wherever you go

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New Friends and a New Year

January 1st is being overshadowed by our eminent travels.  I haven’t really thought about it being a new year or taken the time to shake off the old and dream about the new.  Once I am in Pennsylvania relaxing with family I’ll sit down to clarify my ideas about how I want this new year to be.  I’ll start by looking ahead and thinking about how I want life to be (or how I want Me to be..) in five or ten years; then I’ll back up and figure out the day-to-day practices and yearly traditions that get us there.

For now I’m packing and thinking about dealing with flights and layovers with my two kids.  I am So Incredibly Thankful for my mom and that she is traveling with us!  As it gets closer and I figure out more ways to deal with the challenges I’m feeling more at ease about the whole thing.  Will I ever be able to travel without it being a ‘learning experience’?

In between bits of packing we are still going outside and playing with friends.  We had a New Years Eve dinner last night with four other families here.  It is so good to have friends here that we can get together with, and all our children played so well together (with a few minor fits thrown in just to keep things interesting).  One family just arrived here a couple weeks ago, and another will be moving back to the US in a month.  It’s interesting forming friendships with all this coming and going.

Here are some pictures from our fun outside today:

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Guest post by the house guest

My mom is here visiting for a couple weeks over the holidays, and I wanted to share her perspective on this crazy place with you!  Enjoy!


I am having an awesome time – of course, just because I am with the kids and grandkids, it would be awesome anywhere!  But, this is a very interesting culture.  Very friendly, helpful, loving people… at least superficially.   I don’t know what they are really thinking or saying!  LOL!

Stephen is working Christmas day… same day as all the others over here – although, what I found interesting was that EVERYONE wished me a “Merry Christmas”!  And I always returned the greeting!  🙂  The Christmas dinner went quite well!  There were two other families here, each with two children.  So we had 7 adults and 6 kids ranging in age from 9 months to 9 years in Kelsie and Stephen’s apartment.  Stephen had deep fried 3 turkeys the night before and we made mashed potatoes, gravy, and 5 different kinds of cookies/treats and the other families brought a broccoli dish, a squash dish, cooked carrots, rolls, and cranberry salad.  It was all soooo good!

We still haven’t opened presents with the kids because Stephen has been working and will be off Friday and Saturday.  We will have our Christmas on Friday when he has off.  We will also be doing some sightseeing those two days.  Even though Saudi really discourages tourism, there are some things of interest.

This morning Kelsie, the kids, and I went (on the little bus) to the grocery store.  Fairly simple.  The bus arrives at THIS time… you are on it or you miss the grocery store.  The kids HAVE to be seat belted, so you have to find a seat that has a seat belt that actually works.  The adults-no problem-doesn’t matter… LOL!  This is THE grocery store bus that the grocery store sends to the compound to pick up customers!  I think my Giant at home should start this service.  The bus drops you off at the door, picks you up at the door, baggers load the groceries on the bus, the bus driver drops you off at your door at home and unloads your groceries!  Wow!  Not all of life is that easy over here.  LOL!  The grocery store had many familiar items in it and many that said “imported from USA”, but were actually products made in some other country…. funny!  I got some Arabic coffee and some Arabic pastries to bring home.  I forget to take my phone and take photos, but there was a sign that said no photos.  There were lots of security cameras, though.  It was a somewhat normal grocery store except for the pricing was all in SARs (Saudi Arabian Riyals)

Stephen will work until 4PM today, and when he gets off today, we will have dinner here at their apartment with a friend, Dean Sweigart, from Elizabethtown, PA!!  Haha – on the other side of the world – someone from my country, state, county, town!!

An interesting thing here is that this compound has a wall about 12′ high.  To get in the gate, each vehicle (bus, private car, company  truck, taxi) has to stop at the first guard house.  A guard comes out with a mirror on a long wand to walk around the vehicle and look underneath, nod approval, and then open this HUGE 12′ solid steel gate.  On to the next guard house….  They check to see if you are supposed to be on this compound and then they open a second 12′ solid steel gate.

When they have the call to prayer, one of the girls here said it sounds like zombies… it really does, and it happens 5 or 6 times a day.

If I have some details wrong, Stephen and Kelsie can correct the misinformation!  LOL


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My mommy loves me!



Yep.  Just look at all these things she brought from the US:



We made treats for our Christmas dinner with these plus some Hershey’s kisses.  The chocolate kisses didn’t melt right (they were bought here in Saudi and were probably old), but they were still good.


