Home?


I’m American. I grew up in the Adirondacks of northern NY state. I went to university in VT about an hour away from my hometown. The first time that I really moved away from home was August 2012. My husband was accepted to study his masters at a university in IA and since I had finished my masters, I went with him. From August 2012 until December 2013 I lived 17 hours away from my dad and 10 hours away from my mom (by car). Then at the very end of December 2013 I decided to take a job and move to Saudi Arabia…

Now I find myself calling two places “home”. The little town I grew up in is “home” because it’s what I know and most of my family live there. Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia is “home” because it is where I live and work. It’s where my apartment and my things are. It’s where my husband and I stay together. It’s the place where we started our own family. 

When I’m in Saudi and I say “home”, I mean NY. When I’m in NY and I say “home”, I mean Riyadh. That one word has different meanings for me. It hold different emotions based on which place I’m talking about. 

My home in the US is full of old memories — summers spent playing ball, harsh winters spent in front of the wood fire. There are places so vivid in my mind – this path leading up to a small waterfall near the top of the river that runs through town, noises I can hear if I close my eyes — rain on the roof of my bedroom, things I can imagine feeling — my feet stepping on the grass of our lawn, smells that I can sense when they are nowhere near — crisp autumn leaves, and tastes that still seem so fresh — cool water straight from the tap. The nostalgia  I get when I’m away is so real.

On the other hand, there is a quote that describes my feelings for Riyadh perfectly – “You know that you’re in love when home becomes a person, not a place.” My husband makes Riyadh “home” for me. Riyadh is nothing like where I grew up. Its the opposite of what I know. It’s a crowded city. It’s a desert with hot, dusty summers and mild winters. But somehow I feel at home there. I feel my place there and I miss it when I go away. It’s a place where I feel safe. It’s the “home” where I start to make new memories.

The beautiful thing about this is that I’m almost always “home”. 

الحمدلله

S

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A Short Rant 

I love chat, text, email, forums and I love this blog. I think it is pretty amazing how we can share things with people near and far. However, the Internet can also be a cruel place.

I place part of the blame on the anonymity that the Internet allows. People think that they can say whatever they like behind the mask of a username and profile picture. Since I started writing about my experiences in Saudi I have received numerous comments that made me think, what’s wrong with people? After I received my first *negative* comment I switched my settings to allow for moderated comments. That was a long while ago. Now anything that is submitted is reviewed and either accepted and made public or deleted. Just to clarify, when I say negative I don’t mean a comment with an opposing view. I am referring to comments that are meant to be hurtful. Also, let me mention that all but one of those comments that I have received were posted using a fake email. I am so tempted to actually share some of the awful words, استغفر الله, but I will refrain and just say may Allah guide us.

Before you comment on someone’s blog, social media account, YouTube video or whatever else, remind yourself that the person you’re writing to is a HUMAN BEING and they have feelings just like you. If your comment is not constructive, and could possibly be viewed as hurtful, don’t send it! Keep it to yourself and go on with life. There is no benefit in spreading hate and hurting others.

The other issue is the fact that I feel written word is not complete communication in that there is difficulty with tone and emotion. What we mean when we write something is often misinterpreted. In my own experience this happens very infrequently when speaking with someone face to face. As a shy person, and someone who likes to write, this can be super frustrating. It has happened to me more than once and I really hope that it becomes a less frequent occurrence in my life.

Ive been writing here on this blog since 2013 and I feel really grateful that I have been able to share my experiences (even though my posts became less and less frequent over time). While sometimes I feel like it is not worth it to share parts of my life this publicly, I remember that with every hateful comment I receive a lot more lovely ones. 

So, for now, I will keep sharing some beautiful and POSITIVE aspects of my life, as a Muslim, a wife, an educator and a new mom. 

الحمدلله

S

A first time for everything…

I’ve been living here in Saudi for 2 years, 9 months and about 30 days. And this is the first time I have felt the need to sit and write a post to blow off a little steam.

Because women are not allowed to drive here in Saudi, I have been in the car with various drivers. Most of my experiences here have been normal, if not even pleasant. It is nice to not have to drive in a city as crowded as Riyadh.

