The new school

Life on the compound started winding it’s way into reality as school approached. Our summer of swimming, sitting at the play ground and living in luxury was slowly grinding down as we all thought of the school year to come.  That old sick feeling kept cropping up but I managed to shove it back another day until it had actually arrived. All of the questions that I could not answer kept coming to my weary mind, but having no solution meant trying to have a fun and relaxing summer for the kids. I had a strong resolve this new year and vowed I would not accept any more excuses or half truths about school conditions. The constant inquiries that I had insisted on, only returned the same predictable response, “We do not hit the students it is illegal“.  Unraveling the real truth would take years and only become clear when I could actually enter a school.  I had complained numerous times through him, but after we finally had a working phone in the apartment I dared to call the school. I rambled away in my kindergarten Arabic and found a sympathetic ear in a secretary who spoke English. I could not contain my anger and asked him if this was the religion, no it was not! If this was the treatment that was prescribed for children, no it was not. My lecture and harsh words did little to help until the day I refused to send them back to school.  A letter listing my grievances was dropped off at the school gate, explaining my sons would not return until the conditions were met. The school principal and supervisors were not sure how to react to this but agreed, things would be different. This did buy us a couple of months at the end of the school year and no more problems occurred for that small time period.

When I lived in Seattle I had befriended a Syrian lady who was married to a Saudi. All these years later we met again in Al-Khobar. She was a lovely lady with impeccable manners and a taste for the finer things in life.  She was truly shocked when I spoke of the problems we had encountered at the schools.  She told me about a school in Dhaharan that was very nice and treated students well. My first sign that things might be different was the refreshing dress code for this school, a pair of jeans and white polo shirt. At first I thought this was a joke. At the previous school it was mandatory to wear a  thobe (long white gown worn by men and boys). In addition to all of the other issues the boys were not used to such attire and it was difficult for them to manage. I knew we were making the choice to send our children to this school system, so I did not expect them to adapt to my culture, but I had hoped for fair treatment as well as a measure of flexibility with small children.

The boys came home from the first day of school  full of excitement and details about their day.  They said that the teacher announced to the whole class that hitting was not allowed, that the teacher could not hit students, he could inform the principal,  he could also not hit a student, but the principal would tell the parents if the child was naughty and that was up to the parents to chose appropriate discipline for any poor behavior at school.  The children were given points for doing well and having good behavior, certain students would attend special field trips to reward their hard work and excellence.  I was shocked at the organization, discipline and teaching techniques in this new school. In the other two schools, hitting, screaming as well as humiliation and name calling were the commonly used disciplinary measures and  these tactics were also used on well  behaved children as a deterrent to using bad behavior.  This new school seemed to be very Westernized and the boys had already made friends with other children.

Our life in Saudi seemed to be looking up, a lovely compound and a fantastic new school.  I was busy of course with three little ones at home, now pregnant with my 6th child, but life was easy and full of comfort. All of the old worries seemed a distant memory to me and I knew we were on track for the future I had envisioned. This easy life would surely make him happy and ease his burden making him return to the original man I had met. He came up with more rules while living in this compound, but that was fine, it was a small trade off. The rules seemed to change on a daily basis, the table could not have two legs on the carpet and two legs off, the couch could not be touching the wall, a small pan could not be placed on a big burner for cooking, there were spices that were on the “no use” list, cookbooks were retrieved and pages of dishes that were not satisfactory received a huge XXX and hand written notes scrawled over pages saying “DO NOT MAKE! NOT GOOD”.  The rules seemed to change quite frequently and as soon as I would master them and feel I was on top of things, they were no longer enforced and heartily scoffed at. But, no matter, no one is perfect and peace in the home was all that I truly wanted.

When things seemed difficult and I started to survey the situation looking for answers, memories flooded back of true and everlasting love. Moments were sprinkled with kindness like the dew that glistens on the grass, gentle hugs and sweet reminders of a love that was endearing and abiding. Enthralled with young love and feelings of desire, it all flooded back for days only to return to a dead end for coming months.  My pregnancy was not difficult, but tiring and morning sickness after 5 pregnancies had now taken on a new twist. I carried a towel with me everywhere, as I could not swallow my own spit. I had gone through this each time but it increased in severity.  I dared not speak of this or complain as I  had heard so many times that I was lucky and privileged. Life held many blessings and all I had to do was peek at the men hanging laundry as we rolled out of the compound on the air conditioned shopping bus.

161 thoughts on “The new school

  1. With all of the strict rules of the compound, it’s amazing how you were able to keep 5-6 children from accidental damage. Stains, holes in the wall, I would have been very nervous about that, especially since there’s usually at least a small amount of damage that occurs with children…at least that’s been my experience with four kids.

