I had a baby in Saudi

The date was Jan 27th, 2016. I had gone to bed a bit early and woke up about 11pm with pain in my belly. I laid there for about 30 minutes thinking to myself that it wouldn’t be long before I would be giving birth to my daughter. I was excited since I was already 40 weeks and one day. I was ready to hold her in my arms. I was feeling a little bit scared because I knew nothing of what was going to happen. First baby nervous. Does it get better or easier after the first one? I got up and decided to keep busy for as long as I could. I wrote down the times when I felt each contraction start up. I was hitting the refresh button on Facebook and hand quilting my rooster quilt to keep myself occupied. I wondered to myself when I was going to get sleep next. I had no idea how long the labor would last.

I finally woke my husband up around three am I think. I told him that I didn’t think he would be going to work that day. I enjoyed his excitement over my condition at the time. He was calm and collected. I told him that I didn’t want to be that person who would show up at the hospital only to be sent home because it wasn’t time yet. I think we waited till about 4:30am before we left the house. We decided to get some McDonald’s Egg Mcmuffin sandwiches (they aren’t open at that hour) before and even go walk around at the grocery store since we figured that it would be the only place open. They actually had the doors locked at Tamimis when we arrived. They are open 24 hours, but were putting stock out and cleaning floors so they had the doors locked. We went and sat in the car for a bit and then my husband went to approach an employee who had come out to smoke. He straight up told the guy that I was in labor and we just wanted to walk around inside. So the guy lets us in the roam the aisles of the grocery store (and use the toilet) while I had contractions every 4-7 minutes. That will always be a good memory.

Arriving at the hospital for the birth of a baby involves getting checked in at the emergency room first. Strange to me, but whatever. Then they take you up to the birthing floor to be checked out. Turns out I was only dilated maybe one or two centimeters. After being monitored for contractions and fetal heartbeat for an hour, they told us to go home. It was too early. They told us to come back if the pain got worse, or there was blood, or water. Specific, yet vague instructions for a return trip. Turns out, I was that girl who arrived too early and got sent home. McDonald’s was open at this time, so I finally got my breakfast sandwiches on the way home.

I don’t really remember much of that Thursday. Only that the contractions remained around 3 to 7 minutes apart all day and just kept getting stronger. I was able to get in a much needed nap after being up all night. We just chilled at home, and around eleven PM, we headed back to the hospital. The pain had definitely increased and I didn’t know what level to expect for hard labor. This time I was wheeled up to the birthing floor in a wheel chair as part of protocol. Again I was checked out and monitored to see how things were progressing. And again I was told to go back home. I felt rather frustrated at this point because the pain seemed more intense, yet I hadn’t even dilated much at all. Again they gave me instructions regarding my return to the hospital. If there was water, blood or the pain was worse. I think I asked how much worse the pain should be and they said intolerable. Another reason for sending us home was that the insurance was only going to pay for a certain amount of time outside of the delivery, so me staying there early on would have been money out of pocket. I was crying out in pain on the way home this time. There was no sleeping for me this time once I got home. My husband was able to get some rest, but my contractions couldn’t be slept though.

I think I woke my husband up around 3:30 am Friday morning. I was crying from the pain at this point, and there had been fresh colored blood along with the mucus plug. This gave me hope that I had in fact dilated more during the night. So off to the hospital once again! I remember very little cars being on the road this go around. My husband was speeding and even ran a red light because there was no one else on the road. He had said we were staying this time even if they suggested we go home. He even thought maybe if we didn’t hurry we would have to name our daughter Elantra, after the car she would be born in.

The wheelchair ride to the birthing floor was a little bit funny. I would have laughed had I not been crying in pain. The nurse pushing me kept saying “no no no,not yet.” I had to tell her I wasn’t having the baby, just a contraction. I get up to the room and get checked out only to discover I’m only four centimeters dilated. I was so unbelievably frustrated and concerned because I was really reaching a pain level that was too much. But this time they admitted me. They hooked me up once again to the monitors and would come back in the room periodically to check on things. I couldn’t get over the pain level. I should mention at this point that I had no desire to get an epidural. I didn’t want any pain medications really. I was thinking I would get the gas to breath between contractions and a last resort I would probably be willing to get the pethedine to ease the pain. I had my fears that I wouldn’t be able to do this on my own and that I would have to get a C-Section because of drugs that I was given. I wanted to avoid all of that. I was relieved to be in labor at this time, because they wanted to induce me the following week if I hadn’t had the baby, and that wasn’t something I wanted either.

Back to the delivery room: They had put me on oxygen at this point. And I’m not sure what time they did it, but they gave me a shot of pethedine at one point. Its supposed to ease the pain, but you will still feel everything. I am still of the opinion that it didn’t do sh** for me. I remember thinking “okay, twenty minutes and I’ll start feeling better.” It didn’t do anything! Little did I know that my husband had noticed that the contractions were registering around twenty on the monitor before the shot, and after the shot, they had gone up to eighty and ninety.

