Once upon the start of happily ever after…

July 31, 2016

Once upon a time… my brother fell in love with the gorgeous sister of one of his best friends… they dated for a couple years through high school and after… got engaged… bought a house… And now today… we celebrate their wedding and the start of their happily ever after!!

I stressed for months over when and how I’d get to come home to attend this wedding… and thankfully I made it in time. Of course, in the end,  nothing would have stopped me from being here with them!!

IMG_0068After a couple nights of family dinners, BBQ’s and rehearsal dinner… the wedding morning arrived. Full brunch with all the boys and family…

I think I might have subjected my brother to his first selfie… on his wedding day. Perhaps he was more tolerant of my nonesense than usual. Anyways… happy wedding day brother!!!

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Family pictures in the afternoon… It was absolutely ridiculously warm out. I know… I come from Saudi… should be used to the heat. But 35 degrees plus humidity… plus black suits or fancy dresses… it’s uncomfortable to put it mildly! We were pretty excited to have it all over with so we could go sit in the relative coolness of the church for the wedding ceremony!!!

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The ceremony was lovely…

No tears during the ceremony, but pretty sure my sister and I were both a mess in the receiving line when we hugged our brother and welcomed his bride into the family!! I don’t know what it is about weddings?!!

IMG_4910And the reception was wonderful. Pretty decorations. Simple. Warm. Classy. Delicious food!!! No awful speeches/toasts (aka roasts) to the bride or groom… just lovely, thoughtful sharing of stories and feelings. Lots of time to socialize with family from near and far… plenty of laughter and love and happiness… exactly the way I think a wedding vibes should be!

IMG_4908 IMG_4905 And at the end of the day… we said goodbye to the happy couple and sent them on their way to start their honeymoon and their life together… Congratulations you two!!

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Blissful moments

The pure beautiful moments that exist at home…

My favourite vanilla bean blend coffee… it’s warm luscious aroma lighting up my mornings… welcoming me home like almost nothing else does. Soaking up the sunshine on the patio in my sweats and slippers acquired in some vacation spot during my year away… the sun rays saturate my skin and warm me to the bone (rather than baking me and turning me into a hot sweaty mess like the Saudi sun does!)… the light fresh clean, green morning air gently flipping my hair…

 Evening sunshine, a fresh gentle breeze, light rustling of leaves, the rumble of a passing motorbike… A crisp glass of sparkling white wine, it’s bubbles dancing and irridescent in their happiness… And well written book whose eloquence makes my imagination take flight and whisks me away to a small village outside Bombay. Shantaram. Man of peace or man of Gods peace. The book I’ve been meaning to read for months but just now at home, have to time savour each precious word!

And all of this with my family around me, pausing in my reading at times to join a vivid discussion… Or share a particularly impressive passage from my reading…

Homey. Cozy. Blissful. Calm. Happy. Peace.

Honeys, I’m Home!!

Home.

The feelings, the memories, the emotions that that word brings.

And I can finally say I’m home!

After a year of living this crazy, amazing, totally unique life in Saudi Arabia, I’m home!!! Potentially indefinitely. Although I still say I’m returning to Saudi.

Hugging my momma and little brother at the airport. Lunch on the way back. Wondering how we even begin to catch up and trying to get back to normal.

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IMG_4516The fresh, green, clean air as I walked out of the airport… smelling of the evergreen trees and ocean… and only a small amount of dust and car exhaust.

The sunshine that warms but doesn’t melt you… So that a morning cup of coffee with this view and that sun… is quite possibly one of the best experiences that let me know I’m really home again!

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My niece calling Ammiee… Where Ammiee while I tried to nap off some of the jetlag… running to me and giving me a big hug… the little darling!! She’s just so excited she’s got someone else to go play ring-around-the-rosie on the trampoline with her!!!

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Getting to see how really pregnant my sister actually is… Due in a few weeks! FaceTime definitely doesn’t show that well enough!

And family. Just being around my family again. I really don’t have words to describe it.

Pool time.

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Good drinks.

IMG_4474-0 The green.

I just can’t get over the green. And it’s even a dry year at home!!! All the trees… the grass… the blue sky… The forested mountains… It’s almost completely opposite to Saudi. Saudi is brown and grey everywhere with bits of green and blue. British Columbia is green and blue everywhere with bits of brown and grey!!

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My favourite river paths… a late afternoon jog… Bumping into old friends along the way… And other acquaintances… I forget how much of a small town Chilliwack really is!!

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A little hike with my youngest brother… just smelling the forest and discovering things I’d never ever seen before… like all the little teapots hidden on Teapot hill… so cool!

