Monthly Archives: November 2014

Camel Farm Visit

Our Thanksgiving this year incorporated some old traditions with new circumstances. We began the day with a Turkey Trot which was both fun and ridiculous since neither David, Pigpen, nor I have been running or training. Pigpen didn’t quite understand the concepts of pace or endurance and would sprint to the front and stop, sprint to the front and stop. He played a continuous game of cat and mouse with the other participants and also ignored the course outline. Needless to say we did not win and suffered quite a bit of pain and soreness the following day.

We enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner potluck-style with members of our work and neighborhood communities. I made mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie. It was certainly not the same as having Thanksgiving back home with the family, and I definitely missed my mom’s delicious cooking, but we still had fun and were happy.

On Black Friday, we did no shopping (of course – no sales here in SA), but instead were invited to a camel farm. I love these excursions to visit with Saudis in their homes because it means the royal treatment, delicious food, and some one-on-one time with Saudis and their culture. This time was a little different however. More traditionally, they set up their Bedouin tents for us in the middle of their farm. As usual, we gathered along the perimeter of the room (except this time on the floor cushions) and they served us Arabic coffee, dates, mint and chai tea while we relaxed and enjoyed a fire, the desert, and a view of the date palms. Afterwards, they served us buffet style in another tent with salads, seafood, lamb, goat, chicken, rice, bread, and a giant table full of desserts.

After lunch we took a tour of the farm – goats, sheep, gazelle, ostriches, peacocks, horses, and camels. My favorite part was the camels. They are such odd animals but so practical for the nomadic lifestyle. We got lucky on this day in particular, since two baby camels had just been born. We were able to visit with them and their mommas (not too close), and it was very exciting. The babies had long spindly legs that wobbled as they tried to walk. They made noises like sheep (baa baa) when they were hungry and an attendant was there to milk the mom and feed the babies. After a little while, they had to separate the two families from each other because one mom started picking on the other baby. She would grab its face in her mouth and push it down to the ground. It was quite scary to watch actually. While the baby camels are small compared to the moms, they are still very large in comparison to us. When the attendant went to move the one mother and baby, he could barely grab a hold on the baby around its waist from behind and pick it up. I could tell it was heavy for him. There were some older babies and mothers in another part of the farm, they got along well and seemed to be suckling interchangeably between the two mothers’ utters.

Even though I’ve seen camels before at the fair back home, it was very exciting to see the camels here up close in SA. On certain drives outside the city, we’ve seen them from the car out in the open desert, but I’m not sure if they’re wild. So far, I’ve only seen black one-humped camels as opposed to brown ones or two-humped.

We finished the day in a different tent overlooking a man-made lake. We were served more coffee, tea, and dates. And I was able to watch a Saudi sunset, one of my favorite things to do here – they are always a spectacle of bright pinks and oranges.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the opportunity to live overseas. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We miss you!

Bedouin tent.

Bedouin tent.

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Coffee pots keeping warm over the fire.

Coffee pots keeping warm over the fire.

Mint tea with sugar cube.

Mint tea with sugar cube.

Coffee and teapots on display in the tent.

Coffee and teapots on display in the tent.

Goat.

Goat.

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Newborn camels.

Newborn camels.

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Second Bedouin tent over looking man-made lake.

Second Bedouin tent over looking man-made lake.

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We're grateful for you too, little Pigpen.

We’re grateful for you too, little Pigpen.

Compound Living

While I wait to begin my new job, and as David continues to settle into his routine, I have had the luxury of exploring our housing compound with all its facilities, social activities, and events. Living in Saudi Arabia has its pluses and minuses and I can’t say that it’s paradise, however, I am finding our life here to be surprisingly satisfying. There was a lot of concern before the big move as to what life would be like and how we would cope with the limitations facing women and the restricted lifestyle, but having been here almost two months now, I can confidently say that all those original concerns are the least of my problems. Between workout activities (Yoga, swimming, Zumba, walking the dog), social commitments (cooking class, two book clubs, weekly tea, dinner invitations, holiday parties, sight-seeing), and shopping excursions (because going anywhere off the compound requires detailed planning and coordination similar to that of a cross-country road trip) – I can barely find the time to catch my breath.

I believe this is called survival. And I say that realizing that these are ridiculous first-world problems and they do not come even close to any of the dire troubles facing most of the world’s population, but it is survival in the form of ignoring the isolation and restrictions of living on a compound with very few places to go. An employee here who has become a wonderful acquaintance, compared this life to that of a “golden cage.” There are several clubhouses, pools, tennis courts, restaurants, and gyms, a café, salon and spa, bowling alley, convenience store, playground, and large outdoor park where we take Pigpen to walk and play. The families living here have recreated a neighborhood and lifestyle similar to that back in the States and they are proactive in doing things that help to keep a positive attitude. Before we moved here, I was looking forward to the sense of community. I knew I would be signing up for anything and everything so I could meet people and stay busy. I’m happy to live on a compound that provides these opportunities.

As the weather cools to a high of 80 degrees and low of 60, I have been working on the villa to make it feel more like a home, converting the outdoor patio area into a kind of backyard for us to sit and enjoy the pleasant mornings and evenings, cooking homemade dishes that evoke memories of the U.S., and repairing all the home furnishings the previous tenant neglected to maintain. For now, this compound is our life, and we are working to keep it a happy one.

Here is Pigpen with his favorite friend, Lucy, a beagle/terrier mix.

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