Archive | March, 2013

What The Boring

31 Mar

You know how it goes:

You never realize how boring your life is until someone asks you what you like to do for fun.

And Saudi Arabia brings you to the realization of the harsh reality of your life will be, on average, boring. I mean, psychiatrists are concerned about the boredom levels among youth in Saudi Arabia. There is so much NOT going on, that they are concerned about youths resorting to causing trouble and breaking the law to find a little bit of excitement in their lives.

Coming from several years of killing boredom at bars and nightclubs and occasional parties, concerts and movies, museums and arcades, exploring the city and trying new restaurants and coffee shops, it is impossible to transition into a Saudi female’s lifestyle. Limited by transportation, limited in the number of activities available, limited in what to see, and now the scarcity of family hookah bars has absolutely destroyed fun for me.

It all comes down to, “Let’s go to the mall… there is an arcade there and some rides!” or “Hey, I’m bored with nothing to do, come over and entertain me!” We will chat and catch up, decide to download a comedy, or a scary movie because for some reason they have a tone of thrill which we lack in real life, turn off the lights and create a home cinema. On a rare weekend, we will go to the beach. I hate the beaches in Arabia, because of the scorching sun that will give me a tan I despise for the rest of the year, running into the water with all your clothes on because well, this is Saudi Arabia, you have to keep your clothes on, and the fact that I don’t know how to swim. So, I just let myself float in salty water. Since I am uncomfortable with nudity or partial nudity anyways, I don’t mind the sea close to sunset, and I enjoy the barbeque meals there at night, and playing Cricket or Soccer.

But the beaches are once in a summer kind of a thing. It takes so much planning, and convincing parents to take us and enjoy out there themselves. It’s only possible on a weekend, and if all our friends’ families have no other plans with other family friends.

Then, there is the mall. You can only have fun at the mall if you intend to shop. And for the most part, not all of us are in the frame of mind for shopping, be it lack of interest in purchasing something nice because you will be wearing an Abaya over it outside of home anyways, or the lack of finances for something we really like.

At times, we host themed parties. Sometimes it’s a more West-themed dance party, sometimes we dress traditional and eat traditional food, put on ethnic music, and take lots of pictures where we look pretty together. Or, we make a plan and go out to Applebees or Pizza & Co., and sip non-alcoholic cocktails and margaritas, because you know, we are cool like that.

But that is my potential summer when I will get together with my girls who are coming back when their classes end. That’s late June or early July. In the mean time, there’s nothing. Except work. Except finding all the adventure I need in Sidney Sheldon classics. Except living a long-distance relationship and the drama that comes with it. Find my colleagues interesting and develop some sort of informal friendships with them, where I can have some sort of social interactions.

Anyway, Saudi Arabia takes you to a whole new level of boring. With your limited options for fun, you suddenly do not know what fun means, other than digital entertainment. While boys still have opportunities to go to the gym, play billiards, go bowling, find hookah bars, drive around the beaches and inhale fresh air, girls unfortunately do not. We cannot all get in one car, freely talk about anything and everything, move in our seats to music, because of the presence of a father. Having a brother drive us anywhere is still more preferred by us, but then, brothers have their own lives that they do not want to waste on entertaining us and our girls.

So, where in other countries, we are responsible for the boredom and the lack of passion in our lives, it is not so in Saudi Arabia. It is this country that is responsible for it. It is the way it has nurtured our parents to be strict to unreasonable levels, and bred in us the fear of disobedience towards them. On a plus side, women here develop a sense of rebellion which they satisfy through building a passion for change, a passion for education, a passion for a career. So while every girl in the rest of the world can have passions of traveling and exploring and freedom and music to easily make it happen for them, our passions stay limited to achieving something through our minds, through reading, because that is the only escape to go ahead and find more passions.

The minimal physical exposure, and the lack of emotional and financial support for that exposure, that is needed to develop our passions, till then will keep us boring. Or, we can try and find adventure in our struggle.

The Wisdom of A Struggling Man

30 Mar

I recently hired back one of my favourite drivers from childhood. From driving me to middle school, he now drives me to work. I think one of my most favourite things about him was how chatty he was. He never stopped talking, and was always amusing. Apart from being one of the rare few who could be trusted.