After some time the Dr. came in and asked me about getting an epidural. I at this point was glad she mentioned it and was all about hearing what she had to say regarding the procedure. My husband however was like, hey no one has checked on her in a couple hours. I think she needs to be checked on. He knew I didn’t want the epidural of course and he stepped in to be my voice of reason in a time when I was out of my head. The Dr. then checks me out and tells me that I am going to start pushing and will have a baby in twenty minutes. I was thinking really? I don’t have the desire to push. I don’t know how to push. And I sure as heck was scared of the pain level that I hadn’t had yet. But pushing time was on, so… The Dr goes to get changed and comes back and tells me to push every time I have a contraction. I’m telling you, I had no idea what I was doing. She would give me instructions, and I would tearfully tell her I was trying. Putting a catheter in she tells me that “that takes care of that problem.” (I had peed a little during a push. It had bothered me to not get a warning at least. If you have never had a catheter put in, they don’t feel good. She wasn’t about to be all kind about things either, she was very to the point and businesslike at this point. Like a drill sergeant, telling me, to stop crying and push! Or stop yelling and push! And put your hands on those bars and push! I didn’t even know if I was pushing right. I just wanted to baby to be out at this point. I wasn’t about to keep quiet when I started to feel her giving me an episiotomy. I had mentally prepared myself for it to happen at some point ( was told months before that it was procedure for first time births). Is mentally preparing oneself even possible to do when it comes to your genital area? I think not.

I think I had maybe three more pushes after that. At one point I had a cheering section of the Dr, my husband and the five or six nurses all yelling push! Push! At the same time. Finally with a great sense of relief, our little daughter came into the world at about 7:20am on Friday, January 29th.

I am grateful for the fairly short labor. Wednesday night, to Friday morning really isn’t too bad in my opinion. But I was also very exhausted at that point too. I didn’t even have any fight in me to protest the nurses taking the baby to the nursery right away, when in fact she should have been on me. Thankfully after getting stitched up, they brought her back into the room. I had planned to breastfeed exclusively and felt that the sooner she was on me the better.

Two hours after having the baby, I was able to be moved to the recovery room. The nurse wanted me to put on my abaya. I thought, and said out loud…”I just had a baby, I’m not putting on an abaya!” So she grabbed the blanket off the bed and covered me up with it. The recovery rooms were nice. A nice bed for me and a pull out chair bed for my husband to use. The food wasn’t terrible either. The constant flow of nurses or cleaning ladies was a bit too much though. The nurses from the nursery would also come in from time to time to take the baby “to check her vitals”. I would get annoyed if she was gone too long. I had informed them not to feed her, but they kept asking me if they could, even arguing with me at one point because they said she would get hungry if she didn’t have enough from me. “that’s why her and I need to work together at this” I had said in response. The learning part wasn’t immediate, but I was one determined mamma! Turns out that during those vitals checks at one point, she was being vaccinated. Good thing I wasn’t one of those anti vaxers because they never informed me or asked about vaccinations for my baby until we were getting discharged the following day, after they had already given her shots. I still get a little annoyed by it though.

I was one very happy lady when I got discharged the day after giving birth! I so wanted to just get home and start working on getting our own routines as a family. Three weeks later, we are still working on that. Every day seems to be something new and I’m okay with it.

My story is a bit long here, but I do need to add one more thing before I close. You know how I mentioned the catheter the Dr. put in? Well the first night at home, about 3am, I woke my husband up again to inform him this time that I probably needed to go back to the hospital because I had a UTI! Of all things, A UTI on top of just giving birth wasn’t my idea of a good time. But I knew my body well enough to know what was happening and I blamed the Catheter being the reason for this. I didn’t want to get put on antibiotics with a brand new baby though, so after some talking and looking on the Internets, I decided to try to eliminate the UTI naturally with cranberry juice, lemon juice, baking soda, eating certain foods, whatever would work and not cause the baby to get anything unwanted through the breast milk. My efforts were not successful however. After five days I woke up feeling lower back pain and really had had enough. Back to the hospital we went. A nurse asked us if we had someone at home to take care of the baby cause the air in the ER wasn’t good for a newborn. I might have snapped a little bit in response to that. It’s not like I had wanted to be there! I wanted drugs to clear up the infection and to be sent home! My white blood cell count turned out to be over 100 (I guess its supposed to be under 10) so they said I had to be admitted. Tearfully I asked if my baby could stay with me and they said yes, so I agreed to stay. Ended up staying in the hospital the whole weekend! I needed antibiotics and fluids to get me hydrated. They had to hook my IV up to a machine to push it through, since my little vein kept closing up. At least I didn’t have an issue with my blood clotting. But I had to push a button every time I needed to pee so that I could be unhooked, and then when they hooked me back up, they usually had to flush the vein to open in back up. You might think that I would have been able to get rest at least. Not the case, as the flow of nurses and cleaning crews were again a constant during my visit.

