in preparation of this day. That tiny bottom tooth is under the pillow as I write this, positioned right in the middle of her head, just waiting for some Saudi riyals to spend.

Today was one of those parent moments that took me by surprise. Of course, I thought I'd be thrilled when she lost a tooth, but the profundity of it all rocked me in the coolest way. I love watching her grow up and watching her be so proud of her big-girl accomplishments. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

School Days

The first day of school has come and gone, but we were without internet for many, many weeks, so some backtracking is in order.

Sojo really wanted to wear her black leggings that have a hole in the knee for the first day of school. We weren't so sure about that. When we delved a bit deeper as to why she wanted those leggings (I was thinking security stuff because she loves to rub her kneecap through the hole), she shared that if she wore those, everyone would know right away that she was a rough-and-tumble girl. Somehow we convinced her the others would still know this about her when they saw her on the playground, and she wore her guitar leggings instead.

Love the Thai 'way' greeting

And for me, well... after 20 years of teaching, I entered the new realm of 4 year olds as the K4 teacher at our school. My own early childhood teacher, Mrs. Foto, was amazing back in the 70's, and I always remember that she wore these awesome red clogs. I had a pair made this summer and wore them on the first day of school to channel her spirit. If I can be a fraction of what she was, I'll be just fine.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Life of Juxtaposition

We are living a life of juxtaposition here in the Arabian desert. Plenty of grass and trees in our backyard with rippled sand dunes just beyond the green. Me in shorts and a t-shirt on the playground one night chatting with a mom who was fully veiled. Traditional musicians performing at an Eid celebration when a random group of Disney-esque characters walk in.
me in my abaya with a pop of color

Living here is so very different than anything I've ever experienced, and I am trying to soak up as much as I can in a country where I see only the eyes of half the population. People are open and interested and accepting of me when I am out and about, and I have felt welcome from the moment we arrived in the airport.  The shock of seeing all Saudi women fully veiled is still with me, but I am getting accustomed to it and discovering that there is a lot behind the veil.

exhibit A on the Disney/traditional music combo

camel ride for Eid

the putting "green" with a jebel in the background

More than anything, we all love the camels. Well, the food is pretty yummy, but we really love the camels! Watching them plod along single file against the starkness of the desert is pretty magical. One day we were lucky to happen upon a pen of baby camels in a nearby city, and I can tell already that I will have to control myself from taking a gazillion camel shots.

More blog posts to come as we settle in and explore a bit!