Before you judge me, I live in Saudi Arabia. We women still do not have authorization to drive, hence, we hire drivers. Also, because I’m too scared to drive.

This morning, he talked about the Middle Eastern life, which he learned from the 25 years he lived here, moving from Bangladesh for work so he could support his wife and children back home. He had sponsor issues and suddenly had to leave, and took him quite a few years before he could come back with a new sponsor.

Anyway, through it all, he emphasized how working in the Middle East is a bad decision overall. The only good thing is the money he sends back home converts to a fairly large amount to afford a few luxuries as well. As for his experience, the treatment he received he described with the simple analogy of a tissue paper: Thrown away after the purpose is served, used and abused.

True, he came here to be a driver. While some paid him good, others abused his need and either paid less, or mistreated him. He did not go into detail, but I can imagine what he meant. Some employers cannot respect somebody in manual labour. They act like they aren’t human. It’s not just the Middle East. In the West, almost every profession is treated non-human by the employers to a certain degree. But here he was, aging and feeling disrespected. Such few people in the Middle East can actually be nicer to the unfortunate, and only those who know what struggle is themselves.

He went on to summarize people’s lives today, quoting what their motto seems to be: “Money is the second God of the world”. While our belief puts nothing in comparison to God Himself, he wasn’t wrong when he said people now treat it like it is. It’s sad. We chase so much, not exactly money, but thing only money can bring to us. We get so caught up in this life we never realize it’ll be gone at any moment, we do not dedicate any time to the riches of the eternal afterlife.

He acknowledged, too, that some people treat life like it is a picnic, determined to be crazy and wild because they want to feel fulfilled. And by that, we have ignored our very basic instinct. To be better human beings.

In his very struggling innocent observation,there is no denying he is right. His real happiness is with his family where comfort as needed can exist. The simple life. And getting to work for people who are kind-hearted and generous. And human.

And as easy as it is to say that, for us used to such luxuries, it is hard to be done. We are grown up in a different environment, we are raised with different happiness scheme where high education is the start of the whole process, followed by career to build till we settle down, and then marriage. Oh, my driver had something more to say about settling – that building a life can take forever. There is no such thing as satisfied because of the evolutionary human instinct of greed.

I admire his opinions. I was lucky enough to be raised in a family who put great amount of emphasis on charity and treating the less fortunate with kindness and equality. And that extends to all animals, too. If I have a heart and the capacity to understand people from all walks of life, it is thanks to my parents who never overworked any servants and maintained a friendly, respectful relationship with all, sharing jokes and personal stories. It is thanks to them that I understand the value in the words of someone who would normally be considered insignificant in this ruthless world because of his social class.

New Beginnings

26 Mar

So well, after a lot of thinking and negotiating, I finally accepted the job offer after weighing the pros and cons of it. It’s still my first week and I am getting familiar with the whole company and the product line, and knowing myself, I am sure I’ll come to understand the business culture in this country and adapt myself and my techniques to it in a couple of weeks.

I’m a training consultant now. From retail selling experience to more B2B. It’s exciting. I like the content – however, access to potential clients is limited and most are built through referrals. I think this competitive, professional experience is just what I wanted and so badly need. And of course, excited that I am about to have the workaholic lifestyle that I am always so comfortable in.

The cons? It’s Saudi Arabia. It’s hot, information is limited, independence in non-work life is limited, and of course, not the life I had imagined where I am going to have to listen to how I have to be in every aspect of my life. But, nevertheless, I feel like my life will become a PG-rated version of one of my favourite TV shows: House Of Lies. And that is the thrill.

As for J, well, we had our one real fight. Lasted a night and then it was OK. It seemed like the unexpected was going to happen. I am becoming more and more ambitious, planning alternative routes for my life direction. On the other hand, he is becoming hesitant and more stubborn, and refuses to change. Change to grow. To devise a proper plan for the future. He is being lazy, and that is making me mad. And that is feeding into his jealousy of what I’m becoming, the “rich and successful” men I am coming across, And the fear that the money I’ll make here will make me want to stay and never return to him. It’s not easy for him, he constantly feels under pressure and sometimes uncomfortable and I cannot blame him. We are two different worlds and people in all senses that we thought we could easily bring together because of love.

