I did this at six months on my family blog. I realized it may be helpful to some so here it is. So here are my likes and dislikes of Saudi Arabia six months in. I will do this again at a year and see what has changed. They are not in order of rank just how they popped into my head. I have included some pictures and video below.
- Family Time- We have a lot more of it and do a lot more as result together. Everything is close and the weekends aren’t reserved for household chores like they were before. They are for us to enjoy. This is partly due to the fact that I am not working and can do them during the week.
- Lunches- Both kids come home for lunch every day as well as my husband. It is nice to see everyone in the middle of the day.
- Beach- We are beach people and they have a nice beach. I’ve have always told my husband it would drive me crazy to be on a beach with no shells thankfully that is not the case here! There isn’t a time I go out that I don’t find some really cool ones!
- Husband's Job- He is enjoying his job which means he is happier and less stressed plus he works less. Another benefit is work doesn’t come home. No blackberry or laptop for work, once he is gone he is gone.
- Ringo- We love our parakeet. We have named him Ringo. He comes daily to eat and is a lot of fun to see. Since this originally posted on my family blog we are up to 5 parakeets!
- Weather- The winter was mild compared to the States but still cold enough. I am not a fan of cold weather so I am enjoying the heat. We will see if that continues.
- School Calendar- They call it year round school but I think they get more time off then we do in the States. They start Sept 12 and end June 30 but they then have three weeks at Christmas, three weeks in March/April and a week over the second eid which changes yearly and is a Muslim holiday after Ramadan.
- Cans that don’t need a can opener- I have barely used my can opener here. Green bean cans, etc all have the lid that just peels off like a coke can. It is nice!
- Kids Freedom- The kids can play outside without 24/7 supervision. If they want to go see their friends they just get on their bikes and go. They get to be kids, exploring, playing, and learning like we did as kids. They walk themselves to school, parks, Awana and more.
- Kid’s Friends- There are a zillion kids here and it is nice that the kids have made so many friends. It is also cool to see them interact with so many kids from so many different places. It is amazing that kids don’t see color or race just the inside qualities of a person. I hope they hang onto this quality a really long time! I also think it will make them more tolerant of others as they get older!
- Jebels- We all enjoy having these on the camp. It is fun to take the dogs out to run while we climb, look for geodes and just enjoy being outside on them.
- The King-Love the two month pay bonus he gave us this year!
- Camp- Our camp is amazing. I wish I knew a good way to describe it. It is 11 sq miles. We have four swimming pools, more soccer and baseball fields than I can count, cricket field, horse farm, bmx, skate park, movie theater, bowling alley, restaurants, library, grocery store, and a zillion parks to name just a little bit of what is on here. It is like living in a nice resort town in Arizona. That is the feel it gives off. The streets are lined with palm trees, we have a green grass golf course (the only one in Saudi Arabia), grass in all the yards and trees, and they are constantly working on keeping it clean. My thought before coming was a small walled compound like we have seen in Khobar. Thankfully that is not the case I feel bad for those people and question how they could live here like that. This camp makes it very nice!
- Short Commutes- Because our daily life is confined to the camp everything we do with the kids is close. It doesn’t take more than 8 minutes to get anywhere on camp which is nice.
- Adventure- I don’t know a good way to title this. But we now live in the Middle East. Not a thought most people would think is a good thing. I had some people tell me I was crazy for coming here. Well we are here and loving it. We have seen so many cool things here in Kingdom already and are looking forward to seeing even more as the year goes on and Bahrain settles down. I never would have thought Saudi and Bahrain would have so much to see from a historical and natural beauty perspective and look forward to seeing more.
- Camels- Not in town but once you get out of town on the highways there are camels everywhere. We have had to go around them on the road (only once) but they are all along side it. It is pretty cool! They are like cows are in the States.
- Travel- We are looking forward to our 3.5 week family vacation in Europe this summer! We are also looking forward to traveling over the eid’s and future years. This was one of the big reasons for us to come and we are excited!
- Schwarma Night- We love heading over to get food and see who we run into. It is a nice way for the kids to play and us to visit with our friends and meet new people. Plus I don’t have to cook and the food is good and really cheap. We eat for 45 SR which is $12. You can’t even feed a family fast food in the States for that cheap!
- Gas- Is $0.45 cents a gallon here for 91. It takes $8.00 to fill up the car! 91 is the lowest they sell. 95 is the premium.
- Homework- We spent hours in the States doing homework with the kids and fighting over it. We had spelling test each week starting in first grade, math and more. Here we have maybe one jolly rancher question a week which the kids want to do to earn the candy! It is a nice change and great that they have time to be a kid!
- Grocery Carts- I know this one seems silly but trust me be thankful for the carts that you can just pull/push from either direction and they go where you want them to. All four wheels on the carts here turn complete circles which makes steering them impossible. They go sideways if they feel like and are a mess.
