Just Beachy....

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Must say something that I've been so busy I forgot about a bunch of pix I took at the beach a couple weeks ago.  It was one of those days where I was ready to get out of the house (and so were the kids)  We grabbed the beach toys and headed off.  

The first place we stopped (where we just drove right up to the waters edge) was nice, but the girls weren't real happy with the lack of sand.  (lots of rocks)  
So back in the car we went, but not before I captured a few shots of some ladies in black on the beach across the water...
As we were driving around looking for a place to park, we cruised past a little enclosed track.  They had four-wheelers tearing around in a loop.  Yeah, I know...big deal.  Well, it was.  
Can't drive a car in Saudi...but you can haul ass on a quad!

oops!  busted!  (she looked right at me!)
Got ourselves situated on the beach.  My first time actually hanging out at the beach in my abaya.  I guess it didn't really bother me all that much since the temperature was nice.  I know I'll be singing a different tune when it's a sweltering 110 (plus humidity).  Daddy and the girls built a sand castle, we hunted for sea shells, and just enjoyed being outside.

Kids were tearing up and down the beach on quads and we even saw some ladies in the water swimming...wearing their abaya's, of course.  
Snuck a shot of some ladies picnicking under some trees...all the men were standing together in another area.
All in all, a very nice way to spend a few hours. 


You're Driving Now....well, no, you're not....

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It's been 87 days since I last drove a car.
I think that's one of the things I miss the most....I'd loved driving.  My control freak self just loved being behind the wheel....didn't matter if it was 4 minutes or 4 hours...I just wanted to drive....
What about you?  What's the longest you've ever gone without driving?  (and prior to turning 16 doesn't count!)


We're on a boat!

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Nearly 3 months since I arrived in Saudi and I'm finally out on a boat in the Red Sea!  :)  Some friends invited us to tag along on a glass bottom boat cruise today.  I couldn't say yes fast enough.  And it was just what the doctor ordered...
Finding yourself surrounded by some of the bluest waters you've ever seen makes you question that you're really in Saudi Arabia.
It was a perfect morning...even a bit chilly at first.  We were out for 3 hours...just moseying along, rockin' out to music...the captain would put the boat right over some of the many reefs and we all hung over the interior rails to get a look at the sea life under the boat.  The reefs are beautiful (even through the glass)...saw many fish, a sea turtle, and a sunken ship! (okay, it was just a boat, but the girls got a real kick out of it)
The captain ran the boat right up on a sand bar so the kids could play.  A couple of guys went snorkeling and the rest of us just wandered around...(I wasn't about to get all the way in...the water was cold!)  Found some fun shells and the girls built a castle.  On the way back we even spotted some camels...now that'll ground ya right back to the fact that you're livin' in Saudi. 
Just totally beautiful and such a refreshing break.  Loved every minute.  Can't wait for the next trip!



Horsin' Around...

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One of the major selling points Matt used to get me to agree to come here was the fact that there is a very nice equestrian center 5 minutes from our home.
I pictured me and the girls taking lessons, hanging out at the stables...
*snort!  Crap...dreaming again.
Okay, well, not a total dream.  My two lovely little ladies are taking lessons...but even that wasn't for certain until yesterday.
Since we arrived here I kept bugging Matt to go check about the lessons.  I desperately wanted something for my girls to do outside of the house (and everyone else's house).  He finally got around to it and set up a day for us to go and have the girls ride.
We wake the girls up with the idea of riding...get to the stables...and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  After 40 minutes we're pretty sure no one was coming.  Well, wasn't that fun.
Later in the week Matt goes back and makes sure someone will be there the following Thursday.  We arrive for lessons at 7am.  Told the guy will be there at 7:30.  k....  So he comes along, with a horse.  I grab Lily and think if I can just get her on the horse, he won't question just how little she is...fingers crossed.  The trainer is confused though.  He thought it was just Sara.  With my head held high, I just smile and say.."nope, both girls will ride please."  So, he sends another guy to fetch a second horse.  
We now have both girls in the saddle.  Both with helmets too big and falling in their eyes.  But they're riding!  I was SO happy.  
(quick side note...if you know anything about me, you'll know that I am a horse fanatic.  have been since I was three.  took lessons for a bit when I was 8, collected Breyer horses, drew horse pictures, read horse books....etc.)
Anyway, the girls do great.  They listen to everything the guy says...no freaking out, no tears, just smiling faces.  Lesson over and we chat with the guy about future lessons.  Then being bold, I ask..."isn't there any way that I could take lessons too??"  He says "I'm from Egypt and there I train women to ride...but here, in Saudi, no."  He literally told us he was afraid the religious police would shoot him if they saw him giving a woman a lesson.  (okay, now I'm sure that wouldn't happen...but it is Saudi...who knows)  Matt even asked if he bought a horse could I then ride?   nope.  
So, I am literally going to be one of those parents who lives vicariously through their children.
The next week Matt goes on Tuesday afternoon to pay for the lessons.  He comes back and tells me that they are saying the girls are too young to ride.  They need to be at least 6.  I am devastated.  They had so much fun!  They can't take this away too!  Matt said he had to go back and talk with the owner.  I begged him to do all he could so the girls could still ride.  He left (and this is where I had my mini heart attack)...I thought I was going to crawl out of my skin waiting for him to come back.
And he did...with good news!  Supposedly they just didn't want the girls riding with the older kids...so the created a "new class."  Just for my kids.  Totally stoked.  Lesson the next morning.
So, today was the second lesson.  Our Egyptian trainer still didn't seem over eager to be working with our girls.  After the lesson he said (in so many words) that with the older girls he can just stand in the middle and they ride around him.  With our girls he (and the other guy) have to walk along side them the whole time.  It makes his arm sore.  (I swear he seriously said that)  Oh, it's a 30 min lesson by the way.  Can we say l.a.z.y?  But whatever.  We paid.  He was told to train.  We'll be there twice a week.  I'll be curious to see how tomorrow goes....
So, here are a few pix of our girls up on horseback.  Makes my heart swell.  So proud of them.  And SO happy they have an activity to do!  :)