This is the testing phase of our relationship: is there chemistry in distance? Yes, sort of. But judging from how my love life has gone in the past, I am starting to feel we are more likely to fall through because either we were right where we left off, or have changed way too much.

Oh well, I have to wake up in 4hrs and stay awake and highly alert and on my feet for 12 hours. I should utilize this time to now sleep. And step back later.

The Return. The Wait.

20 Mar

I made it back home to my parents.

That goodbye finally happened. It wasn’t as sad of a goodbye, we had already cried too many times before that now we were ready. We kissed and smiled and sent me off with a “see you later.”

I just seem to getting out of my jetlag phase, however, my mind is still operating in Central Timezone and I cannot fall asleep until it is daylight here and night time in Chicago.

Of course, I stepped into my life now at the same time as well. My on and off back pains got diagnosed as Spondylosis and now I am on several meds and electrotherapy. My father bought my dream phone for me – Galaxy Note 2, and I can barely stay away from it. I love scribbling away without wasting paper.

I also have a pretty good job offer here, and I am just trying to negotiate the pay these days with them, and hopefully they compensate me according to my demands, or I really don’t mind the alternative: sleeping all day long. It’s sad they offered me a pay close to nothing, demanding several responsibilites and 48 hours of work. And the only reason they did that was because I’m a girl – because I probably do not need the job. That’s Middle East for you. But I have learned better in my year of struggle building a career path. And I am not settling for anything in my life anymore. It has to be all or it can take a hike.

I text J almost all day long, and we video-chat every night. It’s not as hard as I thought it was going to be. It’s barely been two weeks but it hasn’t been bad. Work and life and unplanned circumstances have kept us occupied, while we devise a step by step plan for how to get together again, and how to escape from a prison kind of life to a land far far away, taking our parents with us – our first and foremost obligation.

This is what it is like being in love i guess. In sacred moments, you let your heart cry for your future with each other together, while you let the little hope keep your head up all day long, allowing you to smile for the world. Nights would be lonely if I actually slept at night, but I spend it all talking to him. I sleep all day long until my parents are home, and then I have company. And then I am either at the hospital recovering or reading a Sidney Sheldon novel.

It’s J who feels the loneliness, because I am asleep by the time it is his bedtime. He doesn’t have me to talk him till be falls asleep, but his determination to make me his and nobody else’s is what makes me feel so great. His love for me makes the deep hate for men I possessed forever melt away. And I know how I can make this work even if I do not get accepted into the school. It’ll probably be a few more months of waiting than what we had originally planned.

So, for now, it is about his career change, and me getting back in the game after a nice long 2 months off work. And I keep fingers crossed that he sees this distance between us as an opportunity to achieve all we ever wanted, especially since the question has been popped and an answer has been given.

I will wait, I will wait for you.

The Mind Manipulation Into Fear And Guilt

6 Mar

The flight that was going to take me out of here back to home in 5 hours from now – well, it was cancelled a few hours ago. It was a silent prayer I had made – or not so silent. But it was a prayer I made. And I remember waking up with a feeling that I am not leaving any more, and fifteen minutes later, my parents call and tell me it has been cancelled.

You won’t believe the WHOA moment I had right there. I was in the process of imagining different scenarios of how the goodbye with J will be – both of us had a rough night and he said we should just get married come morning, and it was the fastest yes I have ever said in my life. And this morning, we smiled about how this is a sign we should both get new, better jobs and he should take me right now and marry me, and there will never be anything to worry about – if I leave, I am definitely coming back, and I am coming back to him.

Oh, the fairytale we humans play and replay in our minds. So, I went ahead, and without mentioning J, told my mother we could probably start looking at this as a sign that maybe greater things lie here for me and we should accept this as God’s plan. To which, she denies His plan, and believes it’s how people are jealous of her children and it’s all how bad they have jinxed my success and they are holding me back. Right. I mean, I believe jinxes happen, but then, why would someone jinx me into staying here? This is where I am actually happy. They would do that and send me back to Saudi Arabia, where I will keep struggling to make a place my home again. And, of course, I have a greater believe in God’s plan. He has the ultimate reason for everything He does. He could be giving me more time here to mentally adjust myself to coping with the lifestyle change; He could also be trying to say this is where I will forever be happier than I could be anywhere else. Who knows?

