What I’ve been up to lately

Sunset in Jeddah

Sunset in Jeddah

While writing this I am not up to much, to be honest. I’ve been not feeling well for five days, and I’m just wondering when I’ll be healthy enough to pick up my runs again, write article after article like I used to, and perhaps most importantly, feel my energetic self again.

The reason it’s been so quiet on this blog is not due to my illness, though. My last post was published over a month ago, and the gap is mainly due to an incredibly busy schedule full of events – it is as if all companies and consulates decided to organize something before the end of the year and before all expats leave the country to celebrate the holidays with their families. (We are doing the same this year, and I’m so looking forward to being back home for a couple of weeks, despite the cold and most probably rainy weather. At least it’ll make me appreciate the ever-blue and sunny Jeddah skies.)

Beautiful flowers from my hubby.

Beautiful flowers from my hubby

Secondly, I finally made the decision to sign up for the 2014 Dubai Marathon on January 24. I always said I wouldn’t want to run a marathon as long as I’m living in Saudi and doing most of my trainings on the treadmill, but on the other hand I felt like I needed a new challenge. Running had become quite boring for me, and I really wanted to work towards something big and exciting. Plus, I was already in a good shape, so I figured I wouldn’t need to work that hard to be able to run the 26 miles.

My trainings went very well, until I fell ill last Tuesday and had to cancel my runs. Up to today, I haven’t done anything. I’m getting increasingly frustrated and scared that I’m losing the shape I was in and maybe have to cancel the whole plan. I know I still have 40 days until the BIG event, but I have no idea when I can pick up my runs again…

In a next post I will write more about my trainings. Now back to the first reason of my absence: work. In November I’ve been going from one event to the other, and I had a total of 25 articles published in the Saudi Gazette! That is definitely a record for me and quite a big number, bearing in mind that November had 20 weekdays and most articles entail going to an event and spending a few hours writing the article or emailing/calling numerous people, waiting for their replies, meeting people, etc.

Italian aircraft carrier The Cavour at Jeddah Islamic Port.

Italian aircraft carrier The Cavour at Jeddah Islamic Port.

One of the busiest – though also most interesting – weeks was mid-November, when an Italian aircraft carrier visited the port of Jeddah. The ship, the flagship and biggest of the Italian navy, was on an interesting mission with multiple goals, including providing humanitarian assistance to people in several African countries. I wrote this article about it. The whole week saw lunches, dinners, and lectures on board the ship, one of which I attended. It was quite an interesting lecture from a Sicilian professor about the history of Islam in Sicily. Here is the article I wrote on it.

The biggest happening of the month, though, was the long-awaited (for me, at least) launch of the Saudi Gazette Weekend Edition: the Saudi Gazette’s transformation on Fridays and Saturdays into a magazine-style newspaper full of feature articles, positive human interest stories, and new pages such as ‘In Good Faith’, ‘Wholesome Living’, ‘Explore’, ‘Trends’ and ‘The Gallery’. I’ve been contributing mainly to Wholesome Living and Explore: Finally my travel articles about the Provence (about which I will tell and show more in a later post) and Bern came out. The Saudi Gazette article can be found here.

Saudi artist Fatimah Al Nemer poses in front of one of her works.

Saudi artist Fatimah Al Nemer poses in front of one of her works.

For me, a very fascinating event was an exhibition at the French consulate that saw the works of a 22-year-old Saudi artist exhibited. I was rather impressed by her paintings and the strong message they conveyed while finding out that Fatimah Al Nemer herself was a shy, giggling girl from Qatif, the ‘incendiary’ part of Saudi in the east of the country. Her works all revolved around Eve and the forbidden apple, and whether only women were to blame for this sin.

There was so much more going on in town, but I don’t want to make this post too long and boring. Several of my articles that I had written months ago were finally published thanks to the launch of the Weekend Edition, such as the one about whether we have become obsessed with germs and my organic FAQ piece. I unmasked the biggest fitness myths, wrote about the best of Greece, finally saw my article about working out in the heat published (way too late, ’cause the weather has been very mild lately) as well as my Rahma Restaurant review, which I wrote almost a year ago.

Not all exhibitions at the French Consulate are that good. I was less impressed by the photo exhibition by French artist Dominique Novi

Not all exhibitions at the French Consulate are that good. I was less impressed by the photo exhibition by French artist Dominique Novi, though this one was my favorite.

One article that took me an eternity to finish was something about stray cats. It almost died when I got lost among phone calls and emails from people who wanted me to tell what to write in the article but did not want to have their name mentioned and others that started warning me “not to get into this”. I almost felt like a journalist investigating a murder or other serious criminal case when all I wanted was to raise awareness about the problem of stray cats in the country! Luckily, it did see the light of day, but when you spend so much time and effort on just one article it is sad to know that it appears in the paper one day and will be in the garbage the next one. I am just hoping it will spark a small change in this country. Here’s the article.

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To end this post on a more positive note: I also got the chance to write a restaurant review on a new place in town: Salmontini Le Resto. And although I had to “forego my vegetarianism” for this restaurant, it was worth it. Why? Read the review, on which I received very positive feedback!

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