I started this blog four years ago to work through my mixed up feeling about moving here to the Middle East. We’ve been here almost four years and I can’t even remember what my initial feelings were when we got here.
I have grown a lot since being here and I am a completely changed person. I remember that I used to be afraid to speak up for myself and stand up to anyone. Living here has brought out the more aggressive woman in me because now, if you try to skip the queue in front of me, I will let you know that you are mistaken and you need to step back.
I am still a friendly and happy person. I still smile at everyone. It irritates me to no end when I get that “down the nose” stare with the eye rolling from some of the covered women though. I am still absolutely awestruck when I am greeted with that “I am a million time better than you” attitude that seems to be the underlying attitude of some of these women. I don’t get it really.
My four years here have taught me that home is where you make it. I have learned that you can make a life anywhere and it all depends on your attitude. If you take yourself out of your comfort zone and keep an open mind, keep smiling and finding the beauty in your life, it doesn’t matter where you are. I have learned that there are certain aspects of other cultures that do and always will confuse me and I am OK with that. I have also learned that just one friendly word to the right person here and you have made a friend for life. It thrills me to no end when one of the local girls asks if we can have coffee or comes to my office for a visit. It is so wonderfully refreshing to see the hopefulness and determination in their eyes.
Life here is privileged. I often say that living here is like living at home but with a bigger house and a better view. I don’t have to wear a head cover and I can drive (of course, if you ask my husband, he may argue with that last statement). I do have to get my husband’s permission to do certain things and have to have a written note of support from him sometimes. This is not really a big deal to me though because we make big decisions as a team, so I would always talk to him about whatever it is I need anyway. I have my own bank account, own my own vehicle and can dress as I wish.
AAAHHHH…dress code. Well, the most common question I get is “What can I wear?” My answer is always that you can wear whatever you want, but keep in mind that this is a Muslim country and while you may go out in t-shirt and shorts, it is not common here, so you may be made to feel uncomfortable. I keep a mind to be respectful while still trying to express my fashion personality. I always wear an undershirt so not to show cleavage. I do not wear short skirts – I wouldn’t anyway though because I am a 35 year old mother of three, I have no business wearing a short skirt. Sleeveless and spaghetti strap is fine if you don’t mind catching cold from the air con in the buildings, but again, it is not the norm here, so you will be made to feel uncomfortable. The simple solution is to wear an undershirt or take along a wrap or jacket. The key is to blend in with your surroundings. The one single thing that irritates me about trying to dress here is the SHOES. They are obsessed with shoes here, which is unusual because you can not find a decent pair of shoes in this entire country! You are either stuck with having to take out a loan to buy the designer shoes (which are usually spike heeled and shiny – I HATE shiny shoes) or you get cheap plastic crap shoes that might look cute but will fall apart after 2 wears. The shoes people! I hate the shoes here! Oh, and the hand bags. Seriously. Buckles, lame’ and patent leather? Are you for real? Not to mention that you can’t find a normal sized hand bag. They all look like over night bags that Liberachi would carry to his last Vegas show. It’s terrible. But I digress…….
I love the desert – hate the heat. There is nothing more beautiful than the sun setting over the gigantic sand dunes as the call to prayer reminds us that another day has passed and we have so much to be thankful for. The driving is a bit hectic and scary. All those years of my mom’s defensive driving lessons have come into play here. Thank goodness my mom was a driver’s education teacher! I struggle with language and the different versions of English that are used here. The grocery stores are adequate and life is pretty normal. I don’t know. I feel at home. I am comfortable. I wish my family and friends were closer, but even if we were in the US, I wouldn’t see them any more than I do now. I miss having four seasons. There is no fix for this problem. The best we can do is leave during the peak summer heat and hope that the cooler weather will arrive soon after we get back. The cooler months provide days and days of amusement when you see everyone in parkas in 60 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures though! This still makes me chuckle.
The local people are friendly almost to a fault, if you give them a chance. The third world workers can be a bit jarring, but a lot of them are just lonely and awestruck (or maybe disgusted) by a blue eyed, fair skinned red headed westerner. It can be a bit discerning when every man you pass stares a hole through you as if you were a prostitute in front of a Mormon church. I’ve learned to not make eye contact and to just be on with my business. OK, so sometimes when I am feeling a bit pissy, I pull out my phone and pretend to take their photo. They usually stop looking when I do that.
This is kind of long winded and so jumpy. Sorry. There is so much I wish I could say but I am just having a very difficult time putting it to words. It is like the book “A New Earth” where the Arthur writes about how we use the vowel “I” to try and describe what makes us and how that one little letter just can’t possibly describe the being within. That is how I feel about this place.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not all roses and bad shoes. I have really bad days where I would love nothing more than to pick my window seat and head for home, but those days are outnumbered by the good days. That is what makes it worthwhile. When the day comes that I am begging to go home that is when I will go home. For now, I am just thankful for this opportunity to be here and to get to know about life here. I wish I had more time to visit more often and really experience a more genuine local life here. Unfortunately, I have to pay for that vehicle that I purchased in my name………