Life moved forward and the anticipation of my parent’s visit carried us through the days and weeks that passed. See See and Foof continued to attend American school, making friends, playing at recess and learning to read in English. Their brothers trudged off to Saudi school making the best of the situation. He continued to pursue an alternate position at the office and hopped on the Sheik’s jet for quick trips to Jeddah, returning at times within hours. My little “bakery” provided compound residents with pastries and sweets. Plates of warm cookies and chicken pot pie were delivered to neighbors and returned with spicy Curries and Beriyani. Residents walked the loop chatting about the upcoming holidays and their plans to head home for this festive season. Friends came and went entering the compound and settling in, only to move shortly after. The streets of Riyadh transformed and somehow looked oddly different, men wrapped scarves around their faces shielding them from the choking dust, children donned long wool coats and ear muffs. Temperatures had dropped to 70 degrees and desert life had been thrown into a deep freeze. Hues of red and orange enveloped the city, the horizon looked ominous yet beautiful. Inside the compound walls life remained the same, residents thought little of the dropping temperatures and continued to swim, play tennis and walk the loop in their shorts and summer clothing.
The life I hoped to provide for my children was slowly coming to be a reality and carefree days spent playing and running around the park became normal. The first two years of life in Riyadh with no furniture, intermittent electricity and little outside communication, were now behind us. The little girls were in school and adjusting to being away each day, the boys had grasped the Arabic language and I was running a bakery. We had now entered the world of the the Western elite living in Saudi. Residents launched complaints about the patches of brown in the grassy field, the shopping bus destinations were not varied enough and restaurant dinner deliveries were late. I smiled and laughed with ladies who passed by my porch, answering questions about cooking and baking when asked. I popped over to houses, babies in tow, to give brief cooking lessons and then ran home quickly to tend to my duties. As each day passed things seemed to improve in our lives and a feeling of security came over me, something that had been lacking for quite some time.
Just outside my window the workers stood in their green jump suits, trimming bushes and tending to exotic flowers that were not normally seen in Saudi. When the heat, dust and weather were relentless they sat on porches and under trees to take a break. The streets were always tidy and no sign of trash or dirt was to be seen. Abude, then 3 years old, occupied himself watching them trim and clip, offering his input and advice and explaining how one day he would be a gardener. He chattered endlessly with his friends about Mohammad, his buddy. He was mesmerized by their uniforms and tools and although they had a language barrier, words seemed unnecessary. I had watched from the apartment window just 2 years before, where I myself struggled to keep cool and survive under difficult conditions, but now as I stood in this luxury villa, a twinge of unease over took me. I watched Mohammad as he made his way to the curb, it looked as though he had a mitten or glove on his hand and his face looked peaked. Abude ran inside and informed me that Mohammad was sick and to bring a glass of water and some food. Although we didn’t speak the same language, no words were needed. His hand was wrapped as if to keep it in tact, but traces of blood streaked his arm. He had cut his finger almost severing it while clipping plants, the clinic had bandaged it and sent him back out. I spent the next few days monitoring him, bringing food, water and medicine. A helpless feeling gripped me and I had no explanation for Abude. I learned that these workers, the backbone of our compound and Saudi society, moved among us silently and were indeed invisible.