Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Eyes Have Seen and Ears Have Heard

As some of you know, from my Facebook posts, last week, I was to help plan a Ladies Night Out for the wives of Halliburton. Well, this was going to be a disco, ladies only, no men, fun music and food. Since we ARE in Saudi, it was to be catered to the Muslim ladies, hence the NO MEN at a dance...sounding fun yet? I was fine with all of and just planned not to attend, originally. My first job was to create a flyer announcing the event. I did that, and it was sent back to me with the correction of "no children or photography". I don't know about you, but I would never think to bring my child to a disco party anyway. I guess that must be common in the Middle East. The photography thing crawled all over me, however. I started thinking, "if you have all of these requirements that must be met, to fit your beliefs, then why am I writing this flyer?". Anyway, days pass, and I start to plan the music, my second responsibility. Then, it hits me...what if "disco" doesn't TRULY mean disco. What if I make this playlist of all this disco era music, and they think I have lost my Christian, American, white girl mind! On that note, yes, we had an ipod with playlists, because there were NO MEN allowed. I was not about to get on the phone trying to track down a female DJ in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Also, the money raised on tickets was for charity, so this put more money into those funds. Okay, back to my soapbox! I asked another lady about this translation of the word disco, and it was revealed that ladies were going to Bahrain to buy ball gowns. SAY WHAT?? I would never dream of wearing a ball gown to a dance that my husband wasn't attending with me, but I definitely wasn't going to look like an idiot (in bell bottoms, lame', and platforms). We came to realize that this word really just meant a dance. So, on I went with planning my music. I had tons to choose from, already in our itunes library, so I got right to it. Then, the drama started! The Pakistani ladies wanted their music, the Egyptians wanted their music, and the younger generation wanted the Arab techno. I had already put the Arab techno, so that was fine. The other ladies brought me USB sticks with their songs, and I started to add those too. It was a process, as none of them were converted to a format that would work with our Mac. I was about to throw those darn memory sticks and just say the stray cats ate them! By the night of the party, I had all of the music ready to go and was feeling good about the variety. The compound where we had the party was to have the sound system waiting for us, so that should work fine. In my mind, I was thinking that most of these ladies haven't been to a real party anyway, so this should be a BIG night for them.
My friend, Traci and I arrived to decorate the room at 5 for the dance that started at 7. All went off without a hitch. The food was ready and looked delicious, and the sound system worked.
Around 7, ladies started arriving, some fully covered, some with just their hair covered. By the end of the night, I saw more skin than I wanted to see from some of them. I must say, my neighbor warned me that these dances are an excuse for many of these women to just get wild and reveal everything. I have heard stories of them getting down to nothing but their "intimates". I would have had to leave at that point. It was entertaining, to say the least. They were shaking body parts that I was certain had immobile joints....guess not! I am telling you, if there had been a pole in that room, they would have worked it...ALL.NIGHT.LONG!
If you had been a fly on the wall, you would have thought they were truly enjoying themselves. Some of them were dripping with sweat, shoes and stockings had come off and hair was flying.
The next day, the group of us American women, attended another gathering together and had many laughs about the fun that a group of women can have together if you just let them come out of their abayas and head covers. I was glad they enjoyed themselves. Then, at 11, they were completely covered again, like nothing had ever happened.
Side note...I bought a long dress to wear and went into the restroom. I looked down to see the floor covered in water. I was fuming mad, thinking "really, you HAD to use the bidet!" dress was going to drag in water! I was so glad I saw it.
Now, onto yesterday, where our Committee group met to discuss our February event and review the Ladies Night Out. The reviews were great, then a lady arrives late and sits at the table. The first words out of her mouth were that her friends didn't like that there was no DJ, they didn't like that the food was sitting out and not served, the room wasn't how she would want it...blah, blah, blah. I let her finish and then politely told her that she should be in charge of the next one. I went on to say that to have all of the things she mentioned, MEN MUST SEE THEM! Women don't work in the restaurants here, so who is going to serve her? Is she going to find me a female DJ to hire? I also said that this was a party to please a specific population group, Muslim women, and since Traci and are not a part of that group, we were at a clear disadvantage of knowing how to meet their requirements. I assured her that the next event will be VERY nice with a sit down dinner, a DJ, and my husband will be on my arm (so she should prepare to be covered). I was very nice, but inside I wanted to reach across the table and put my finger in her face. That urge only lasted for a minute, then I prayed to be more tolerant of her. To sum it up, I will not be doing another event that excludes the desires of the American women. This was a learning experience, for sure!
I know that sounded like a rant, so I apologize for that.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So much to celebrate