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I remember the Eritrean man who picked me up from the airport when I first arrived to Saudi. He was an older man, but he took my bags and lifted them into his trunk. He drove along, all while pointing out places to me and offering to stop and get me something to eat.

I remember the bus drivers from the recruitment company that carted us to and from work everyday. Once in a while they would stop to drop off some of the girls at one of the supermarkets. Honestly, I couldn’t make a complaint about those guys.

I remember the old Pakistani taxi driver that my friend and I stumbled upon by chance. He took me to work every morning. He picked up my friends kids from school and brought them home. He drove my friend and I in the afternoon from the university. He was probably the driver that I felt most comfortable with here. He was a kind old man. He was punctual and he was safe. Unfortunately, his mother fell ill and he returned to Pakistan.

I remember when I started my current job Y and I were at a loss as to what to do for a driver. He ended up hearing about a company that provides drivers. The first week with my new Egyptian driver was fine. When I walked outside in the morning I would find him waiting for me. In the afternoon he would pull up just as I was leaving the building. The actual car rides were okay as well, although traffic was extremely heavy those days because of construction. After the first week things started to change. He was often late or he would send a different driver to pick me up. That wasn’t a huge problem, but usually the new driver had no idea where to go and I wasn’t confident enough with my Arabic to tell him directions (not to mention that often by the time I realized that he didn’t know where to go I was already lost myself). These guys were nice enough to talk about me while I was sitting in the back seat not realizing that I understood most of what they said, despite my ability to give them directions. Anyways, I could deal with these things. I could also deal with the original driver’s impatience with the traffic, but at some point he stopped driving me because he needed to have surgery and there was quite a long recover time.

I remember that this is when one of the backup drivers he sent started to take me daily. This guy was also Egyptian, but seemed to be the opposite of the first guy. He was quiet and calm. He drove safely and was on time (usually…except the days when I’m pretty sure Y’s phone call woke him up from a sound sleep…morning and afternoon). When I came back from my summer vacation and needed to return to work, Y started to take me in the morning, but this same driver picked me up to go home in the afternoon. Then one day he called to tell us that he was accepting a job with the electricity company in AlQassem. I actually felt a little heartbroken that he was leaving.

I remember a few days later that driver told Y that his “brother” would be willing to take me from work. It seemed that he had given him his car.  Let me tell you…it was a nightmare. I hate to complain about these things. It has taken me weeks to get to the point where I feel the need to do so. But the last day that I rode with him was the last straw. I ignored him and used Uber to go home (which happened to be an easy and relaxed ride).

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Anyway, this is life and sometimes we don’t get the service that we think we are paying for. At the same time I’m still very positive about the situation here as the majority of my experiences with drivers have been more than fine.

الحمدلله


S
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Back at it…

Back in Riyadh and back to work.

Somehow I’m already 6 weeks into this 8 week session. I don’t really know how that happened, but I would say it is most likely because I have been genuinely enjoying my classes.

These weeks I’ve been assigned 3 intermediate level groups. I teach a class in writing, reading & listening.

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The classrooms where I work now have only smart-boards, so I spend quite a bit of my time preparing for lessons in front of a computer. That means when I go home I don’t usually open my laptop unless I need to finish up a powerpoint or other document for class.

I was thinking of this blog today and realized that I completely missed my 3rd blogiversary. 3 years ago I started this blog without much direction. A few months later I got a job and moved to Saudi Arabia. Ever since then I have been trying to use this as a space to share my life here in the Kingdom and any other travels that I might experience.

So far I don’t think that I’ve been very successful, but I’m sure that is due to my inconsistency in posting. I said the same thing last year and while not much has changed, I am still hoping that it will.

Once again I really appreciate all of you who may have stumbled upon my blog and taken the time to read through it. Thank you for all of your comments, messages and emails.

الحمدلله


S
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Caught up…

I could continue to give you excuses, but the truth is I am enjoying my life. That means when my laptop acts up or iMovie closes on me twice in a row, I just set it aside.  I’d love to be posting a lot more than I am and I have a lot of ideas in my draft folder, but I’ll be honest, it all takes a lot of time and more often than not, technology seems to be against me…the internet won’t work, or I can’t get my photos to upload, or my editing program isn’t cooperating.

