Some of you might be wondering what I have been up to for the past few months since last posting. A few months ago, after a rather distressing 36 hours where my electricity was turned off because the university admin neglected to pay my bill for over 9 months, I decided that the stress of my constant housing uncertainty (including an instance where I was told I had to move back to my old housing situation) was getting too much. It may seem silly to be so upset about a simple power outage but the core issue was that someone who I don’t know and have probably never met had complete control over where and how I lived. This is not uncommon for expats living in the Kingdom, especially unmarried women, but after the past two years of issues I never really felt like they had my best interests at heart. Therefore, I decided not to renew my contract at KSU and will be heading back to Australia for a while to enjoy some down time before moving onto life’s next challenge.
Living in housing compounds where I am the only Western woman has given me a greater appreciation for a sense of community and an understanding of why people who immigrate to countries like Australia tend to move to communities of people who have similar cultures to their own. Culture shock and lifestyle changes can really make you desire for the presence of others who understand what you are going through so you can feel like you are not alone in your suffering. Plenty of people write about how enriching it can be to immerse oneself in the local customs and culture of your host country, and they’re right, but sometimes there is nothing more comforting than to know that your experiences and feelings are not unique.
That’s not to say that the past two years I have been in Saudi Arabia have been mired by pain and suffering. I have had some amazing experiences while I have been living here. I have experienced a culture so completely foreign from my own, seen ancient ruins, travelled to the USA and Europe, met such a diverse range of people from all walks of life and made friends from places all over the world. However, there are also times when I have felt lost and hopeless and totally alone. But there’s always that desire to pick yourself up and make things right again. To know that I have faced some very challenging times and have fought my way through is a testament to that. They say that in the course of life it is the bad times that really highlight the good and I believe that is true.
I have been asked plenty of times by a sympathetic Saudi if I hate it here and I honestly don’t. Sure, there are plenty of obvious reasons not to enjoy living here but there are also a lot of things that I will miss (I’ll even write them down one day so you know). Probably the biggest disruption to my lifestyle here was the inability to create a routine. I don’t cope well in chaos and no matter how hard I tried there was always something to disrupt my efforts at maintaining a predictable schedule. What it has taught me, however, is that there’s always a way out and an answer to the problem, even if you don’t see it straight away. I haven’t failed. I just know that the time is right to move onto the next challenge that life brings me.
I still intend to write about my experiences in Saudi Arabia. There are so many interesting stories I have left to tell. I know I have hardly written anything at all this year and I hope to make up for some of that lost time when I return to Australia. For now I am trying to complete my clearance so I can exit the country and boy will that be a story to tell!