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A morning jog through my country neighbourhood… Nothing but fresh air and farm smells everywhere…

IMG_4503 Followed by a solid bike ride along the river and through the forest with baby bro…

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And I love every minute of this. Being surrounded by the people I love most in the world. I just want to spend all my time at home with them and the thought of leaving them again crushes me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it again…



The End… or is it?

July 26, 2015

I sat in King Khalid International Airport… for the last time?! Noooooo….

After days of not working… waiting for Ramadan, Eid and everything to finish so I could sort out the last of my paperwork… I finally was ready to go. The stress of the last couple months has been incredible… worrying about when and if I would actually be able to leave and go home. And then once all the paperwork was complete, the tears I shed while trying to find a flight and get the hospital to sign off on the ridiculous amount of money it was going to take to get me home…

But in the end it all worked out… like it always does. It just takes a little faith… or a lot!

I am beyond blessed to have spent a year in Saudi Arabia, working with some extremely wonderful nurses and patients. I’ve learned things and grown as a nurse, an individual… I’ve seen things that blew my mind and opened my eyes… I’ve had experiences I never dreamed I’d have.. It’s been a crazy, hectic, stunningly brilliant year.

Since I was stuck in Saudi Arabia for a good week + longer than planned, I had the priviledge of going to a good friend’s birthday party. It was probably the best night I’ve had in Saudi!!!! The vast majority of my closest friends all gathered together… Hawaiian themed… a DJ… and lights and laughter and sparkles and happiness. My heart was filled to bursting by the end of the night!!! (See pics in previous post).

Sometimes I just really can’t believe how lucky I’ve been here… the relationships I’ve built. They are going to be so special to me for the rest of my life. Without a doubt!! I know I’ve said it before… but nights like that night remind me of it again… the relationships we build here are so intense. The friendships you form last a lifetime. You meet people you have so much in common with… people who love adventure and travel and are experiencing this incredibly unique experience with you. Being away from family you really cling to these people… the good ones… the genuine ones… the fun ones… Someone you just met a few days ago could so quickly become one of the closest friends you’ve ever had!!

My last night in Saudi I could hardly sleep I was so excited/anxious/just generally ready to get going back home!!!

Sunday… my last day in Saudi… spent frantically rushing around the hospital grounds… cramming stuff into suitcases and boxes because I’m an epic procrastinator… but I got it all done. I even spent some time on my unit saying hello and goodbye to everyone. Pretty sure I hugged nearly the entire department. It was so good for my soul. All those hugs… all the love…. !! Then when Sunday evening came around and my driver arrived, I had actually been ready to leave for a good half an hour already!! I said goodbye to my flatmate… and my very first home away from home… and off I went to the airport.

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As I sat in the airport, I heard the last prayer call of the day over the speakers… resounding throughout the vast spaces of the terminal. It suddenly struck me that this would be the last prayer call I’d hear for a long time! As frustrating as it can be, planning my life around prayer time, making sure I’m not stuck at a mall during prayer, or showing up at a restaurant during prayer time when everything is closed, going for coffee at work only to find when I get to the coffee shop that it’s closed for half an hour for prayer… I really do love the sound of the prayer calls… the diligence and devotion of the Saudi Arabian people to their God and their religion…


So… I am incredibly sad to be leaving Saudi Arabia right now. I’ve fallen in love with Riyadh, with the people of Saudi, the culture, the country in general… and then the entire expat community… I love this place and the people!!!!

But… in 24 short hours I’ll be reuinted with my real family. And I am ecstatic!!!!!! It’s been such a long nearly 6 months away from them all. My niece is 2 now and she is SO grown up!!! I can’t wait to see her and hug her and play games with her… Go on dates with my baby brother… go to my brothers wedding and welcome a beautiful new sister into the family… spend time with my parents… I’ve missed chatting/arguing/debating with them… and especially… to be home with my sister when she has baby #2…!!! And then of course… all the outdoorsy stuff I don’t get to do in Saudi Arabia… like run by the river, go on long hikes in the mountains, rollerblade down the road, bike on the dike, wakeboard and spend days at the lake swimming and relaxing on the boat in the sunshine…  It’s going to be absolutely brilliant!!!!

Follow along as I spend some time at home… before signing a new contract and heading back to the sandpit to my Saudi family. Because I’m so not even close to being done with Saudi Arabia yet!!!!

The Last Week

July 26, 2015

My last week in Saudi Arabia was quite possibly the best week I’ve had so far in KSA!!!! Of course… I was off work all week so I just relaxed, finished up the last of my paperwork, packed up all my belongings and spent a fair bit of time shopping, relaxing poolside and hitting the gym during the day. Nights were filled with dinners and hanging out with friends… my Saudi family.

