Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Me & My Abaya

Do you have to cover up? I always get this question from my friends or people I meet. Like most things in Saudi I have a love/hate relationship with my abaya. My FB status this week was "good thing about my abaya - doing school runs in my pj's".

Abaya's are worn over your clothes and it covers your body from the neck down. While it's not a legal requirement to wear them, you would be the only woman not doing so in the entire city, so social pressures and the prospect of being harassed by muttawa (religious police) and Saudi men is enough to motivate expats to respect their cultural traditions. Non-muslim expats do not wear headscarves except during Ramadan, out of respect for their holy month. However I always have mine with me just in case. Most Saudi women wear the trio of abaya, headscarf, and niqab (face veil).

You never need to worry about what you are wearing anymore. My purchases of clothes for myself has become almost nil. This makes my husband very happy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Let's Eat

Saudi has most of the chain restaurants in North America including TGIFriday’s, McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut. They are quite comparable to those at home. There are a few exceptions, however.

Every restaurant in Saudi has two separate entrances. The first is called the “singles section”, and no, it’s not for those who find themselves looking for love. The “singles section” is for men only, and is like any restaurant back home, with open seating. The second section is the “family section” which is for women, children, and any men accompanying them. The “family section” is comprised of several booths or tables each with a screen or curtains covering the area where women might be seen. Sometimes, there is a choice of open-seating, or closed booth, but often, it is only the latter. At first, I liked the privacy this arrangement offered, but I quickly grew tired of not looking at other diners. Part of the fun of going out to eat is people watching, and now I frequently don’t have that option.

Most of the Saudi women who sit in the open section do not veil their faces. Those who veil sit in the closed sections and are typically more traditional. I’ve caught a glimpse or two of veiled women trying to eat, and it’s fascinating seeing the coordination with which they lift the veil, put the food in their mouths, and yet reveal not an inch of skin. To be honest, all of this is fairly easy to get used to. What I can’t get used to, however, is no alcohol. I miss wine with dinner. I get annoyed looking at menus that offer up cocktails like Mojitos, Bloody Marys, and Margaritas without the good stuff. I’ve almost forgotten what a stiff Cosmo tastes like.

All in all, dining out is one of the few forms of entertainment one is allowed here in the Kingdom. There are no movie theatres, music concerts, festivals in the park, or other things that are available in other more liberal societies. I miss the Canada and our favourite restaurants. At least a few of the chain restaurants in Riyadh give us a little taste of home.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Attitude Is Everything...

Each day I wake up and have to make the decision to have a good attitude about being here. Today, that has not been an easy decision. I have been suffering from terrible jet lag, unpacking from our trip back to Canada as well as the move to our new compound, kids to shuttle back and forth to school and entertain, the laundry needs to be done and folded, the dishes need to be washed. Welcome to the real world I guess. I love my life , but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed I just want to run away from it all. To go to a spa for a day, or a cafe for coffee with friends for some girl talk, or sit down with a good book for an hour or two. Those sanctuaries are far away and unavailable here.

As I sit on the couch for five minutes to write this, one of my few indulgences, I am forced to think about that phrase. My attitude is everything, and if I adjust mine a little bit, maybe the day will start to look brighter.

"Do what you can where you are with what you have."
~ Theodore Roosevelt

Sunday, September 19, 2010

She Is Back !

I know I have been MIA for quite a while. I'm sure you can forgive a girl who was on vacation for 10 weeks. I managed to get a few posts in while I was on holiday. But as soon as the hubby showed up our calendar was full everyday. Plus the fact he has no idea about my blog, I wasn't about to say "hey, gotta run and post something".

Well the holiday was great. It was nice to be back to a normal life. I'm sure my sister was glad to see us leaving for the airport after taking over her home for 10 weeks. Going from a house with 2 adults to 6 adults and 2 kids I'm sure was challenging for her. She is a trooper!

Things I miss in Canada:
- my family
- my friends
- driving
- weather changes
- doing things on a whim
- so many forms of entertainment
- friendly people
- public transit
- sneaking smokes when the kids go to bed (hubby frowns on this so don't do much in Saudi)
- last but not least .... booze!

Things I like about Saudi:
- it's a dry heat
- my new house
- people from all over the world
- travel

I am currently settling into my new house on a good compound here, so unpacking boxes. I also plan to catch up on my soaps and my blog reading.

It's good to be back in touch with my bloggy friends - I've missed ya!