I am once again grateful for the continued healing and hope to be back to myself soon. I still have some pain that I hope will diminish in the next couple weeks. We are still learning every day here, and enjoying the process even if it involves tears on my end at times, because I am just exhausted or I’m hurting or just don’ t know what to do to make my baby stop crying. We are thankful and totally in love with our little girl.

That is my birth story from abroad. Signing off for now -wifeabroad.

Being Pregnant

I can hardly believe the year is almost up. Its amazing what has changed in just a matter of months. My husband and I celebrated a year of marriage, and took three vacations that required flying, along with a closer to home vacation a few hours away. I have made the one year in Saudi milestone. We have had some trying moments along the way too. I have wanted a number of times, to just leave this place, and my husband didn’t always know what to do in those situations. He was close to putting me on a plane a few times with a one way ticket. But we made it through all that and add a growing baby (not yet born) to the mix, and its been pretty eventful!
I’m almost done brewing the little one. She is due to arrive late January. She takes up more and more space everyday as well. Not just in the womb, but also outside too, as we are now in the process of adding little baby clothes in pretty feminine patterns, and tiny stuffed animals that are just adorable are being added to our lives.
Being pregnant has been such a strange and cool experience. I think some days as of late, I want to be done. But I also, wonder if I will then miss it once its over. My husband has been such a support through it all. Taking me to appointments, going out to get me ice cream, or cheeseburgers when it’s actually his bed time. Two nights ago, he didn’t even complain or argue about his need for sleep on a work night as I lay in bed wide awake, instead he and I talked about stuff and held hands while the little one bounced around inside of me.
We have had fun moments pretending to want  items for the baby, like a Cinderella carriage bassinet.
CAM00792 This was  NEVER going to go in our home, but we had a good laugh over it. We didn’t necessarily laugh over the talks where my husband just wants to use a cardboard box for the baby on top of a deep freezer. We don’t even own a deep freezer, but he sees this as an opportunity to get one.  That to me is trashy and ridiculous, and our baby doesn’t need to sleep in a box! I can’t help myself, when I want to get a normal crib that I will not have to deal with issues like, rolling, falling or starting to pull oneself up. Clothing. ah such cute little clothes! Everything for a baby seems to be so darn expensive. But I have done quite a bit of looking, and have found some cheaper options here in the city we live in. They might not be the best quality, but if they are just being worn for a couple months before being grown out of, it’ll do. As for me, I’m wearing a few items of clothing out myself. I have been enjoying a life of maxi skirts, leggings, and tank tops. Going out in leggings is not something I would ever do back home in the States. I find modesty to be quite lacking while wearing leggings outside of the house, unless said wearer is also wearing a long enough top or dress over them. So, the fact that I have to wear an abaya when I go out, solves that one right there. The general public has no clue what in underneath my black dress. I have also enjoyed my maternity clothes too. I don’t dress casual everyday. I have a feeling that even after the baby arrives, the maternity jeans will still be worn for a bit. But speaking of clothes for the baby…Look at the incredible baby shower in  a box that my mother in law sent over!
CAM00813So incredibly blessed to have this as a starting point for dressing our little girl. I love the colors that were picked out. And the little animal feet on the pants in the middle of the picture made my husband use the word “adorbs”. Love it!
I’ve had such a great appetite (second trimester, on…) and have put on some pounds. Some days it has made me feel quite self conscious, but I have tried not to let it get to me too much. I have had an unusual love for sweets, desserts, and candy. When my candy stash is getting low, I am looking for more. Okay, every trip to the grocery store I find something that needs to be had. Last night it was Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Those large old fashioned lolly pops are good too. Jelly Belly’s, Runts, oh, and cake. I love cake. The down side to some of this incredible appetite has been some incredible heartburn. Holy cow! I brought a thing of Tums with me from the States while I was there in the summer. I think there are two left and I have two months of pregnancy left. I had to stop relying on them since I knew I couldn’t get more here. But the Dr has given me some other prescription to take, so that has helped tremendously.
I’m still dealing with the anxiety of having a baby far from my home country. Its been okay so far. I’ve cried a few times, thinking I might be slightly insane to do this. There are still things I don’t understand about how things are done here, but the way it looks, I should be okay. I mean, women have babies all the time here. This is a baby making place! I think I will switch my Dr this next week, as I haven’t seen my original Dr in over a month due to vacation time when I go in, and the one I have been seeing has felt a bit more comfortable, as she explains things to me in more detail. I like details. I like information. Not just “everything will be fine”. I don’t imagine doing this without some pain management. It looks like laughing gas is the preferred method here.  When I asked my first Dr about drug options for birth, she mentioned that she had given two epidurals. So, yeah, no one who has done this twice, goes anywhere near my spine! Perhaps the topic will be covered again once I am closer to my due date. Between now and then, I guess a little more internet research will be done. I hate internet research on some topics, because the exposure to the terrible side of things is right there with the good and its a balance act as far as what a person can then trust. My husband would tell me to not to look up information on the subject matter, but he is not the one who is going to push our little girl out of his _______.
-a very pregnant wifeabroad, signing off for now.