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My friend Amelia and I met up for dinner one night… at her apartment at the hospital. We realized when I came over that we’ve known each other for an entire year, but have never once been to each other’s apartments! Whenever we hang out, it tends to be outside of the hospital, never at our homes. And it was a beautiful night! We teamed up and cooked dinner… a full Canadian beef steak dinner!!! But the best part was sitting and chatting with her for hours outside of work…about mostly non-work related stuff!!! I’m going to miss these long talks with her and just hanging out with someone who understands me and my experiences here and just a lot of what drives me in life!! I’m blessed to have met her here and my life is going to be so empty in Saudi once she moves on!!

I hit the spa one day for a bit of relaxation… Al Manahil Center in the Diplomatic Quarters… not necessarily the best spa services I’ve had… definitely prefer Yibreen in terms of services… but the setting was beautiful! It’s quite a lot more open and airy inside than Yibreen… But also noiser and not quite as relaxing of a setting…

 So.. nights were spent playing games of Jenga, Mafi and Saboteur with friends… or shopping with friends… stuffing our faces with delicious food and deserts… macaroon sessions…

One night I went for dinner with a few girlfriends… and when we got back, one of the girls and I, who both happen to live in the same complex, but rarely see each other or hang out, for some completely nonsensical reason, ended up making cups of tea and going to sit outside on the roof. We ended up sitting there in the dark, looking over our city… for about 3 hours!! It was gorgeous! I love moments like that!! Thanks for the blissful evening Jess… always gonna treasure that one!!

And finally… my last weekend in Saudi Arabia for a while… an epic birthday party for one of my good friends! The place was lit up with disco lights… decked out with palms and lei’s to go with the Hawaiian theme… a little tropical music to start out the night. And the evening was filled amazing moments with a lot of my closest and dearest friends in Saudi!!! We danced the night away… laughing… sharing great conversation when we could find a quieter spot… and just blissful moments of happiness!! I absolutely adore these people I call friends and my heart is overflowing with love for them all!    IMG_2928And finally… for the last picture of the night… I have to quote Michael the birthday boy who originally posted this picture… with the caption “Turn up the love!” Mike’s birthday cake came out and we turned the love up!!!! With sparklers and cheers and hugs and happiness and a rousing DJ Magdy version of Happy Birthday!

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When the night ended and I had to say goodbye to everyone, I was absolutely crushed. I’m so happy to go home to my family… but not at all ready to say goodbye to these lovely people yet!!!The night didn’t end on the most positive of notes either as I was the last girl to go and all the abayas were gone!! Mine was missing… While it may not seem like a big deal to lose your abaya… it is!!! I’d have to walk from the compound to the taxi outside the compound in regular clothes… which happened to be a little shorts and a tank top… which is equivalent to being naked in public in Saudi… big mushkela!!!! Thankfully my friend had a large black Georgetown university blanket which he lent to me so I could wrap myself up and be fit to leave. Go figure… my last night out in Saudi… I lose my abaya. It happens to us all at some point I guess. Part of Saudi life…

And then my last epic dinner in Riyadh for a while… at Pampa Grill. I’d been wanting to try it out for a while so when a friend planned a birthday party there on my last night in Saudi, I was all in!!!!

It’s an amazing Argentinian restaurant located at the top of the Narcissus hotel in Riyadh, a gorgeous hotel by the way. The restaurant is outside on a terrace that overlooks the city… beautiful views!! With a pool in the center and the gorgeous views… a bit of Argentinian guitar music playing… you’d never ever guess that you were in the middle of Riyadh actually!!! The food was pretty fabulous and it was really really wonderful to spend my last night with friends!! Especially these girls… they’re the best. Seriously. 

  
  
  
  
 And finally… Sunday the 26th of July came around… I scrambled to pack all the rest of my belongings. Squash everything into my suitcases… and still go say goodbye to all my favorite people in the hospital yet. I felt so much love from everyone… I went around the unit to say goodbye on my last day and got hugs from absolutely everyone… my emotional reservoir was completely refilled from all that!!!

So when I left in the evening… it was on a peaceful note. I thought I’d be very teary and ridiculously emotional but I wasn’t. I think it would be harder if I knew I wasn’t coming back. But I know that hopefully, most likely, if everything goes according to plan, I’ll be back in 6-8 weeks… and I’ll be seeing everyone again. Now I get to look forward to seeing my family and focus on them for a while!!! So this temporary goodbye really isn’t so bad. I had a beautiful last week in Saudi Arabia to remind me how much I love it here and all the absolutely incredible people the people in my life here… so we part briefly on good terms.


