No Return

My last post in April has left a huge gap in information. I arrived in the States to somewhat chilly temps, and they quickly changed to the lovely summer days that I had missed while I was away. Tank tops, and shorts became my normal choice in clothes for myself, and Onesie’s for my daughter. We were able to go outdoors every single day and enjoy the air, the birds, and insects singing. Back in May while having my morning coffee, with Baby V. on my lap, I kept having this dread in my belly about going back to Saudi. It didn’t go away over time, in fact it got worse as time went on. One day (I believe it was in July) after reading three separate news stories on bombings in Saudi (not Hofuf, where I lived) I just felt like I had reached a point of no return. I was mad, and yes, fear was setting in. My gracious husband and I had a talk that night and he basically told me that I needed to decide if I was going to get on the plane in August (already booked flight) or not. I chose to skip the flight and not return. To him, it was a simple decision, and to me it was torture, I knew that going back wouldn’t be good for me, and I knew that not going back, meant being under my moms roof (I’m very thankful she has allowed me to stay with her) and being separated from my husband for an unsure amount of time. Also, he was missing our baby as she was growing up fast. After making the not so light decision to stay in the States for the rest of the summer, I literally felt so much lighter. I don’t have the dread anymore! I can enjoy the summer.

I wont get into all the details of good and bad about the life that I had in Saudi. Ill need to update my about post I think, but the wifeabroad name will remain the same as my husband and I and our little baby V. still plan to travel as much as possible. There are so many unknowns down the road for us. I’m nervous, and excited about it.

And I’m Thankful For…

The great Shawarma from Maze restaurant in Hofuf. The best in the entire city. If you haven’t gone there, go. Its not family, but if you are a lady, you can pick up.

The many trips to Bahrain. The escape from Saudi life, yet still close by.

The friendships. The only thing that kept me going sometimes were friends.

Having a baby, healthy and safe. Pick your hospital wisely, in my opinion there are some sketchy ones there too. I personally went to Al Moosa. State of the art place, with helpful staff. If I ever have another baby, I think a part of me will miss the visits to Dr. Zaynab. A part of me hopes she will read this one day. I loved her smile.

The doughnut runs my husband made for me, there were also many McDonald’s runs too (especially when I was pregnant)

Being creative in the kitchen and with the grocery shopping. Its fun and challenging when you may not have exactly what you are used to.

The many many laps walked around the shopping malls. Some days it was the only way to get any exercise in.

Constant growth of a city meant that there were always new shops or restaurants to explore. Some were duds, some were pleasant surprises.

I’m so blessed to have received a kind message just asking how I was from time to time, from fellow expats who knew that maybe I just needed to know that I was being thought of.

Towards the end of my time there, my family and a few others would get together on Monday nights for a dinner where we would all pitch in on the food (home cooked or bought) and it was such a lovely time of gathering together to laugh and talk.

I will always appreciate the young family who opened their doors to us on our first thanksgiving in Hofuf. Thank you JA and LA, for lovely dinners in your home and making a holiday festive when we were all abroad and missing our families.

I will always cherish the thunderstorms that would come through in the winter. It was such a treat to see rain and lightning in the desert.

We had an SUV that treated us good for a bit, but then when it finally died, we rented. I will never forget the car rentals that were always white, and sometimes beat up. There was one that had brown stains over the entire interior as if a soda had exploded. But they gave us reliable transportation to and from the grocery.

Always loved the get-to-gethers that we would have with friends. It helped get through all the rough days in Saudi. It made many insane days, saner (LM, you are a gem! Thank you for your friendship. I hope to see you again someday)

I miss my friends overseas. I will to keep in touch as much as possible, and hope to hear from them as well over the years. Some have already left Saudi, and have moved on to different places, while some are still there, working and raising their families. I think about them daily. I do love how social media allows us to see some bits of peoples lives. Facebook and Instagram is great for this sort of thing.

I’m so very thankful that this is how my married life pretty much started (living in Saudi). It helped us grow together, fight together, cry together, and love together and share many cups of coffee together.

In about a month we will most likely be on our way to another place…And I’ll post a photo of sand and ocean.

Until then-wifeabroad (from the States)

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That’s all I have to say about shrimp

4/26/15

It’s been a little while since my last post. Sometimes I just feel like I don’t have anything to share. Sometimes, I don’t want to sound like a broken record…

But I do have news of Al Hasa today. And it’s all about food! I did a food challenge that my sister in law organized, or invited people to join. It involved posting photos of what we were eating on a private Facebook page, and exercising every day for seven days. Clean eating was the focus, and while it was a little bit of a challenge, it was also easy, if that makes sense. My husband and I eat pretty well here. Food is generally inexpensive aside from some high dollar import stuff. The main thing we did was try to eat very little processed food. So we had lots of salads, and or dishes with a lot of veggies. I didn’t use ranch dressing for a whole week, and I was okay with that. In fact, I might just continue to just use a little EVOO from now on. It still tastes good. And flavor is a huge factor. I also was able to experiment with cooking some new foods. It was fun and I only had one fail, not because of my cooking, but because buying frozen shrimp is just a mistake in general. It’s gross. Don’t try it. That’s all I have to say about shrimp.

CAM00338 Here is one of the salads I made. it has some delicious goat cheese on top. That is one thing that is not on short supply here. Cheese! Love it.

The salmon here isn’t really cheap, but I really wanted to try my hand at baking some fish. Not eating it out of a can. The salmon dinner was really good. No bread crumbs in the topping, and instead of using Mayonaise, I used yogurt. Lots of lemon juice, and lots of garlic, gave this just the right amount of kick. And the roasted broccoli was great with it. http://www.cookingclassy.com/2015/04/one-sheet-pan-parmesan-crusted-salmon-with-roasted-broccoli/ The nice thing is that it looked just like this recipe, only I pretty much doubled and tripled the lemon and garlic measurements. I just wish I had taken a photo of my own plate that night.