We celebrated Monster's 5th birthday on the 12th! If you know Weston, you know this nickname fits him. This has been attached to him, since he was in the womb. If you have been part of our friend circle that long, you can easily recall the challenges we overcame to get him into this world! Whew....and I thought that was the difficult part!!! I journaled to him throughout that pregnancy, and it is so funny to go back and read how I perceived things. His character must have been already taking shape; wild, sometimes aggravating, wonderful, awesome, and too darn smart!
We really went all out for his party at school. There are over 30 kids in the class, so I was not looking forward to making treats for this many kiddos. I asked him what he would like, and he said "a pinata". DONE!!! I just so happened to bring one with me from Texas. I was planning to have a bug themed party for him, so this was a spider. Hey, it was gonna have to do! Mom and I stuffed it full with glitter glue, lollipops, candy bars, fruity candy canes (a rarity here), and Mambas. Then, I was on Pinterest looking for a monster cake. I found one and adapted it to something original. We took this all to school, and everyone was in awe. The cake was white chocolate with buttercream (green buttercream, per his request), and it was DEVOURED by those kids! I never imagined they would eat all of it! The teachers said they usually throw the cakes away, so this made me very happy. Not for me, but that my Monster's party was a hit with his friends. The pinata went over extremely well too. All of the kids took a swing at it with a rubber baseball bat, and it was still perfectly intact. I was worried we might be there A.LONG.TIME! Adam finally helped 'em a bit, with a tear at the top. Then......the scatter of treats and squeals of delight. I was so happy, and so was Weston. Adam was off work, Mom was here, and Hinley was with us. Poor Jordan was a few steps away in his own classroom.
The kids raked up the loot, filled their backpacks and headed to the buses. Weston rode the bus home with Nana, grinning ear to ear!
The morning of his actual birthday, we headed to Bahrain, or as I call it, Btown. Mom was flying back in a couple of days, and we wanted to show her some things there without having to wear abayas (yes, that does become a privilege). We arrived at the Crowne Plaza that afternoon to realize that our room key came with free cookies, coffee and tea all day! This made the kids' day. Also, there was happy hour from 6-8 in the pub, which was included. Now, we are not heavy drinkers, but you take some Americans who live in a dry country and tell them there is free happy hour, they just might do cartwheels in the lobby. We refrained, of course, but we sure did have some proper champagne one night! We even had PORK with breakfast. Goodness, we felt spoiled!!!
Okay, so the little guy got to choose what he wanted for his BIG SPECIAL DINNER. What did he choose...MAC and CHEESE!!! After walking into a steakhouse where our waitress was wearing a sad excuse of a cowboy hat, bolo tie, and boots; and we were the only patrons, we went to Carino's. It was delicious! When we arrived back at the hotel, there was a cake waiting in the room. That is customer service!!
The entire weekend was one long festivity, really. We all had a blast! The only thing nobody really enjoyed was dropping Nana off at the airport. She had to get back to her J.O.B. though. She arrived home safely, and we made wonderful memories.
List for today,might make you blush:
1. Bahrain bars are full of Saudi men who drive over to drink.
2. I heard someone say, "The best way to smuggle alcohol is in your belly." Crazy but true.
3. There are actual hookers in the nicest of hotels in Bahrain bars, and EVERY hotel has a bar. You wouldn't know they were hookers if nobody had ever warned you.
4. It is weird to know we spend many weekends in a Kingdom where protests occur daily and are on Yahoo news. Bahrain is safe if you know where you are going.
5. Bahrain is so much prettier than Saudi, because it caters to the tourists.
6. I am itching to get to Texas, and I am praying that passes.
7. The restaurants all play loud hip hop music in the background. Even Carino's, where it should be casual Italian music, there was Rihanna and Usher. It is so funny.
8. All of the service staff in Saudi (anyone not a citizen, for that matter), are here on Visas.
9. Roll that around in your mind! This is a HUGE KINGDOM, but the people raised here are so lazy that they have to depend on migrant workers just to wait tables. That, and the fact that they will not let women work.
10. Thank you for sharing in this adventure with me!!!