However, mother added I have become too westernised in the sense I like my freedom too much – well, who doesn’t? My parents had always been too strict for the kind of person I was – had to beg my arse off to go to a friend’s birthday party, and I would never be allowed to go for lunch with the gang if I wanted to. So, from that lifestyle, to this, yes, it has been a blessing. I can go to the mall, I can go the movies, I can go to see friends, I can go out for dinner – however, I still have to answer million questions to them about where I am and when I will be home. It sucks, a lot. I always had something inside of me that wanted to do things, but I was always too controlled, and I never learned. It’s so late for so much now.

She went on to say family doesn’t seem to matter to me much – well, I know they love me. I love them. If I am holding back from doing what I could do, it is for the respect I have for them. I could go ahead cut all ties with them, marry away and not care about their blessing, start my own life the way I could and follow my heart – but I am not. I am not because I care about my family, they matter to me. The only thing with the distance I wish was that they were here with me, so I do not have to worry about them being there.

The whole theme of my life is of breaking free. I have forever felt restrained, I have forever felt the fear of disappointing my parents. I just wish they would accept happiness in things that make their children happy. I remember when my sister wanted to go ahead study Public Relations and Broadcasting, they all objected saying it’s a waste of a degree, and there is no scope of success in it. They wanted her to study something all Eastern parents want their children to study – Business, Medicine, Computers, or Engineering. But that is not what made my sister happy. She argued back and forth with them, and even though they still disagree to several degrees, they had no choice but to let her go ahead with it.

So, that is the question I asked them: why would someone jinx me into staying in my happiness? It is not what makes my parents happy, but they are not trying to keep me with them. They are still trying to send me to the Emirates, so I will still be the same – caught up in a busy life, not finding the time to have long conversations with them. They say at least there is peace of mind there. I do not find peace of mind when for sure, after retirement, you have no future in the Middle East. They will deport you off to a war-stricken country where people are now not even safe inside their own homes. So, what peace of mind is that? My mother never replied to that. She knew I was right. What is her ultimate plan? It’s an Eastern family – they do not consider daughters as important as they consider sons because at some point all they want us to do is get married and start calling in-laws mom and dad. And, then they will think they have accomplished success for their daughters. It’s like, I can reach the height of my career, and they will still keep thinking I am unlucky because I am not married. They will say how I am too successful to be appealing for a man. Yes, that is why my mother is probably silently praying I do not get accepted into the PhD program, because I will be too educated to find myself a man.

I know the religious obligations they are facing. It’s the whole thing that worries them that there is no father or brother figure in my life to watch over me. My father said at a point that people are talking, saying things like they sent a girl far away with no supervision, and it’s not right. That is what pisses me off. They give me everything they think I need – food, shelter, their presence be it near or far – but I want several other things to feel complete. I needed the ability to make decisions. I don’t know how they expect me to build a corporate management career when they are making all vital decisions for me that I should just offer them the job because they know decision-making better than I do. So, in several ways, they are limiting my ability to grow. And they are not realizing it. They controlled me so much that when I first had to think on my feet, I could not. I did not know what to do, how to do. I went through several traumatic confidence-building phases, and I have finally learned how to impress during an interview – because I have learned who I am, and how I do things.

Mother said parents in the US kick their kids out at 18 – it is the simplified, stereotyped version of the process of kids getting kicked out at 18. They could send them away for school, the kids could move out because they have found a job and do not want to be a burden to them to them financially. I mean, there could be several reasons. She thinks they pack their bags and kick them out. From what I have seen, kids moved out because they relocated to different states, they started their own families, they got sick of their parents nagging them all the time, and found they grew closer once they lived further away from each other.

So, what do I want to achieve living alone? I love the idea of a place I own. Or rent. But either way, it is under my name. I love being responsible – I am lazy at it because I get tired from long hours at work, but I like it. I like not having to eat home-cooked food all the time because I do not want to dedicate so much time to the kitchen. Either way, yes, I like the grown-up feeling. That is something I wanted since I was a little girl, and that is something I have lived, and never want to go back to the old theme of my life – *wanting to break away*.

