Conflicted

This post has been sitting in my draft box for a long time… and I think it’s about time I shared it.

All my life I’ve generally had very clearly defined goals and dreams and hopes… I’ve always known what I wanted to do next in my life. Until I spent a year in Saudi Arabia, and then returned home for a few months… and then had to decide what I was going to do next. And then I realized that for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a clear plan or real goals on what I wanted to do next in life.

I didn’t feel like I’d finished the last chapter in my life… but I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue that chapter anyways?!

The first time I planned to leave Canada… my family… my home… and go to Saudi Arabia, I was desperately in need of a change, a getaway, an adventure. It was my first time living away from home and family… and I was so excited to see what the opportunity would bring me!! Leaving them the first time was difficult, but I had so much to look forward to that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought.

When I came back home on leave last February, I was just so happy to see them all… and I loved every minute of being home. With the exception of the times I cried just thinking of leaving them all again. It was much harder leaving that second time. Knowing exactly what I was going back to… not filled with quite as much excitement knowing some of the difficulties I’d have to deal with back in Saudi. And knowing exactly what I was leaving behind.

Well now, I’m home again. I’ve been home for a good month. And I’ve just been clinging onto my family for dear life. My niece has grown up to a vivacious little 2 year old who lights up my life with her laughter and chatter… I hug her and think of how I don’t know if I can even imagine being separated from her again. I snuggle my new niece and she’s such a tiny precious little bundle… and I think of how she’ll be a whole year old by the time I’d return again to Canada, and how I’ll miss the entire baby phase of her life and it devastating!

My sister and I were so close the year, and especially the summer before I moved to Saudi for the first time. But now… having been gone a year… she’s busy with her home and kids and life in general… and I feel things have changed. With all my family actually. And especially with my friends. Their lives all carry on and move on while I’m gone… nothing stays the same. They’ve changed. I’ve changed. Or maybe they’ve not changed that much it’s just me that’s changed so much??  Some things are exactly the same but so much is different… or my perspective on it is different.

And that makes staying harder. I just feel lost a lot of days… not sure where I fit in, or what my role is, or what I’m even going to do anymore.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who felt that way on returning home! One of my colleagues from home who moved to Saudi Arabia for a year also, and returned only a few weeks after me, was feeling very much the same way when she returned. There’s something about travel and having a completely incomparable, indescribable experience like living in Saudi Arabia that changes you in ways that other people will never understand… that makes assimilating back into life in North America, in our home communities, with the people we love more than anything… very difficult!

People ask about our experiences and want to know what life is like there, but it’s so completely foreign that they start to fade and glaze over before you’ve gotten more than a minute or two into the “general speech” you give everyone who asks. The have no way to relate to it at all. They can’t even begin to imagine why we even lived there in the first place or why I’d want to go back to it. I talk about my frustrations but they seem so simple, but yet they’re so complex. I talk about the fun and the parties, but again it’s completely foreign to them.

So now, there’s this entire year of my life that is so important to me, that’s changed me so much as a person, that no one at home understands. And that’s a difficult thing. So how do I fit back into normal life now?!!

Do I want to fit back into normal life or do I want to return to my Saudi life?

I think of my friends in Saudi and all the amazing experiences I had in that first year. Unique experiences. Incredibly positive experiences… and incredibly negative experiences… and a whole lot of crazy in between. With people who understand what it’s like. And I think of all the things I’d planned to do yet… and I feel that I’m not done. I’ll always feel like I left something unfinished there. I didn’t even say goodbye to everyone. Not like I meant it anyways. It was just a goodbye see you in month or two sort of thing!!!

But then I think of how much more I love my family and hate to leave them. And I’m so conflicted. I just really really don’t know what to do.

Travel? Adventure? Carry on crazy awesome life experience? Advance my career? Expand my incredible international community of friends and connections?

OR…

Family? Home? Mountains? Rivers? Oceans? Green lush gorgeousness? Active outdoorsy beautiful natural life? Freedom? A glass of wine every evening? Surround myself with the people I care most about in the whole world? The things in life that really matter at the end of the day?

It could be said that I’m having a lot of that in Saudi as well… and that some of those things could keep til I return to Canada… but we never know when our time is up or whether we will get a chance to return right? Nothing in life is certain or forever…

What to do now??

October 21, 2015

I made my decision. In a moment of weakness on a nightshift, my new contract offer had come in days before and had just been sitting in my inbox while I attempted to make a decision… and while I was tired and my defences were down, I made the leap and signed the papers. So on October 21st, 2015 I left home and headed back to the sandbox. Crazy fact is that I signed for 2 years instead of just one this time around. Don’t know exactly what I was thinking… but we’ll see how this scenario plays out.