Another fishy day...

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Well, it's Friday again.  Thought we'd venture out and see what the fish market had this week.  Since this was our fourth (third?) trip there, I was feeling a little more bold.  And with my handy new iPhone, I got some fun pix.  :)  
The girls are really getting into it and love helping daddy pick out which fish to get.  This time we ended up with a version of a grouper...or so they said...and some huge prawns.  
Then, a lucky fisherman managed to get Matt's attention and we ended up with about 6lbs of giant clams!!! (thought they were mussels at first..and the good part is that at least they were already shelled.)  It started as one bag and we ended up with three.  Epic fail on the part of Matt's negotiation skills this time around. ;) 
No idea what to do with them...  We have no pork here, so can't make a very good clam chowder.  I know nothing about cooking clams...  

**(this is where you post your recipes for some killer clam dishes!!!...that don't require white wine, of course)**

Met up with our friends and on the way out we stopped out back by the Red Sea.  The kids loved looking into the water and spotting fish...(with a parent hovering within a few inches of each kid).  There's a couple of shots of the kids next to some old building...no idea what it is...but they thought it was some kind of mini castle and of course had to get photos standing by it.
Enjoy the pix!  :)



It's a Jungle out there!

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fresh from the garden..

Okay, so maybe not really a jungle, but flashback to early September of 2011.  My dear hubby is all alone in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia.  He's been in our new home all of two weeks.  The home is very nice and there is a big yard...but, oh, it's ALL dirt!  So being the good man he is...he sets out to make sure we have something green and pretty to look at everyday.  (at this point, I was just thinking some nice grass and maybe some flowers...and of course a garden, but I had serious doubts that anything would grow in the Saudi desert!)
Flash-forward...January 2012.  My husband has gone above and beyond.  What you see in the photos below is all the work of his hands.  He picked the trees (including banana, papaya, mango and orange), the flowers, the bushes...(and the chicken coop).  We have zucchini, tomatoes, basil, parsley, okra, carrots, radishes, peppers, and chicory.  (all producing) 
I love looking out my windows every day and coming home from running around and being welcomed by the gorgeous colors of our yard.  
Our own little oasis in the desert... (thanks hubby)

a shot of all our zucchini and tomato plants (banana tree in the corner)  :)

and a view of the front gate (taken from my phone)


Somethings fishy...

