Well everyone I am here to tell you that miracles do happen. That’s right; I finally made it to the land of sand aka the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! I have now been here for a bit over a month and am speeding straight through the honeymoon to the ‘now what?’ phase of culture shock. Up until now the whole experience has been very surreal and it’s only now that it’s started to sink in that I actually live here and will quite likely remain here for the rest of my days inshaAllah. And that’s kinda scary.
The thing is, at this point in time I’m not sure what my place is in this country. I am something of a blank slate and that can be exciting but as I write this, it mainly just feels overwhelming. In my worst moments, when I’m being all mopey and dramatic, I feel like I’ve disappeared and don’t really exist anymore. To some extent this is just a continuation of the questions I was struggling with in Australia; what do I want in life? Who do I want to be? How I should go about achieving these things whilst remaining within the limits of my religion and abiding by the rules of the country I now reside in?
Another big question I’ve had to ask myself is ‘what do I need to be happy here?’ The lifestyle here is so unique and different to that found in the West and elsewhere. Factors such as extreme heat, women’s inability to drive and the fact that shops close for substantial periods of time at every prayer time, create a unique situation which ultimately make getting out of the house on a regular basis pretty difficult for women. Some women here will happily stay in their apartments/houses for days, weeks and even months at a time because for better or worse, they are just used to this lifestyle. Needless to say, I am not. I want to go out and meet people, explore the city, have picnics with friends and walk along the corniche without us all having to plan it meticulously the day before like some major military operation. Overall, I want to make the most of living here. And this is why I am convinced that for me to be happy here in the long-term, I need my own driver. Because another thing I have quickly learnt is that to survive here with my sanity intact, I need regular contact with people who are not a) my husband or b) myself and to do that, I need a ride. And I need to get out of those malls and see some nature every once in a while and that, again, requires a ride!
But realistically these needs aren’t always able to be fulfilled. With this big move also came my transition from a full time employee to a full time housewife. I don’t mind keeping house however I would enjoy it much more if I got out during the day and socialised but that isn’t usually how it pans out. People aren’t always able to meet up – they have their own families, other friends, other commitments or maybe they don’t have a ride. And sometimes, it just all seems too hard so I hole up in my apartment feeling kind of sorry for myself, staying up until the early hours of the morning then sleeping half the day. That’s where I’m at right now. According to my expat books, most people go through a period like this but it is nonetheless, a slippery slope. When you have no reason to wake early, you just don’t especially when waking early means having to spend a longer time trying to find ways to kill time until husband gets home from work. These are my excuses anyway. As difficult as this is, I still prefer it to waking up early every day for a job I’m only doing to pass the time – I spent years doing that in Australia and I am determined to not buy into that again. Despite everything I still want to be here.