My family didn’t think I’d actually make it on the plane to head back to Saudi… I didn’t think I would either. So I got the hospital to include a 24hr stop in Minneapolis so I could visit my best friend. That way I’d actually manage to get on the plane!

But… I strongly felt that Saudi was calling me to come back. At the time I didn’t know what it was yet… but something was calling me. There was a reason I needed to return to Saudi Arabia. A reason greater than travel and life experience and my international community of friends.

And as I write this bit… I now know what that reason was… and it’s amazing and I can’t wait to share it so I’m mad updating the blog! Stay tuuuuunnned!!!

 

#notjustanurse

For a month or so in September/October 2015

By this time, I’d spent a good 4 weeks at home, just slothing (being a lazy bum) and vacationing… not being particularly productive with my life other than agonizing over what I’d do next with my life and whether i’d go back to Saudi or stay in North America.

I decided it was time to step out of my funk and get on with work. Things would eventually fall into place with a long-term plan again… but while I sorted it out, I was desperate for some good, proper, really hands-on nursing again. I was going through patient care withdrawls.

Also, Miss Colorado (in some pageant) just made a major statment in international entertainment news when she wore scrubs and a stethoscope and went onstage and talked about her role as a nurse. But what really caught the world’s attention, and especially the attention of nurses around the world, was when a few ignorant talk show hosts, specifically the ladies of The View, made mention of her “doctor’s stethoscope” wondering why she as a nurse was even wearing a “doctor’s stethoscope.” Obviously, we were all a little offended. Nurses united around the world, speaking out on social media against the ladies of the view, and promoting our profession in whatever way possible!

Miss Colorado: Not Just a Nurse

So, I returned to work with great pride as a nurse, wearing my “doctor’s stethoscope”, grateful that I’d chosen this wonderful profession and not medicine. Because I chose to be a nurse and not a doctor. Nursing was not my fallback. I didn’t go into it because I couldn’t get into med school. I could have gone to med school. But instead I chose to be a nurse, to spend more time working directly with patients, being their main point of contact, being that person to see them at and help them through their most vulnerable times!

I have my very own stethoscope, and I use my stethoscope to listen to my patients lungs to ensure they’re not filling with fluid/developing a pleural effusion/observe for signs of infection… to listen to their hearts to make sure they’re in a normal rhythm… to auscultate their bowels to ensure things are moving through properly and to detect when they’re not so that I can fix the problem. Unfortunately, part of my job is also to use my stethoscope to auscultate a heart that is silent and no longer pumping blood throughout the body, and lungs that are no longer breathing and filling blood with oxygen… and then to tell a patients family in the kindest but always most inadequate words, that I hear nothing anymore and confirm what they already suspected, that the one they love is deceased. And it’s me, the nurse, who has to do that, not the doctor, with my very own stethoscope. However… that being said, I don’t mind it, because next I get to hug them all, and do exactly what I went into nursing for… to offer comfort and support and care for people at the most difficult moment in their lives. So, I’m very proud to be a nurse and part of this very honorable profession. I can’t imagine being anything else!

When I first graduated from nursing school, I was blessed to get a fulltime job on the unit I did my final practicum on, a Tertiary Palliative Care Unit. I know I put the unit way up high on a pedastal, and I consider my colleagues on the unit to be the very best nurses I’ve ever worked with. Maybe it’s just because they’re the first nursing team I’ve really been a part of? Maybe it’s because they’re the team that raised me from a green, super fresh and young baby nurse to the nurse I am today? Maybe I’m just super biased?

But then I think about it a little more and remember how I saw them interact with patients and their families on a daily basis… their infinite care and compassion… seriously, the most caring group of individuals I’ve ever met. Nurses with a heart and passion for one of the most difficult fields of nursing practice… nurses who daily pull together as a team and are so supportive of each other as it’s the only way to survive in such an intensely emotional environment… nurses who advocate daily for nothing but the best for their patients and consistently put a patients needs and desires above their own… nurses who go to great lengths to ensure comfort of both a patient and their family… nurses who go above and beyond every single day, without ever asking for or needing recognition, because it’s just what they do, it’s what they love to do.

They’re not just nurses. They ARE nurses. They are the people you want spending 24 hours a day with the person you love and who is at the most vulnerable and difficult point in their life. They are the person who will ensure that the one you love, is loved and taken care of so that they want nothing but to spend time with you in comfort and peace!

