Meet our extended family...

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My hubby has become slightly obsessed with our yard.  This started when he first got here...a severe lack of things to do (and no wife and kids to bug him) meant he had to find an outlet somewhere.  So, he attacked the yard.  I must admit...he has done a fine job!  Love the yard.
About a month before I was to arrive in Saudi, Matt brought up the idea of building a chicken coop.  I thought, sure, not a bad idea.  I figured we would work on it when I got there.  Um, no.  (did I mention that he had nothing to do??)  Less than a week later, the coop was up.
He did wait till we got here to buy the chickens.  We now own four lovely ladies.  Their names?  Well, when you leave it up to our daughter's, this is what you get:  Ariel, Jasmine, Snow White, and Belle.  Yes, we have princess chickens.  :) 

They are really quiet and not as messy as I thought.  Today was different though.  Around 7am, Snow White started pitching a fit.  I was in bed when I heard all this ruckus and went outside thinking something was trying to get in the coop.  Nope, just big mouth Snow White.  I emailed Matt saying that she was going to seriously piss off the neighbors!  He googled her actions and came up with the answer....she's getting ready to lay an egg!  
I thought, no way.  We figured it would be another month or so.  But, (and I don't say this lightly) I was wrong.  We were at a play date and Matt stopped home to check on things.  And...he found a lovely little white egg!  :)  So excited.  Since he was the creator of all this, he'll get to eat it for breakfast tomorrow.  :D

I'm just happy they actually lay eggs!  LOL  Here are some pix of our ladies and the first egg. 

our first egg.  :)

From the left:  Jasmine (black and brown), Snow White (light read head), 
Belle (darker red head), and Ariel (front)


Hangin' at the Red Sea

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Well, I've been living here in Saudi a whopping 2 and a half weeks.  (I swear I feel like I've been here for months)  And I've been lucky enough to hit up the Red Sea twice already.  
The Red Sea is just flat out gorgeous!  The water is such a beautiful color of blue, it's clear and in the summer it feels like bath water.   (click read more to read about where we went...)


Our first trip out took us to the Sharm.  There are quite a few "resorts" located here.  (I put the word in quotes because they are certainly not 5 star stateside resorts...but they are nice enough)  :)  
We went to Dolphin Bay.  We had a small beach and there was almost no one there.  (later in the day there wasn't anyone there!  we had our own private beach!)  The girls played in the water and the grownups chatted.  Matt took the girls, along with the other two dad's and boys, out for a boat ride...leaving the three moms...alone.  :)  Nice.  It was a lovely day and we had a great time. 

Our next trip found us at al-Hasi beach.  The day after Thanksgiving...yeah, can't say it's all bad here in Saudi!  Hitting the beach at the end of November...works for me!  :)  The beach is about an hour and a half drive from our house.  And along the way you get to see....sand.  :)  We did see some camels and a couple of herds of goats.  At one point, the road wasn't even lined to dictate where the lanes should be.  As we got close, we had to cut across the dirt median (dividing the highway) to make our way to the road we needed.  I'll say again...road rules are purely suggestive here!  Once we arrived, all the men had to go to a building and hand over everyone's passports or igama's (which is the residency permit...the girls and I are still waiting for ours).  This beach is monitored by the Saudi coast guard.  
After that was taken care of, we drove right onto the beach and parked. (hey Cali friends....jealous???  LOL)  We set up a huge tent and settled in.  A bunch of people went scuba diving and snorkeling...Matt snorkeled.  I didn't go this time...maybe next trip.  One of our friends said he hadn't seen so many different fish outside of an aquarium!  The girls found broken coral rolling around and some divers gave the girls some fantastic shells to keep.  (we are going to have quite the collection by the time we leave!)   
On a bad note...we all got burned.  Matt, me and the girls.  Yes...we used sunscreen.  So what happened??  Well, we guess that the Saudi brand sunscreen isn't as good as what we get in the states.  :(  Lesson learned.  Time to get a mass shipment of sunscreen!  :)
All in all, it was an absolute blast.  Can't wait for the next beach trip!  