So, I have made a decision. When I get home, I will let my parrots free. They stay in cages with us dictating their lives, and everybody yelling at them when they start to chirp or squeal even, I know exactly how they feel. And, I will feel good about myself when I do that. And, somewhere, somehow, they will set me free once again.

Feed Me Diamonds

5 Mar

“I don’t know your parents – it might be just stereotyping, but from what I’ve seen before , all my Muslim friends’ parents never say YES to a marriage like that :/ you know their response better than anyone.”

That was my best friend’s response to my reply that I cannot get married without my parents’ consent. Or, at least my father’s. I would very much want him to give me away. And, I really really wish there was a way that everyone could just be happy and accepting of my decision of what makes me happy.

On one hand, where my parents would love the idea that marriage is finally on my mind, they would hate I am thinking of it with someone they did not find for me. They would never give me their blessing under any circumstances, and I cannot imagine making that step of my life without their permission.

On several levels, she is right. We will never be allowed to marry anyone our parents did not introduce to us. It is their decision, which we are expected to accept and find eternal happiness in.

I call bullshit to that rule. It is not like they have to spend day and night with the partner they choose for us, they are not the ones to have to love him and lust him and care for him. They believe they know who their children are – in today’s times, no parent really knows what their child’s preferences are. To top it all, they are not even in a position to judge someone the child wants to marry.

It’s how when I tried to tell my mother about J. She asked his religion, she asked his job. And with those two questions, and nothing further, she decided he is no good to be a husband. She concluded how he can never be faithful, how he is a liar, how he is not the one for me. That was unfair. And there was just nothing else for me to say. She made that conversation all about her and I ended up apologizing and never talked about him again with her – never told her I am still seeing him either. She didn’t want to be part of that life, anyway.

How many of our life decisions do parents have to make for us? I do not want to do anything that will hurt them – they have sacrificed everything they could think of for the sake of our dreams. So, I want to return them the favour by keeping them happy. And my happiness lies in their happiness – and their happiness should lie in my happiness when it comes to decisions like marriage.

Now, they expect me to move countries, and they expect me to find work there, live there, and eventually find a man there and marry him. It’s their idea of my happiness. It is not mine. At what point are they going to get that worse comes, I will do what they want – and I will do it with no enthusiasm, I will do it by slowly dying inside.

It’s not like they are ever going to force me to consider marriage to someone they find suitable, it’s just the nagging – and the fact that all chemistry I want in a relationship I have already found. And it is not just going to develop with somebody else just like that. And, trust me, if I ever even try to have this conversation with my mother, she will get all emotional and I will be guilt-tripped into shutting up [female voice suppression 101].

And whenever I start to realize how wonderful my romantic life is, something is always around the corner to crush it. Just when I started rejoicing over the 4 extra days I got to stay here and spend it with my boyfriend and his family, and just when I thought my flight would just have to be delayed a few days again, it turns out NO!!! No flight is getting delayed, my passport arrived safe and sound, and now I can miserably start packing after the rush of endorphins as a result of emptying my bank shopping away like I hadn’t in a long time.

I have been suffering from insomnia too, lately. I barely sleep 2-4 hours and I am still wide awake early in the morning. From the little course in depression for CNA training, I learned waking up too early is a sign of depression. Okay, I am not suicidal and sulky, I’m just bitter with the fact I am losing something, and I have no set plan for my next step in life. But my parents do. They have it all perfectly planned out. Perfectly planned out to find me jobs that will barely help me pay my rent in the most expensive city in the world, and from that, they think they have given us a successful future.

No. Success is happiness. Happiness in life, in career, in love. So, why then do they insist they know best? They know best based on societal expectations, not best based on the personalities they raised.

“Or will you play a good daughter and suffer inside and out?” asked my friend.

Everything comes and goes, your family sticks around. When you have no one to turn to, your family will be there. And I know how much they mean to me, and I can’t live knowing I hurt them through impulsive arguments and decisions. So the answer to her question is, yes.

I will resent them forever. I will blame them for any obstacles I face in the course they put me on, I will become comfortable and settle into the life they chose for me, I will force myself to pretend happiness.

And that is all I can give to them – and none of it will involve marrying anyone they pick out for me. If they do want to pick out someone, he has to be a multi-millionaire who signs a pre-nup with me that if he ever so slightly gets caught cheating, I’ll be entitled to 50% of his treasure. And then send women to make him cheat on me. And with that, marry someone I actually love.