Palliative care nurses are a special breed of nurses. We are faced with death and dying and sadness on a daily basis. Yet we are happy, not sad and gloomy. And our unit is suprisingly filled with light and laughter and happiness, not just from the nurses but from our patients and families also. We’ve learned to see the good in everything, to find the shiny silver lining to it all! If we couldn’t see the flip side, it would be come intensely overwhelming and we’d all crash and burn out for sure. But we have each other, we have the most lovely patients and families… people who are generally focused on the good things in their lives and have let go of the bad because who wants to hang onto the bad and nasty things when theyre so clearly faced with their mortality?

I miss palliative care. I think it’s the best of everything in all health care disciplines brought together to create the most holistic and collaborative and patient/family centered care possible, care that is dedicated purely to meeting a patient’s goals and ensuring their comfort in everything! Due to the culture, the lack of education on palliative care, and just general misconceptions, palliative care doesn’t really exist in Saudi, at least not at all in the way it does in North America, and it really is a shame. While I was home I read the most fantastic book by Atul Gawande called “Being Mortal” who suggested that patients who have palliative care services involed in their care, generally tend to live 25% longer. That’s an extremely significant result. Depending on the estimated time frame, it could be anywhere from extra days to extra years… but if it were me, I’d take anything I could get, especially when it only means that I’d be more comfortable and experience less symptoms and side effects…

Anyways. I was so happy to get back into palliative care and work with my favourite colleagues for a good month while home. I was worried that I would have lost a lot of my skills as I’d been out of inpatient care for well over a year by this time, and outpatients is much different! But… it was like riding a bike… but so much better!!!!

I probably drove my colleagues crazy with all my comparisons of Saudi to home. But i forgot how well stocked our supply room is at home… all the time!!! Like heaps of IV fluids in all sizes and all flvours… NS, D5W, 2/3 1/3, lactated ringers, NS with 10, 20 or 40 KCL… it’s amazing!! And we never run out of IV lines either like we do in Saudi!!!

And don’t even get me started on the narcotic prescribing and accessibility!!! Appropriate doses, with ranges for nurses to use base on patient needs… with normal time frames for administration (anywhere from q30min for a PRN to scheduled q4hourly analgesics)… and then all the adjuvants… gabapentin, citalopram, etc… and meds to manage all the side effects of narcotics… And a Pyxis (electronic drug cabinet) filed with everything from Tylenol #3 (shit) to Morphine/Hydromorphine/Fentanyl/Methadone!! It was amazing!! In Saudi we have Morphine (5:1, i’ve never seen anything more than 5mg IV prescibed unless palliative care services was somehow involved and the patient was recieving long acting morphine 10mg) Demoral (who still uses that crap except ER??!!) and Tramadol (even more ridiculous especially as it seems to be the drug of choice for oncology physicians in Saudi!).

And our doctors… oh my goodness… they’re so fabulous. They’ll just sit and spend anywhere from half an hour to an hour just talking through problems with patients and their familes. And they’re so open to suggestions from nursing!!!! I feel valued and respected! It’s wonderful!!! (and the feeling is very much mutual!)

Anyways… enough comparison… I’ll just mention again how much I adore my colleagues, how much I loved spending so many nightshifts just catching up with them, how much I loved working as a casual and picking up heaps of shifts in a two week period so that I manageed to work with almost every single nurse on the unit, and how much I loved our Thanksgiving night potluck… it was wonderful!!

Wearing colored scrubs with no repercussions… instead of shapeless/baggy white scrubs!! Personally I think they’re so much more cheerful and make me much more approachable… plus, hello?… white coat syndrome??!!!  Also, In Saudi, I’m not allowed to drink coffee on the unit unless i’m in the staffroom, and getting caught drinking coffee at the nurses desks can result in a serious talking to/written warning… so I very gleefully drank coffee on the unit/at my desk/in the lobby… all day long actually. I loved stopping at the Starbucks in the lobby for coffee breaks and drinking my coffee while looking out at the trees in the atrium… my seasonal “autumn” cup from Starbucks! And then… can’t forget stat holiday pay!!!!!! Working Thanksgiving night meant I got a couple hours of holiday pay… that’s another thing we don’t get in Saudi… (but considering we get 54 days vacation, i can’t really complain!!)

And then to top it all off.. breakfast with a few colleagues and a now moved on to Calgary colleague who came to visit with her adorable little munchkin…

 

And a wine night with one of my nursing school classmates who is now working on my old unit too…

I think it’s important to be able to sepearate our work and personal lives… but it is also amazing to be able to have a great relationship with your colleagues and spend time outside of work with them also!!!