    Liked by 3 people

    • who knows, one day a food was fine, the next day my cookbook was in trouble, abuse has no reason! I never knew would if it be ok or not. thus, I quit cooking when I left for about 3 years! Until the kids insisted on homemade food they grew up with

      Liked by 2 people

      • Of everything you wrote, that just stuck out like a sore thumb with me. That is an extreme way to try and empower yourself over others. Especially so because your love of cooking.

        Liked by 1 person

        • yes thanks for seeing that! I put up a recipe here called Maclube and I think I wrote about not cooking from scratch for about 3 years, and then cooking an old recipe and having my son tell me, now I remember mom standing in the kitchen when I got home from school, cooking wonderful foods and smells. So it made me love cooking again! Thanks Belinda!

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  2. No – no such difficulties as yours, but there are elements due to culture and lifestyle that are very different and no so easy, but not so extreme, but I think you would be surprised at some of the incidences, that have not been too far from your experience when you went to the grocery store.
    I have been followed on three occasions, and have actually taken a train in the opposite direction to try to shake someone off, and have had to adapt my mode of dress (though not so drastically as you).
    And I no longer have a car, nowhere to park and takes twice as long to get anywhere with the traffic, so I take public transport, sometimes in takes me over two hours on various trains, busses and trams, to get to work, carrying a heavy bag with books or computer, and sometimes still a long walk to reach my final destination. And usually having to stand up for 30-40 minutes in very cramped conditions. Nothing compared to what you have tolerated but still, I was used to jumping in my car and driving 15 minutes to work each morning. I don’t always work all day in the same place, so sometimes have to travel from one place to another during my lunch break and get no time to eat. Basically I didn’t know I was born before!

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  3. Poetic! “…gentle hugs and sweet reminders of a love that was endearing and abiding.” Absolutely beautiful Lynn. Have you always written? You certainly are talented. I do enjoy reading your life story. Thank you for sharing with us.

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  4. I always want to read about your stories Lynz, although I may not always have the time but I will try to read them all as they are fascinating, intriguing and really inspiring. Your strength just like my mother I can’t fathom, you are an inspiration to a mother like me. You really have lovely kids. And yes, your story will be best if published 🙂

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  5. All of the above are absolutely right – this is compelling stuff … your fortitude (a Great British attribute 😉 ) shines throughout, your resiliance, your ability to deal with situations mercifully beyond the ken of many (not all sadly – abuse is a global issue) and your ability to remain this mother, this wife, this woman. I’m very entranced.

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  6. Good story, Lynz! I think I need to start reading it from the beginning. I think I’ve missed a few posts. I’m going to start at the beginning later on today when I go home. I knew I wasn’t the only one who thinks your blog should be made into a book.

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  7. I agree with earlier comments Lynn…this must one day find itself with your other “chapters” between the covers of a lovely book! 🙂 That said, I am delighted that the boys are enjoying school and that things are less stressful for you. ❤

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  8. Lovely to see all the growing supportive comments on your posts Lyn. And the meeting that leads to a change in schools – these are the little things that happen that send us off in a new direction and give us hope for change – yes? Like mine, your ‘He’ was a master at keeping you in thrall – just enough tenderness and promise of change to keep you going and striving to get it right so that peace and happiness could be restored. Because it was always our fault!! What I discovered in the end of it all is that I learned what value I have – and nothing can ever take that away again!

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  9. The photo is a beautiful one of the family! I enjoyed reading that you refused to bring the kids to school and sent a letter. You are a woman who gets things done! And I hated reading the part of the horrible rules. I could not imagine functioning under so much control. Thank you, as always, for sharing your story, Lynz.

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  10. I know that you don’t like to mention “him” but how can you not….without “him” your life would of been so happy, no asinine rules, no hoops to jump through….he was loosing control so he had to keep changing the rules so he appeared he was in control, empowering himself over the weaker sex, so he thought!!! LOL little did he know you were the one in power…who really cares where the frigin couch sets or the table legs are…LOL I love that he thought he was in control….so happy that you were able to change the school…at least he had some compassion about the children and the schools…or perhaps he knew that was the one area he didn’t want to cross you with…he knew better to fight with a mama bear!!! HA HA HA…as the story unfolds the joke was on him…your an amazing woman…not recooking food and him thinking he was GOD and KING by writing in the cookbooks…what an ass sorry I can’t help myself….Lynz your a wonderful mother….the love and care you had for your children in this most difficult living situation, and I am not talking about the luxury villa – you deserved that and more….I am talking about co-toeing to an arrogant man!!!! But sweetheart you were in complete control over the kids lives and really that’s all that matters when you think about it… I love it….keep you story coming….I love reading it…and I agree you need to publish it….change the names if you have to but its a wonderful story…..you are helping us all by writing it…..thanks for your strength sister!!!!