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A couple of Friday's ago we got the idea to head to Old Yanbu to hit up the outdoor market.  Now, let me explain something really well here...this is in NO WAY like the cute little farmers markets I used to see and shop at in Cali...(or most American cities for that matter)  This baby was set up on a side street...cars parked along the road...kids running around, men everywhere, 3 ladies (oh, yeah, that would be me and my girls...yep, the only women there..oh joy).  You'd think by now I'd be used to being stared at...um, no.
Anyway...back on track...this was just a park you truck, unload, and sit and hope someone stops by.  No pretense, no bragging they had the best stuff, not even much variations in prices.  Mostly veggies, a lot of spices in huge sacks, some trucks selling odds and ends (literally...bits of a bike, a pair of shoes, etc)
I wanted to take photos so bad, but there was no way I was pulling out the camera here.  (therefore, the true focus of this blog is where we went next...)  We ended up with a few nice looking veggies though, then piled back in the car...
Where to next?  Well, we figured we might as well stop by the fish market...see what they had going on.  You could smell the place from about half a mile away.  An extremely unassuming looking building, feral cats wondering around everywhere, and...well I'll be...yep...more men.  Sigh.
At least this time we weren't the only girls present...there were three others! 
Once my nose adjusted to the smell...(I really wanted to be able to plug it with my fingers like Lily was doing, but didn't think that would be looked at approvingly)..I started looking around.  First of all, I have never seen anything like it.  Now, I've been to Pikes Place in Seattle...and this well, this...wasn't that.  But! I have never seen such unique and pretty fish (I promise next time to get way better pix).  There are stalls set up inside for the guys to market the fish.  I couldn't name a single fish, but Matt knew quite a few.  Did spot some killer looking prawns and some nice fresh lobster!  There were shark and octopus too.  The girls had an absolute blast checking out all the fish...running from one little stall to the next.
Off to the side are a bunch of men in yellow with REALLY big knives...ready to hack your newly bought fish into pretty edible fillets (unless of course you want to cook your whole fish).  Watching them clean fish was both fascinating and morbid and the same time.  Scales are flying through the air, knives are chopping off heads, pliers pulling off legs...yeah man, this is quality entertainment here in Saudi!  ;)
Lily really wanted some prawns, so with the batting of a few eyelashes and her crooked smile she had daddy trotting off to get lunch.  Went home and had shrimp scampi...good day.
I managed to take a few pix that day, but just with my iPad (therefore the lousy quality).  So, the next time we went back, I brought along the camera.
This time we were on the hunt for lobster.  We arrived early Friday morning...too early...again, only chicks in the man market...I mean fish market.  We got there in time to see the guys from the stalls all trying to purchase the freshly caught fish from the sea.  My girls were whisked away by a Saudi guy...don't worry, Daddy was right behind them...so they could get an up close look at the buying and selling.  (not that it was some kind of southern auction or anything)  I stood there and tried not to notice all the rest of the men staring at me...
A little later we ended up picking out a beautiful tuna and a HUGE lobster!  Watching the lobster get cleaned about made me lose breakfast (and last nights dinner)...but my girls, well, they just stood there fascinated.  First he hacked off the legs...then the head.  Then well, then he just started pulling stuff apart...ick.  Amazingly my girls weren't bothered and had no issues eating the crustacean they just saw moving a few minutes before.
Again, it's entertainment baby!  LOL
The tuna and the lobster were both delish.  I won't mind going back again...I'll just keep browsing while the hubby gets the fish cleaned.  


Day Trippin'...

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A few days ago we found the need to head out and explore.  Matt really wanted to see the mountains...so off we went.
I can't get over just how much Saudi reminds me of Vegas...landscape wise of course.  (its not even close in every other aspect!)  Pretty mountains in the background...lots of dirt/sand...palms and bits of greenery here and there.
The drive was nice...stopped to see some camels, watched a guy as he walked alongside his herd of sheep, and just enjoyed being out of the house.
We saw some old ruins and some not so nice housing places.  Then we stumbled on the land that water forgot.  It was so weird...hundreds of dead palms just sticking up out of the ground.  And the big house (which would make a killer location for a scary movie) surrounded by all those dead palms just flat out gave me the creeps.
But, it was really fascinating to see this small town out in the middle of no where (or so it seemed).
There is a photo of dead palm leaves that they use to create fencing...I would hate to be the guy for that job!  Saw an ambulance that I'm not sure I would get in even if my life did depend on it!  Spotted the local fire house and the Mercedes fire trucks..in lime green of course.  A local restaurant with interesting exterior decor.  And it just wouldn't be Saudi if you didn't have massive art sculptures everywhere.  ;)
On the way back we stopped in at a gas station...as Matt went inside I watched as a 10 year old pulled up next to us in a pick up truck.
LOL...this place something else.



Mall Meals

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I don't think I've spent as much time in a mall in the last two years as I have in the last two months.  But, with very little options, the mall is THE place to be.  :)  
It's a nice little mall with some decent stores.  Nothing fancy like in Jeddah, but it meets our needs here in Yanbu.
A typical mall morning kinda goes like this:
Call for the taxi for pick up at the house.
Arrive at the mall as soon as the stores open (10am)
Shop, browse, chit chat with friends.
At about quarter till 12 we head for the food court.
Now, I've only tried 3 of the food joints here so far and they have all been good.  (well, McDonald's is always good as far as I'm concerned!)  :)  The Taco Hut and Little Caesars were both really good too.
We get our food and then head to the Family Section to eat.  This is a partitioned off section just for women or men with their wives and/or kids.  All other men/boys eat along the outside of the partitions.  By doing this, the Saudi women are able to remove their veils (if they chose) to eat.  Some don't.  And seriously, it's pretty funny watching them lift the veil and take bites of food or sips of drinks.  I wanted to photo the family section, but I didn't want to offend any of the women...if there's a time when no one is there I'll grab a shot.
We sit and eat during the prayer time...and as mentioned before, the whole mall closes.  
After lunch, we phone our taxi's to pick us up and head home.  (the mall won't open again until 5pm)
Doesn't that just sound like THE most fun!?  :D  

Here are a few photos of some of the fast food places...you might recognize a few!  :)  Oh, and check out the Hashi Burger Meal (aka camel burger)  :)

camel anyone??

us ladies eat behind the white "wall"  :)


Oasis in the desert...

