Monday, 25 November 2013

A Wedding In Saudi

This has been a year of travel, and at this very moment I’m in New Zealand again. Last weekend I went to Auckland and visited St George’s Church, Epsom with my daughter.  In a little over a month she’s getting married there.  

St George’s is an old traditional church with a white painted wood exterior. The inside is dark and cool. As we stood together in the silence beside the old wooden pews, it felt just perfect for a wedding.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Sick in Saudi

My husband came back from London a few weeks ago with a cold. This turned very quickly into bronchitis, which then triggered off his asthma. Lots of coughing, sleeplessness, nausea, tightness across his chest, and no voice. Time to see a doctor.

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Arts in Saudi and Inappropriate Emotions

We’ve just returned from a week in London over the Eid break.  We loved our time away and especially enjoyed doing things we can’t do in Riyadh. Three evenings ago for instance, we went to a performance of Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night Dream in the East End’s Noel Coward Theatre.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Visit to the King Abdulaziz National Public Library

Last Tuesday a friend and I visited the King Abdulaziz Public Library.

A week earlier we’d made a list of things we could do in Riyadh that didn’t involve malls, drinking coffee, shopping, or given the current temperatures, being outdoors. The National Museum was top of our list, but we’d both already been there.  The King Abdulaziz Public Library was our second idea. There was no third.

Monday, 26 August 2013

From New Zealand to Saudi - A Tale of Two Cars

Okay, now that I’ve grabbed your attention with this photo, I have to confess that this blog’s nothing about accidents. This photo just happened to be the closest I could find. (And I really like the word ping in red on the boot.)

This is a car repair story and it starts in New Zealand and ends in Saudi.

Over the last week we’ve had a flurry of emails and skype chats with my son in New Zealand. His car needed a Warrant of Fitness, but his friendly garage mechanic gave him a long, long list of Must-Be-Dones, and a quote for over a thousand dollars.  We suggested he visit another mechanic. This time the quote was $300.00 for just one repair. The collective sigh of relief went all the way from New Zealand to Saudi and back again. However the story is not yet finished. The needed part - a brake caliper - has not yet been found in the right size. So resolution is still a small glimmer of light at the end of a tunnel.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Breakfasts and a Birthday in Crete

Like many of our friends, we’ve been out of the Kingdom for a few weeks’ holiday over Ramadan.  Riyadh during Ramadan isn’t easy; without daytime food and drink, the driving gets worse – hard to believe but it does – job productivity declines and tempers become frayed.

So, in the better interests of our health and happiness, we decided to break away and head for Greece.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Lessons from an English Teacher and a Ramadan Story.

Two of my young students created this when I was teaching a class of gifted children in New Zealand. I’d asked them to choose a figurative expression and present it literally. I explained that they could take something like butterflies in your tummy, which really means feeling nervous, and then create an image of what it might look like if the words were true.

These two boys chose to work with put your foot in your mouth.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Skype, Whatsapp and Facebook: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

If you remember this movie by Steven Spielberg, you’ll also remember the bit near the end where ET lifts his little alien finger and points to the sky outside. He turns to his friend Elliott and says,  "ET phone home.”

Phoning home from Saudi is becoming rather like this. Important but not easy.    

Friday, 28 June 2013

Police Checks, Deportation and Uncertainty - Saudi's Migrant Workers

Last week it was a pleasant 19 degrees walking down London’s Oxford Street.

This morning in Riyadh it’s 43 and climbing. It's also revoltingly sandy and windy. When I run my finger along our dining table I feel a fine, gritty layer of desert dust. In another few days I could probably write my name in it.

Friday, 21 June 2013

New Beginnings and One Very Little Bean

For the last four weeks I’ve been in London meeting the newest and littlest member of our whanau. He’s very cute and very small and we love him to pieces.

Although he has a proper name, we sometimes call him little bean. That’s because, as my daughter explained, he has skinny little legs, just like runner beans. Other times, we call him bundle, and on days when he cries and doesn’t want to sleep, we call him little pickle. So many names for one small baby.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Wild Blackberries, Bacon and Egg Pie, and a Desert Picnic

I’ve spent the last few weeks in New Zealand. It's been great, but now I’m ready to head back to Riyadh. Living out of a suitcase is only fun for so long. 

On my last weekend away I visited Hanmer, a small alpine village with thermal springs. It's a very pretty spot, neatly tucked under mountains which are often covered in snow. It's about as far from Riyadh as you could imagine.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Muttawa and Much Ado at Janadriya

I used the word extraordinary in my last blog to describe my visit to the Princess Souk.  Visiting Janadriya last night was extraordinary too, but for very different reasons.

Janadriya is an annual cultural festival held about 40 minutes drive out of Riyadh. It features regional crafts, dance, music, food and architecture.
And for the children, there's camel rides...

Friday, 12 April 2013

Wedding Dress Anyone?

It's a joyful occasion when a daughter decides to get married. Mothers instantly cast their minds about as to what they can do to help. However, when the mother in question lives in Saudi, and the wedding is in New Zealand, this isn't easy.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Pomegranates, Sharing Recipes Long Distance, and An Unwelcome Dinner Guest.

A favourite weekend pastime here is eating out. It's not expensive and we’re lucky because Riyadh has so many different restaurants to choose from.

Shopping for food and cooking’s an adventure too and I’ve become quite addicted to trying new things. I like the way I can buy big bunches of fresh coriander, parsley and mint for only a couple of riyals each. I like the supermarket’s colourful spices arranged in hemp sacks and I like buying ingredients I can't get back in New Zealand, such as pomegranates.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Small Towns and Tall Towers - All in a Day in the Desert.

Some days in Riyadh are good, others are not.  

On a bad day I open my email first thing in the morning to find that there is still no reply to the chatty note I sent a friend last week. Or the internet is down and the skype call I was planning no longer possible.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Dancing in the Aisles and Finding Slovakia in a Saudi Souk - an Outing to Al Qassim

I believe I could count on one hand the number of times I've eaten well on a bus - but my trip to Al Qassim certainly counts as an example.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Chorizo, Cribs and the Circle of Life - London Bound!

In two days I’m leaving for London.

It's an exciting time. In a couple of months there’s going to be a baby arriving, and my daughter and I have a lot to do together. There’s a quilt to be finished and little woolen singlets that are still on the needles. A wooden crib has been lovingly handcrafted and lies waiting. There's so much joy in the process of readiness and anticipation.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Rings of Every Kind; or, Navigating Long-Distance Emotion

It’s a very long way from Ponui to Riyadh.

Ponui is a small island, found just off the coast of Auckland. There, contacting overseas family often involves trekking up a hill to get the right kind of coverage. It is quite literally a long distance call. And then, when the family you’re calling lives in Riyadh, there’s the additional challenge of timing a call so that both parties are awake.