The hardest life
Life continued to move along and things stayed pretty much the same in the new compound. It was October and I was now 4 months pregnant with my 6th child, temperatures were dipping down to the mid 90’s but humidity was still high. Morning sickness was starting to wane and the second trimester was getting easier, not yet a heavy belly to weigh me down. The boys had been in school for a month and things seemed to be going along well without any of the issues we had faced in Riyadh. It was time to send See See to first grade, she was 6. I started searching for a school, but after what we had faced at the previous schools I was guarded. My daily routine stayed the same as it had for years, cleaning, cooking and child care. The “dream” life I had imagined was now unfolding before me. My children were in a good school, having fun as children should, we lived in a home that I would never have imagined possible and I was expecting my 6th child.
I met two very lovely ladies who I became close to during the Al-Khobar chapter of our lives. One lady, Guadalupe, she was originally from Mexico but had married a man from the Netherlands. We spent hours at the little park watching our children play while we exchanged stories of our lives back home and marrying into a culture that was foreign to us. She was warm and generous with her friendship. The other lady is someone I would be friends with for the years to come. Her name was Gloria, she was ten years my senior and we connected automatically. She had children who had moved away from home many years before and was now a proud grandmother. After the first experience with delivery I was in somewhat of a pleasant denial about going to the doctor until my dear friend Gloria actually intervened and made a birth plan during my 8th month. There was a nurse from Canada who lived on the compound and another older lady Virginia, from the U.S. These beautiful ladies approached me and finally insisted on an answer about my doctor, how I would get to the hospital and who would watch the kids. I had no answer and stared blankly as they then talked with each other and worked on the details of my upcoming birth. They were good friends who knew nothing of our life before the compound or the realities of living “outside”. Although I had been raised in a nice home with everything I wanted, some how now I did not fit into compound life. I tried to be friendly and go along but complaints about the normal yet trivial things in life, seemed ridiculous and frivolous.
His job was in Dharahan one of three cities that make up this part of the Eastern province. The first month went well as he reaped the benefits of his U.S. passport and had better pay than any of his relatives would ever imagine. In Saudi Arabia people are paid based on the passport they hold. Being from a Western country means having the highest pay scale, your qualifications are of little importance if you are not holding this type of passport. After a month I saw a pattern I had tried to deny for many years, it started with mild observations about other people’s jobs and their preferential treatment in regards to benefits, hours and of course, salary. It then turned to a conversation about his supervisor and how he constantly gave him projects that no one else would take. This then lead into the insinuation that some how I could help but was not willing to. I had spent years correcting his memos, editing reports and making my weekly sweet trays for each office he worked in. I had done what I could while juggling family responsibilities but some how I was told there was something I was selfishly holding back. He offered suggestions regarding my usefulness in regards to his job, If only I would network with these women whose husbands had high positions surely this would help. If I could speak to my friend Gloria, her husband was a manager and had worked for this company for many years. I valued our friendship, a real friend who truly cared about me, I smiled at him and nodded and then put it out of my mind.
He came home from work one day excited with the news of his new position within the company. He would be moving back to Riyadh after only a few months of living in Al-Khobar. The job would not pay more but he would be leaving the current supervisor who he was having trouble with. He had once again returned to being optimistic and happy and the move was set. I looked at my children and thought of the horrible conditions we had faced in the schools in Riyadh, and decided we would stay put until school was finished for the year.This made little sense to him and he repeated the words I had heard so many times before, “I want you to have the hardest life so you will appreciate anything you are lucky enough to get.”