I spent 16 years in the Middle East where I met the most amazing people and experienced the most unique things. I do miss many aspects of life in Saudi, mostly the friends and all of the rich culture. I lived in Saudi neighborhoods with the locals, in an apartment downtown and on Western compounds where we had the best that life had to offer. My time there had highs and lows, although the good times far out weighed the bad. I learned so much and this experience enriched my life and made me who I am today. The following post is about the “beginning” which proved to be a difficult time.
As we walked up the cement stairs to the second floor, crunch…. crunch and another crunch. The sound of crispy, dried out cockroach remnants crunched below our feet. The smell of bug spray in the extreme heat and the smell of cement or old tile or something, a smell I never figured out.
My 18 month old wiggled out of my arms and tried to walk up the last few stairs. I let her down to ease the pressure on my legs and arms. After 25 hours the journey wore on my sagging belly. My whole body ached and seemed to throb through the unrelenting heat. My mother had warned me about taking such a grueling trip while 8 months pregnant. But, I had already delivered 4 babies successfully and needed to make this trip now. A job was waiting and it was my duty to follow. I day dreamed of this new life, things would go back to how they had been. Those sweet memories still lingered in my mind and I searched for them and recreated them whenever I could.
We had lived in Seattle with remnants of furniture left behind when friends went back home, wherever that might be. We had collected a couch sectional, a queen bed and some pads on the floor. My parents supplied shades for the house we purchased, they also ended up giving us their couches a few years later. The kitchen floor laminate was a 60’s pattern of orange and brown boxes which was ugly, but served the purpose of hiding holes throughout. The house was modest but a cute little abode for a young, growing family. I day dreamed about this new life for my kids, a nice shiny home or apartment, new appliances and full furniture. I heard many times, we are only temporary here, temporary, later, later…… so I just knew that this was it, this was the later I had waited for. I felt it was the beginning of our new life, a happier and more successful life. I would work hard to be the best mother, wife and person.
I day dreamed about this new life for weeks. We would have a new, shiny apartment with white counter tops, modern appliances, the latest and best. A comfortable queen size bed for a tired, weary mom. My children would have bunk beds, desks and dressers to put all of their clothing. A play room with toys and games. I cooked from scratch because this was the best way, I blanched tomatoes, made my own BBQ sauce and did everything I could to be my best. So, nice, new appliances that could enhance my cooking skills, this was what awaited me. My children would go to school in a clean and positive atmosphere. They would be taught by Amu (endearing term for father’s friends). Up until this point my kids were home schooled. But now they would be taught Arabic, they would have the best education and would be able to socialize with other children. It would be safe, warm and what we had wanted……..
My children ranged in age from 6 years to 18 months. So, I would be delivering this baby before my oldest son turned 7. That meant 5 deliveries in 6 years. After having my first baby I found my calling, being a mom. I looked at their beautiful and angelic faces. All sweetness and hope, they exuded every quality I admired, these children I treasured. I did anything I could to protect them and love them, like all mothers that was my mission, my life. When I was younger I had planned to go on the road as a Jazz singer, that was my calling. But, life has twists and turns that we do not always plan or orchestrate.
As we made our way to the top of the stairs a large brown door stood before us. It was clear it had been painted a dull brown in a hurry, most likely hours before we arrived. The two doors met in the middle and overlapped. There were cracks and holes in between the sections. This would later prove to be an entrance for lizards and cockroaches. The doors opened and the inside exposed a hall, indoor outdoor black carpet, walls that were a tan color with specks of white and brown. Lines traced the places where people had lived, their t.v., cupboards and things real people buy to….. live. The lines were ominous, they stood like neon lights pointing to the challenges we would face for years to come.
The living room was an average size, in the left hand corner close to the ceiling, a window. The window was unrecognizable as a window, it was made of brown textured plastic. It slid open to expose bars on the outside. What these bars were for, I never knew. We were on the second floor so the bars appeared to serve no purpose except as a subtle reminder. Next to the window was a large piece of plywood, it was hammered against a gaping hole. Nails do not work too well with cement so it was barely in it’s place. This is where an air conditioner might have been, but was not.
There were two bedrooms, each room was well duplicated and interchangeable with the next, black indoor outdoor carpeting, and a hole covered by plywood. I gazed around the room, exhausted from the 25 hours of flights and layovers. Any where would be fine, a bed, a mat, a pillow a blanket. But none of those were present in any room. a house full of…. nothing.
The last room was large and tiled, a sink stood at the end of the room. There were no cupboards, no appliances, more nothing.
And so our journey began.