April arrived with a bang!

4/4/15

My husband and I went to Bahrain for the weekend. When we got there it was a bit chilly to me, so I didn’t take off my abaya right away. Was sort of wearing it like a jacket. It was actually raining and in the 80’s (F), but that made it feel a bit colder. We went to the liquor store to get some beers, and as we were walking up to the door we both were commenting on the fact that I still had the abaya on. As soon as we got inside I was confronted by security. Abayas are not allowed. We had a good laugh over that as I got kicked out for wearing it. The weekend was very chill and nothing over the top, as we stayed at a friend’s house and ate good food, and just relaxed. Here are some photos of pottery that I think are just lovely.

CAM00267 CAM00268 CAM00269These were taken at a roadside pottery market in Bahrain.

And a random photo of fabric with circles, because I’m a bit obsessed with circles. CAM00265

Sunday, was back to work for my husband. I woke up and realized that I had caught a cold over the weekend. The second hottest country in the world, and I had a cold. Yes, I am aware that it has nothing to do with weather, but I just wanted to throw that out there. On Monday, the temps got up to 104 (F).

On Tuesday a friend of mine invited me to go to the beach, so despite my runny nose and fatigue, I joined her. It was nice to get out for the day and enjoy a change of scenery . It is important for me to point out that this was my first time since moving here to do something without my husband for a day. In the States it would be taken for granted. My ability to just go and do something without him could happen at any time back at home. Here, not so easy or often does that happen. We got to enjoy the afternoon sitting in the sun, eating sandwiches and chips, or “crisps” as my friend calls them.

That evening we met up with my husband at the market. Him and I had a few things we needed for dinner the next night as we were going to have guests over for dinner. He mentioned that a roast sounded good. After a brief conversation about my ability to cook a roast, it was settled. At the meat counter I spotted the cut that looked good and told him what I wanted. My husband started laughing and explaining quite loudly in the store… “yeah, baby…way to be decisive!” Turns out, the cut of meat was quite pricey. 269 Saudi Riyals! Divide that by 3.75 and you get the US dollar amount. It was only the next day that I realized I had a bit of pressure on me to make that turn out well. I was a bit nervous that I might ruin it. I stuck the meat full of garlic cloves. I also mixed together a dry rub with a healthy amount of cyan pepper, salt, pepper, dry peppers, garlic powder, and cinnamon, and then I hoped for the best as it cooked for three hours in the oven.

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I must say, that I would do that again. It came out of the oven with this lovely crust that had a tasty kick to it.

Backing up just a little bit…I had done a bit of cleaning before the guests had arrived. This included washing the floors. I don’t wash the floors that often, since the dust is never ending here. Our guests had actually laughed because a sand storm was headed our way. They had told us that the following day it was due to hit. I heard a strange noise outside that evening (I don’t know how to describe it), and by the time the guests were about to leave, I looked outside the kitchen window to see nothing. All the lights and buildings in the distance were no longer visible. The Storm had already arrived, and it was by far the worst one I had ever seen in my life. The howling winds lasted all night and by morning, the inside of our apartment was covered in a layer of sand and dust. Everything was covered. All the cleaning I had done the day before had been laughed at by Mother Nature, and desert winds. I felt inspired to create this illustration for a little bit of cheer and positive thinking…

SAUDI ON-01

Also, I can’t really describe the smell that permeated my nose. Even with the cold and stuffed up head, all I could smell was sand. It was a burning smell to me. And to be honest I don’t enjoy that at all. I also felt like the elements had won the next morning, as I sat down for coffee and decided that I really wasn’t going to clean at all that day. Luckily my husband came home early from work and tackled the majority of the filth on his own. I just didn’t have the energy.

Photos from the sandstorm.

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Yesterday the sky was blue again and the weather, lovely. We got out of the house for a bit and wandered around the mall. I have always been a bit surprised by some of the shoes here. I think I will take more photos as I find them, but here a few to show you. I guess it surprises me that the impractical and gaudy shoes are so readily available in the land o’ sand. These are just a tiny portion of some of the crazy ones that I see.

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I’m very thankful that my frugal husband goes to certain gas stations when the car needs a fill up. He usually brings home 3-4 boxes of free tissue with each fill up. That my friends…comes in handy when you have a cold!

This pretty much sums up my past week here in Saudi. April has arrived with a bang -wifeabroad

It may not seem like much…

3/17/2015

It’s about that time again when I give you all an update on my life here in Saudi… We had a pretty good weekend, actually, I will say it was great! There is something incredibly calming about being able to just relax and see a new place, and hang out with friends. It overrides the negative crap in my head for a while. Something that is both needed and very much cherished here in the desert. At least for me…

Thursday evening, we met up with friends at the grocery store to get food for the next day’s BBQ we had planned. We got our supplies and then headed to my favorite place for Shawarma’s. We then went to a nearby park to eat, since the restaurant has no family section. The weather has been really great so, the park was very full of families with their children.

