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!

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