wherever you go


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My Saudi Wedding Adventure

Saudi weddings are very different from any wedding I have ever attended. The whole concept is different. Marriage is a legal agreement, not tied to religion. Which is strange because everything else here has to do with it being a Islamic country. The couple is actually legally married before the wedding. The wedding is more of a party, a reception. And I don’t really understand the details with all of this arranging or timing, when they are actually married, when they can live together, etc.

Like everywhere else here, men and women are in separate areas. Often they are in different conference/reception rooms at a hotel. For the wedding I went to, the men were in a different hotel about ten minutes away. Because there are no men around, the women can take off their abayas and hijabs (head coverings), and we get to see what they are wearing!

Typical wedding schedule would be:

9:00 pm (or later) – arriving

10:00 – men eat

11:00 – bride arrives at women’s party, the groom and some of his male relatives come to the women’s party

12:00 – (or later) women eat

When we arrived at the wedding at 9:00 there were only about a dozen people there. We were greeted by the bride and groom’s family (women of course) and shook their hands. Actually, before we went in to the reception room we stopped at the bathroom and took off our abayas. Then on the way to the room someone asked for our phones (because you are not allowed to take photos) and another person gave us a bags for our abayas. There was a table with several perfumes for people to use, and another table with mints, candy, and gum. I took a couple mints so I could bring them home, but I forgot them on our table. After we passed through the reception line of family members, a lady said hello and sat down with us at a table near the back of the room. She was a neighbor of the family, and spoke English. We were thankful that she could sit with us and answer any questions. Later on the neighbor’s friend and the friends daughter joined us. The daughter was about 14 years old and also spoke English well.

I asked how many wedding you would usually go to in a season, and the neighbor answered, “many, many!” And they would want to have a different dress for each one. And we saw some dresses!

https://i2.wp.com/www.milanoo.cc/image/cache/data/product/Prom%20Dress/BlushP2012/9306--$193-01-225x225.jpg

One was covered in green and blue, iridescent sequins like this one but more iridescent.

There was a floor length, long sleeved, gold sequined dress that was stunning.

Women wore a variety of dresses from 90’s prom styles to more casual, current styles to more traditional looking outfits. One lady was even wearing pants. Many dresses had trains, some with several feet of fabric trailing on the ground. And often it didn’t seem to matter how well the dresses fit. I saw way too many bra straps, underwear lines, and too tight dresses. However, many were very beautiful. I enjoyed my chance to ‘people watch’.

I was a little worried about dressing appropriately, but there was such a variety it wouldn’t have really mattered what I wore.  I had a knee length, dark blue dress, and I bought some jewelry to go with it. I don’t usually wear more than a skimpy layer of powder foundation, some mascara, and chapstick; I thought I should put a little more makeup on than that. I bought some eyeshadow, practiced a bit, and I was happy with the outcome. I don’t have any good pictures, but it was dark browns with some gold highlights which went with the gold in my earrings and bracelets. My favorite (and most expensive) purchase for the wedding was a pair of nude high heels. They are comfortable and fit well. They are a nice, long term addition to my wardrobe.

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I tried on the dress with the jewelry and sent Stephen a picture, but this is before I did my hair or makeup.

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Finished product! Ready to go!

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A better picture of my hair, but I had started to take it down.  I don’t usually use any hair spray so it felt like I used a ton!  And I had already washed my face, so still not a good picture of my makeup.

Enough about me. More about the wedding!!

There were some finger foods on the table: crackers and Arabian pastries. Throughout the evening other finger foods were brought around to the tables. There were too many varieties to remember! I ate a cream cheese pastry, a date, a cookie with chocolate on it, and more that I don’t recall. Everything was very tasty. They also brought small cups of juice to the tables. There was only orange juice left when the tray came to me, but it was refreshing. There was tea and coffee on the table. I meant to try the coffee, but I picked up the wrong cup. See, we each had a small, shot glass like cup and a slightly larger cup with a handle. I just picked one (the larger one), without thinking about it too much because it didn’t matter to me which one I put the coffee in, and when I reached for the coffee one of the ladies at our table said, “Oh, no, here,” and handed me the carafe of tea. I had picked the tea cup not the coffee cup. The tea was delicious though, and I was a little chilly, so I enjoyed the warmth.

I am sure it wasn’t chilly for the ladies dancing, though! The room had a raised runway in the middle which lead to a stage at the end of the room. Most of the dancing was on the runway or the stage. I’ve never seen this kind of dancing before, and I’m not quite sure what to compare it to or how to describe it. A little like belly dancing, but not as much overall movement. Sort of walking while moving your hips and arms a lot… I don’t feel like I’m communicating it very well. Anyway, sometimes they would take turns, sometimes lots of women were dancing, sometimes no one was dancing. All of the music was in Arabic, VERY loud (as in you had to shout to the person beside you), and it was playing the whole time.  We didn’t dance…maybe next time….

