Living Abroad – Week 2

What?  I’m a week behind?  Well, spoiler alert – baby #4 came earlier than we planned and put life on hold for a bit.  Don’t worry, I promise to tell more about that soon!

So, week 2 in Saudi Arabia…where to begin…

Well although it’s only been a week, it feels so much longer than that.  It’s amazing how when you’re in a new place and the pace of life is slower, time seems to go on forever.  No endless to-do lists, no appointments to keep, just time.  Time to relax, adjust, and have fun.

Neither of the older kids have started school yet, so we’ve had lots of time to explore and see more of what the community has to offer.  We live way out on the edge of things, so we’ve been doing A LOT of bus riding.  The kids think it’s the greatest thing ever.  Me, not so much.  They still think it’s a treat to go spend an hour to grab a bottle of milk :)  Yes, I officially have a bad attitude about riding the bus (though my super pregnant body is really glad I don’t have to walk everywhere in the heat…).

The KAUST community is really fantastic and they have lots of big community events going on on a regular basis.  This week we went to the International Food Festival, where there were food vendors from all over the country selling food, and it reminded me a lot of The Taste of Colorado that’s in Denver every year.  They also had bands playing all night and gave away tons of airline tickets and even a new Jeep…which we didn’t win any of :)  It’s fun to see so many people out at these things and get us excited about all of the young families that are in our community!

We were excited to discover the town library, as well as check out the libraries at the kids schools.  There are very few books for kids at the community library, but during the year, our family is allowed to check out books from the awesome school libraries.  Also, we can check out books from the university library as well (mostly science books there, but they have a fantastic travel section too).

We also checked out the cinema and saw The Lego Movie for the second time (and then Andrew took the kids AGAIN later on).  This is a huge deal here in Saudi since theaters are outlawed so you will only find them in compounds like ours.  It costs 5 SAR (about $1.50) to go to a movie and kids 5 and under are free.  I’m pretty sure we’re going to quickly turn frequent movie goers.  As an awesome perk, caramel popcorn there is only 9 SAR (about 2.75)!!!

We’ve also been going on lots of morning and evening walks (since it’s already in the 90′s).  Our new favorite place to walk is down by the harbor, where the kids have gotten a glimpse of lots of little tropical fish along the edges.  We also got the treat of seeing a sea turtle swimming down there one day.  The kids have now dubbed the harbor “the REAL aquarium”.  I guess that’s what happens when you’ve grown up landlocked and your only experience with fish is at the aquarium :)


Despite my aforementioned loathing of the bus, I took some pretty serious bus trips this week.  Since KAUST is so isolated, they offer free shuttle buses several places so that people can get out more.  This Saturday, I went with a friend to IKEA to stock some household supplies before the baby arrives.  We arrived when it opened at 9, but what they didn’t tell us was that only the cafeteria was open and the store didn’t actually open until 10.  That left for one quick shopping trip as we had to be done just after 12 since they shut things down at prayer time.  Luckily we had no kids with us!  The biggest shock of the shopping trip was showing up and finding that all the prices were written in Arabic.  While this might seem like a given, every store I’d been in before had prices written in english as well.  Luckily, the employees were very helpful and translated lots of prices for us :)  Andrew and my friends husband took all the kids to the beach while we were gone and then out for hamburgers, so we both returned to happy and tired kids!

A few days later, I got even braver with my bus adventures.  I needed to go to Jeddah to meet with a doctor at the hospital I would deliver at.  This meant waking up early, getting Mason to his first day of school, and then boarding the bus with the other 2 kids.  Traffic in Jeddah is INSANE so car seats are a MUST.  Since it was Mason’s first day of school and I needed to pick him up, I knew that riding the bus back would not be an option for me.  This meant that not only was I 38 weeks waddling around a very confusing hospital, I had 2 kids and their car seats in tow.  Oh, and have I mentioned that when Jimmy is uncomfortable or scared he just wants me to hold him?  Let’s just say, we were quite the sight.  It took us about 30 minutes to weave our way through the hospital maze and find the OB dept, where we had to wait for 3 hours for my 5 minute appointment.  I was FRAZZLED!!  Luckily, despite all of our delays, we were only 5 minutes late picking Mason up.  PHEW!

 

We’re quickly learning that a lot of this is just the Saudi way of life.  In the US, when you want something done, you just take care of it NOW.  Well here, it doesn’t quite go that way.  Fast typically means a few days at best.  Frustrating?  Yes.  However, it will be good for us to keep that in mind going forward as well…

Our biggest time roadblock is with our residency permit (iqama).  To get one, you need a specific medical exam, and lucky us, they are having a little dispute with the government affairs office and clinic here, so all iqama’s are on hold.  To let you know what a big deal that is, we cannot get a driver’s license (for Andrew – I can’t drive…), bank account, buy a car, get real cell phone plans, and lots of other things.  The biggest bummer is that we can’t get a visitors visa for my family who were planning on coming to help when the baby is born.  Um, yeah, so that’s not going to happen.  Amazingly, we’ve already been blessed with lots of amazing friends who are all willing to pitch in and help take care of our kids when we head off to the hospital!  Seriously, this is the greatest gift EVER!

So yes, looking back, this week was harder than week 1.  We had a few more challenges and the novelty of things is wearing off.  However, all in all, we’re still having a great time, are happy, and are anxious to share our next big change with you of baby #4…stay tuned!

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