I hope that soon I find a more efficient way to deal with the visual aspects of my blog. Be patient. Stick around. Know that I’m here and I’ve got plans.

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الحمدلله


S
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The Wedding Day – USA

We were in the car, driving from my hometown to the place where we first met. The place that always seems to pull us back.

When we arrived, turning off the highway and down the quiet street leading to the venue. Tall trees and green grass surrounding the path. In front of us was the cozy white building with green shutters and chimneys sticking out above the roof.

Y and I got out of the car and down the white concrete sidewalk to the front door. Y pulled open one of the large metallic handles of the heavy wooden doors. We walked straight through the lobby and into the reception space. It was a large white room filled with windows. The opposite side of the space overlooking the grounds of the property. Glowing white lights wrapped around the beams of the high ceilings. The tables were dressed with ivory linens and white china. Golden candles flickered on the tables. The flowers that my dad had put together sat beautifully in golden vases. I couldn’t help but smile. It was simple. It was perfect.

Soon after we both rushed off to get dressed and ready. My mom, grandmother, aunt and cousin changed into their dresses with me in one room, while the guys put on their suits in another. My mom’s husband helped Y with his tie, while my mom zipped up my dress. I slipped on a pair of tall gold glitter heels. My mom bustled the skirt of my dress as I put on my headscarf and pinned my veil in the back. A black velvet box held a set of gold jewelry. I put the rings on my fingers, placed a bracelet and watch around my wrists, hung an earring in each ear and clasped the sparkling necklace around my neck.

I met Y in the lobby, we smiled at each other shyly and began to walk around the grounds of the resort to have photos taken. We then made our way back to that heavy front door to walk into the reception. He held my hand as we walked through the arch of the doorway. Our family and friends watching with smiles on their faces. We stepped onto the wooden platform of the dance floor and the music started. Neither one of us knew what we were doing, but we just moved our feet and slowly spun around, one of my hands on his should, one of his hands on my waist and the others clasped together.

After our little twirl of a dance, we walked around the room greeting our guests, giving hugs and having overdue chats. We ate a delicious dinner of chicken with mashed potatoes, maple and butternut squash ravioli, grilled vegetables, soups, salad and homemade breads.

The music played. Our guests talked, laughed and some danced. A few gave heartfelt speeches that made us laugh and reminisce. At some point we were escorted to a rectangular table that stood in the corner of the room. On the table was a three layer vanilla cake with creamy frosting. A golden lace crown lined with little white pearls sat gently on top. A silver cake knife and server with branch like handles lay next to the cake. We cut the cake together, Y’s hand over mine. The cake was soft and light while the frosting was creamy and sweet.

Our friends and family came up to chat one last time before saying goodnight and making their way home. Their words and presence were greater than any gift that I opened from the satin box later that evening. I cried opening their cards and reading the notes. A beautiful party with delicious food and sparkling decor is nice, but without the people you love it is nothing.

Thank you to everyone who made our day so much more than just a wedding celebration. We love you.

الحمدلله


S
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Our Wedding – USA

Here some details from the wedding that we had back home in the USA. I’ll do the same as I did with the KSA wedding: a preview post with some photos and then a written post with my thoughts.

Say ما شاء الله MashAllah ☺

20151003_1907^Dress details – embroidery from my mother’s dress
20151003_1910^The shoes – tall, gold & glittery
20151003_1952^The rings with the bouquet
20151003_2339^The cake – gold lace crown topper
20151003_2383^iPad Photo Booth props
20151003_2422^The evening’s sunset

الحمدلله


S
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Exams

As I sat watching one of my classes take an exam I realized all of the tiny differences that make my students unique individuals.

There’s the student who finishes in the fifteen minutes
the student who finishes in the last fifteen seconds
the student who asks what the test is about 5 minutes before it starts
the student who asks for the meaning of every other word
the student who just points to a question believing the teacher is a mind reader
the student who asks  “this or this, teacher?” referring to her answers
the student who nonchalantly looking around the room now and again while *stretching*
the student who is always hot, “AC, teacher”
the student who is always cold, “AC, teacher”
the left handed student who sits in the chair at a 90 degree angle in the opposite direction
the student who’s phone rings, buzzes or beeps
the student who doesn’t look up from the paper. ever
the student who closes her eyes while twirling a pencil in her hair
the student who shows every emotion through facial expressions.