Typical Christmas treats!




These. Are. My. Favorite.


No! THESE are my favorite!

She knows how to make this girl happy.  Food from home is probably one of the things expats love the most! Thank you, mom!

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crazy weather

Back in November we had some crazy weather here in Saudi.  It rained and rained Hard.

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Our apartment leaked. Our brand new apartment.

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And then it leaked a lot more.


The first time it leaked was during the day.  My downstairs neighbor, who lived directly beneath us, said she had leaks along the wall where the large windows are.  Sure enough we had some small leaks there too. The second time it leaked was in the middle of the night.  The thunder woke Myka up, and she came over to our room.  I told Stephen he should go see how our living room was, thinking there might be more leaking like before.  Nope.  Water was pouring from the recessed lighting.  We got every large bowl, bucket, cooler, and even some litter boxes that were not being used.  I then emptied all of the containers several times.  It was a big mess. I used almost all of our towels cleaning up, and our printer got water inside and is broken.

Here’s a video:

Some low lying areas flooded; drainage just cannot keep up with this kind of extended downpour.  The compound we previously lived in had standing water in the houses.  I am so glad I was only dealing with rain water not standing water mixed with sewage and who-knows-what grossness.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t know how to deal with this kind of rain.

Usually the rain makes things muddier here.  This time, everything was washed clean and then it got very green!  It was an exciting couple of days.


Advent Calendar

I made an advent calendar this year for the kids and I to go through.  I used paper towel tubes, cardboard and packing paper, and home made flour glue.  A little bit too much work, but I wanted to try making my own glue, and the kids Love poking through the paper each day!  I organized little activities through out the month, so we do a craft or read a new book or make cookies each day.  It has been fun!  We haven’t done every craft or made cookies every time our calendar told us to make them, but that’s ok.

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One of our first activities was to make a festive garland for our arch. Myka did a great job helping me loop and tape construction paper.  Putting things up around the house in addition to having an advent calendar helps us remember what season it is.  It’s easy to forget Christmas is coming.  There are no store displays, snow in the forecast, or sweaters being pulled out of storage.  We are going outside more because it’s cool enough now, so it feels more like spring!  I’m glad I thought ahead and put some reminders in place so we don’t forget what we are really celebrating.



our December so far

Things we have been doing this month:

– Skyping with people.  I love technology.  At least I love that it allows us to easily talk to friends and relatives on the other side of the world.


– Taking bus trips to Le Cafe where we share a chocolate croissant, and I get hot chocolate.  Then we go to a playground across the street. If you look closely you can see the ocean in the background of this picture.  It is a beautiful view, and I’ve heard you can see dolphins sometimes.


– Going behind our building where there is some grass and a shaded area.  Myka and Emery play with friends, draw with chalk, ride our scooter, run, and blow bubbles.  It is wonderful to have an area conveniently located where we can do those things.

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– Playing inside.  Emery has been building some awesome towers.  And climbing in boxes.

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– Going to the playground = lots of fun. The sand that gets in our shoes = not so much fun.

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– We draw on the window.  Because it’s Christmas time, so we do crazy things.

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– I went to a lunch while Myka and Emery stayed with our amazing neighbors!  This is my cape (aka – abaya) blowing in the wind on my walk from the front gate of our compound back to our building.


– Snuggling.



Gingerbread houses

My mom makes these little graham cracker houses with the children who come to her daycare, and I wanted to do with our group of friends here. I wasn’t sure I could get all of the supplies I needed, but thought I would try.    While they don’t have any Christmas items here, I did find other candies that were the right colors.  I had some red and green sprinkles and all the ingredients I needed for the royal icing glue.  The only thing I was missing was Graham Crackers!  I have seen them at our grocery store, but they are rather expensive, so I don’t usually buy them.  Now that I want them, they are no where to be found.  A friend managed to find some one day, but when she went back a couple days later they were all gone!  Thankfully, the one box she had was just enough for the number of houses I needed to make.  Friends who share are pretty terrific. My back up plan was to decorate cookies, but houses are much more fun, so I’m glad that worked out.

There would be seven children at our house to decorate the gingerbread houses and make messes.  The houses are easy to construct, the royal icing glue makes them very sturdy, and the kids loved decorating them.  (Except Emery who just wanted to eat everything.) It was a full house but less stressful than I thought it was going to be.  Everyone played together well, enjoyed the houses, and the mess was easily and quickly cleaned up.

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