Saying goodbye to my first ever home away from home. It’s kind of a big deal actually!! I’m gonna miss it!!!

Anyways… That’s it for now… More to come on my thoughts on a full year in Saudi and the future!!

Thanks for following!!!

xx

Eid Mubarak

My sincerest apologies that this is a little late… I have a really bad habit of starting a post and leaving it in my draft box…

So I actually began this on the first day of Eid… And Eid is over now… But…

Eid Mubarak to all my Muslim friends around the world! I hope you had a blessed Ramadan and had a blessed Eid al-Fitr!  

It’s 3am in Riyadh right now and I’m wide awake, sitting in the blissful warmth outdoors, letting it bake into my bones… Listening to gentle water movements from the pool… And all I feel is gratefulness.

Earlier today I was so upset with Saudi Arabia… I felt like nothing was going right all day and all the little frustrations built up to a point where I was just raging!

But a couple hours later… A beautiful dinner with friends at a gorgeous gem of a hidden Riyadh restaurant… Several very intense games of mafia… A lot of laughter… And my mood completely reversed!

How much you enjoy life in Riyadh is absolutely all about the company you place yourself in and the people you surround yourself with. I am so blessed to have a multinational and multicultural group of friends who I’ve shared some incredible experiences with!!  Dinner conversations are stimulating and thought provoking… And filled with laughter and fun and completely trivial discussions as well! They open my mind to new ways of thinking… To new opinions and beliefs… They’ve helped me to grow as an individual in so many ways!

And as far as religion goes… Ramadan has officially come to an end. The last month has been filled with many discussions about Islam and the purpose of Ramadan… I’ve learned so much!!! For those of you who don’t know, I’ll include a couple links to sites with more information about Ramadan… but briefly: Ramadan is the 9th month of the lunar calender and a month of fasting for Muslims around the world. Ramadan begins on the first sighting of the new moon, and ends 30 days later with the next sighting of the crescent moon. So as you can imagine the crescent moon is hugely symbolic of Ramadan and Eid.

However, Ramadan is not just fasting, it is abstaining from smoking, sex, drinking and from anything excessive or inappropriate. Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, about 17 hours depending on the time of year and the location one lives in. Pregnant women, the elderly and the very young and the sick are excused from fasting. As a nurse, especially an oncology nurse, we have to check with our patients to ensure they are not fasting. It is a difficult thing to tell them not to fast as we know how important it is for them. However, for patients going through chemotherapy, they’re very sick and need to eat to keep up their energy, and especially they need to drink a lot of water as chemotherapy is very toxic and needs to be flushed from the body!

The purpose of Ramadan and of fasting in general is to cleanse the soul and the mind, focus on God. Fasting (sawm) teaches spirituality, humility and patience. Spiritual rewards for fasting, especially during Ramadan are multiplied. Fasting and restraint from everyday enjoyment and curbing wicked intentions and cravings are considered to show obedience to God, and amend for past sins, and mistakes.

During Ramadan, Muslims request forgiveness from sins and pray for direction and guidance for the future, and try to cleanse themselves through self control, prayer, fasting and acts of faith and charity.

Fasting begins at sunrise and the last meal before fasting begins is called suhoor. The first meal that breaks the fast at sunset is called iftar. Prayers are called salet, and Muslims pray at least the 5 prayers a day if not more. Towards the end of Ramadan in Riyadh, the prayer call goes out much more frequently than usual and prayers last for much longer than usual also.

The mood here during Ramadan is special. Everyone is in vacation/holiday mode.  From friends who have fasted in other places in the world and are now here in Saudi fasting during Ramadan, they say it is actually much easier here than elsewhere. Muslim staff work reduced hours during Ramadan, making life easier for them! Working a 12 hour shift while fasting would not be easy! Especially as many people tend to spend a lot more time sleeping during the day, and are awake a lot more at night, so having to be awake all day to work would be additionally challenging. It is an entire month of the year when families spend a lot of additional time together visiting, sharing meals, etc.

While I did not fast during Ramadan, I had many friends who did, and I had the pleasure of breaking fast with them on more than one occasion… many hotels and restaurants here have large buffets for iftar… like the Ritz-Carlton and the Narcissus Hotel… I enjoyed a few of these meals with my Arabic/Muslim friends or with my Western friends…

Now it is the end of Ramadan, and the Eid celebrations had begun. The mood is so upbeat and happy in Riyadh and around the world. Seeing the Eid al-fitr live feed on snapchat was amazing… But even more than that… Being surrounded by people celebrating Eid… It’s wonderful!

