Land of the Free.. :)

My first step outside of Saudi soil, on my way to the U.S., was pure bliss! As you can guess, it didn’t take any time at all to take off my abaya; 1 minute after take-off. The airport is supposed to be a safe zone for clothing, but I was so close to freedom that I wanted to be absolutely sure that I’d have no problem being so “naked” in public. My 1st public outfit in the sight of men, was a conservative top with tights.  It was a slight show of my liberation to reveal some curves, instead of being a shapeless figure behind a black robe. I realized that I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of this moment, as some covered Arab women entered the plane restroom and transformed to high heels and flowing-free hair.. Already, I have received a nice little tan; something that you’d assume was easily achievable in a desert. When I return to Saudi, hopefully, the temperatures will drop out of the 130’s so that I can somewhat enjoy the outdoors of Riyadh again.


My 1st ride home was an admiration of all of the greenery, one of the benefits of living in the country. I’ve never missed so much, the trees and grass that I’m so allergic too. The sky seemed bluer.. and maybe I’m mistaken, but the stark white clouds of the U.S. seemed like another feature absent of Saudi. In a country where the only animals roaming are cats and camels, I was quite happy to see those ‘pests’ that we call squirrels!

My 1st drive, took a little getting used to. I have a ‘heavy foot’ and maybe a few flashbacks of the speed demons who live inside of Saudi taxi drivers. After a little bumper accident, I got the hang of things. I took a few destination-less trips around town, searching for any little changes of my city during my short time away. Nothing changed..

I ate … and I ate. Delicious pork ribs, real Mexican food, Americanized Chinese food, BBQ’d and fried chicken wings. I had a shot of alcohol the1st night without the fear of getting arrested and/or deported.  All of those food rules you grew up with.. eat balanced meals, don’t eat desert before dinner, eat all your veggies… all of that went out the window. After 2 weeks and 7 lbs. later, my stomach was real mad with me! But thankfully, I now have ‘close-to-nothing’ priced gyms, outdoor running, and the largest, most easily available choice of health foods and protein powders to get me back on track.

For my 1st form of public entertainment, I hit up the movie theatre 2 days in a row. And for a week straight, I listened to music, while sipping on my drink of choice at an outdoor bar.

These 2 weeks in the U.S. is going by way too fast. And although I didn’t spend my vacation island and country hopping, and going to big events, these little reminders of why I love U.S. and the people in it, was much appreciated. All the time spent on my momma’s couch was a much needed break. I think I have officially gotten all of these wants out of my system, before serving my last 6 months in Saudi.

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.