Arabic for the day:

Blessed be your day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Things are quiet around here

After having Nana here for 12 days, things are moving at a slower pace, and the house is so quiet. I know the kids LOVED showing her all of their new favorite places and introducing her to all of their friends. She was very receptive to everything too! I know she was scared to death of how different everything would be here, but after arriving, I think she was pleasantly surprised. The guards with guns everywhere is something that you never get too comfortable with, I don't think. It's just in the back of my head "what if that thing goes off while you are walking so calmly?". Mom did mention that the outside of our compounds and other places were like military bases then like resorts once inside. Village 1, where we live, is more like a construction zone than resort, but it will be lovely very soon (I keep telling myself that)!
Mom was up for anything, which made it so easy to entertain her. Here is a list of the things she experienced while here:
We took a taxi to Dammam for shopping one day, she got to experience being locked in McDonald's and the craft store for prayer time, she took the bus with me to run errands, she ate Arabic food while trying not to use her left hand (courtesy of Adam's boss), she tried a shwarma from a street kitchen, she had the pleasure of walking into an Eastern toilet, she had her picture made with a man in typical Arab attire, she went with me to the hospital here to see how the medical system works, she rode the bus to school with the kids and walked them to school to experience that, and she tried Pakistani food with no complaints. The only things she really complained about were the driving and lack of Mexican food! Truly, those are the only things I can say I think are bad too...and some people's homebrew recipes....haha!
As for the dinner with Adam's boss, it was very interesting! His wife speaks very little English. He has one daughter around Jordan's age, so we took J and left the other two younger ones with Rose. Our reservations were at 7:30, so that would be too late to get them started at dinner anyway; especially with Adam's boss I had never met. We arrived at the restaurant, to find a HUGE building on the waterfront in Dammam. It is lined with individual cabanas or tables throughout a garden. On the other side is an arcade bigger than most Chuck E. Cheese buildings. The wife and two kids played while we chatted with Adam's boss and awaited the food. I guess it is customary, in this culture, to order many main dishes and pick from each one, with flatbread, of course. There were not serving spoons, so I was a bit confused, at first. We had pizza, shish ka bob, hammour in cream sauce, salmon steak, salads, hummus, motabella, flatbread, and french fries. Is that an assortment or what? It was very good, but I was stuffed! After this meal, we moved from the cabana to the garden area for coffee, hot chocolate, and dessert. I completely forgot that we would be staying for coffee. We did not wrap up our dinner until after 11 PM!!!! This late night lifestyle is the norm here, and I am still trying to adjust. It was a wonderful evening, and I was so glad to have time to visit with the man who offered us this opportunity.
I guess having the kids out of school for two weeks and having Mom here made me tired, because I am trying to stay awake past 9 lately. I will try to do better about updating this blog more frequently. I need to make notes throughout the day, too, because things happen that I think would be neat to tell you about and are long forgotten by the time I sit in front of the computer.
List for the day:
1. We found someone to sponsor us for church for 6 months, so a HUGE praise there!
2. A lady told me yesterday that an ex-pat wife is a very strong woman if she survives her first assignment. I totally agree!
3. Every woman that has lived any other place has said Saudi is the HARDEST assignment to have as an ex-pat. I am finding it alright, so I guess I can make it anywhere.
4. We are finally planning our first big vacation from here, Zurich for 10 days with stops in Italy.
5. I cooked meals last night and tonight that Jordan raved about, both with things that are hard to get...pork chops and Ro-Tel. The boy isn't easy, I tell ya!
6. Our healthcare is top notch, so our experience with W's ears must have been a fluke.
7. Adam will be coaching a group of preschool Saudi kids in soccer. Weston is the only American, so please pray for his sanity!
8. Hinley is LOVING taking tap and ballet...even walks around in panties and tap shoes at home. Help us all!
9. Jordan is an awesome swimmer, and we could never afford (in Texas) the private coaching he is getting here.
10. Yesterday, we completed four months of our 3 years in Saudi. I think we have just started our lives as ex-pats. I would be okay doing this until Adam retires. We are so fortunate to have this opportunity.