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Like I've mentioned in posts before...Yanbu does have some bits that are quite nice.  One in particular is Yanbu Lake.  Now, I'll use the word LAKE lightly...it's more of a pond, but nonetheless, its a pretty piece of land amid miles of sand.
I've come to find that Saudi's love to picnic when the weather is nice.  The lake provides a really nice atmosphere for that.  There's a playground for the kids and little areas to set up your picnic dinner.  Oh, and of course, there's a mosque right next to the lake ready for prayer times!  :)   It's pretty small, but when you're in the need for a break and some tranquility...this is the place to be.



Lingerie...Women to work in stores in Saudi

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The times...they are a changin'...and, well, this is a pretty big deal.   And I think it's pretty neat that I'm here to witness this.  I did think it was just weird that only men could work in the lingerie stores and sell such intimate pieces of clothing to women whom they weren't even allowed to view their faces!  (I certainly was not planning on buying anything here...I'd planned on getting some the next time I was in Europe or Dubai)
It will be interesting to see how this is taken throughout Saudi...it's an awfully big step for women here.  Hoping it will all work out for the best.


photo from Associated Press

Saudi Arabia to Enforce Law Allowing Only Women to Sell Lingerie

Published January 02, 2012
| Associated Press

Saudi Arabia said Monday it will begin enforcing a law that allows only females to work in women's lingerie and apparel stores, despite disapproval from the country's top cleric.
The 2006 law banning men from working in female apparel and cosmetic stores has never been put into effect, partly because of view of hard-liners in the religious establishment, who oppose the whole idea of women working where men and women congregate together, like malls.

Saudi women -- tired of having to deal with men when buying undergarments -- have boycotted lingerie stores to pressure them to employ women. The government's decision to enforce the law requiring that goes into effect Thursday.
The country is home to Islam's holiest site in the city of Mecca and follows an ultra-conservative form of the religion known as Wahhabism.
The kingdom's religious police, under the control of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, enforce Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islam, which prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling. Women and men in Saudi Arabia remain highly segregated and are restricted in how they are allowed to mix in public.
The separation of men and women is not absolute. Women in Saudi Arabia hold high-level teaching positions in universities and work as engineers, doctors, nurses and a range of other posts.
The strict application of Islamic law forced an untenable situation in which women, often accompanied by uncomfortable male relatives, have to buy their intimate apparel from men behind the counter.
Over the past several weeks, some women have already begun working in the stores. Although the decision affects thousands of men who will lose their sales jobs, the Labor Ministry says that over 28,000 women, many of them South Asian migrants, have already applied for the jobs.
Saudi's Arabia's most senior cleric, Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, spoke out against the Labor Ministry's decision in a recent sermon, saying it contradicts Islamic law.
"The employment of women in stores that sell female apparel and a woman standing face to face with a man selling to him without modesty or shame can lead to wrongdoing, of which the burden of this will fall on the owners of the stores," he said, urging store owners to fear God and not compromise on taboo matters.


Happy New Year!

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(this is a real pic of a Saudi camel!) 
Well, it's officially the new year.  And I celebrated it in Saudi Arabia.  That's one for the books.  I know that 2012 will hold some amazing things for my family and I'm very excited for the upcoming year!
As I'm sure most of you have...we have a traditional meal that we are supposed to eat on New Year's Day in order to ensure a good new year.  For us, that's pork and sauerkraut.
Unfortunately, that poses a problem here.  For one, um, no pork.  At all.  Two, no kraut.  Nope, none.  Now, if I was planning properly, I should have just made some homemade kraut, but I wasn't thinking and I've run out of time...(but that is on my to do list)
That being said, I have decided to start yet another new family tradition.  For every year we are here in Saudi, we will have Stuffed Cabbage...Arabian Style.  It has cabbage, so technically I'm keeping a bit of my families traditions in tact...kinda.  ;)    
I've made this dish once before and we all really enjoyed it.  Looking forward to having it again tonight and starting a new New Year Day tradition.
What are your families traditions for the New Year?  Any special dishes you make?  I'd love to hear about them!  

Happy New Year once again from my family in Saudi to yours.  Wishing you a fabulous (and prosperous!) 2012!  

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