Wednesday, January 13, 2010

the utter quiet

For those unemployed expat women who come to Riyadh accompanying their husbands who have jobs, compound life is very quiet. Aside from sometimes hearing kids playing on the street, it's just always quiet, always sunny, and it can be isolating if you allow yourself to stay cooped up. For those who are more introverted and lean on others to pull them into a social network, it can be lonely.

On the flipside, those who attend compound events and go on the shopping bus regularly can find themselves quite busy socializing. Some women get really into hashing and desert trips. Some get onto the coffee morning circuit and even make good money selling their crafts or sausages, or what not. And a lot of women elect to sign up for a teaching job at an international school, though the hours can be bad and the pay isn't high.

For many, all the available quiet time could drive you insane, though I view it a bit differently. Riyadh is usually a place of transition for couples and families - and the quiet affords you all the opportunity to indulge in the hobbies that you've always wanted to pursue, and gives you time to reflect, something you usually don't have time for when you live in the West. And as always, time away from home gives you an appreciation for the luxuries you've had the good luck to grow up with.


carola said...

Hi there,
I love the way you are always so positive about things.
I am moving soon to Riyadh and it's a delight to read your blog.

JG said...

Question 1: If I have to move to Riyadh, will you pretty please be my friend? I've just spent two evenings reading your entire blog, and it's a scream.

Next question: I have a kid, aged 6. My kid is asian. I am not. Neither is my husband. How do you think this will be perceived there in places like malls, etc? Next: What can we do about it?

Question 3: We homeschool--not for religious reasons, we just do. I realize this may rule out bus rides to the mall, so maybe we won't really be friends, but you have to tell me where to get Paris' abaya with the turquoise trim and hood, and I'm also wondering if you've heard anything more from the Canadian family who homeschool. If so, can you put me in touch with them so I can figure out how the HECK to give a kid recess time when it is 120 F outside? We'll be on the DQ. What is life on the DQ like, compared to your life, do you think?



Orchidthief said...

Carolina, it's easy to be positive on the internet - not so easy to do that in real life!

And J, I'm not sure how your situation would be perceived. I predict quite a bit of staring, but I can't really see anything else happening beyond that. As to what you can do about it, well sometimes when I've had enough of people staring at me, I stare back, bug-eyed.

The abayas with the colourful hoods are sold by vendors directly to westerners on compound bazaars like the Kingdom one. Expats are the only ones that buy hooded abayas. You may want to call the compound directly to find out how to get in if you don't live on a compound. The same group of vendors shows up to any place where expats congregate, so that includes schools too.

The DQ is a very nice area to live. A couple of big differences. You may have to wear your abaya outside, depending on the area you live. Muttawa have been known to be in the area with police and have harassed women about it. Though I've also heard of women jogging and cycling in the DQ, so I'm not sure what to make of it. Another thing is that you'll likely have to make a concerted effort to make friends there. On a compound, things are sort of done for you with monthly events, exercise classes, children's activities, and shopping buses. Without all that, I think you might have to be more committed to bolstering your own social welfare than someone on a compound.

For me, there is no question that I need a compound to survive, but for those with families, some are so busy child-rearing that networking and abaya-free zones are not terribly important to them.

My advice to you, if you have a choice, is to not move to Riyadh unless you know you will do well with a lot of time to yourself or you enjoy spending a lot of time with your child.

Hope that clears up some stuff. Also, I never heard from the family again, so, out of luck there.

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