Culture Shock

I fell into a little rut today.. And realizing that it’s totally understandable of why the culture shock hits you early here.

Unlike Korea, where you can find multiple Americanized food chains on every corner, natives with a similar sense of style, and same rules/restrictions…Saudi Arabia is the total opposite. Abiding by a strict way of living, being gender segregated, living in a new language, around new people, being away from loved ones, and starting a new job… perhaps, I could have brought a Xanax or two. I was reading the stages of culture shock on Wikipedia, and this “negotiation phase” is supposed to hit you on month 3. I’m on day 5… BUT, instead of looking at this negatively, I have high hopes that the “adjustment phase” will come early as well.  I can see many personal, professional, and financial benefits that will come from this experience, it’s just a lot to take in at once! I also don’t to want to make this KSA blog all nice and frilly. Gotta keep it real. So with all that said, I will definitely have my moments here.. I’ll just have to find ways to keep my life as close to what I’m used to, try to understand their culture, and realize that they will not change for me.. aka: I must Adapt! Here’s the plan:

  1. Figure out what the health-conscious Saudis eat.. It doesn’t seem like turkey is as easily available and can easily go into carb overload.
  2. Drop expectations! Being a control-freak, especially with time/planning, this will be the hardest one.
  3. Get a schedule of their 5 daily prayers, because everything shuts down for 45min prayer. To wisely use of this time, avoid shopping and replace with an indoor activity
  4. Buy a treadmill!!! With the prices of the limited female gyms, and it being near impossible to run outside.. in an abaya and hijab.. w/o someone assuming you stole something, perhaps its beneficial to build an at-home gym. Thank God, I brought my P90X and Insanity!
  5. Do things to make life feel “normal”.. Although this country seems to operate thanks to the abundance of servicemen and women, I found that maybe I prefer to do my own cleaning, taking in of own groceries, picking up my own food orders.
  6. Make connections with expats: Find groups that fit all of my interests, whether its physical activities or social gatherings
  7. Make connections with natives: This could help with language exchange and a better understanding of the culture.

Culture Shock. Wikipedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_shock&gt;

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Beautiful Contrast

Before landing in Saudi Arabia, I had a pitstop in Qatar.. It was a beautiful descend!! Some of the most popular sunset pictures taken, are over either an ocean or a desert.. I got to see a perfect combination of both 🙂 I now see the necessity of investing in a nice camera, especially if I continue to travel.

Once stepping off the plane in Saudi Arabia, and taking the van to my new living quarters, it was a different kind of beautiful. The grandness of the buildings, makes you feel that you are living among royalty. Especially when passing the compounds of Princess Noura University… and then you come across all of the rubble on the backroads, to remind you that every city holds a lower class.

I’ve never seen a city so ‘brown’ in my life… Sand/dirt/concrete everywhere! But not dirt, as in soil, more like construction site dirt. You could say its a pretty solid city! Imagine, every patch of grass you would normally find in a damp climate, it’s replaced by this stuff… and palm trees. And this combination is what oddly makes it so beautiful. I’ve always related palms with sand, BUT I felt it common sense that an ocean must be nearby. But, a desert??

I’m Leaving on a Jetplane

So at the end of the day, I ended up packing the “Baby Blanket”. I figured, I might as well have one comfort items (no matter the size). When checking my luggage, I hit 56 lbs.. SIX pounds over the limit = $200!! So after quickly ditching 2 pairs of shoes and 1 pair of jeans and jacket, I came out at 49lbs. Note to self: this is why you weigh yourself naked…

Of course, I had a few items pitched while going through security.. I kinda wonder what damage I could’ve done with a stick of deoderant.. shrug. But outside of that, everything’s gone pretty smooth! I’ve finally learned to walk around a chaotic airport, and look as if I know what I’m doing 🙂

I’m now waiting on my second flight, which is somewhere between 13 and 21 hours long (time changes get me every time), but we will see. I’m excited to see if it will be as luxurious as I hear, with a lot of leg room, and different foods. I’ve yet to try a Middle Eastern dish, unless you count lentil and rice, that I happen to cook on the regular. Oh, and lamb.. that was interesting

SNOW Day!

Last night, in N.C., we had the most gorgeous snow!! None of that slushy black mess you find in the cities. Beautiful way to end off my time in the U.S., before heading to a place that I can count on NEVER seeing snow. Or even rain, for that matter. And of course, I’ve packed away all of my winter-wear.  Today, all the snow’s gone, and I’m kicking myself for not playing in it. Maybe next year…

What’s in your Suitcase??

I have adjusted my 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons, once again.. and I think 3rd times a charm! I’m packed for one year in the desert, and praying I stayed under the 50lb weight limit. But I find myself wanting to take everything from my race medals to my baby blanket, which could double as a grown man’s quilt. And I’m facing the fact that something must go.. But there are a few items that I have always found to be essentials (at least for me).

1) Medicine!

The most frustrating thing ever is to come down w/ ______ , know exactly what it takes to treat it, but not being able to read the labels in the medicine aisle of your new country. After playing charades w/ a passerby to describe your ailments *fingers crossed*, they point you to the right one. Or you can avoid all of this by packing a your own specialized first aid kit.
2) Haircare and makeup

This is mainly for those who have different hair textures/complexions than the country they are going to. For example, if you have darker skin or curly hair in Asia.. Basically, if you tend to have a hard time in the U.S. finding the perfect combination of products, stock up for abroad.
3) Feminine products

It’s easy to assume that since every woman, no matter the country, has the same set of “issues”, and that we’d all handle them the same way. Wrong! Tampons can be a luxury, in some places. Either adjust to their method, or bring your own. Tampon tip: take everything out of the boxes and squeeze them into ziplock bags.. it saves a lot more room.
4) One week’s worth of clothes (per category)

(for work/going-out and casual/workout + a pair of shoes for each category + jacket) 

This is the hardest one for me! I start thinking of all of the ‘what-ifs’.. what if I need my salsa dancing shoes? What if I need both swimsuits? In a conservative Muslim country, I’m guessing these would be at the very bottom of the ‘must-have’ list.. So, I have convinced myself that I will buy what I need, there. Plus, I guess it could make a good conversation starter. “Where’d you get that sweater??”.. “Well, actually..”

5) Many will disagree on this one, but my last must-have = my fave BOOKS!

I’ve had friends who took their collection overseas (when Kindle was less popular), and didn’t open even one! They’d end up giving a good portion away. As an avid reader, this hurts me! Because I barely let folks even borrow a book. But if you can’t afford one of these e-readers, and reading is the way you spend your downtime, pack your faves in your carry-on (w/ wheels). Many countries have a foreign book section, but may be limited certain or lack restrictive topics. Often this carry-on bag isn’t weighed, so it doesn’t count towards the 50lb limit. Just make sure you (or a kind gentleman) can lift it into the overhead bin.

ONE week left!

Where in the world did the time go??! If someone was to take a look around my apartment right now, they’d think I was flat-out lying about this move! There are no boxes lying around, not one dish wrapped-up, and a nicely stocked refrigerator.  Perhaps I’ve spent more time getting this blog together, than my luggage.   I haven’t printed out my flight itenerary, nor even checked to see how long the flight’s going to be. It hasn’t quite hit me that I’m not moving right down the street.. but Saudi Arabia!!