Arabic for the day:
h'ub= love

Blessed be your day!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Today There Were Tears...Yesterday Too!

Whew! Today was a test. I have been so thankful for the amazing neurologist I have found, and today was THE BIG DAY that I would have my Botox injections to treat my persistent tension headaches. He has adjusted my medications to alleviate my migraines pretty well. Yesterday, however, was a day of pain. I realized, though, in all that pain, that I have had soooo many excellent days. That is something I have not been able to say in years! To know that I had to travel to Saudi Arabia and be treated by a Muslim doctor, from Egypt blows my mind. I am not narrow minded, but I have tried every treatment offered to me in Texas. In one visit to this doctor, he changed my medications, and my headaches became less frequent. I have suffered migraines since I was a 6 year old little girl. The tension headaches started after I became a nurse, so let's say around 2005. These headaches have controlled my life since they began. Whatever medication the neurologist in Richardson, Texas recommended, I followed the recommendation. This led to rebound headaches, my body needing higher doses of medication and a ME that I did not like very much. Then....Botox was suggested. As many of you know, it is a paralyzing muscle agent. Tension headaches occur due to the muscles contracting and causing pain. To me, this seemed like a sensible solution. I went straight to a pain management doctor and paid $800 for 200 units of this toxin to be injected wherever he deemed necessary. I found it helpful. This first treatment was about 3 years ago. Fast forward to today...
I have seen this doctor once before, and he scheduled this procedure today. I arrived, and he asked me how my headaches are. I explained that this week has been worse (also mentioning that I think I am in more pain due to stress related to the construction on the compound). He says to me that we will increase my medicine and revisit the idea of Botox in the future. By this time, I am M.A.D!!!! My appointment was at 9:40. He did not see me until 11:15, for reasons I don't even wanna explain, but I was aggravated to start. I said, "NO, I do not want to increase my medication. This is systemic, and it is a guess. We know that Botox will paralyze the muscles that are tensing up as a reaction to the stress I am feeling." I started to cry, because that is what I do when I am upset. He said "do not be un-gry" You would have to be in the room, hearing the language. In Texas we would call Spanish and English "Spanglish". Well, I guess this was more like "Engrabic", because he would go in and out of English and Arabic. I told him "I AM ANGRY, because you told me you would do this, I have waited 2 hours, my husband took off work to bring me, I am in pain, and now you are changing your mind for the second time". I wanted to leave, but I was going to make sure that I accomplished what was scheduled for that appointment. This society is very accustomed to women just saying okay and following what a man tells them. It gets so frustrating!
Anyway, after all of that, my head was pounding!!!! He told me "halas", meaning "it is finished" and he would do the injection, it would take 5 minutes, and that I needed to go to the pharmacy to get the medication. I got there, and it was not approved. I will skip to 2 hours later. FINALLY, my insurance company approves EVERYTHING!!!! Thank God! I got back into his office, and my instincts kicked in, I guess. I started washing my hands, like I was about to give shots. The nurse said she was afraid to touch the Botox, because she did not want to mess it up and walked out of the room. The doctor walked out into the room. He sits down and asks me why I am not helping him prepare it. So, I started to open the syringe packages and hand them to him, using "my best nursing skills"....haha! I was in shock. This would never be appropriate in the USA! At that moment, I missed working. Then, it was onto the table for me. He put about 30 injections into my forehead, temples, occipital lobe, neck and shoulders. I was in so much pain. I cried and could not believe how badly this hurt. I had never felt any tenderness from this injection before. My mom was with me and almost passed out. She left the room, and I thought "what was so important that she had to leave me while I was in pain?" Now I know! I am thankful she didn't fall on the ground!
Anyway, I hope in a few days time, it will all settle in my system and take effect, making this whole day worth the pain and wait.
Today's list will be of the crazy things that have happened while my mom has visited. I SERIOUSLY need to write more about her trip!
1. Today, the doctor told me to go home and have alcohol. Let me remind you, it is forbidden in the kingdom, so I found that hilarious!
2. I had 2 doctors extend their hands to shake the hands of my mom and me today. That is the first time ANY man has done that since we have lived here. You can google it if you want more information.
3. Mom is full of questions, and it is funny. I see her curiosity and try to remember if I was the same when I arrived only 4 short months ago.
4. Mom had her picture made with the cutest little man in a thobe yesterday and was so excited.
5. A man was driving his car at full speed, and a passenger opened his car door to "holla" at my MOTHER while we were shopping downtown yesterday.
6. A man spoke very candidly with us about looking for his next wife, since it is acceptable in Islam to have 4 wives.
7. If you want to know about the culture here, and you ask someone (being respectful), they are very inclined to talk with you.
8. Mom is intrigued by how many different ways there are for a man to wear a scarf on his head and is determined to figure out what each "style" represents. I actually never realized that just as often as a women fixes her eyes, a man messes with his scarf.
9. A man will be wearing a thobe, sweater, winter hat, NorthFace vest, footless tights and....SANDALS!!! REALLY?
10. I asked my mom if she could live here, and she said not long term. I think she means longer than 12 days. Insh 'Allah