We left at 11:40. We tried to stay to see the bride, and were hoping she would be there around 11:00 or so. As we were leaving we asked when she would be coming, and they said maybe at 12:00. Dinner was supposed to be at 12:00, so who knows when that was going to start. So we missed the bride and dinner. The guys needed to work the next day, and we had and 90 minute drive home. We stayed as long as we could.

And that was my adventure at a Saudi wedding!

Edit:

Here are some pictures of the friends who invited me to the wedding.  Isn’t she Lovely?!

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community = limited

Community can be defined different ways, and I consider my extended family, friends who live on the other side of the world, and even people I only know on the internet to be parts of my community.  But there is something about the people you can touch, eat with, and live with.  Video chat is amazing but it’s not the same as being able to hug someone or talking face to face.

We live in a compound in Saudi Arabia. My tangible community is limited to the people in the compound or people Stephen meets at work; it is very easy to only spend time with people I like and simply avoid anyone else. I cannot drive here (no women are allowed to drive), so I only go out with my family, in a taxi we’ve arranged with friends, or on the compound bus on a weekly grocery trip. Being on the bus is the only time I have to interact with people I haven’t specifically chosen to be with. Before we moved here I would have been around people at church or MOPS (a mothers of preschoolers group) or when taking a class at the gym. Those are great ways to meet new people but could also put you right beside someone smelly, rude, or overly friendly.  For better or worse, that doesn’t happen to me here. Sometimes I miss it and the people it would bring into my life, but it also makes each relationship I have here a bigger part of my community.

About a week from now, four of our friends will live farther away from us.  One couple is moving to a newer compound about half an hour away.  We’ll be moving there eventually (sometime this fall), but we have to wait for the construction of new units to be complete.  The other couple is moving to Doha, Qatar which is a 4.5 hour road trip or a short plane ride away.  Right now they are a short walk away.  The ladies come with me on our weekly bus trip and help with Myka and Emery.  They stop by some afternoons just to sit and talk and drink iced tea.  I will miss them immensely.  In fact, thinking about it has me tearing up, and that doesn’t happen too often.

However, that is the nature of where we are and this kind of work.  People come and go a lot.  We get plenty of practice in saying hello and goodbye.  Being intentional about community, about really having people be a part of our lives, means not holding back even if people are going to move away. It means getting out of my comfortable space – being at home, having my few friends – and building relationships that could be quite short.  But who knows…maybe some of these friendships will last a lifetime.  I hope so.

I pray that I’ll be open to new friendships, that older friendships will continue even with distance between us, and that my children will behave on our bus trips.


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A Saudi wedding!

Tomorrow night I will be going to a Saudi wedding with some friends of ours.  I’ve looked at some stories on blogs about going to weddings here and what is typically different, but instead of listing all the possible situations I will face I’ll just wait and let you know how it goes. I do know that it is segregated: the women and men will be at different locations.  We will get there around 8:00 or 9:00 in the evening, and dinner will be at 12:00 if not later.   I will also say that I’ve spend a bit of time thinking about what to wear, how to fix my hair, and how to do my makeup.  A lot more time than I would have for any wedding I’ve been to before.  I won’t be able to take pictures at the wedding.  It would be very disrespectful (if not illegal or something..) to take pictures of women here.  But we will take pictures of ourselves before we go!

I’m so excited!


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Community

My sister-in-law writes about community and life in her blog Texas Schmexas (schmexas.wordpress.com). With a new baby girl at home she doesn’t have as much time to write on the blog and has asked several people, including Stephen and me, to contribute. So I started thinking about community and what it means to me.

Here are some of the things that came to mind:
Hospitality, build friendships, share life
Help and be helped
Because I love God, he loves me, I love the people around me
I bake too much and we need to share or we’ll get fat

We live in a compound in Jubail, Saudi Arabia.  There are many nationalities living here in the compound, often language is a barrier, and sometimes cultural differences seriously strain relationships (like loud music at ungodly hours…I’m not friendly when I can’t sleep or you’ve woken my children up).  There are no Christian churches here.  When we have moved before, finding a church was always a first step in building our new community.  But we’re figuring out what building community looks like here.  We focus on inviting people into our home, often for meals.  I send baked goods with Stephen to work.  We are kind and friendly to the workers here on the compound.  We have taught our children to be friendly, smile, and wave.  And we are finding where our boundaries are.

I’m excited to start being more mindful and aware of how community looks in our life here.  And I’m thankful that doing so will keep it as a priority when so often I can let it slip to the background, content to be at home with just our little family.  Plus, I really like baking…

I’ll post links to Schmexas when we write something over there.  Go read some of her past posts!  She is a brilliant thinker and a beautiful writer.


