Friday, 31 August 2012

Back to the Desert!

Goodbye Toronto...Hello London!

Good morning, my lovely readers! It's been some time since I posted and I thought I should pop in and say a little something before DH and I head back to the desert. It's been a wonderfully glorious summer in Toronto. I've caught up with friends and family; I've laughed, I've cried, and I've come out on top... ready to tackle another year in Saudi Arabia!

One of my favourite things about Toronto is the beautiful waterfront. I've enjoyed afternoon walks along the Woodbine Beach boardwalk, dipping my feet in the warm water, and soaking up the sunshine on my skin. There are stunning nature trails and paved pathways along Lake Ontario, and I've thoroughly enjoyed checking out new pathways and sights every day.

Here are some of my favourite photos from the Beaches:
Waves crashing up on the shore: Lake Ontario

The boardwalk at Woodbine Beach <3

I didn't surf, but it looked like lots of fun!

One of the "recreation trails" I explored. 
I got up to the family cottage only once...and, go figure, it was on a rainy day! But I took advantage of the time by catching up on some leisurely (!!) reading (yes, the leisurely part is shocking after all my time in grad school!), and having a great visit with my mom and dad. The last morning up north the rain stopped, and my dad and I were lucky to enjoy a canoe ride like old times. It's so peaceful on the water.

Off We Go...

I've spent the last week or so feeling a mixture of emotions: sad to leave Toronto, family, and friends, but excited for all the good things this year will bring. For those of you who know me well, I really don't enjoy change. I'm actually terrified of it. And somehow I ended up on this crazy, life-changing adventure! As challenging and crazy as life can be abroad, I don't regret my time in KSA for a second.

In anticipation of my return to Jeddah, I've decided to make a list of all the things I'm eagerly anticipating about this coming year abroad. So, without further ado...

My Top 10 List for 2012-2013

1. Our 2 day stopover in London, England

I've never been to England, and DH had a stopover there years ago and didn't get to see much. We've both been talking about taking a trip to London, and I wasn't sure it would happen. Then his university booked our flights back and gave us a 24 hour stopover in London! Needless to say, we're both pretty excited! I wonder if the Olympic rings will still be hanging from London Bridge...
London Bridge
2. Returning to Jeddah...WITH DH!!!

This is something that brings me a particularly noteworthy thrill: I already have my Saudi residency, and I'm not going to be sitting around waiting for an indefinite amount of time waiting for a visa (like my 75 day wait last fall). Yay! My husband and I, after so many months and years apart in the past, finally have a predictable future: together!!!
Back to Jeddah!
3. Going back to Work!

Another thing that I'm definitely not taking for granted is having a stable job, given the Canadian / US / European (heck, most of the world's) economic situation. To top it off, not only am I so blessed with a job, but I love, love, love my colleagues and where I work. I'm excited to return with all the energy, vigor, and passion in me!
4.  Unending Summer!

A big part of what's making returning to Jeddah easier is the progressively cooler weather Toronto hands us each day. DH and I have taken to having our morning coffee on the balcony and it's actually becoming almost too cold to sit out. If I wanted to stay in Toronto, it wouldn't be the same as the glorious summer we've just enjoyed anyways. So, off to Jeddah's sunshine and pleasant winter weather.
Al Hamra, the winter!!!
5. Walking

I love to walk. I will walk for hours just taking in the scenery, people, breathing in the beautiful air... I do love Canadian falls. The air is so crisp, it's breezy, and it feels like a new beginning (I guess this part is usually associated with spring, but given that September marks the start of the academic year, it's always been a beginning for me!)

When I first moved to Jeddah, I anticipated not being able to walk outside. Why? First, it can get SO hot. Second, wearing an abaya, I wasn't the most graceful at first, and I didn't think a brisk walk would be ideal given that I'd probably trip. So the first item on my "to do" list when I moved there was to purchase a treadmill.

Okay, so in this photo walking looks quite glorified...I just don't have a photo of the "other" walking area I described lol I guess I could walk here, too, though. :)
Since living there for 7 months, however, I've realized that people DO walk outside. In fact, some men even run! DH and I found this "walking area" (sidewalks are, by the way, a bit of a novelty) on our way home from work. People walk briskly, jog, run, or even stroll along. Some people are out at noon (which, quite frankly, I don't know how it's possible when it's so hot!) but the busiest time is the evening and night time once it cools down a bit. I have yet to join the walking crowd out there, but this is something I'm looking forward to giving a try. It will beat staring at the wall while on my treadmill at home. Let's just see if I can handle the heat!

6. Sunshine

In Toronto, I love the summer. I love the fall. But I'm not a huge fan of the winter and early spring. I find it hard to keep motivated and positive when the days are so short and the sunshine isn't too prevalent. In Jeddah, we have sunshine all year round!!! This is definitely something I'm looking forward to as family and friends prepare for another Canadian winter!
7. Weekends!

I've been a student most of my life... No, ALL of my life, and something else I love is having weekends. Granted, many weekends I bring marking home, but there's a greater sense of freedom in having at least an entire day off! No worrying about upcoming proposals, papers, exams, seminars or readings. Just some leisurely marking, and time. Time to read. Time to work out. Time to cook. Time (and some money!) to go shopping...

And the topic of weekends leads me to #8:

8. Trips!

In Saudi, we're close to a lot of often unexplored (or unfrequented by most traveling westerners) cities and countries. Within Saudi itself there is lots to explore. A difficult country for which to get a visa, DH and I hope to explore more of KSA before we leave. Makkah, Taif, and maybe Riyadh are among some cities we hope to see.
Living in Saudi Arabia also brings the advantage that we're closer to lots of other travel spots that, from Canada, are a long, tiring journey. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) -- I want to visit a friend in Dubai on Hajj break, inshallah -- Kuwait where a good friend and her husband are living and working (I went last March and hope to go again this year), and Jordan. Everyone raves about the historic sights and natural beauty there. Unfortunately, I doubt we'll be able to see all these places, but I'm excited to see where the coming year will lead us!

9. Makkah!

Makkah (or Mecca) is Islam's holiest city, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and the home of the Kaaba (see photo below). DH and I took an overnight trip to Makkah before the summer and it was such an amazing experience. Only a 45 minute drive from Jeddah, we'll inshallah take monthly weekend getaways and stay in Makkah, relax, and pray.
The Kaaba in Makkah
10. Lifestyle

In Saudi Arabia, although I, as a woman, am not permitted to drive, the lifestyle is much more laid back. I work a lot, but it's possible to take time out to relax, unwind and enjoy a good quality of life. Food in Jeddah is cheap, gas is even cheaper, shopping is amazing, and I have some wonderful friends who I can't wait to see when I return in a few days (British "S" and Saudi / American "A" you know who you are!!)
This is some Indian food we had in TO; however, in Jeddah, you would pay a fraction of what we paid for this ($35), and get this (takeout) for probably $5.
Off I Go...
DH and I fly out of Toronto tonight, and can't wait for our time in London. Then, it's off to Jeddah where I have no doubt that it's going to be an amazing year. I can't wait to share my stories and experiences with you on Pink Jeddah Sunset.

Salam alaikum...and see you all soon!