Moving to Saudi Tip: Home Decor

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So I've recently been in touch with some people who will soon be moving my way.  I think one of the most important things I could say to bring are family photos.  For me here in Yanbu, it's hard to find places to print up photos.  Even harder to find frames.  Yes, there is Ikea in Jeddah, but it's 4 hours away!! 
I came up with a great way to make sure we were always surrounded by family.  I didn't want the girls to forget anyone.  I made 24 of these 12x12 scrap pages and then used that special velcro tape to stick them to the walls.  See, almost all the walls here are solid concrete. Good luck getting a nail in.  I also shipped over some canvas prints I had done and my hubby's parents sent this huge map.  We also used those wall appliques to decorate the girls room as well as their wooden name letters.  I brought some of my old teaching posters too.  Alphabets, maps, calendars...to put in the play room.     
So, just my little tip for keeping family close to your hearts and your eyes.  :)
...by the way, the scrap pages are great ideas for anyone, not just us here in Saudi.  ;)


Yanbu Flower Show 2012

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March 1, 2012 marked the first day of the sixth Yanbu Flower Festival.  The festival was host to over 100 merchants offering gardening supplies, nursery equipment, flowers, and plants.  Approximately half a million people from all over the Kingdom visited the festival during it's ten day run.  
The main attraction was the 7,000 sq. meter carpet of flowers..  It was truly stunning.
photo courtesy of the landscape department
After viewing the carpet of flowers, we headed into the main area of the festival.  There were flowers everywhere (duh) along with all the merchant stalls.  The girls were so excited to see the flower "people."  :)  We met up with some friends and wandered around, checking out what we else we could find to add to our ever growing garden.
I was pretty stoked when we found a bunch of herbs that I didn't think I could get here (not fresh at least)  So now my garden includes fresh rosemary, sage, mint, and (we think) tarragon.  Yea!  
It was a lot of fun to see all the people and kids...the only downside were certain men (who I won't outright name) that kept asking ladies of our group to cover their heads.  (I've got my own method now...I just wear one of my many hats..I love hats and this seems to placate the men doing the asking) Everyone has different ways to deal with these situations and since there really isn't a set law (some say you absolutely don't have to cover, some just do to keep the peace, some say in certain parts of town you should) it's all up to the situation I guess.  Once we got them to let us be, we relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the night.  The kids played on the playground for a bit and then mommy and daddy bought a purple rose for each girl.  (they were very happy about that)  
We just couldn't understand one thing...this was a garden show right??  Where the hell did they hide the Beer Garden???  ;)
The festival had a small town USA feel to it and I'm glad we got the chance to check it out.  Looking forward to next years!
- click on the collage to make it bigger if you need to -

(the photos in this last collage were taken by the landscape department)


Snorkeling in the Red Sea

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It's been a few months since we last headed out to Al Hassi beach.  The last time was just after Thanksgiving and I was still a newbie here in Yanbu.  A bunch of people went snorkeling then, but not me...I haven't gotten in any ocean/sea since a trip to St. Lucia in 2003.  (had a bad experience and I was pretty much done with snorkeling)
For this trip I thought...maybe.  Maybe I'll get in the water and give it a go.  I mean, we're talking the Red Sea here.  It is home to amazing species of fish and coral.  The water is clear and blue. (and in the summer, its a balmy 85 degrees!)  
Fun Facts:  "The sea is the habitat of over 1,000 invertebrate species, and 200 soft and hard corals. It is the world's northernmost tropical sea." (Wikipedia)

So, after standing there staring at it for a couple of hours, I got up the nerve and decided to go for it.  Asked our friends to keep on eye on the kiddos...because there was no way I was going in that water without my hubby by my side.  
Got my mask and snorkel on.  Stood in the water.  Carefully put my face in the water.  Stopped breathing.  Okay, so not a great start.  Gathered myself, started breathing again, and went under.  Gripping my hubby's hand we sent off.  My breathing was crazy and I had to force myself to calm down.  At the first sign of fish my heart started pounding so hard I could hear it in my ears.  My eyes were bugged out searching for any sign of jelly fish (they are the reason for the abject terror I experience with the ocean)   
We pressed on and I slowly got control over myself...I even let go of Matt's hand!  yea me!  (and the fact that he was having a hell of a time trying to swim with me tugging on him)  Once I calmed down, I started to notice just how beautiful my little underwater world was.  And I realized for the first time that I was having no problem whatsoever floating in the water...way to go Red Sea and your wickedly salty water!  I'm not one who can float on water...I sink.  But out there...it was so cool!  I didn't have to do anything...just hover above the coral and watch all the little fishies swimming around.  The water was so clear you could see all around you.  It was amazing.

We kept swimming and I started to get nervous again...I knew we were heading to the drop off.  (yes, just like Nemo)  And just like Nemo I knew to be scared.  Big fishies lived out there...I wasn't ready to see them...not yet.  We got close and you could see the color of the water change...it went from light blue to dark blue.  I just couldn't go any further...I had a fist full of hubby's swim trunks...it was time to turn around.  Not only that, but it was really windy out and the water was making me bob around like crazy...not good when you're prone to seasickness.  I let go and headed back to land.
On the way back I spotted a killer clam shell (empty of course).  I promised the girls I would find a shell for them.  Well, I found it, Matt had to get it.  Took him a few tries to dive down...the salt just wanted to keep him at the surface.  But here is what we brought back:
you can see the size of it compared to the brick...just needs a good cleaning.  :)

I got back to land and tried to walk onto shore.  My legs buckled.  I felt like Ariel trying to walk on legs for the first time.  I was queasy and light headed, so I just sat in the water and waited for my body to adjust from mermaid to human again.  
Will I go back??  You bet.  I'm hooked now.  Not to mention I need to get an underwater camera so I can snap some killer shots of all the gorgeous fish and coral.  I borrowed these photos from our friend that was with us and had his own camera.  And next time I'll be braver and poke my head past the drop off...if only to snap a few shots of the big fish...just don't expect me to go swimming out to touch any butt's.  (It's a Nemo joke)  I'll happily stay on the edge and view the vast sea from there.  Who knows, maybe I'll get more brave as time goes on.  For now...I'm just going to ride the high of getting out there and taking advantage of one of the very best things about living in Saudi Arabia...having the Red Sea as my playground.
click the pictures to open the whole slideshow


The Meat Counter

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I've mentioned before that shopping here can be interesting.  Well, nothing shocked me more than when I was at the market and stopped to get some ground meat...and saw THIS staring at me....
It took every ounce of self control to not squeal out loud.  (I really didn't want to freak out my girls.)  Now, I've eaten camel here and its actually very good, but seriously, I don't want to SEE it LOOKING at me!!!  ick ick ick  

Sara said "Is that a camel head mommy?" 
I replied "yep."  
She says "How did it get there?  How did they get it off it's body?  It's not real is it?"
I said "Oh look!  Cookies!"  

A few weeks later I found this behind the counter:
Luckily my girls didn't even see this.  I didn't want to have to explain the goat as well as the camel.  Oh, and the guys behind the counter got a real kick out of me taking pictures and making icky faces.  Thinking the crazy American lady needs to get a life...
Yeah, I think I'll stick to some more vegetarian dishes for the next few weeks. shudder

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