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1-The first compound

It was finally time, we were ready to move to the compound. We didn’t have much stuff to pack, no furniture or beds, but we boxed up the little that we had and readied ourselves for the move. A great excitement overtook the apartment as the kids talked of the pool and play ground where we would be living.  Grama’s box had seen better days and was worn down to nothing so we tossed the last few items in it and shoved it in the new jeep the company had given him. We set out on the 4 hour drive to Al-Khobar, in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

The trip went by quickly as we wound our way through the desert and back to Al-Khobar where we had visited the 4 cousins. The compound was small as far as compounds go, it had 30 houses with a parking lot in between. A small play area in the middle of the houses was equipped with swings, slides and other toys for children.  The pool area was lovely and serene and had a restaurant nearby.  People sat in their Western attire and bathing suits while tanning in the unrelenting heat and humidity. The compound management hosted pool side parties, companies came and gave out gifts and even drawings for plane tickets.  They brought a camel and a donkey, a bbq and talent show and a day full of crazy fun. We sat at the pool all day and went to the little play ground at night when there was a breeze. I taught the kids how to swim from the side of the pool, we laughed and joked and went on the shopping bus to a Western grocery store. We lived a fairy tale life that summer. We had stayed for almost 2 years in a villa with no windows, no furniture or appliances, an apartment with no electricity and a school that told me my children were not smart enough to make it , thus placing them in the back row each day to sit and doze off.  So, now, here in this tiny compound they swam all day, played at the park and rode their bikes through the parking lot. They laughed and smiled as children should and cuddled up on soft beds with fluffy pillows. There were new sheets and blankets and dressers, a television with a connection to numerous channels.  Although they had never been to Disneyland I am sure this is what it would have felt like for them! For the next 7 years we would live under these luxurious conditions.

Each lovely summer day passed into the next in an unbelievable festival of parties, days at the pool and nights at the park. Gardeners tended to beautiful flowers and also kept the compound in a state of perfect cleanliness, a constant display of sweeping, mopping and trimming each day. The restaurant had home delivery and would whip up steaks, fries, pasta and bring them to your villa door. Drivers were at your disposal and would cart you to the doctor, dentist, school. We rode the shopping bus to various places and saw a little of the city. As we rolled out of the compound and into the street we passed by the most curious site, a large lot of metal coverings, canvas material draped on wires and what appeared to be garbage everywhere. It was not a little blip on the side of the road but a huge mess and it was right next to our beautiful compound. The ladies on the bus remarked at what an eye sore this was and that it should be torn down. I peered through my window now ignoring the chatter to see a man standing hanging his clothing on a line that wound through the mangled boxes and metal. I could not imagine what that man was doing in that place.  Each time we passed I looked and tried to imagine what was going on there. Finally I learned it was where many people lived!! I could not believe right next door to our festival of fun, people lived in such conditions. I felt these must be the people I had seen from my apartment window, the men carrying buckets hailing

passing cars.

living room

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living room

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pool area

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Foof by pool

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parking area in between villas

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upstairs family room, behind is the glass wall that looks over the living room below

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little Abdullah in the new compound

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