Thanksgiving...Saudi Style

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This was my (I believe) my second time ever not being with my family on Thanksgiving.  (the first was when I was playing volleyball at Iowa State and we couldn't go home because of a tournament that same weekend.)  It certainly wasn't a traditional Thanksgiving for me, but I must admit...it was quite fun.  :)
Matt made his "famous" ;) turkey and the girls helped me make a Waldorf salad and garlic mashed potatoes.  
Our Thanksgiving meal was held at a local nursery (plants not kids).  We ate outdoors.  I thought the weather was perfect...nice cool breeze...others stated it was chilly.  Yeah, not going to go there.  There were probably around 75 people of all different nationalities.  We had a HUGE buffet of food that was provided by the families.  Everyone brought something to share.  We had some traditional American Thanksgiving foods...turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes.  But we also had some world flare: fried rice, pastas, curry, chicken, sauerkraut, a variety of dessert, and much more.  There was so much food!  And it was all really good.
It was a fun night and we got to meet a bunch of new people.  The girls only stopped moving long enough to eat a bit of food and off they went again.  All the kids were over near the grass area...running, playing, chasing.  They had an absolute blast.  :)  
I must admit that I missed my family like crazy, but I am thankful for all that we have in our lives right now.  It may not be what we are used to, but we are very lucky to have all that we do.  Hoping you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. :)



My Abaya and Me...

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Well...it's been long overdue.  Everyone has been asking to see a pic of me wearing my abaya.  Honestly, I kept forgetting about it.  It's kinda weird, I've only been here a little over a week and yet wearing the abaya is really no big thing at all.
It's just one of those things where you know it has to be done and you just don't give it a second thought.  I must admit, it's not much different than wearing one of my long maxi dresses.  (aside from the long sleeves of course)  But, its comfortable and for now, the weather is cool enough that I'm not miserable.  The nice thing, too, is that since I'm not a Saudi woman, I get a little more freedom with what my abaya can look like.  It has to be predominately black, but it can have some color here and there.  (unlike Saudi women who wear ALL black)  So, that makes it a little more fun.  :)  I have two so far and I'm waiting on two more...gotta have choices right?  ;)  
All in all, it's just one of those things you just take with a grain of salt over here.  And...you know you're getting into the abaya thing when you start noticing and committing on other ladies pretty abaya's!  ;)  
My lovely daughter Sara took this photo of me this morning.  :)
(this is just inside our front gate)


Ladies in Black

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I think one of THE most fascinating aspects of Saudi are the Ladies in Black.  (as I will refer to them from now on)  As a westerner, seeing women dressed like this is a very rare occasion.  I think it is both a mixture of awe, fascination, and suspicion all rolled into one.  Your mind sees them and wonders "Wow.  How can they be comfortable?  Do they HAVE to dress that way?  What do they look like underneath?"
I realize that some people in non-Muslim countries don't really understand the reason behind this and think that it is perhaps disgraceful or wrong.  Personally, I think it's just one of those things that makes this culture unique.  Just as other cultures have their own styles as well.  There are African tribes who wear the Dashiki or they may wear no clothing at all...using just paint.  The German's have their Lederhosen.  The Scottish men have kilts.  Japanese have kimono's...and so on.  
So, my position was not to judge or question the Ladies in Black.  Just to accept that that is the lifestyle of this country and to be respectful of their choices.

My big question was...Where and how did this all start?  Is this regulated by the Kingdom or by the religion itself?  Time to do some research...and here is what I found out: (the following are quotes taken from various websites regarding the abaya)


Shopping in Saudi

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Shopping here is definitely an experience...and one that requires planning to say the least.  Prayer times reek havoc on a ladies shopping day!  There is no such thing as running out really quickly to the store.  You better know when each prayer time is before you head out.
My first trip to the store was with Matt (of course, since I can't drive).  We got there during one of the prayers.  One of our grocery stores is located in the mall.  Every single store was closed for prayer.  There were a bunch of people (mostly men) lined up outside the store with carts ready to go.  So we lined up with them and patiently waited...