Differences like these are what make teaching interesting.

الحمدلله


S
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The Wedding Day – KSA

We arrived at the wedding hall. I got out of the car with my bags in hand desperately trying to keep the scarf on my head and over my face as we walked inside. We went to a little bridal room just past the entryway. Y’s sisters and mom finished getting ready while I put on my dress. I sat in one of the chairs against the side wall of the room as everyone ran around trying to finish preparing before the guests started to arrive.

The photographer, an Egyptian woman, came in and started taking pictures of the decor. At some point they removed the clips from my hair and attached the skirt to my dress. Y came into the room, smiled and took my hand. “Let’s go to see Gramma. She’s here,” he said to me. We walked into the main hall and there she was sitting on one of the couches near to the entrance. As soon as she saw us coming she started clapping. We greeted her, holding her hand and kissing her head. Moments later we returned to the bridal room to take pictures with his sisters and mom and then of just the two of us.

Y hurried off to the men’s section and the photographer continued to take my picture. She posed me, moved me around the room and asked for certain expressions…all in Arabic.

After she finished we both sat down and waited for the moment when I would enter the hall. I was so nervous. There were about 400 people in that other room and I only knew about 10 of them. For many of them it was the first time that they would see me and I think there were quite of few of them who came simply for that reason: to see Y’s American wife.

At some point Y’s mom came into the room smiling at me. She asked me if I was scared and I said yes. I think she felt for me, but quickly mentioned that that my friend and her mom were at the far end of the aisle and that she would come to sit with me on the stage after my entrance. I smiled and waited for them to call me to come out.

I stepped forward out of the room until the entrance to the hall was on my right. I turned and started to see all of the people to my left and to my right. Y’s oldest sister was in front of me next to the photographer. I took 3 steps and then paused on repeat until I reached the stairs of the stage. The entire time I was doing my best to smile, but I could feel my lip trembling slightly from nerves. I walked up the stairs, pausing for a picture and then stood in front of a white bench. Y’s sister adjusted my veil and the skirt of my dress as I looked out at all of the guests.

Eventually, she guestured for me to sit and with a smile asked me if I was alright. I think at that point I could finally breathe and I smiled back at her with a nod of my head. Soon after the singer began to sing and the women began to dance.

My very dear friend, a Saudi woman who I met in VT back in 2011, with her mom and her sister came to congratulate me. My friend stayed and sat next to me on on the stage. I felt instantly more comfortable in that moment. She was also a new bride and could understand how I was feeling. It was a mixture of nervousness and utter excitement.

Y’s mom and her friend came on the stage and started dancing. We clapped our hands and they also came to congratulate me, kissing me on the cheek and holding my hand.

During the reception the singer sang various requests from the guests, the servers brought around trays of snacks and sweets, single roses with a piece of chocolate were distributed to the guests, and women walked on and off the stage to dance.

It was a beautiful and wonderfully memorable night that ended with me putting on my abaya, exiting the building and getting in the car with the love of my life.

Y’s family did a lot in planning the wedding in just two months. They chose everything and it was far more than I had ever imagined. I’m so grateful and I feel truly blessed.

However, I must admit, the biggest gift that I received that day was seeing his mom, sisters and grandmother smile. Their happiness for us made my heart content.

الحمدلله


S
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Our Wedding – KSA

I really wanted to share some details from the wedding that we had here in KSA. My next post will be in depth details about the entire day/night. Until then, here are some photos.

Say ما شاء الله MashAllah ☺
IMG_5940^ the women’s section before decor
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^ traditionals – savory snacks
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^ favors – rose and a chocolate
IMG_6576^ Mirror shot
IMG_6248^ his and hers
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^ dress details
IMG_5892^ veil appliques
(crystals applied by hand by sis-in-law)
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^ the very unique bouquet
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^ “Welcome to the family, Sumayah”

الحمدلله


S
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