S ome of you may know that I am traveling in the states now. I arrived almost two weeks ago with my son Captain Kabob. He wasn't able to travel with me last summer when I traveled to the states for my first trip back home since moving to KSA, so he had been gone from the states for about two long years. We set foot on US soil at JFK Airport in New York. The temperature was a cool 60 degrees and it was raining. Both of us reveled in the chilly air and moisture - something we have both missed tremendously living in Saudi Arabia. When we arrived in Florida, a group of my son's friends greeted him at the airport, holding up signs and screaming when they saw him. It made him feel like a rock star! I rented a car, and felt a tad nervous when I first backed up out of the parking space, but I was fine after that. I hadn't been behind the wheel for almost a whole year. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
During my week in Florida, we went to the movies - there are no movie theaters in Saudi Arabia and this is one thing that my son and I have missed the most. I have visited with various friends, went malling, and ate at a few restaurants. The fast food restaurant that Captain Kabob had missed the most was Taco Bell, so of course we ate there. I really didn't have enough time to do everything that I had hoped to do and feel like I could have used another whole week there, but my time did not permit it.
Right now I'm in Arizona. Dear friends have hosted a couple of parties for me, enabling me to see more people at once, instead of me having to go around visiting people individually. I was thrilled to meet three fellow bloggers who came to one of the parties and also to see several old friends I hadn't seen in decades. I've also been able to spend time with my daughter and my two grandkids. Although the temperatures have been extremely hot, I am thankful that I do not have to wear the black abaya or cover my neck and hair here.
I have been waited on by females working in restaurants and in the malls - these positions are only filled by men in Saudi Arabia. There hasn't been any need to plan shopping excursions around prayer times. I have spoken with ease with men I'm not related to - I'm not supposed to have contact with men I'm not related to in KSA. I have totally enjoyed being able to get into my rental car and drive myself to wherever I need to go without having to ask my husband to drive me. I have pumped my own gas, something men don't even do in Saudi Arabia because there are gas station attendants to do it for them. I have gone places by myself and loved every minute of it.
Before I left on this trip, some people expressed that I might feel some reverse culture shock being back in the states, but I haven't felt anything like that. Seeing people dressed in shorts and sleeveless tops in this hot weather doesn't shock me or make me feel wierd. To me, it seems a more sensible way to dress in the brutal heat. Driving feels pretty natural to me and so does being able to go out on my own. Maybe because I've only been living in Saudi Arabia for just two years, I'm not feeling the reverse culture shock yet. What I am feeling is renewed joy at the simple freedoms I used to take for granted. Somehow I don't think reverse culture shock will happen to me though even if I give it a few more years...