Rules of driving...purely suggestive

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If you have been keeping up with my blog, you would have seen me mention (quite a few times) about the horrible driving here.  This quick video was on a trip to Jeddah.  Watch closely as one of the cars from the oncoming left turn lane passes the car in front on the LEFT.  Then watch as cars turn left IN FRONT of cars going straight!!  The one car come from the MIDDLE lane and passes in front of TWO cars!  Psychos.  
(I'll try to get some more videos for you...this one is pretty short)


Christmas in Saudi

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Well, this is definitely one Christmas that will forever remain in our memories.  For starters, this is my first Christmas ever away from ALL my family.  In 34 years, I have always been with family for Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning.    
On top of that, I live in a country where you aren't even supposed to be celebrating Christmas.  There are no mall Santa's to take your kids to see, no fun neighborhoods overloaded with Christmas lights, no holiday wrapping paper, no crazy shopping days...it's kind of like the land that Christmas forgot.  (though it was never here in the first place, of course)
It's made for a very surreal holiday.  It didn't seem to bother Lily very much (my youngest), but Sara had a hard time understanding why we didn't have a bigger tree (we are now very happy to just have the little tree we managed to get into the country!) or lights decorating the house...she has a great memory of past Christmas.  
Gift buying was interesting as well.  Shipping anything to this country costs an arm and leg (or two).  So, there was no way we could ask family to send gifts.  Instead, we discussed amounts and I went and bought everything and they reimbursed me for the girl's gifts.  Not much fun for family, but there was really no other option.  As for gifts for our family in the states...well, all I can say is HELLO Amazon.  I really did miss window shopping for ideas at the mall though.

So, in doing our best to make this as wonderful as possible, we found ways to make it feel a little more like Christmas.  In a package from my mom we were able to get stockings and some Christmas lights.  I actually found garland at ToysRUs...go figure.  I found a xmas radio app for my iPad so I could listen to Christmas music.  We made sugar cookies and decorated them.  The girls cousin's in Texas sent a Hallmark talking book about the Night Before Christmas and we've listened to that every night before bed.  My gifts were wrapped...though not in the fun holiday paper I'm so used to.  One of the best parts we the two parties we attended in one of the compounds.  Santa was there (twice!) to greet the kids and he even handed out presents.  We greatly enjoyed that and are so thankful for those who put it all together.

Christmas Eve is a big deal in my family.  We get dressed up, have a huge meal, let the kids open one gift and then watch Christmas Vacation.  I really wanted to do my best to make it the way I've always known.  So, we invited some close friends over for dinner.  Since there is no pork here, I settled for making a roast in the oven.  I managed to pull off making my first batch of perogi's all by myself (a traditional dish we have every Christmas).  Our friends brought some of their holiday faves as well.  Dinner was wonderful and so was the company...and my sweet friends even indulged me and watched the movie!  We really did have a good time...even if it was still so very different from anything I've ever known.
Christmas morning arrived.  Matt had to work, (no day off for Christmas here) so he left early and came back when I called and told him the kids were up.  The girls waited in our bedroom while we got camera and video ready.  They were so excited to see all the gifts!  We were able to skype family back in the states (still celebrating Christmas Eve) and they watched the girls while they opened presents.  (once again, I want to thank the creators of skype...can't imagine life without it)  After the gifts were open, Matt headed back to work.  
So, there I was.  Christmas over.  Home alone with the kids.  No where else to go.  Usually we have to meet up with more family and we get decked out in new dudes and head out for more celebrations.  Instead, I spent 3 hours putting together toys for the girls.  Of course, they didn't realize anything was amiss...they had a ton of new toys!  (more than I realized)  It was such a weird feeling...to have so little to do and no one to see on Christmas Day.  
To try and make future Christmases a bit more special for our family, I decided that morning to instigate a new holiday tradition for our family.  Our Christmas Day evening ritual would consist of Chinese takeout and watching a Christmas Story on tv.  So, no matter where we are in the world, we will have this tradition to take with us..started in Saudi.  

I still can't believe Christmas has come and gone.  With none of the flare I'm so used to.  But, I will say one thing...my life is blessed.  So many are separated or have no family around.  So many weren't able to provide gifts for their loved ones.  I'm thankful that I was with my hubby and girls on Christmas.  I'm thankful for those that worked with us and provided the many gifts the girls were able to open on Christmas morning.  We are lucky to have such loving and understanding families.  So, I hope that all of you had a special Christmas with those you love.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year...from Saudi.  



Funny Money

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Thought I would share what the Saudi Riyals look like.  :)  I still have a hard time converting...but I'm getting there!  


Can You Guess The Brands??

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I have had so much fun finding brands I know and love here in Saudi and seeing Arabic all over them...so, I put together a few photos of some of my faves...see if you can guess the brand!  :)  


Money Matters...

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Last night, around 1am, I begged my brain to take a break so I could fall asleep (not that it worked)...instead, I lay there thinking about what my family and friends might be up to in the States.  Then I thought...wow, it really is amazing just how much money we are saving living here in Saudi.  
And I'm not talking just about the fact that our home and utilities are paid for...no, its everything else.  You know, what you all call regular life...the kind of regular life that doesn't exist here.  

