Thursday, March 14, 2013

Life Can Be So Very Good in Saudi Arabia

Very few people are willing to move to Saudi Arabia. It is understandable because Saudi Arabia is so very different with its harsh rules, intense heat, and restrictive environment. The people who do choose to come do so out of a variety of reasons including economic hardship (those benefit packages are pretty hard to pass up), a sense of adventure, and job opportunities. Some people hate it and live in misery for their time. Others grasp the adventure and roll with it. I feel like I'm in the latter category. In reflecting upon the last 14 months of my life in Riyadh I can say that life has been very good to me here.

Yesterday my husband, three of my children, and I attended a middle school performance of Peter Pan at the private international school my children attend. For 90 minutes a crowd of people coming from many different countries laughed at Smee, Captain Hook, the Lost Boys, and Peter Pan. We watched children from those same countries work together to create a magical performance that was simply delightful.

Today, we were at the school again celebrating dozens of different countries. We ate exotic food, admired the beauty and variety of the international costumes, watched some dazzling performances of folk dancing, and talked to interesting and intelligent people about their home countries. It was beautiful.

We live in a world fraught with violence, chaos, and war often relating to misunderstandings and greed between two clashing cultures. Racism and religious clashes rear their ugly heads to wage constant conflict at the cost of lives and peace. I often feel despair when I read the news or even ponder on the situation of many Middle Eastern countries bordering Saudi Arabia.

So perhaps you'll forgive me that I feel sentimental and hopeful when I attend events like this at an international school. On the surface, it may seem like an ordinary event. If you look deeper you'll see that both adults and children are changed by these events and interactions. My children won't ever be afraid to talk with someone dressed in traditional clothing from a different country because they've been exposed to people from all over the world. They won't be afraid of kids who have different religious beliefs because they'll remember times when they played with kids from all over the world playing cricket, four-square, or basketball at recess or think of working for months memorizing lines, learning songs and dances for a school performance.The next time I walk around New York City and see a women dressed in a hijab and modestly covered, instead of feeling shy or uncomfortable, I can smile at her and ask her where she's from. Interactions like these remove fear and misunderstanding because they create memorable connections.

I think these interactions become the building blocks for peace. When you start meaningfully interacting with people of different cultures, religions, and languages and develop friendships those differences cease to be threatening and become enlightening. My children don't spend time analyzing the differences between religious beliefs or cultural practices. All they know is that their Muslim, Indian, and Korean friends like to play sports at recess, enjoy technology, drink Orange Mirinda soda, and have families they care about. In light of those facts, those "ominous" differences seem trivial don't they?

To me these interactions and connections are the most meaningful experiences of my time abroad. I wish all people could have these experiences because I think the world would be a much better place for it. 


  1. interesting post about living there! though I wasn't in Saudi Arabia, I dream for long time to come there to have some rest!
    Vivra, verra! like French people say!
    BTW, You know what?! I would like to come with such idea, but it will be up to you to decide to agree to it or not! I am working at a German publishing company who is eager to publish for FREE interesting and useful content-blogs like yours! I think all these pieces of advice/experiences are worthy to become the CONTENT of a BOOK!
    So, if you are interested in my idea, please let me know by a message at my work email: