"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness."
The wise Mark Twain wrote those words many years ago, and they hold true for me every single day of my last 20 years of travelling. I am constantly learning and letting go of old ideas.
Living in Saudi Arabia has been nothing short of fascinating these past nine months. Dale and I really wanted to come to the Middle East as the next stop in our journey as living in an Islamic country was a missing puzzle piece for our learning and living. Another big reason we wanted to live in an Islamic country is that I was downright weary of being told by the media and others that the Middle East should be feared and is a bad place. It just didn't feel right, and I wanted to learn for myself by living there, to speak from my own experience rather than parroting what I heard on the news.
And learn we have. Take our family bowling afternoon last weekend. The only other bowlers were a big extended Saudi family, and we had the last lane. I was not covered but as we are on camp, it is ok. However, all the other women were, and it did feel a bit awkward. At one point, the patriarch of the family came over, offering sweet bread and cardamom coffee to us. He said, "You are welcome."
Those three words, "You are welcome," are the most common words I've heard in the last nine months. Saudis are gracious and kind and love to double-kiss on the cheek and lounge in the park with their families and picnic. Obviously, there are issues with women, but there is hope in the air and change is occurring. Hope is always uplifting.