Friday we got on the road about 8ish, and drove to this hidden gem along the beach. This place provided us with a sense of NORMAL life for the day. We shed our abayas, and the rules of Saudi, and just had a great day relaxing in the sun, feet in the sand, cold malt (alcohol free) beverage in our hands. And the men grilled meat for dinner, on little grills that were available for us to use. The kids and adults all had a good time. It was such a breath of fresh air. And I’m sure that everyone got home that night very tired, but a good sort of tired.

On Saturday we had another guest over for dinner. Our guest brought all the food and cooked it up in our kitchen. I didn’t have to do a thing! And it was super delicious. Bok choy, steak and rice. I will have to see if he wants to cook for us again, he can. Then after dinner we headed to the Eco Park. Half the park is still blocked off to pedestrians for some reason, but once again it was teeming with people enjoying the weather. The first time I had been to the park, the water fountain was empty of water and looked to be under construction. I had a desire to see the fountain in action while here, and I got to see it that night. The water was flowing and after dusk, the fountain came to life. It used to be the world’s largest fountain at one time. The water shoots up 73 meters according to what I have found on the Internet about it. We were quite surprised to find that it was set to music. Public music here is Haram (meaning it’s sinful or forbidden to some Muslims) but I guess once again, the rules are meant to be broken! Oh,…I almost forgot to mention that also, a surprise to me was seeing female workers at the park picking up trash! This is a first for me to see. I’ve only seen men doing this sort of work before. The women had their hair covered, but they were wearing pants. Not an abaya. Bring it on…! I want to add twenty exclamation points. I was able to play around with my camera a bit and get a few good shots, then figure out the video. So here is some visual entertainment for you to go along with my story of the weekend.

CAM00204 CAM00205 CAM00214 CAM00217 CAM00221 CAM00213  I loaded a video to You Tube of the fountain at http://youtu.be/78YBEzA8auc (I still have some learning to do on videos)

This may not seem like much to my readers, but to us, this was one of our favorite weekends. It’s amazing how small things can bring so much joy here in Saudi.

Last night we got to enjoy a lightning show and quite a bit of rain here. This was the first time seeing lightning in the desert, for me.

To all my readers both old and new, thanks for reading, and have a great day!

-wifeabroad

Broken down by fours

2/25/2015

One week I feel great, and am explaining how I have gotten used to the abaya. The next week, I’m a total mess. Okay, maybe at times it can be broken down by hours, not weeks. And maybe a total mess is really just a nice way of saying that I may have just gone manic.

If someone asks me how I am doing, they will get the same answer most of the time. “I am fine.”

  1. I am smiling, but gritting my teeth
  2. I am on the verge of tears
  3. I may just go on a rant of exaggerated dislike for almost everything
  4. I really am fine

I’m trying to be thankful for things that are good in my life to counterbalance the stresses

  1. So thankful for my husband who keeps on loving me, even in the ugly moments
  2. I’m thankful that my health has been good. I even traveled to a country (cough, cough… the U.S.) that reported epidemic like flu outbreaks and never got sick.
  3. I’m thankful that I have things that bring me joy (all things art)
  4. We are always well fed

New things that have happened in the past weeks

  1. Trying home cooked Vietnamese food
  2. Meeting a Vietnamese ambassador and his wife
  3. Laying out in the sun by a pool, in a Muslim country
  4. Giving up my flip flops because we (the ladies in the group) had all worn high heels and did touristy stuff that required a lot of walking. I think the ambassador’s wife needed a break from the heels as well, and I didn’t have the heart or the nerve to tell her she had my shoes on. It was a really funny moment. I’ll never forget it.

Things I really need to work on as an expat.

  1. Not shutting down
  2. Every little detail is important or not at all (need to avoid extreme thinking)
  3. Generalization of things is often quite unfair to myself and others
  4. Keeping the bad folder underneath, and not as stocked full as the good folder

If it wasn’t for my being here in Saudi for the past 4 months, I would not have been able to have the experiences that I have been able to write about, and for that I am also thankful.

CAM00147 A view of Bahrain

CAM00148 The patchwork camel needed a scrub down

CAM00156 Old and new

CAM00150 Cool art at the old fort (also has patchwork)

Saudi is not going to change for me, I have to change for it, or I have to leave.

Working on perspective, and tossing around ideas in my head for the next steps in life

-wifeabroad

A fish market pervert, a Saudi wedding, and a few close calls.

12/14/14

I need to warn you that the first part of this entry is not pleasant! The weekend started out like most weekends here. My husband and I always have new energy on Thursday nights since it starts the weekend and we never really know what kind of fun we can have for a couple days. We had a few errands to run before we headed out of town for a trip to Jeddah to attend a wedding. I needed to return a dress that I had decided against, and my husband needed to pick up some clothes that he had dropped off for repairs. The return of the dress went pretty smoothly and I was able to explain that I didn’t want the dress without anyone understanding a word of the other’s language.  Then they gave me a credit towards the store and motioned for me to go shopping. I didn’t need anything right away, so I was able to get the cash back after asking a few questions and a few more gestures regarding the credit receipt. Then my husband and I headed to the old town to pick up some alterations. Being a Thursday night here, the streets were bustling with people and cars. I decided to wait in the car for my husband to walk maybe a half block to the shop and back. He left and just a minute went by and I glance over and see this guy who seems to just be “adjusting” himself. I mean, most men at some point or another have to do this…so no big deal. Keep in mind, I am directly in front of a large fish market and there are pedestrians everywhere. I look about and then glance back towards the store front and the same guy mentioned before is there again, looking at me and then I notice he is not “adjusting” himself at all! He is getting himself off, exposing himself, right there while staring at me! I instantly panicked! I locked the doors and instantly grabbed my scarf to “hide” myself. I kept checking the side mirrors to know where the man was, as he kept walking around the truck and around a few other cars in the area. He probably made it around the truck five times before my husband made it back. My husband gets in and asks why I have my scarf on. I didn’t have any words at that time, but my mind was screaming “Go, Go, Go!” I just wanted him to get me out of there! I had never experienced something like that in my life! Even now, I fail to find the words to explain how that sick man made me feel. The things I could have, or should have done flooded me afterwards. In the moment I had sort of froze besides locking the doors. Still now as I recall the experience, I wish I would have been able to jump out of the truck and beat the guy, and leave him in public shame. He deserved it at the least! I just looked up on Google to see find that Pepper spray is legal here for self-defense. Perhaps I should get some. Only a month or so earlier, I had been talking with a friend who had told me that she had heard that some men will act in very inappropriate ways when they see a foreign woman in the flesh. I had been surprised by what she had said, and sort of laughed it off thinking, “wow! Glad that won’t happen to me…” Well, guess what? It did!

I really wish this had not happened to me, or any other woman for that matter, but the sad truth is, there are some sick beings in this world. I am thankful the situation was not worse, and I have learned that if it were to happen again, I need to cause a serious scene and get as much attention as possible. And I will no longer just wait in the truck by myself in areas like that.

Now…on to the better parts of the weekend!

We left the house early on Friday and headed to Dammam Airport for the trip. Morning traffic here is always much calmer. Thankfully there wasn’t an issue with fog that morning. The airport was pretty calm as well, since we were only flying domestic. Getting on the plane was different due to the fact that a quarter of the passengers were men in preparation for Umrah. Umrah is a Muslim pilgrimage to the city of Mecca for Muslims during non-Haj months. From what I have read about it, clothing worn during this time can’t have seams. The men getting on the plane were wearing towels. Just towels. One wrapped around the waist and another over the shoulders. Seeing men dressed in a way that is far less modest from the traditional thobes was very different. I have to say, that after the previous night’s experience, I felt a little grossed out. I couldn’t help it, but I kept it to myself.
About half way through the flight, I look up to see a guy in the row behind us doing CPR on an older gentleman who was passed out. I thought that the plane was turning back at this point to go back to the airport. The flight attendants did a great job keeping the man on oxygen the rest of the flight and we actually ended up flying the rest of the way to Jeddah. Once the plane had landed and the EMT crew was on board, one of the daughters of the man sat down next to my husband and explained to us that her father had recent heart surgeries and that they were not going to get to go on Umrah at this point. She so kindly expressed her concern that she hoped we weren’t late to our own thing, while her own father was on the brink of death. Once again, I was so thankful that the situation was not worse, and that the man seemed to be stable as we got off the plane.

My husband was able to negotiate a lesser fee with a non-official “taxi” driver to find our hotel from the airport. Turns out, that first driver was the nicest of all the taxi drivers we had while in Jeddah. The Hotel (actually a one bedroom apartment with a living room) was really nice. We took a much needed rest and then headed out to the corniche on the Red Sea to enjoy the setting sun. Our walk took us along a street filled with large sculptures and grassy areas occupied by families enjoying picnics. We weren’t lost, we were exploring! J We ended up walking quite a bit that evening in what seemed to be 95 (F) degree heat and 80% humidity.  By the time we decided to get a taxi back to the hotel, we were both drenched in sweat and very thirsty! The kind taxi driver gave us a small bottle of water to drink. We must have looked pretty miserable.