End of story. I love my parents, and that is me being a good child – because the excessive amount of control they put on my life has impaired my ability to be anything better to them.

Settling In A Relationship?

2 Mar

I read the quote today about how so many things in life are mediocre, and how love should not be one of them. It was beautiful, and put me in one of those self-reflecting moments, wondering how I have approached my love life.

Of course, like every other person, I had a checklist, which I have mentioned on and off in my previous posts. And on some level, it did obviously become superficially perfect too, like I myself am flawless. Tall, dark and handsome kind of superficial which made all other shortcomings invisible.

I am not supermodel skinny and beautiful, I am not head of UN, I don’t own a large condo, I do not have a BMW. Of course, all those things are something that would be cool, but not something that should be a falling in love criteria.

If there is one thing new people in my life know about me, I am shy, quiet, I speak when addressed, and avoid saying anything so as to not offend anyone. Simply put, I am nice and accepting. So, where making good, close friends was a task and never came naturally, finding myself in a romantic relationship would be even more impossible. Add to that, a checklist.

But I met J. And there was no dull moment. We were attracted to each other. Like most, we have our unconcealable flaws we are too ashamed to admit. As conscious as I am/was about my body, my acne outbursts, my small apartment, my shopped-on-a-budget wardrobe, I was just surprised he didn’t care. And vice versa with him. Where I lacked, he made up. The fact that we start smiling like fools texting thirty seconds before we are about to meet up, finding each other physically desirable, I know we passed the first test of whether we are settling or not. It made me realize my Mr. Right checklist was not looking for a Neal Caffrey, who fits into a do-and-leave category.

There was something I heard that said that if there is anything you want to change about a romantic partner, you should start looking for another. And then I heard how one should try to get the best out in their partner, make them who they could be, who they wanted to be. All of us have several dreams. As for me, on one hand, I dream of becomimg a well-known and powerful philanthropist or business tycoon. On the other, I see helping make changes on a smaller scale, living a decent life and spending quality times with friends and family. Plain and happy. I will take what I get, because both will make me happy, because both have a good and a bad side. And what J has shown me is his support for both of my dreams. He jokes about how he will be the house-hubby while I can make all the money if I follow my first dream, and perfectly acceptable of an easy life of raising children with me if I follow my second dream. We both shared our dreams, and we encourage each other to reach them, we know the other’s potential and we push each other towards it. So there – we have passed the second test as well.

I also analyzed our overall chemistry, and it’s surprisingly great. We joke too much, wrestle too much, fight minimal, talk about where we think the other is being unreasonable – we do not sugar coat our thoughts – we say it like it is. Brutal honesty is always awesome. We can do several things with each other, or even nothing at all, and we still enjoy every single moment together. I never thought I would come to a point where I will stop to be embarrassed about me, my life, and my family. I discuss everything with ease; I do not have to pretend to be anything I am not.

Am I looking at it through rose-coloured glasses? Well, yes, like a normal couple, we do argue. We give a few minutes of silent treatment, followed by a rush of critical comments, and then make up. It does not last over ten minutes. Even the most serious of issues end with a joke. His family really likes me, too. The only thing is my conversative family who have yet to know about him (Ouch hashtag).

So, there it really is. We create a whole checklist of our ideal partner, we forget how many of those items are actually a need and how many are empty and superficial, because of what friends tell us we deserve – handsome, smart, rich, reliable to sum it up.

I mean, do we ever sit back and wonder why exactly we think we deserve that? The mainstream view of classy women where we need to have standards? Of course we do. Our standards should be a reliable human being with the capacity and desire to be a loyal husband and a great father. And at the same time, look at our capacity to be just that for a man. We cannot expect to have our men be cool with us having a girls night out when we constantly feel threatened when they have a boys night out. It’s not fair.

And after it all, the only thing that matters is the chemistry you will have with your partner. Admiring the heck out of each other should be exciting and make you blush, being away should make you miss each other, looking at each other with eyes full of love should be frequent, not letting each other make a fool out of yourselves alone – be a team and do it together, and of course, not lose sight of reality without letting it pop your only happy bubble. Live up the crazy stupid love you got – it only happens these many times.