I sat in front of my computer on a Thursday morning, which for me, is the start of a two-day breather from all that is happening in the outside world. My balcony has always been a comfortable place for me to hang out whenever I get the chance to just chill. And whenever I look outside, I’ve always wondered how I managed to survive in such an unfamiliar setting. It’s been about 3 years now since I came in the Kingdom. Fear, as expected, was the first of the many feelings I’ve had the first time I stepped down the plane. Fortunately, I’ve kept an open mind of embracing the changes I’ll be dealing with as I live indepedently in a place totally different from home – the warm, loving place I’ve been so used to live in.
The first obvious indicator that you are in Saudi is the way people look like. They are very conservative in the way they dress and deal with other people in accordance to their religion, Islam, and we are called to adjust as well to blend in as a sign of respect to their culture. It’s such a great adjustment exchanging our comforting clothes with their restricting covers and abayas – again, all in accordance to their culture. The sun is always friendly here and the raging heat in the desert on an afternoon joyride is a proof of it. You can see the heat escaping as vapor on the road which will make you want to stay in your car or anywhere indoor that has airconditioning. It gets as high as 40 degrees Celsius during summer and surprisingly as low as 10 during winter. Yes, it gets cold in Saudi, and a lot colder in some places than expected. The kingdom isn’t totally surrounded by the serene vast view of the desert. It might majorly be surrounded by it but there are lovely spots where you can enjoy the view of the untouched Red sea as well, which nowadays is a blooming tourist spot. You can also enjoy fishing and even diving in some few resort areas in the main city. The sea makes it possible that once in a blue moon the kingdom is blessed with some rain usually in the later part of the year. For some, it is a form of blessing from Allah, but for me, the smell and feel of rain is just a reminder of home.
It’s a beauty to see familiar faces around. Inspite of how many multinational people are living here, the great number of overseas Filipino workers will somehow make you feel that you are not alone. It is easy to spot a pool of cheerfully chatting Filipinos especially in the major cities of the Kingdom. The work might be stressful because of dealing with different nationalities, including the language barrier, but having a Filipino as a helping hand makes it a lot easier. It may sound absurd but English is a lesser choice in communicating with other nationalities even if most of them came from the neighboring countries. So we are to learn speaking the Arabic language in order to be effective socially and in terms of work. One of the definitive reasons why a lot of Filipinos are attracted to come here is because the kingdom is totally tax free! So if you are into gadgets and electronics, it’s an open season without minding how much extra tax you are paying. Food in Saudi Arabia is multinational as well. Most of it is Arabic inspired which I may say for non-picky people is not bad and eventually will grow on you. If you don’t prefer it there are still a lot of other choices or better yet you can always stick to what you’re used to or just learn to improvise.
One of the downfall I felt while living here in Saudi Arabia is how women tend to be incapacitated. Sure they give high regards and respect to women here but most of the native women are limited in the houses or cannot indepedently do any task without their men’s permission or help. It is how they are raised and it has been and always will be like that. The kingdom might continously be a developing country but they are focused in keeping the strict culture intact keeping a monarchial government as an example. I believe the country is not yet ready to totally embrace the modernization of other Arab countries making it still the center of the conservative Islamic religion.
Saudi will always be a strange country to me because it is totally different from the comfort of my own. Once you decide to go abroad and live independently, it will always be your choice on how you’re life will be. With courage, determination and open mindedness, I’m determined that all the struggles and adjustment will eventually be worth it.
Floricel Will Berganio, a.k.a. “Fries” is a bubbly person I met in highschool. But we weren’t acquainted much with each other back then since I was a year/level higher than her. We only started getting close in college since we were both in the Nursing department, and even closer after graduating. Despite being thousand miles apart since she started practicing her profession in Saudi Arabia, we remained good friends, consistently updating each other through Facebook and Viber.
Fries? شكراً جزيل إبتسمي دائماً (Shukran jazeelan ya aziza! Ebtasimy da’eman!) ^_^