Arabic for the Day:
perfect for our theme of thobes and scarves

Blessed be your day!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Let's focus on....absolutely EVERYTHING, then post NYE later!

Green seems peaceful, so let's go with it! My babies have missed my mom. Not once have they said "I missed ____", except family. This brings joy and peace to my heart, knowing that ALL of the material things we were providing them in Texas were NOT important! This Christmas was reassurance of that. In Saudi, we have little TV and NO commercials. Any company here has to be a Saudi company. For example, we have Chili's, but it's not advertised as Brinker, it's Saudi Arabian Food Supply (or something). Get it? Last year, about this time, I remember my Jordan asking for Reebok Zig shoes, because they were all over his school campus! I told him I was not buying them, because he had just gotten new shoes, from Academy, two weeks prior to his request. Leave it to Nana to get these much desired shoes for both of the boys for their "Valentine". Jordan was squealing with delight, and Weston had no idea what they were or why he was opening a new pair of shoes as a gift. He had NO IDEA that most boys his age were saving their chore money or dragging their moms to every shoe store in the mall to see this new shoe phenomenom. Well, this innocence that our "little Monster" (as we call him) had, is what all three children had this Christmas. It was wonderful, amazing, and true, Christ filled! Hinley walked around all day on Christmas saying "it's my birthday...Noooo, it's Jesus' birthday". I really hope we don't lose that love for our Lord. I know Adam and I will not, but we MUST work to keep it alive in our children, since we are not at our amazing church every Sunday. By the way, Christ Fellowship, Eldorado or Preston Campus is great if you are in that area!
Okay, back to NANA! So sorry, it is 11:11 here, and I am extremely tired! I have been trying to get as much time in the city in with Mom and the kids as possible before they return to school on Saturday. Today was a whipping! Jordan rarely gets to see the O.TH.ER side of this city, so we took him and the other two littles in a taxi, to Dammam. It is actually another city, but oh well. He wanted to shop...must have Byrd genes in him. Mom was able to see the awful traffic, my life in a taxi with the kids, the lack of English and respect for women, dirty city, and she got locked in for prayer. I thought she might panic. Luckily, the man unlocked the door and let us out to catch our taxi.
This is our first night of the weekend in Saudi, and the kids wanted to have family game night. We played Yahtzee! Jordan asked for the game from Santa, and it is not available here, Bahrain, Dubai or Abu Dhabi...yeah, I went to all of those places. Mom brought it and made a little boy very happy. You should see my account. It is quite fun, actually, to just log on, order and have no idea what I am spending! I shop here in SAR and that order is USD. I never convert anything. I have a monthly allowance I make sure to NEVER go over, and that works. Adam keeps ALL of our REAL money in a different account. I just look at my statement and say "oh, that converted to that much...nice". We are saving a ton of money. I don't shop at all! I have all of Hinley's clothes made at the tailor, because stuff here is not her style at all! It's quite fun to pick out fabric and draw designs. Nana brought many precious dresses too!