Welcome to Saudi...A first impression

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What do you think of when you hear the words Saudi Arabia?  Camels?  Tents?  Sand?  Women covered head to toe? Third world living?

Yeah, a lot of those thoughts were my own.  Luckily, before I moved, I was able to talk to some people currently living here and see their photos.  It really put my mind at ease a little.  I think as American's we know so very little about this country and only what we've heard from the news.  So what was Saudi like for me? 
(here are a just a few photos I've taken of our town, the Red Sea, and home...many more to come)

I was so anxious about moving here...even after talking with families who live here,  I was still so worried that I would do or say something wrong and offend someone.  
My first time on Saudi soil was in the Riyadh airport.  And, of course, the first thing you focus on are the Ladies in Black.  They are just fascinating...to me at least. :)  
We had to go through a couple of security check points to get to our next gate.  Men and women are separated and within an enclosed room, I was checked over with the wand (the girls too).  It seemed weird, but every time the ladies were very friendly and had big smiles for my girls.  :)  Then I would meet Matt on the other side and off we'd go.
We had a very long layover in Riyadh and I had the chance to really observe the people.  (I couldn't sleep)  I found a lot of the stereotypes I was told about just didn't exist.  I saw men and women holding hands.  I saw Saudi women (Ladies in Black) wearing sandals and their wrists would show a little.  I began to relax.  Even more so when I realized no one was staring at ME.  I wasn't offending anyone by not covering my hair or face, I didn't get any dirty looks, and everyone adored my children.  (more about that in a later post)

When we arrived in Jeddah, Matt had a car waiting to drive us (he was worried about being too tired for the 3 hour trip home)  I walked outside and saw.....SAND.  Miles and miles and miles.  My heart sank.  I immediately missed Cali more than anything.  We piled into the car and headed off.  I tried to stay awake, but it wasn't going to happen.  Besides, there really wasn't much to see...the drive between the two cities is like the drive between Vegas and California...miles of open land.  (Matt said they went through a couple of nasty dust storms and the girls saw some camels...)
As we approached our town,though, I perked up a bit.  I saw green trees!!  Yay!  To be honest, as you drive around the neighborhoods, you won't be overly impressed with the outer upkeep.  It's nothing like in the states where people have sprawling lawns and gardens.  At least, not that you can see from the street.  Almost all the homes are surrounded by high walls.  This way, women can be outside in their yards without having to wear an abaya.  So they could have a virtual paradise back there...who knows.  Our home is the same way.  So, you're initial impression is...well, okay, not so bad.  

We got settled into our house and then Matt took us out for a drive around the town.  He showed me the stores, our friends homes, and the local McDonald's and Pizza Hut (yes, we have those!).  Then we headed to the Red Sea.  All I can say is...Wow.  It's so beautiful.  Parks and grass and playgrounds all along a lovely boardwalk.  Palm trees swaying.  Just gorgeous.  So yeah, there are bits that look rundown and others that make your jaw drop (huge mansions)...but all in all, I like it.  

One other thing to mention about my first impression of Saudi...the driving.  Good lord...these guys are just nuts!  Not necessarily speed...though that can be a factor at times.  It's the sheer lack of respect for the laws of driving a car!  Matt says he doesn't even blink and eye now at the craziness.  It's pretty amazing...and I'm very thankful I brought the girls' car seats with me!  (and that Matt got a nice sized SUV for our family car)  Gotta be on your toes around here!  :)

My first impression of Saudi....it's no where near what I thought it would be.  It's better.  I like my house, I like where we live, and I'll just deal with the groceries and shopping.  Even wearing the abaya isn't so bad...kinda nice to just throw it on and head out!  No worries about matching, fit, if it's in style...yeah, it's not so bad.  (course, ask me that again come summer time and you make get an earful about wearing it...)  
Welcome to Saudi...it's good to be here.   