We then got ready for the wedding that evening. It didn’t start until 9:30 P.M. We are usually ready to call it a day by that hour, so this was very outside our normal routine. We got all dressed up and hailed another taxi. We arrived at the wedding, and while my husband knew the groom, I didn’t know a single person there. One of the groom’s friends came out to meet us and show me where to go. There I was left to go inside by myself and attend the wedding, Saudi style. Women in one part of the building, and the men in a completely separate part. I went in and stood in the entrance for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. I’m pretty sure I was shaking with nervousness.  A sister of the groom finally spotted me and told me where to check my abaya (events like this allow the women to be abaya-free, since there are no men around) and where to sit. The hall was decorated and all fancy with tea, Arabic coffee, chocolates, and cookies on the hundred or more tables. My new guide seated me in the front of the room near the stage by myself! Already out of my comfort zone, I really started feeling even more uncomfortable. I tried the Arabic coffee and some chocolates to keep myself busy while more female guests arrived. A cousin of the groom was eventually “sent” over to chat with me for a bit. She was nice and spoke English. I used the word sent, because it was quite obvious to me that since I was the only white girl there, the English speaking relative, was told to go keep my company for a bit. She explained that the groom’s mother would sit by the entrance to the hall and greet guests until maybe two in the morning, that the groom would arrive around three-thirty in the morning and that everyone else would probably not leave until four A.M! We were both quite shy and didn’t really know what to say to each other. She made her escape shortly afterwards, telling me she needed to go speak with her mother. The table where I sat started filling up with other women at that point, all of whom sat at the farthest end from me. I felt like I was being talked about continually, but I couldn’t be sure since I didn’t understand a word they were saying and was quite nervous myself. J Oh how I wanted to not be an obvious white foreigner or crawl under the table! At least I had dressed well for the occasion. A friend here had loaned me a dress to wear, but at the last minute I had decided I wanted to go shopping for a dress of my own. I found a beautiful floor length gown in bright orange. It’s my favorite color and the price for the dress was only 100 riyals. That’s close to twenty-five U.S dollars! It cracks me up that after buying a gown, my husband looked at my cross body purse that I normally carry and said, “You can’t wear that purse with that dress!” I found a great evening bag in navy blue for forty-five riyals.  A couple days later, and I am still entertaining the idea of going back to the mall for the same dress in other colors because the price is so affordable.

More women started arriving to the table where I was and even started greeting me. I shook a few hands, told them my name and said nice to meet you, even though none of them told me their own names. They just smiled and greeted me in words I couldn’t understand. After a few of these, I noticed that the women are greeting with hugging and kissing (I was counting the number of kisses on the cheeks as I observed) and in my awkward position I decided that I should at least return the greetings with a little more than a handshake. Oh my, even with the previous counting, you can never tell who will give you one kiss on the cheek or one kiss on one, and three on the other side and so forth! I still don’t know the proper way to greet a Saudi woman! J The variety of dresses was pretty amazing—so many beautiful gowns. The styles ranged from super formal to casual. But all the faces were cloaked in heavy makeup, and even I had put on a little more than I normally would! Out in public I see women every day, covered up, and all you see are eyes. Here I got to see what they look like underneath the abaya and facial coverings. I would say this evening was the closest thing to “real Saudi” so far in my time here.

Dance music started after a bit and the mother of the Groom got on stage along with a couple other relatives to dance, and then a bit later another elderly lady also got up to dance, but other than that, there wasn’t much action going on.

At one point I heard someone at the table say “excuse me”, so I looked over and got an eye-roll and the toss of a head to the side. At this point I was even more nervous, because I in no way intended to give the impression that I was being stuck up! I told myself that while these ladies may have been judging me by what they saw, they didn’t have any idea of who I am, nor do they know that I am honestly just a very uncomfortable stranger who happened to be invited to their space!  Maybe they were also a bit nervous like me.  I sat there, drinking Arabic coffee for what seemed to be a really long time, looking around the room, smiling at strangers, wondering what it was like for my husband on the other side, and finally grabbed by bag to go use the ladies room. The cousin who had chatted with me earlier stopped me on the way and demanded to know where I was going. I think she thought I was leaving, so I told her the ladies room, and grabbed up my too-long dress so I wouldn’t trip and make an even bigger fool of myself and went to find the ladies toilet. In the ladies room I hiked up my dress even more as to not get it wet on the floors. I was thinking to myself, how do they do this in such fancy dresses without getting them soiled?  You see, the floors are always wet in the ladies rooms, and most times, there aren’t any western toilets.  Only squatters. The damn squatters. Many times there is actually a bathroom attendant who mops the floors and cleans the bathrooms in the larger public facilities. I just happen to be the type who feels hesitant as to the nature of any wet floors when I am in a bathroom! Perhaps I am stuck up after all. J So there I am, grabbing up my dress and tucking it into the top of my dress to avoid it making contact with the floor, while the chain from my evening bag gets caught in my hair as I try to keep it from also hitting the floor. It would have made anyone laugh to see it!

I was able to comfortably check my phone while taking my break from the festivities and discovered that my husband had sent me a message saying they are finished on the guy’s side! I’m thinking “what? It hasn’t even started over here yet! I feel like I have been here for hours.” He told me he will meet me outside if I want to, so I go retrieved my abaya and I made my escape. I went to a Saudi wedding, but I didn’t stay for the whole thing. Leaving just before midnight, I didn’t lose my slipper on the stairs.

The men had eaten a great feast and had pretty much only talked and drank the same Arabic coffee, while I had sat for an eternity not knowing what to do, how to behave, or what would happen next. No pictures were allowed from my side, but my husband got a few. J I’m glad I went. It was probably the most uncomfortable cultural thing I have ever done, besides moving to Saudi! I was scared, dressed up for a party and yet I couldn’t hang till 4 A.M! I’ll most likely never see any of those faces again, so luckily I shouldn’t have to explain my sudden exit. I had fun explaining the evening to my husband who was a little bummed that I hadn’t at least taken a sketch pad with me to draw what I was seeing (you know, like they do in court rooms that don’t allow cameras). Maybe next time.