- Abaya- I deal with it and really it is not that bad just a hassle to remember when you are as forgetful as me. If you don't know that is the black dress .
- Drivers- They are horrible drivers here. They pass on the left shoulder turn from 3 lanes over, get over into your lane without even looking so you have to slam on your brakes not to hit them, and don’t drive in a lane just to name a few. Most of the really good examples I don't have video of them when I remember to take it with me they drive normal so this is mild compared to what we actually see.
- No Women Drivers- This is frustrating because it means I am stuck on the camp unless I take a taxi or bus. The buses haven’t worked will for me this year because of having a kindergartner. Kindergarten gets out at 10:40 for a two hour lunch and the bus don’t start returning to camp until 10:30 so I wouldn’t be able to get back in time. The buses also don’t leave until 9:00 and don’t normally arrive at the groceries until about 9:20-9:30 depending on traffic so I would only have about 30-40 minutes to shop before I needed to get a taxi back. It just hasn’t seemed worth it yet.
- Political Unrest- This was a big decision for us and we looked at how stable and secure this region had been before coming. Then to get here and be here such a short time before things went nuts around us is frustrating. A lot of things we had planned on doing regionally have been put on hold indefinitely.
- Unpredictability of Items- I stock up on lots of things when I see them like dog food, Diet Coke, cereal, and chips to name a few. There is no way to know for sure if they will have what you want when you go to get it. I have walked into the commissary to get milk to find their entire cold case empty. They were out of Diet Coke in 2L bottles for 3 weeks. Toy’s R Us had girl bikes my daughters size three weeks before we wanted one but the day we took her to get one they had none. We are learning to buy things as we see them and horde them! The 22 bags of Dog food are an example.
- Salt Water-We have two types of water here in the house. Sweet water or drinking water which only comes out of one tap in the kitchen. The rest of the house including the laundry and showers is fed with raw water (higher salt content). It takes a bit for your skin and hair to get use to.
- Lines- There is a running joke here “the Saudi Line” it means 8 wide 1 deep. They don’t understand or follow the concept of a line. They just keep going wider not deeper. It gets frustrating when you are in a car because they will be less than an inch from ours and it comes down to who has more nerves of steel to move forward without hitting another car.
- Prayer Times- You have to plan our outings around these. Everywhere closes for prayer regardless of if there are customers in the store or not. They will actually kick you out for prayer time or lock you in and prayer times are different each day so you have to look them up before going.
- Store Hours- Most stores here open in the morning for a bit until noon time prayer then close until 4:00 in the afternoon. So any shopping you might want to do in that time is impossible. They then open up again at 4:00 until really late at night. So if you miss the morning shopping time or just run out of time you are stuck waiting until 4:00 to go back out into town.
- Foreigners- My interaction with actual Saudi’s is very limited. They don’t live by me and they don’t work in most shops I visit. The Bangladeshi and Filipino workers are everywhere and who I have more interaction with. They drive the taxis, run the shops, are the nannies, house keepers, lawn men and basically do everything in this country. This country wouldn’t function without them.
- Trash- Camp is nice but off camp especially in the deserts is like a giant junk yard. They just throw things wherever. It is very nasty looking and sad.
- Shamals- Dust storms. They seem to have them all the time. It is annoying because everything outside gets covered in sand. I am not much of a cleaner to begin with so I finally just gave up on the car and windows. When I can’t see any more I clean them.
- Pork- I didn’t realize just how much pork we ate until we moved here. While this has not been a huge deal it is a minor inconvenience. Luckily we have been given several things of bacon and sausage from one of the kids’ friends mom. She is my "pork supplier".
- Pool- The kids don’t seem to mind but I miss our pool. I miss being able to swim without a zillion people around and wear a bikini. (The rules here say you have to be in a one piece, stomach covered two piece, although it depends on the day if they are going to enforce it.)
- Medical- This is another that should go in both. It is a pro because it is completely 100% free. I am putting it in the con because it is an annoyance to me. This is the one place that I see Saudi's. They love the doctors office. All the women completely covered in black sitting in our "women only" waiting rooms. The men have their own and we are not allowed. This is when I feel like I am out of my element.
- Jets- We live right next to the Saudi Air Base and they like to fly their F-15's & F-16's. This really bothered me my first few weeks here but it is somewhat like a train. Once you get use to them you don't really hear them if you are inside. That being said if you are attempting to do anything outside they are very very loud! Luckily they don't really fly them at night or on the weekends so it is not that big of a deal more of a minor annoyance. On the positive note they are cool to watch.
- The in between feeling of being here and it not really feeling like home yet and not having a home in the States. Well technically we own four but they are currently being leased.
Pros & Cons 1 Year later!
A little over a year in here are the things that I love and hate about living in Saudi Arabia most haven't changed from the six month status. I gave a brief description below.
New Stuff Pros:
New Stuff Pros:
Resolved since last time:
Resolved since last time:
Additions or more info: