02 September 2014

On Telling People We're Moving to Saudi Arabia

I knew when we found out that we were moving to Saudi that I'd have a lot of questions to answer about it.  But I didn't realize how conflicted I'd feel about those questions.

My first problem is that I'm delighted to be moving there and almost no one else thinks I should be.  People think I'm being sarcastic or quite possibly crazy which isn't a good start to the conversation. Then we move on to the stereotypes about living in Muslim countries that I have to shoot down. Kyrgyzstan is a Muslim country too, you know.

The trouble with Saudi is that a lot of those stereotypes about Islam are true.  Women do have many fewer rights in Saudi, they can't drive, they can't even pay the phone bill by themselves.  There are many rules about their clothing.  The penal system is often cruel.  The interpretation of Islam that is most prevalent in the country is often extreme.  There are a lot of things I can't and won't defend about Saudi.

But I can't defend everything about any country, and I hate it when people just bring up the negative stuff about Kyrgyzstan, or want to rehash every horrible thing the US has done.  Saudi Arabia is a lot more than abayas and hot weather and I'm looking forward to so much, like the diversity of the city; seeing old friends; trying new food; enjoying the weather half the year; visiting Jerusalem, Cairo, and other places in the Middle East; speaking Arabic again; seeing how Islam works in a much more conservative Muslim country than we've lived in before; and just learning how to live in another country again.



12 comments:

  1. We had similar reactions when we announced we were moving to Egypt. My aunt asked if I was happy about the move, and when I said "yes," her jaw dropped and she gasped "Why?!" That announcement probably was the first in a long line of steps that finally convinced my extended family that I'm just strange ... I'm not sure they're convinced I'm actually one of them, because I'm just too darned weird :)

    Just hang in there, knowing that there are some who do understand and who are excited for you!

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  2. I might be excited about going to Riyadh, but I'd be over the moon if we were going to Cairo. :)

    The people who've known me a long time have stopped asking about the weird places we live. It's all the new expats I meet who need the convincing.

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  3. Some LDS family friends of ours lived in Saudi. Arabia for years and loved many things about it. The kids grew up speaking Arabic and having very very quiet church meetings in homes, etc. Sounds exciting to me.

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  4. My husband actually was a little incredulous when I told him once that I'd like to see what it would be like to live in Riyadh. And in Moscow. :) Apparently there are some places that he thinks are just too different from the US for me to handle well ... he underestimates my curiosity, though.

    I was over the moon about Cairo. I doubt that I would be now, with the current security situation there, but I would love to go back one day, once they get their new political reality settled.

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  5. We keep wishing for Moscow but it never works out. Or St. Petersburg!

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  6. My husband is convinced that I'd cause problems in Moscow ... he thinks I would not handle the scrutiny very well. He may be right, but I'm still very curious about what it would be like to live under those conditions.

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  7. Really? I don't think Russia would be that big of a deal. Everyone thought we were spies in Kyrgyzstan and my husband is convinced our phone was tapped at one point, but it never made a difference. :)

    I hear you get the police following you around in Tashkent, but it would be worth it to live there!

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  8. I've heard stories from others who were there in positions similar to what ours would be ... it's not publicized much, but, yeah, scrutiny. Lots of scrutiny.

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  9. Oh, that's a good point. I'm sure your specific job matters.

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  10. Yes, diplomats in general get more scrutiny in countries that scrutinize, and in Russia ... diplomats get LOTS of scrutiny. I even remember that it did make the news once, in a "State Department keeps harassment of its people quiet for the sake of diplomacy" kind of article.

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  11. Would love to go to Russia.

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  12. I wish Moscow had worked out before my boys were leaving home. We haven't been to Russian, but it would have felt familiar after Bishkek. They're tired of totally new places.

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