These boys played their game, had their shower, brushed their teeth, then fought over who would sleep with Nana. Really? She is going to be here until the 14th!!! I know they have missed her when I see the sad face of the one who has to wait until tomorrow. I make sure to go sneak a peak during naps when they are all piled into MY king sized Tempurpedic. I have offered to give that up for the week, but I am not sure anyone will get any sleep! I hear the sweetest giggles for several minutes before it is finally quiet in the boys' room after lights out. Sweet Hinley just asks that Nana read her this new book over and over before bed, then she WANTS to be in her crib ALONE!
Hopefully tomorrow will be wonderful in the Kingdom. I know it's hard for Mom to be here and try to adjust to our new discipline and see the kids upset or getting in trouble, but they are kids. They will revert back to what they know and try everything to have Nana step in to rescue them.
This is a tidbit going back to how they have adjusted:
Weston is still Weston...if you don't get that statement, then you probably should not be reading this. OR, you can follow along and figure out his personality.
Jordan is adapting very well. His teacher said he is having a hard time "playing sports that have rules" then asked me if he came from a team. Say what???? She said she could tell that he had been a child that never had enemies and was a strong personality, completed work quickly, but she likes to give others a chance to give incorrect answers. I agree. I just do not think that is something to hold against him. I almost sent her the newslink to CT Eddins that I saw on FB about a day after that stating it had been placed in top 3. That explains it...HELLO! Anyway, I think J misses the team sports A LOT! He is in swimming and has private coaching every week by a Ukrainian coach that spotted his natural talent in the pool one day. I must give credit to Adam. Maybe the other two can get a sport from Mama.
Hinley is in tap, jazz, and ballet, and you can't get the girl to stop dancing! She wants to wear tap shoes in the sand. If you were to ask her Big Daddy he would say "she takes after me". Let him think that!
They all bring me great joy, and letting them shine here makes me happier than I have been in a long time! To quote the most Texan girl I know, I am not "happy but JOYFUL!" That couldn't be more true.
When you go into something with a heart full of prayer, searching and open for whatever answer that is, you WILL be JOYFUL, because it is from the LORD. As I said I am tired, but I promise you there is scripture to back this. I will post the scripture that states this as truth!
Thank you all for praying, believing, and encouraging our journey. Please keep reading and posting your comments. They are what makes me happIER!!!
Okay, for the list!
1. You can turn left from the far RIGHT lane, so watch out for me this summer.
2. No seatbelts required.
3. Our car is washed 3 times a week all month for 135 SAR, see previous conversion.
4. I own 6 abayas, because I don't like wearing the same thing everyday.
5. You can get the BEST custom made clothing here for pennies on the dollar, and I love it.
6. If it is below 70 degrees F, people are in earmuffs and a puffer coat...funny!
7. The weather is absolutely gorgeous!
8. A man from Jordan tried to hit on me yesterday. Usually men are RUDE and don't even look you in the eye. He was a pharmacist and asked me when I could return to the pharmacy.
9. This man thought Mom was my friend...awwwww.....
10. I am learning Arabic and have about 20 phrases, the numbers, and these words I learn for you with each posting. If you know, me, this is my 3rd language. I plan to be fluent in 3 years.
Arabic for the day:
saameh' a- to forgive