So, when my last day of work in Canada came again… i was really sad to leave everyone behind again. (Not sure why i keep torturing myself with goodbyes!!!) But… back to the adventure… let’s see where this crazy ride takes me again!! I’ll be back again… and if not back to this unit… at least back to palliative care because every time i work in palliative care I know that is where my heart is… So… one day again soon…

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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!!!!

Challenges, Decisions, Reflection…

July 15, 2015

After nearly a year in Saudi Arabia… it’s time for some reflection. For some serious thought about what to do next. Should I stay or should I go?

I love nursing… with everything that is in me… I can’t imagine what I’d be… or who I’d be if I wasn’t a nurse. I love the medical aspects and the science of nursing… the complexities of the human body and disease processes in the human body…

But mostly… the greatest reason why I went in to nursing was for people. To love people. To nurse them back to health… physical, mental, emotional health. To show them kindness and compassion when they’ve been dealt a heavy blow… a hard lot in life. To talk to them and get to know them and to understand their values and beliefs and how that impacts their illness experience and then to help them get through it!

“When I think about all the patients and their loved ones that I have worked with over the years,  I know most of them don’t remember me nor I them,  but I do know that I gave a little piece of myself  to each of them and they to me and those threads make up the beautiful tapestry that in my mind is my career in nursing.”     -Donna Wilk Cardillo

Working in Saudi Arabia challenges me as a nurse in infinitely more ways than I thought possible. I work with a patient population that rarely speaks the same language as me, a population that has a culture so different from my own, a religion with similarities but yet so many differences from my own.

The language barrier is one of the greatest challenges to me as a nurse. It stops me from being able to get to know my patients the way I’m used to… the way I want to! It stops me from being able to share information with them that could help them cope better with their disease and treatments. Showing kindness and compassion and loving people is something that can be done without words… but it is hard to do without words!!

So many days, I feel like I’m not nursing the way I love to, the way I should be. I’m not functioning in my full capacity. I’m just a fraction of myself as a nurse!

This is my greatest personal challenge.

But… I do my best to communicate caring and compassion… even without words!! In the words of Maya Angelou “They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s true. It doesn’t take words to make a patient feel comfortable and cared for!

Then comes the organizational challenges. Working in a hospital culture where nurses are not respected and valued the same way they are in the western world… especially in North American hospitals. Nurses are much further down in the medical hierarchy than doctors here in Saudi. We are not particularly valued. Our knowledge and input is rarely considered. We are pushed to not ask questions or consider all the options and potentially more beneficial scenarios for our patients. A doctor or a more senior staff members instructions should be taken and performed immediately without questioning it.

I was taught to provide rationale for everything I do. I was taught to question everything. Is this the right order, the right drug, the right surgery, the right treatment for my patient? The right course of action? If so… Why? What does the patient want? Is it going to potentially cause more harm for my patient? If so, does the risk outweigh the benefit? If not, what is a better option?

Here, incompleteness is a way of life. The culture is often reactive vs. proactive. There is little foresight. There is little holistic care. Quantity is often considered greater than quality. Relief of suffering has little value. Education is lacking. Education for doctors and nurses… for patients… significantly lacking! And the worst part… it doesn’t feel like many health care practitioners in this hospital even realize how much their education and skills are lacking!!

As a palliative care nurse at heart, this hurts me. I believe in holistic care. In caring for the whole person. Spiritual, mental, emotional, psychosocial distress make coping with any type of physical distress worse. We need to minister to all aspects of a person in order to ensure a successful transition through the disease process.

I believe in preventing problems before they get worse because I know what worse looks like… the very worst! Education helps with this. Education helps problems to be identified before they become particuarly problematic. Education helps people cope with problems by understanding the disease, their expected trajectory, the treatments and side effects and the best way to manage it all. Education helps doctors and nurses provide the best care for their patients and the information their patients need.

I belive in quality vs quantity always!! What is quantity if there is absolutely no quality?! Good quality often leads to a greater quantity anyways!!

Suffering does not necessarily make you stronger. How can you focus on God or Allah or on your family when you are out of your mind with blinding shards of hot white pain? Or when you can do nothing more than retch and vomit until blood vessels burst in your eyes and your abdominal muscles are distraught with discomfort from heaving? When each breath is the greatest challenge of your life and your only thought is how you can suck in the next one?

Yes it can make you more dependent on God or Allah… but it is far too often used as an excuse here to not provide appropriate analgesia or symptom management of any type… And that hurts my heart!