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Boys, Boys, Boys…

We have had a few interesting experiences in the past few weeks and they all have involved local Saudi Arabian young men.

Before I get too far into this, let me just preface this.  We have met many of wonderful people here in Saudi Arabia and the following stories are in no way a generalization of all young men.  These are just a few experiences we have had.

First, have you heard of the new crazy called “sidewalk skiing”?  No?  Check out the link below.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/video/2013/may/24/saudi-arabia-sidewalk-skiing-video

After having been a driver here in Saudi Arabia for over 6 months, I can say, “this doesn’t surprise me.”  Driving over here is crazy. 

http://www.arabnews.com/saudi-arabia/6-schoolchildren-die-jubail-road-collision

Driving is the #1 killer of young men between ages 16 to 36 in Saudi Arabia.  One of the favorite things to do is use the shoulder of the road as a primary driving lane.  So on a 3 lane highway, you will easily have 5 lanes of traffic because both shoulders are being utilized for traffic.  Those driving on the shoulders are usually traveling at a high rate of speed and if someone flicks their headlights at you, you are supposed to get out of their way. 

The other day I was passing traffic in the left lane and a car was approaching behind me on the left hand shoulder, I couldn’t get out of his way.  He was flicking his headlights at me, but there was nowhere for me to go.  Eventually he got around me on the shoulder and gave me a dirty look.  Once he was in front of me he popped me the finger.  This was the first time I’ve seen someone here pop the finger, it was quite a surprise to me and my buddies riding along.

Then later that week, once again on the perilous journey home, we (myself and 3 coworkers) were stopped at a red light waiting to make a left hand turn.  I was in the left turning lane and all of the sudden heard a loud noise that sounded like something hit my car.  We all looked around and couldn’t see anything other than the car full of boys on our right looked quite guilty.  I rolled down the passenger side window and yelled out, “what did you throw?” to the driver.  He motioned that it was someone in another vehicle on the other side of them.  I didn’t believe them.  The light turned green and we turned left, the SUV full of teenagers did the same.  As we approached the next light, I told the guys in my car that if the light’s red I was going to get out and make sure the car was ok.  The light was red and the SUV full of teenagers stopped right beside us.  I quickly hopped out of my car and walked around to the other side only to find soda splashed all over the side of my car.  It then became apparent that one of those boys threw a can of soda over their SUV and it landed on the ground exploding all over the place.  The light was still red so as I returned to my side of the vehicle I walked up to the SUV full of teenagers and knocked on their passenger side window.  The front passenger couldn’t figure out how to open the window so he had the driver lower the window.  I stuck my head in and asked “who through the soda?”  They all spoke to themselves in Arabic as though they did not understand what I said, so I turned up what my sister would call the daddy voice and repeated myself.  After a few seconds one of the young men from the backseat said in PERFECT ENGLISH, “I’m sorry sir.”  I said, “Thank you” and hopped back in my car.  The funniest part of the whole thing, as we drove away the passenger in the front seat was giving the guys in the back seat the riot act.  He apparently didn’t like their behavior of throwing things out the window. 

Kelsie mentioned in a previous blog post about our trip to Bahrain for her birthday.  Part of the wonderfulness of the trip was she got to go shopping late in the evening and I just stayed in the hotel room while the children slept.  I had spent most of the day pushing the stroller around the mall while Kelsie and our friend shopped and I had already mentioned to them how fun it was to walk a few steps behind and watch random Saudi guys staring at the beautiful blonde women, as they are both beautiful blonde American women.  Apparently as the even progressed the staring turned into cat calls.  Now, they were perfectly safe in the mall and we weren’t concerned for their safety, but Kelsie had never really experienced something like this before.  One guy even made “kissy” faces at them as they approached.  We have heard from other people that the guys are all talk and if you were to challenge them on their advances they’d get scared like deer in the headlights.  One person even mentioned learning the phrase, “I thought you were Muslim?”  in Arabic to ask them.

Oh, the adventures of living overseas.


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Soft pretzels

Man may not live on bread alone, but I think I could try it.  Based on the amount of baking I’ve been doing in the last week, it looks like I’m trying to do exactly that.  These turned out quite tasty.

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http://www.yammiesnoshery.com/2012/04/auntie-annes-pretzels-copycat-recipe.html

This was a relatively easy recipe – not that much more than making bread.  I will note that my dough kept rising throughout the process, and I needed to half the portions to get them thin enough to have the usual pretzel shape. Otherwise they just fluffed up and became a big, soft roll of pretzel.  This isn’t a problem at all, actually, they just didn’t really look like pretzels.  I think I’ll try pretzel rolls or bite sized pieces and see what I think about that.

Yum.  Bread…..