Let me break it down:  
~No movie theaters means no expensive movie dates.
~No bars...no tab.
~Won't be shelling out any cash for concert tickets.
~Can't catch a Broadway show here (or any other performance for that matter)
~Eating out is pretty mild...food is cheap and you can't blow your budget on fancy drinks or wine. (and we certainly don't have any Michelin star chefs working around here...so, no overpriced fancy meals)
~No such thing as Starbucks.
~We won't be attending any sporting events.  (and we won't have to spend any money on   expensive paraphernalia)
~No gambling. (that kinda speaks for itself)
~No worries about owning an expensive car...nobody here cares.  And you only need one per family.
~No such thing as valet parking or paid parking lots.
~Don't have to worry about paying for activities for our kids: no sports, no dance, no swim lessons... (though, we do have equestrian but that's just for kids and men...women aren't allowed to ride, naturally.)

So, just keep in mind, that though you may feel envious of some of the trips I get to go on...those are just a few weeks out of the year.  I still have to make it through my everyday "regular" life.  Those trips are a reward for keeping myself sane on a daily basis.  ;)

*Now, we do have some fun things here such as scuba and snorkeling and one of the most gorgeous sea's in which to do it in...plus the malls in Jeddah have quite a bit for kids to do in some of their huge play places, including a skating rink and roller coaster.  The downside is that Jeddah is a 6 hour round trip from my home...it would be like trying to drive to from Vegas to Cali, hit up Disneyland and head back to Vegas all in one day.
*side note: In this post, I am speaking primarily about my town of Yanbu... I am not speaking for Jeddah and Riyadh since I do not live there on a daily basis.


Prayer Times...

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Okay, so I have been hear for about a month and a half now.  Some things I have adjusted just fine to...others, not as much.  One of those is prayer times.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am more than used to hearing them 5 times a day...the hard part is timing your life around them.
The mall here opens at 10am...and you want to get there right when it opens if you plan to get anything done.  (One morning my friend and I had an issue with the crazy taxi's and didn't get to the mall till nearly quarter till 11)  Now, you may think...what's the big deal??  
Well, the big deal is prayer time.  Around noon everyday the call to prayer begins.  This isn't the actual prayer...it's just the announcement to tell everyone that prayer is going to start soon...so, head to the nearest mosque or get out your prayer blanket or do whatever you need to be ready to pray.  
When the call to prayer starts...everything else stops.  ALL the stores close..yes, Every.Single.One.  They kick you out of the store.  
Okay, so are you with me now?  I only have 2 hours to do any shopping before everything closes...for nearly an hour.  (it reopens for about another hour and then closes again till 4)  You can stay in the mall while prayer is going on...either park your butt on one of the fountains or in the food court.  But, you better make sure you get your food before prayer starts!

Yeah, almost missed out on feeding myself and my kids because of that:
My friend and I were casually shopping around the mall with four kids in tow.  We thought we would pop into the grocery store and pick up a few things before meeting another friend in the food court for lunch.  We kept checking the time to make sure we wouldn't be late and get stuck at prayer time.  
We finish up and start walking to the food court (at the other end of the mall)  My other friend calls to find out where we are...says everything is getting ready to close for prayer!  We panic...and literally start jogging (in abaya's) with the kids through the mall.  I had wanted to try a new place for lunch, but headed right for McDonald's cause I new we could order fast.
We get in the FEMALE line (RIGHT next to the men's line...seriously) and my friend orders first...the guy takes her order and moves on to the men.  So, I wait and watch the clock ticking towards 12.  The guy is totally ignoring me and more men keep rushing up to order food.  I realize that he thinks my friend has ordered for all of us...and just then, the lights shut off.  I panic!!  I have no order and two very hungry kids!  (and, well, I'm hungry too!)  The guys notices my panicked face and calmly says..."Did you want food?"  nah, I just freak out every day at prayer time...YES I want food!
Then the metal shutter starts to go down...my friends son starts crying because he thinks he's not getting any lunch!!!  
Never a dull moment around here.  Yes, we got our food (though my order was wrong) and we sat down (in the family section...which is partitioned off from the rest of the food court) to eat and wait for our husbands to pick us up.  (much safer to have the hubby take us than those nutball taxi drivers)
Yep, just another day in Saudi Arabia.  


Cruisin' Round Town...

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I've come to find that Yanbu is a pretty interesting little town.  First off Yanbu is an old city...I'm talking 2500 years old.  According to Wikipedia., "Yanbu served as a supply and operational base for Arab and British forces fighting the Ottoman Empire during the World War I. It remained a small port town until 1975, when the Saudi government designated it as one of the country's two new industrial centres (the other being Al Jubayl on the Persian Gulf)."
The "Old Yanbu" part of town houses the ancient ruins along with a wide variety of buildings.  Very few Westerners live there.
Our neighborhood has a wide variety of nationalities as well, and you'll find most of the Westerner's here.  There are two compounds (one nearer to Old Yanbu...Arabian Homes and the other The Cove.)  We live in a neighborhood known as the Royal Commission.  We are not a compound, but just a bunch of homes mixed with Westerner's and locals.  (both of our neighbors are Saudi)
It's very hard to find info about Yanbu, let alone any photos...so, I'm hoping to change that.  I know that I have to be careful what I take photos of, but I'll do my best to show you where we live.  Good and bad. 

Please forgive the quality of some of my pix....they were taken from the car and at times while we were moving.  :)
Also, by clicking to view the entire album, you can see comments about the photos.

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