The past few weeks I have been sticking to my schedule and working on the book a couple of hours each day. Things have finally taken shape in my mind and I feel I have come up with what I want things to look like. It might be a weird format but it’s what feels right to me so I will continue with it. I have been blogging three times a week which was what I had planned. It feels good that I can visualize what I want for my book before it was confusing and overwhelming. I am also proud that I am sticking to my blogging and writing schedule! Thank you all for being patient with visits to blogs and with support!!!
A recent picture of me and my dear mom, my mentor and my rock!
This is just a little free write and not connected to the book. Set on the Western compound where we lived for 7 years. Riyadh, 2000
Their annual visits lasted only 3 weeks and were shared with my sister in Al-Khobar. Weekends and traveling days were counted and parceled out making a schedule on the calendar. Boxes were stacked near the storage room wall after arriving to his office on the Western compound. Nothing was to be opened and not even a peek was allowed until they arrived. Mom would sit in the extra room sorting items of clothing, toys and little necessities that he had not provided for members of our household. Brightly colored gift bags reflected each child’s personality and stood waiting along the closet mirror. It was a time of comfort and support but also one that meant a glaring view of our reality.
A pool of blood formed on the floor where tissues had seeped through. I grabbed more napkins adding them to the crumpled mess that had been placed around my thumb. Bits of onion lay across the plastic cutting board left to dry, leaving their usual sting. At first a strange sensation flashed over me and I felt faint, grasping the plastic table to steady myself. I mopped the floor and picked up any remnants of this little accident not wanting the children to be panicked. The messy gob of sticky napkins was replaced and quickly an assessment of the situation was made. I was grateful that dinner was already prepared and onions to top a meal were optional!
The rest of the day mom and dad coddled me, replacing bandages and insisting that I sit and rest. School trips and clean up were all attended to and created a stark contrast to my overwhelming daily routine. Mom served the meal, dad did the evening dishes and the children assisted them. The evening progressed in its usual fashion; he watched the news, took a nap and then left for the night to sit with friends.
The next morning he grabbed his brief case and asked the usual questions, would I be leaving the compound with my parents and did I need anything from him. I stood gripping my thumb hoping that he would somehow show a sign of interest in my well- being. I told myself that he had not noticed and would have offered his help and inquiries if he had. I boldly stuck my hand out showing him a hole where part of my thumb was missing, explaining what had happened the day before. Disgust and irritation welled up and his words were sharp and deliberate “Why would you be so careless!” He walked away but first reminded me to rest and be ready for the usual time that night.
Last week’s story–My sister told me that life in Saudi needed adjustments and certainly things were never easy in the beginning. I realized she was right and the long term benefits would far out weigh any inconvenience at this point. Two glorious weeks came and went quickly as most pleasurable things do. He came back on the train to take us home and we said our goodbyes. My sister promised to visit and we made our way back to the train station. Part 9- “A halala for your thoughts”
The train slowed down until it finally stopped, maids carried sleeping babies and families gathered their things making their way into the station. Two weeks had come and gone quickly, leaving us back in the same routine. As we entered the villa, the smell of pif paf (bug powder) and dust wafted through the air. I looked at the walls, tan with specks of brown, reminding me of the first night we arrived in Riyadh. Lines traced the places where furniture had once stood. The indoor outdoor black carpeting felt coarse on my feet and the three bed pads now looked shabby and worn. Dirty clothes were stacked on the blue plastic chair as we settled into our old sleeping quarters. The kids continued to snicker and talk of their antics with “the cousins” as we lay in the dark on the villa floor.
The next morning feelings of doom returned as they had in the beginning of life in Saudi. The boys played on the roof and in the downstairs area while the girls made forts out of the bed pads. I carted loads of laundry upstairs to the washer on the top floor and made up games to fritter away the remaining days left until school. Baby Abude slept most of the day while we sat in front of the new t.v. watching lines and patterns signal the start of daily programming. The English channel started at 4 p.m. and was limited to censored news read by a local English speaker and then obscure shows intermixed with some Western programming. The stress of school was exhausting and so we chose to overlook it until the time arrived. The trip to Al-Khobar had been rejuvenating but had also heightened our awareness of the stark reality we had been living in.
Soon after our little vacation he announced that he had located the perfect apartment. It was new, centrally located downtown and within walking distance of shops, restaurants, but most importantly, a new school. The children were filled with excitement and the villa was humming with chaos. Questions raced through our minds and the only answer was to bring us along and tour the new place. The building was sleek and shiny, unlike the rough exterior of standard Saudi homes. The entry way was lined with polished marble where one could place an accent table and chair. Finishing touches were flawless, unlike the villa where spackle and putty covered holes in tiling, doors and bathtubs. Three large bedrooms, a family room and living room, each with a view to the busy street below. Light streamed through the clear, large windows and seemed to reflect and dance upon the walls. For months the dark villa had seemed like little more than a cage, no way to see the sun or sky.
At the end of our tour he mentioned a tiny detail, as he always did, to make sure I understood and accepted, no electricity. The building was finished but waiting for a simple hook up which would be coming any day. Until that time, it was rent free and electricity was supplied from the building next door. The atmosphere and ability to view the outside world precluded logic and in reality the decision had already been made. I had no idea that days would turn into months, enduring temperatures as high as 115 degrees, struggling with hours of no a/c, no lights and no way to cook on the swap meet stove.