The next morning I felt like I had a hangover from all the Arabic coffee that I had consumed combined with dehydration from walking so much. We didn’t get a chance to see much of Jeddah this time around, as it was a short trip, and my husband had to go back to work on Sunday. We packed up our things and got a taxi to head to the airport Saturday morning. This final taxi driver refused to turn on the meter when asked, and seemed very unfriendly. We had a near accident as we came upon another accident, but luckily he was able to slam on the brakes in time to avoid the suddenly stopped car in our lane. I think we came within an inch of the other car, as our driver burned a layer of rubber off of the tires. My husband asked him how long he had lived in Saudi. He was from Bangladesh, and had been here 20 years. When asked if he liked it, he quickly said “No!” I was thinking to myself “there is your sign, man. You have been in the desert for too long. It’s time for you to go home!” We drove up the ramp along the highway and suddenly there are wheelbarrow tires lying everywhere in our lane. A quick swerve was enough that time, and when we topped the ramp there was a man running down the road to get his tires that had fallen from his truck. You never know what you will see here! And that my friends, is my story from this past weekend…

I am so thankful for the adventures, our safety, the fun and laughter we share, and marking the six months of marriage to my husband—together!

Xx0 – wifeabroad

“…mind if we just hang out?”

11/24/14

It’s been a month and two days here in Saudi. I have to admit that each day is getting better. I had a rough one month anniversary and really just didn’t want to be here that day. I didn’t want to leave for good. It was just a day of overwhelming reflection I guess, mixed with the unknown of what my future holds for me while here. I am so grateful for the support from my husband in this journey. He doesn’t always know what to do in those moments while I struggle, but he is trying his best and that’s all that matters.

Our social life is expanding as of late. It’s so interesting to meet new people and share stories, and time together. Having people over for dinner and spending time with others on the weekends really has been such a boost for my mood and outlook here. It’s so important to have the contact with others in the desert. Without it, I think I would go mad. I actually have a legitimate smart phone for the first time in my life, so now I can chat with others! What?!!?!

Meet a couple who have been here for five years. He is from Michigan, she from New Zealand. She wore a head scarf when we met up and I asked her if she wore it all the time. She told me that in the five years, she has not worn it twice and both times got reprimanded by the Mutawa (religious police). It’s so strange that not once have I been called out in the time I have been here, yet another woman can have such a different experience with it. I have only covered my head twice now since I’ve been here, and both times has been out of the convenience of not wanting the wind whipping my hair around my face. We meet another couple also, she was born in Russia and her husband is from Oklahoma. She has yet another opinion about it. She wears it loosely just in case and yet she also does not go out without her husband in public. I have been told a few times that I shouldn’t but opinions range, and I will continue to go out without my husband as long as I am here and able. It’s not my style to stay indoors ALL the time. She has only been here a few days longer than me, so meeting her and talking about our lives here up to this point was such a breath of fresh air for me. I haven’t yet met an American woman and had the same conversation about it (covering hair). I have met a few American women recently, but they live on compounds and don’t have to cover while inside the gates. While I was on the compound myself, it felt strange but also nice to not have my abaya on for a period of time. Guess I have been getting used to wearing it. 🙂

I went on a road trip out to the middle of more sand this past weekend with my husband. We just got it the truck and drove west. We saw thousands of camels along the way and one large group was close enough to the road for me to get a few nice shots of them just hanging out. It’s exciting to me every time to see them out. We ended up in this small town that I can’t remember the name of. It seemed to be a town that catered to the camel herders as there were many trucks full of hay and there was even a trailer factory that made mobile trailers for the herders to live in while in the desert. My husband’s advice that day was to tell me that if I ever get lost in the desert and spot a camel, I need to follow it, because it will always go back to its home. I had the mental image of tapping one on its hind leg and asking “hey mister….mind if we just hang out?”

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I was able to finish the baby quilt that I had mentioned in my previous post. This is my first ever hand pieced,and quilted blanket. I plan to give this away to an expat here that is expecting. I had the orange fabric that I had brought with me and then the other fabrics I found at a store that was selling everything at low prices because they wanted to start a grocery store instead. Shirt fabric works just fine for quilts, and since I haven’t found batting, I used a fleece throw for a substitute.

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We are having more dinner guests over tonight so that meant a trip to the store for two more plates to make the serving set 6. I’ve already prepared a dessert and my husband and I are cooking spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner. In a couple days we are having a Thanksgiving get together at another couples home. Really looking forward to Thursday and whatever it may bring us! I miss my family back in the States. And to my friends back home…I miss you all too. Happy Thanksgiving week!

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Much love, and cheers (in a non-alcoholic way of course) – wifeabroad