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      • they are 100% correct…you maynot have seen it at the time, you were young and trying with all your might to be a good wife and make him happy and proud of you….sad it was never about you…it was all about him…I hope that you able to look back see the strength you displayed all those years…even if you didn’t know it then…my oh my believe it….and your children are all the better for it…and they are so correct, he has no power over you…and really never did know that your story is getting further along…you just didn’t realize it at the time…my problem I had in my marriage is that I knew it and didn’t do anything about it…it was easier to bend to what he wanted than to fight about the BS he was power tripping over…yours beats mine my miles….I think all power hungry men know the fights they can win however some hit there women…I was only hit once…then he learned I could through knives…LOL a story for another time…he never hit me again….lol I haven’t heard anything in your story as of yet that he was violent….just controlling…??? I hope not!!!! XXXKat

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  11. What a wonderful reprieve to send your children to a nice school! Knowing how much you love them, that must have meant so much happiness for you- in spite of his abuse and manipulation. I’m so glad you had the comforts of the villa, the school, the air conditioning, good neighbors… I hate to think what you would have had to endure without those comforts while dealing with him!

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  12. Very well written, Lynz. And, congratulations on your pregnancy. I can’t imagine having 5 plus one on the way and abide with strict rules. You are a strong woman. I have two boys and I feel like I’m taking care of 10 people. I’m glad to hear your children are going to a better school now. That’s good. That’s one thing less to worry about. Take care of yourself, Lynz. Best wishes to you. 🙂

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  13. Lyn, look at all your avid readers…your writing is so compelling…everyone is looking for the next part.
    Specially me! I love that your kids got you cooking again, so healing…well and we get to use your recipes too…bonus!

    Liked by 1 person

    • we are legally still married. I am not “with” him but we own a home together and of course have 9 children together. But after I left 6 years ago it has been back and forth trying to break free and then him coming and things changing. But for 2 years now, no and it is done for me!! The threat of going to court, taking the kids, not sending support and general fear have kept me in a limbo. So he popped in this past year for my daughter’s college graduation.

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        • I don’t know! I lived for so long afraid to do anything, and when he popped in it was awful, he left, I was so sad after having been free and happy, then he quit paying money to support us, so my daughter(now 25) started this blog and said who cares!! So I jumped in with what I love, cooking, and then some how the stories started, it was so scary but again, you live in a secret world!!! you cannot even tell your friends what vegetables you are buying, everything is a secret so I just don’t care now. I am keeping the stories very easy no big yucky details about him,but I feel compelled to talk. His brother follows me on fb but I dont think he has read and knows little English! But they are lovely and have sent me their best wishes.

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          • I think you are incredibly brave and obviously a very strong woman and your daughter sounds wonderful.
            From stories I heard when living in the UAE, I believe that your experience is sadly typical for many western women who have married Muslim men, but most would not be brave enough to make the break or speak out.
            You are educating and inspiring all of us and maybe even bringing strength and hope to someone in a similar position. You have my utmost respect for taking that leap x

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          • Thank you so much! I feel scared each time I post, it is hard to explain how this all transpires! It is a weird process and you end up waking up thinking, Wait a minute! Yes you would have better knowledge for sure of this! It is very common. Most of my friends are divorced or have lost their kids etc. I am just treading water so to speak and trying to live my life, raise the kids! Thanks Elaine! Your support means so much to me!

            Liked by 1 person

          • It has been 33 years since we met! So, just now in the past year I feel free and able to figure things out! It goes back and forth, I feel happy, then depressed, then scared, but yes it has helped me to have all of you say–WHAT? because you get used to hiding it, the person telling you how bad you are and as hard as it is to believe, you also feel like you are worthless and to blame! so the validation has turned things around!

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  14. The new school must have seemed like a dream come true, but those rules your husband imposed are unbelievable. His fads over your cooking, and the rages he exhibited when it didn’t please him (in a previous episode) just don’t seem normal. At least your new apartment was comfortable and airy, and the children were happy with their new school.
    The header picture of you with your children is beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I can only imagine what it must have been like to live with such a control freak. You really do need to turn these stories into a book. It would sell very well, in my opinion. I think it would help other women in such situations too.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Your children are beautiful. Lyn. This post emphasizes in my mind how you really tried and how busy your life was. I admire you for this perseverance and Love you showed! Have a great weekend. I can not always find current posts in short break st work. ♡

    Liked by 1 person

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