Saturday, July 10, 2010

Books About the Kingdom

Many people have asked me about books I'd recommend to learn more about life in the Kingdom, particularly from the perspective of women. Here is a small list of books I've read (and a few that are still on my shelf but highly recommended by others). I'll keep adding to the list as I remember and/or run across books.

Memoirs by Saudi Women:
Memoirs by Foreigners:

    One Month...

    One month from today I'll arrive in Jeddah to begin my two-year tour in cultural affairs. I'm thrilled to be going and very eager to get to post after a year of intense training. However, this last month is of course packed to the gills with last-minute preparations.

    I'm trying to finish buying everything on my gigantic list, which never seems to get smaller. However, I do have to say that I almost have my dream kitchen, with all the cookware, gadgets, and accoutrements a girl could want (except a KitchenAid mixer, which will have to wait a bit). I have wonderful bedding for my master and guest bedrooms, plush and colorful towels, dinnerware galore, a phenomenal collection of Simon Pearce glassware, lots of knick knacks from my many travels that I finally get to unpack and use/marvel at, and all the toiletries and band aids I could ever want. Plus an indulgent new Coach bag or three. Still need: sleeping bag, new camera, tennis racket, mattress pad, etc.

    In addition to the marathon shopping trips, I've been soaking up lots of culture whenever possible. In July alone I'll see Mary Poppins, Mamma Mia!, and Avenue Q at three iconic DC-area theater venues. I finally saw SATC2, and I'm trying to hit all my favorite restaurants that I won't have in the Kingdom. This week it's fondue, yum. A regular schedule of happy hours, barbecues, dinner parties, and other social functions rounds out the cultural side.

    Saying goodbye is my least favorite part. A steady stream of colleagues/friends have headed to post since late 2009, and I'm one of the last from my class to leave. But saying goodbye to family and friends is always difficult. On one side of the family we had a wonderful weekend reunion for my grandmother's 90th birthday. I loved seeing so many aunts, uncles, cousins, plus several immediate family members all at one time and in such a fun setting. I'll go home for a week before leaving the country, and that will be another marathon of goodbyes. While I hate this part, it's the price I pay for the amazing life abroad I am privileged to lead. Plus there's incentive to take lots of trips to visit people and to host lots of guests. Get your abbayas ready!

    The actual preparation for going overseas is almost overwhelming. I've done a lot of it before, but this time there's an extra level of bureaucracy involved. Passports, visas, paperwork for Hattie, airline tickets, preparing to ship Hattie, inventorying all of my possessions, pack out, accessing storage, selling my car, canceling car and renters insurance and buying transit and household goods insurance, making sure all important legal documents are in order, making copies and scanning all important documents, making sure someone has copies of important documents, readying finances for overseas accessibility, etc. These are all the tasks that are consuming all of my free time. Not to mention the many work-related administrative tasks. Plus I'm still in training full-time until a couple days before I leave DC.

    And then when I think I'm on top of it all, I realize I haven't spoken Arabic in a month and can't immediately remember how to say something like "weapons of mass destruction" or "nuclear non-proliferation treaty," let alone make small talk.

    But, I keep reminding myself, I've been one month out from moving overseas before, and I'll be there again many times over. And it always works out, no matter how stressful or impossible it might seem. There are so many wonderful adventures ahead - I can't wait!