Green peppers are cheap here. I baked these, stuffed with chicken, onions, a little brown rice, beans, tomato, and topped with a very hard cheddar cheese. It was easy and very tasty. I loaded the stuffing with cayenne pepper, hot paprika, and jalapeno sauce. This will also be a repeat.

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Eating less bread can be challenging for me sometimes, I made it though the week with only a couple small bread like eats, both being Arabic flatbread of some sort. One was a flat bread that was sugar free and loaded with all these good things. But it tasted like cardboard, so I won’t buy that again. The other was a small bread with some sort of melted cheese fresh from the bakery. Tasty, but remembering to do this in moderation, not daily.

This week, Al Hasa has opened a Carrefour grocery story. This is a big deal, because once again, we get more food options here. Yay! Previously, the closest one was two hours away. And while I am cutting back on breads, Carrefour has some darn good bread! I will stay away from the works of art in the display cases there (it’s actually cake).

Also, while I wouldn’t really decide on Applebees for dinner in the States, we now have an Applebees in Al Hasa. It’s just one of those things that we have to go try out.

And lastly, in Al Hasa we now have at least three or four open or getting ready to open Dunkin Donuts. This has me the most happy, as I have always loved their coffee. Just wish I could drive over and get one during my normal drinking coffee hours. Guess that will have to be a weekend thing when my husband is off work. I think maybe a donut will be had as well.

Did you see how that just went from “I’m eating pretty well, to hey babe, can you go get me a donut?”

All kidding aside, just because the week’s challenge is over with the clean eating and exercise, I plan to still try to focus a lot more on healthy and reserve the rich stuff to every now and then…

I want to try this recipe (It’s not bread, but it acts like bread) from Marie @ https://aseatatmytable.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/cloud-bread-nailed-it/ but first I need to go practice my belly dancing.

Happy day to you, wifeabroad

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…

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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

Random Saudi-ness (I couldn’t think of a good title)

3/8/2015

The weather here in Saudi has been so beautiful this past week. The mornings are cool and the afternoons are getting pretty warm, but not hot. I’m still in the mental stage of looking forward to summer time temperatures, and then I remember that summer temps here mean stay inside! So I really like the fact that we can have the windows open 24/7 this time of year.

My husband invited a family over for dinner about a month ago. I cooked up tacos hoping they would like it. I had not met them, my husband had worked with the other husband. So new family over for dinner one night, and it turned out really nice. They have two young girls, who are super cute. We then got invited over to their place for dinner I think it was about a week ago. They live about 40 minutes from us, and what feels like country living since we drove past many date trees on our way out to their place. Once again, a wonderful dinner was had. I really enjoy great company here. It always seems to give me a bit more energy for this place. Especially, when I know that I am not alone in some of the feelings I have here as a female. We also got together for a dinner out last Monday. We met up at this place that looks like a fort on the outside, but you drive in and the roads are filled with shops. There is this outdoor space (for families) that is lined with booths where women sell home cooked meals. It was an experiment of sorts, since we didn’t really know what some of the foods were, that we ordered. But it was fun to try new things. There was one dish, that looked like oatmeal, but tasted like salty chicken. It kinda messed with my head every time I took a spoonful. We walked around a bit after the meal and window shopped. The religious police confronted us and told the other husband to tell me to cover my hair at one point. *sigh* I just feel like there are some things I will never understand. I know it’s a cultural thing, but it isn’t a law. And for the life of me I can’t wrap my head around it. Pun intended! I could go on and on about it…but it won’t matter. Because this couple has children, my husband and I can take them to the Toy City here in town sometime. Yes, ever since I got here, my husband has wanted to go to Toy City. It’s an indoor amusement park for kids. I kept telling him we couldn’t go, but now we can borrow kids so that he can go play! J

Vitamin Palace, is a great place to get a smoothie or juice concoction of some sort. We went two nights in a row this weekend and man, that place is so busy! The menu is a small book. I had the Beet, tomato, and carrot drink. It tasted like a garden smells. If you like that sort of thing,  you will know what I  mean. It was good. The window is filled with a real fruit display. It’s huge, and the picture I took doesn’t really do it justice. I also added a picture of part of the menu. No offense needs to be taken. It just seems to me to contradict the life here, and add to the #thingsthatdontmakesense feeling I get quite often.  After all, so many things are taboo.

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My husband and I went to get our teeth cleaned on Saturday. Oh boy,  that was painful. I don’t remember a dentist ever being so rough. I even have a few areas of missing enamel and he understood that it was going to be sensitive, yet he still hit those spots multiple times. Glad to have it done though. My teeth feel smooth! And the financial part of it was quite a surprise. Total for the both of us was under 50 U.S. dollars.

I’m not usually in a “hey, lets eat Ramen” mood, but my husband picked up this Green Chili flavor of Ramen, so I cooked some up for lunch after we got home from the dentist. This stuff is burn your mouth hot! Surprisingly tasty!

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Let’s see…what else has been going on…

A friend of ours went to Korea and brought me back a beautiful scarf, and kimchi for my husband. I can smell it, along with and the pepper, garlic, fish sauce mixture he makes every time the fridge door is opened. J

Have tried a couple new recipes with success but was mildly disappointed in the texture of cauliflower cheese sticks. Super easy to make, but not going to be a repeat. Oh Pinterest, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

We are looking forward to our small vacation next month. The hotel is booked. We aren’t going too far out of the country, but excited for the break to happen before the weather gets too hot. And then come June, we head back to the States for another visit.

My latest illustration (untitled)DenialHave a lovely day! -wifeabroad