Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas (er, I mean, happy ordinary Sunday)!

Well, today is December 25th, and, sure enough, I made it to this country in time for Christmas…or, rather, I made it here for another typical day in Saudi Arabia. In any case, I’m stopping by for a brief moment to wish you all a safe and wonderfully blessed Christmas! Here in Jeddah, there is no holiday and the religious police have apparently been around making sure no one is publicly celebrating a Christian holiday in this 100% Islamic state!

Despite the policing, I subtly met up for Christmas Eve desserts (I mean, a typical evening out) last evening with someone I consider a good friend. Now that I’ve been here in Jeddah for a week, I finally got to meet DH’s former boss, a lovely American woman married to a Saudi who lives here in Jeddah! To her, thanks so much for the lovely evening out—my first excursion with a Jeddawi friend! We had scrumptious chocolate desserts and sat in the “family” section of the restaurant (where single women, children and families are to sit because of segregation; single men have their own section). It was a relaxing and nice atmosphere to enjoy Christmas Eve.
!Dessert Menu...yummy
Today, DH, of course, had to work (weekends here are Thursday / Friday) and when he finally got home, he had news: the car wouldn’t start when he was about to drive home! We had a quick dinner before he headed back out to figure out how to get a mechanic to the vehicle.

In the meantime, I am putting finishing touches on Christmas / belated Eid dinner! In our own home we’re allowed to celebrate, just as long as we’re discreet about it and not putting trees and lights up in the hallway of our apartment haha I feel like a “real” wife finally, cooking chicken (turkey is outrageously expensive here), stuffing, potatoes, roasting vegetables, and baking cookies for a lovely dinner. We’re looking forward to sitting down to enjoy it at out new kitchen table and chairs! More on our home decorating endeavors soon J
!Our Christmas / belated Eid dinner
!For now, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Lucky Day 71!

First of all, a bit of an editorial note: now that I’m in Saudi, my computer has decided to take on Arabic preferences, and all my punctuation keeps moving to the beginning of my sentences haha My apologies for this. I’ll try to figure out how to fix it soon!

Great news!!!
Well, if anyone placed bets on my visa, whoever guessed day 71 is a winner! Yes, dear readers—on Wednesday December 14, 2011 I finally received my Saudi visa! The previous day, I had sent a desperate email to the head of my visa consulting agency, explaining how long I’d been waiting and asking what was going on. How could things possibly be taking so long? The next morning, he emailed me back with the news that my visa was on its way via Purolator, to arrive before 9am on Thursday morning. Alhamdulillah (praise God in Arabic)!
I was sitting at my laptop upstairs, and upon reading the news I literally bounded down about 20 stairs, hitting only 3 of them, yelling “I GOT MY VISA!!!!” I scared my poor cat to near death, and my dad came running… I hugged him and just started crying with relief. Yay!!!

The excitement spreads…
Next, I called my husband who didn’t answer the phone, so I forwarded him the consultant’s email, and then called my soon to be boss having promised to let her know as soon as I received any news.

DH soon called me back and said he nearly began to cry in front of some former students he had been visiting. We were both so HAPPY!!!!! A Christmas miracle, one of my friends says! J I think so!

I didn’t waste any time booking my flight to Jeddah, and after being reassured that my visa would arrive before 9am Thursday morning, I figured it would be safe to book a Thursday night flight. DH’s best man is a travel agent and he was kind enough to book me a great flight on Etihad Airways. I had a longggg stopover in Abu Dhabi, but it was nice to walk around the airport. I put on my abaya to blend in, and got more used to walking around wearing it.
Etihad Airways
In Abu Dhabi I met my first Saudi friend, who had been on my flight from Canada. She’s from Riyadh and is returning home with her husband for a school break. He studies in Canada, and so we got into a conversation about student / accompanying spouse visas for Canada. Inshallah, I will write more about this lovely lady in my forthcoming post on Saudi women.

Life so far
After only 4 days here (and I’m still very jet lagged) I have LOTS to write about! I want to describe life in Jeddah, my first Saudi friend, and my experience at the university medical center where I had my first encounter with a very different way of interacting (or not interacting!) with the opposite sex. In experiencing these things, I have the tendency to see the culture, its people and life through an academic lens lol I don’t know if this is good, but it is, in truth, a big part of what drew me to agree to come to Saudi.
mini Jeddah roundabout at night...
My sociological study…
I have, if you will, a working thesis that I’ve brought along with me to the Kingdom. Every Saudi / Saudi resident I’ve so far met in person agrees with me, so let’s see how true it turns out to be!

Basically, my “argument” is that the Western World has an extremely biased and tainted view about Saudi Arabia—its culture, its women, its religion and its laws. Our conceptions of the Kingdom impede us from recognizing the unique and valuable elements of Saudi society, and many positive values we might benefit from integrating into our own society.  

This is doubtlessly not controversial to most people I’ll meet in the Kingdom, but to readers, family, friends back home, it might be more shocking! What do you think? Has the media perpetuated a particular view of what Saudi Arabia is? How its people interact? What the nation stands for? How women live? Certainly, there will be some elements of our conceptions that are true, but I want to suggest that, for the most part, our ideas about Saudi Arabia are overwhelmingly tainted by media dramatization and propaganda.

Culture shock?
Thus far, I’m holding my breath. Having been here only 4 days, I have had some bits and pieces of culture shock in a couple situations, but I’m trying to learn how to interact, to learn the etiquette and the proper way of doing things here. Inshallah I’ll learn quickly!

Finally, I can acquire experiential knowledge that extends beyond my extensive and long investigated “book knowledge” of this amazing country…the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you all!

All my love from the desert sands of Jeddah…where we have pleasant warm weather, sunshine and no snow!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Day 63: Still waiting

Advent: A Time of Joyful Anticipation
Well, I'm just stopping by to thank everyone who's commented and supported me throughout this long waiting period. There are 19 days left until Christmas...and I am now trying to think about waiting for my visa in terms of the "joyful hope" to which this Advent season calls us. 
Second week of Advent
On Sunday at Mass, the readings were about waiting and time. 2 Peter 3: 8-9 relevantly proclaims: not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance
Good news: my visa's been approved!
I've decided that if God is outside of time, then I should give up my expectation of Him answering my prayers for my visa in MY time; rather, everything will happen in God's own time. The above passage really hit home for me--especially since my visa consultant contacted the Saudi embassy last week and let me know this greatttt news: MY VISA HAS BEEN APPROVED!!!!! Now, my waiting CAN be in joyful anticipation because I know, as with Advent, it's to a definite end! I will be going to Jeddah. It's just a question of when the embassy decides to physically stamp my visa and send it back to me.

I've decided to use this time to perfect the virtue of patience, and to keep trusting in God. As St. Peter suggests, I've let go of time (as much as I can) and am trying to just be

Preparatory Waiting
To anyone else out there reading this and waiting for something--whether it be Christmas day, a visa, being reunited with a spouse or family, or anything at all--consider your own wait a time of preparation. Preparation for the fulfillment of God's plan, for your life, for your future. Inshallah, everything will come into place as it is meant to be. 

I invite you all to wait with me in joyful anticipation for the wonderful future ahead!