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Wow...I think I'm in love.  Don't get me wrong...Italy is still my fave, but man, Germany is stunning!  We are here right in the middle of fall and the trees look amazing.  (and for someone who RARELY gets to see the leaves change, this is a real treat.)
It's not easy getting around here...hard to tell which roads are which...and the fact that I couldn't get my iPad data plan to international doesn't help. (I can only get WiFi in the apartment).  But, it's just added to the adventure.  Below are some photos from our trip...and then, just click Read More to find out about where we traveled.  :)


Together at last...

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Well.  If nothing else...this adventure has definitely started!  And what an adventure it was just getting to Germany!  
Getting to LA was easy.
Then..we arrive in LA and I need to get all 8 bags...NO porter to help!!!!  I panicked!  Thank god for good people in this world...an entire family helped me get my bags and kids all the way over to the next terminal.
Then...we get there and can't check in.  No one for Air New Zealand for another hour.  So, the kids sat on the ground and watched a movie...I watched them.
Once up to the ticket counter it took almost a half hour to get everything checked in.
Finally I am rid of all those damn bags....lady thought I was crazy checking THREE excess bags.  :P
The Air New Zealand plane was just awesome.  Great service and the girls were super comfy...they were perfect and slept for a good 6 hours.  Me...not so much.  I did watch 5 movies and some TV shows.  :)
Had a hell of a walk in the London airport and couldn't get my damn WiFi to work.  Girls were pretty pissy by now...and I was seriously lacking sleep and patience.  Got on board and off without a hitch though.  They enjoyed a short movie on the flight to Frankfurt.
Walked another mile to customs...No worries with customs and girls got their first stamps.
Matt came running to meet us at the baggage claim.  The girls were so happy to see daddy!

Boy, you should have seen the stares we got with all those bags!!  LOL  Took us a good hour and a half to get the hell out of the airport...
Got lost, of course, on the freeways, but actually found the area we needed.  (and we had no internet or ipad to use!)  Guess thats what happens after you stare at the maps of germany for two weeks straight!  :)
Anyway, we're here now...Matt is off getting food and WINE and the girls are WIDE AWAKE.  (it's nearly 10pm here)  Should make for an interesting day tomorrow.
The apartment is cute and just perfect for the next five days.  We can walk out the front door and right to the river.

Can't wait to go exploring together as a whole family once again!


The Day Before....

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Well, here we are.  Today is my last full day on American soil for at least two years.  Laying in bed this morning, I just kept thinking...am I really doing this?  Sure, it's all "sounded" great, but now I'm about to actually put theory into practice.  And, well, I'm scared.  
I think it's mostly because of how unknown Saudi is.  Everyone here (and I was the same way a few months back) has such limited knowledge of Saudi's and their lives.  Not to mention just how DIFFERENT life there is going to be.  I worry that I'm going to say or do something wrong and upset someone, or offend someone with bad Arabic.  I've been reassured by those lovely ladies living there right now, but, still...until I'm there, my stress level is going to stay pretty high.
Right now, I'm taking a quick break from packing.  I'm telling you...I may not want to travel again for months!  I'm so sick of looking at these suitcases and trying to strategically pack every little thing.  Making sure I have plenty to keep the kids busy on the plane, stuff for me, extra clothes, etc etc etc.  I want everything done by tonight though.  Tonight is MY night.  I'm cooking a wonderful dinner for family and I just want to sit back and enjoy their company.  Tomorrow is going to be a rough day...but not going to think about that just yet.
Guess I should quit procrastinating and get back to work...weird to think, the next time I update my blog I'll either be in Germany...or Home.  In Saudi.  whoa.  

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