Here I sit again, in an empty room. Or actually not empty at all, because all the furniture is still there. Nearly one and a half year ago, I started this blog moaning how much stuff we had, and only realised it when we moved from our apartment to a house that belongs to the company my husband worked for.
And now we are about to move again, and though the furniture is here to stay (it belongs to the company) we still have a lot of stuff to pack and worry about, and again I tell myself I should buy less in the future.
However, this time we are not just moving apartment; we are moving to New Zealand for my husband’s studies. After weeks of giving things away, donating clothes, and throwing trash we are ready for this new chapter of our lives. We went cold turkey and gave up nearly all our stuff, leaving us with 60 kilograms of luggage, some hand luggage (about 20 kgs), and 60 kgs of other things that will be sent to Auckland. One hundred forty kilograms may sound like a lot, but – believe me – it isn’t.
So now that it is time to say goodbye to the almost four and a half years I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I can’t help but reminisce the things I have learnt here, the people I’ve met, the challenges I’ve overcome and how I have changed in these years.
I came here as a newly wed, a fresh graduate who did not have much work experience. And although I had lived in several countries before during my studies – Spain, Argentina, Turkey, France and Germany, to be exact – I had almost never worked abroad, let alone lived and worked in a country like Saudi Arabia.
With 24 years, it was sometimes difficult to find friends my age – most expats are in their 30s or 40s – but I soon realised I could be friends with people 10 or 20 years older than me.
I found a job as a teacher, which I did not like much, and about a half year later got a dream job at Arab News, one of the English newspapers in the country.
My work as a copy editor, and even more so later as a reporter for Saudi Gazette, has given me the opportunity to meet people from all strains of life, go to places I would probably never have gone otherwise, and get an inside glimpse of this mysterious kingdom. My colleagues at the two newspapers encouraged me to write more often, something that scared the hell outta me in the beginning. With every article I wrote I expected the editor to come to me, scolding me for the story’s awful quality, which by the way never happened. In hindsight, I wish I had received more critical feedback, for I am sure that would have improved my writing.
Seeing the lack of exercise facilities for women made me even more determined to live an active and healthy lifestyle, and to inspire others to do so too. Running had been my passion for several years already, and I found out that training on a treadmill can get you great results! My running improved tremendously, and I established valuable friendships through the local road running club. I even ran my first half marathon in this country, and my first marathon in Dubai last year!
While meeting people from all over the world, I also committed myself to the Dutch community in Jeddah through their society. I joined the committee and eventually took up the role of ‘chairwoman’ and interim accountant.
Tonight, after four an a half unforgettable years, I am leaving this place and country that I have come to love. Although I can’t wait to start a new life in New Zealand as a mother and meeting new people, perhaps even finding a new job and hobby, I am sad to leave this city and its marvelous people. It’s been a great four an a half years, and I can only hope the future will grant me an experience as wonderful as the one I had here.
One thing is sure, though: I will always come back to this country. I have my in-laws here, my husband is from here, and I will soon have a son or daughter that carries the Saudi nationality. I will also keep telling people about Saudi Arabia and Islam, sharing with them my personal experience here as opposed to what we often hear and see in the media.
So for now, Ma’ assalama, or goodbye, and I will soon be back with an update about our life in New Zealand, as well as a post about running during the second trimester!
P.S. I wrote this post last week but was unable to upload it earlier. Sorry for the delay! We arrived safely in New Zealand and I will soon write about our adventures here.