Eid is basically a celebration, and Eid al-Fitr is a feast/festival to celebrate breaking of the fast. It is the first Eid of the year and occurs after Ramadan. The religious Eid is a single day that occurs on the conclusion of 29/30 days of fasting. Special Eid prayers are performed on the day of Eid. But the celebration continues for 3 days in most Arabic countries. Many charitable gifts and donations are given at this time. People celebrate with many dinners and special events with family and friends. It is a happy time of year… and I don’t mean this offensively at all but the it reminds me a lot of Christmas at home!

The city is decorated with hundreds of flags for Eid on all the overpasses on onramps… there are beautiful purple and green and white trees everywhere… lanterns and beautiful cresent moons everywhere for decoration…

And people everywhere wishing you “Eid Mubarak” which is the traditional greeting. Mubarak means blessed and Eid is celebration. So: blessed celebration!

People appreciate it so much when we say Eid Mubarak to them! My friend and I were going to the DQ on Friday afternoon and when we said Eid Mubarak to the guards at the entrance they were so happy and excited, saying Eid Mubarak sisters back to us!

So… I wish peace and happiness, grace and forgiveness to all my Muslim friends around the world, and all my friends actually!! This is a special time of year for Muslims… But it really is a time for peace and respect all around the world. It’s a time for us all to open our eyes and appreciate the different cultures and religions around us…

So Thankyou Saudi for giving me the experience to really experience Ramadan and Eid… For opening my eyes to this beautiful culture…  

Maasalama and More

July 16, 2015

I can’t believe I’m writing these words… my year in Saudi Arabia is nearly complete!!!! A little more than a year ago when I first signed up to come to Saudi, a year seemed like quite a long time and I hesitated to sign for two years… but this year has gone by so fast!!! My last day of work was July 12… a Sunday morning… a very relaxed day in the clinic as it was still Ramadan. I wasn’t on the schedule, so I begged to be able to work in the Oncology floor female treatment area with all my girlfriends. Thankfully the head nurse was very thoughtful and allowed me to.       We had hardly any patients throughout the shift so there was so much time to sit and relax and chit chat… and I’m pretty sure I took a million pictures with all my coworkers in the area… but I love having the photographic evidence of the memories created! I returned a day or two later for a meeting with my head nurse, only to find out that it was really just a “meeting” for them to give me a beautiful bouquet of Thankyou and goodbye flowers. So thoughtful! My first “goodbye” party was a birthday party for a friend… and I had to officially say goodbye to many friends that I wouldn’t be seeing the next weekend at my official goodbye party. One of my closest and dearest friends in Saudi Arabia was leaving on vacation for a week and would be missing my official goodbye party, so I had to say goodbye to her this night… it nearly broke my heart. I realized how many goodbyes I’d be saying over the course of the next few week… some would be permanent goodbyes as those friends would also be leaving saudi for good, and some of the goodbyes were only temporary as I’d be coming back and see them again. But still… there’s that bit of uncertainty as I don’t know for sure when I’m coming back… and what if things didn’t quite work out the way I wanted them too… scary thought!!!!! Anyways… it was honestly the loveliest night filled with laughter and music and good friends… like the majority of Saudi nights actually…                    The very next day was yet another goodbye party… Not for me… But for a few other friends who were leaving… Another pool party 😄 loving this summer weather for all the pool parties!!!     Another day another pool party… with my former colleagues in the Radiation Clinic… We sat out by the pool and had delicious lamb biryani rice… And spent as much time in the water cuz it was ridiculously hot out in the sun!!!    My second and semi-official maasalama party was actually a birthday party for a friend that we had planned ages in advance, because we needed to have something to look forward to. I might have hijacked the party a little and turned it into a maasalama for myself and Vivian, as well as a birthday party. About 50 people showed up for our party… and that’s not even half the good friends I’ve made in Saudi Arabia. Honestly… so blessed!!!!! I have many different friend groups here in Riyadh, and I don’t often hang out with the different groups at the same time, accept at maybe an embassy event… but it always amazes me how many of my friends know each other and how much they all mingle and enjoy meeting each other… It’s awesome!!                At one point I had to say goodbye to the lemons… The running lemons… The loveliest group of girls who I run with… When it’s not 4000 degrees outside!!! A couple of them are leaving and moving out of Saudi for good while I’m away… So it’s an official goodbye to them 😢 we had a great night out at Riyadh village compound one night… And then the famous Bastille day celebrations at the French embassy…

Honestly, m Honestly… My last couple weeks in Saudi were amazing… Thanks to the absolutely gorgeous people I’ve met in my year here!!!!! So…