Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's not all camels and oppression...

A lot of my posts about Saudi Arabia have had a bit of a negative spin, and I want to clarify. I really am not miserable here at all. A lot of the things people think they know about this Kingdom are total misconceptions, and it's been great to prove all of those misunderstandings false.

There are a few things that I really do enjoy about living in Saudi Arabia. For example:

The abaya and hijab. As much as the West likes to disparage the uniform of Saudi women, I really don't mind it much at all. Because I'm covered from head to toe, it doesn't matter what I'm wearing when I leave the house to run errands. I went grocery shopping today in my pajamas. And because it's silly for me to suit up to run out to the street, I get out of taking out the trash. I don't have to worry about how my hair looks, and a lot of the time I don't even worry about putting on make up. Plus, because Western women aren't *really* required to wear the hijab, I score bonus points with my Saudi colleagues for wearing it when I don't have to.

There is no such thing as cold weather. Yes, my students are starting to wear sweatshirts to school in the morning because they get a chill from the 70 degree weather we're having. But it's like heaven for me! The hubs and I have slept with the window open for the past few weeks, and there's no end in sight for that luxury. Even though I miss the bon fires and s'mores of the fall season back home, I do NOT miss the winter jackets and cold bathroom floors. I am definitely going to love winter in Saudi Arabia.

Fresh produce is VERY cheap here. Because there's always a temperate zone just a few hours away, produce is ridiculously cheap. I might not be able to find all of the fruits and vegetables that I'm used to, but I can find some very interesting and exotic fruits for just a few cents per pound. I bought a bunch of bananas for about a dollar a pound! Apples are about 50 cents a pound. There are bundles of carrots, peppers, cucumbers and other fruits for crazy low prices! I'm really really hoping that this fact will up the amount of healthy foods I add to my diet. I'll keep you posted on how that research goes.

I'm treated with slightly more respect here. I've been happily surprised by this, because it is one of the most popular misconceptions of the Kingdom. Before leaving home, I was told countless times that I would have to walk 10 paces behind my husband and he would have to do all the talking. That has just not been the case. When the Mister and I were in Dubai, I was expecting to feel just like I was at home. But whenever we went to a store or restaurant or anywhere that I would need to speak to a man, I was treated like I wasn't even there. Some men even refused to look at me at all. I would ask a question, and he would turn to my husband and say, "Yes sir, how can I help you?" I have not had that experience at all in Saudi Arabia. There have been a few times that I've seen the Muslim man have an internal conflict as to whether it is ok for him to speak to another man's wife. But I guess because we get to play the Western card, he generally gets over that and treats me like a grown adult.

One word: Shawarma. Unfortunately, this is probably going to be the biggest factor that prevents me from incorporating more fresh produce into my daily diet. Shawarma is what we would call gyros back at home. You've seen the giant slab of seasoned meat rotating by a glorified warming lamp, and then shaved from its rotisserie to be wrapped up in a warm pita with various accouterments. But boy oh boy you have never had such wonderful shawarma in your entire life as the shawarma you find in Saudi Arabia. Words cannot describe the yummy goodness and I'm not even upset that we had to come half way across the world to find it. Too bad I can't share with all you suckas!

Electronics are plentiful, and ridiculously cheap to get repaired. About a month ago, I killed our brand new laptop by spilling water on it as I was using it as a recipe card for the dinner I was making (I also spilled the water down my arm, as is chronicled in this blog post). We've been dragging our feet with getting it fixed because we were sure it was going to cost a load of money and take forever to get repaired. Well, we took advantage of the time off from school and took the computer down to a repair place...ONE HOUR and $93 later, our computer is working just as good as new! There is no way that repair would have been so fast and so cheap at home! It costs more to get the Best Buy protection plan, and insurance would require a deductible of a lot more than $93 for sure!

The milk is a-mazingly good. I don't know what it is, but the milk here is so flavorful and good! I commented the other night to the Mister that if milk tasted like this when I was growing up, I would have bones that would rival Superman's!

So there it is, dear readers. This is just a short list of some of the things I enjoy most about living in Saudi Arabia. While some of them might not be so mind blowingly awesome to those of you back in the States, but it's the little things that make Kingdom life so worth it.

Vicariously yours,

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