The challenges of life here… all the many little things that are so easy anywhere else in the world are just infinitely more challenging here… and having to fight for every little thing you need… it’s exhausting. It depletes your emotional reservoirs. As an expat, you need to know that you’re leaving at some point. Whether it is just a visit home for special events, or even just to be with family for a brief time of heartwarming solace. It makes it easier to deal with the hardships and challenges of Saudi life.

Not knowing for months and months when my next chance to leave would be made it very hard to cope with the frustrations of life in Saudi and I worry it was starting to turn me into a cynical, negative person.

I started this post on my dad’s birthday nearly a month ago… A day when I was reflecting on my family… wishing I could be home with them and especially my dad on his birthday… stressing about leave… I’d been facing a significant dilemma regarding leave. I needed leave to go home for my brothers wedding at the end of July. But it was to be right at the end of Ramadan during Eid when it is nearly impossible to get leave in my clinic due to the large amount of staff wanting off then. Also… it was to be right at the end of my contract so the only way I could get leave was to renew my contract.

I was so stressed trying to sort out what to do. I like to think I’m a relatively strong individual with pretty decent coping skills… but the last few weeks have really tested my strength and pushed me to my limits of what I can handle emotionally!!! All the cumulative challenges have made it hard for me to cope with life in Saudi Arabia. Add to that the uncertainty of not knowing whether or not I’ll be able to be with my family during a very important time in my family… and just being so far away from family during a stressful period in my life… it’s been hard. Very very hard. I thought about leaving. I thought about not signing a second year contract and leaving Saudi Arabia for good!

My leave was eventually granted… for which I was very grateful. But new issues arose…

So, I came to the decision that my best option would be to “pretend to leave”. I handed in my resignation. I will be taking terminal leave and making a final exit out of Saudi Arabia. But… with an exit/re-entry visa which will allow me to return if I want to, within the next 6 months.

I was ecstatic typing up that resignation email actually. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. All the stress of the last couple months disappeared as thoughts of home, cuddles with my niece, hugs from my parents and siblings, days at the lake wakeboarding, hiking in the beautiful green forest, beautiful bottles of wine picked from the liquor store by me, motorbike rides with my dad and wine tours, my brothers wedding… and the best part, now being able to be home for the birth of my new niece or nephew. So many things I would have missed otherwise by only being able to be home for 3 weeks… I’ll now get to experience blissful, beautiful summertime weeks at home to relax and rejuvinate my soul…  surround myself with people I love more than anything in the world! People I miss every day while I’m away… People who, life here has taught me to appreciate so much more than I did before!.

It was very upsetting for my parents and for the rest of my family when I decided to move away from them and across the world to Saudi Arabia. I sincerely appreciate how supportive and understanding they’ve all been for the past year. And I know that they’re just as excited as me that I’m coming home potentially for good.

I may get home, go back to work, cuddle my new niece/nephew and decide that there’s no way I can come back to Saudi Arabia. There is a strong possibility that happen.

But, at the same time, I currently enjoy my life in Saudi Arabia ALOT. Like seriously ALOT!! My year is nearly up and it has been amazing beyond my most optimistic dreams. I’ve learned so much and had some phenomenal experiences here in Saudi and in my travels while I’ve been living in the Middle East. There are so many things I love about the people, the culture, the community, the religion, the desert, the weather, and especially the genuinely wonderful people I’ve met here in the expat community.

I’ve made some beautiful friendships here… with people just like me… people who love travel and adventure and experiencing the world and new cultures… people who understand the addiction to the expat life. And… I have plans for the next year here yet. A weekend in Sharm El-Sheikh with friends. Dubai for the Formula 1 races and the Rugby 7s. Talk of an India trip with one of my closest friends. A wedding in France and one in the UK. So much to do. And my travel list is SO far from complete. Plus, I originally came to Saudi Arabia to work at the King Abdullah Center for Oncology and Liver Disease. It hasn’t even opened yet. And I’d really like to be here when it does open. So I have a lot to do yet here in the Middle East. I’m really not done yet.

So… I’m aiming for 6-8 weeks at home… and then hope to return to Saudi Arabia, Inshallah. So… you haven’t seen the last of me yet!!!

Thank you to all of you who have supported me through this experience… championed and encouraged me… hugged me and loved me when I felt broken by the challenges of life here… and laughed and danced away not only the sadness and frustration with me, but also the sheer joy and pleasure that is life with people you love!!! I love you all more than I can ever express and my heart is so full from knowing you. I really really do hope that this is only a temporary goodbye!!!

Forever with love,

Annemarie