Monday, May 7, 2007

The Final Decision

Our decision to pick up and move to Saudi Arabia - my husband's homeland - was not made hastily or without debate. Rather, it has been years in the making. There are numerous reasons for our decision. Honestly, us moving to Arabia was something I never thought would happen! But after thirty years here in the U.S., my husband's wish is to return home. He has come to realize that all those ideological reasons for why he left Arabia in the first place maybe weren't so bad after all. And that the once-upon-a-time fairy-tale world of the United States of America - "land of the free, home of the brave" - just really doesn't exist anymore and has its own fair share of major flaws, like dirty politics, corrupt government, rampant crime, and a morally bankrupt society.

Adnan came to America as a college student. It was 1977. We met within the first couple of weeks after his arrival. For me, it was love at first sight. He had a huge afro, strong broad shoulders, a crop of chest hair peek-a-booing out from the collar of his shirt, bell bottom jeans, and dark, mysterious - yet twinkling - eyes. Physical attraction aside, I fell for the person inside. He was warm, strong, intelligent, honest, funny, thoughtful, and romantic. He treated me with respect and consideration, and he always made me laugh. He wrote poems for me! My family was fond of him too. For me, he was "the one."

There was just one little kink...from the start, Adnan had been totally up front and honest with me about returning to Arabia to live his life after he finished school. So I never allowed myself to dream of a future with him in it. But I knew he was the love of my life, and I felt that whatever time we did have together while he was in America would be better spent with him than without him. So we lived every day, every week, every month, in the moment. Those weeks and months turned into years, and all the while, he was working on his Ph.D at the university. Finally, at the end of 1989, he was awarded his degree. He went back to Arabia and tried for a year to secure a job in his field. He kept in touch with me, and during a visit back to the U.S. that next summer, he asked me to marry him.

It took over twelve years for him to commit to me, but he finally did. Partly due to his disenchantment with the government in his homeland, partly because he was unable to secure a job in Arabia (after the government paid for his schooling here in the States for a dozen years), and - I like to think - partly because he realized that he just couldn't live his life without me in it, we wed in 1990. He eventually was offered a teaching position with a college in South Florida.

We have been in South Florida since 1993. It's really the only home my son has ever known - we moved here when he was just a baby.

Living on a teacher's salary and with me only working part-time, we have struggled financially. A recent failed business venture with my ex-best friend left us in debt like never before. The hurricane season of 2005 caused our homeowner's insurance premium to skyrocket. And now with gas prices at an all-time high, it only makes financial sense for us to move to Saudi Arabia. Imagine a land where there are no taxes to pay and no insurance premiums. There, we will live in a much larger home (it has 4 bathrooms!) than we have in Florida, rent free! (courtesy of my husband's mom.) Just the thought of not having a mortgage any more delights me. My husband feels that within five years, we will be set financially, something that is an impossibility if we continue to stay in the States.

Financial reasons aside, the state of American politics is also another factor in our decision to make the move to Arabia. We both feel that most Americans have been getting the short end of the stick since Bush stole the presidency in 2000. I haven't felt good about the way things have been going here and I hate the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that gets worse, it seems, each month. We don't agree with our government's foreign policies, lack of commitment to the working class, ever-rising costs for insurance, medical care, etc. We have reached a point where we feel we will never be able to get ahead. The rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting crapped on. I could go on and on, but I will refrain for now... but you understand the gist of what I am saying, don't you? And whether you agree with me or not, this is how we feel and it is a major reason for our decision to leave America.

Now hold on, I know what you are all thinking - does Susie really know what she is getting herself into? Hasn't she seen that movie "Not Without my Daughter"? It's going to be such a big culture shock for a free-spirited American woman! Why, women are treated as second class citizens there and have no rights!

Let me just say that I appreciate your concern and understand your apprehension. I am fully aware of what to expect. Yes, I know that I will not be allowed to drive. I will not have a "job" there. Women are very limited in work they are allowed to do, plus I do not speak Arabic, so that limits my job prospects even further. Men and women in Arabia are not allowed to mix socially or in business. I have many hobbies that I will be able to pursue, like painting, photography, and, of course, writing. I will cover my hair with a hijab and will have to dress modestly whenever I go out. And when I do go out, I must be accompanied by my husband. Besides religion, family life is the most important thing in Arabian society. I already know most of my husband's immediate family. I can also tell you that in my experience, there are very few Arabian women who would want to trade places with any American woman. They are very happy and fulfilled in their lives and are very well appreciated and taken care of.

I look forward to getting to know my husband's family better and experiencing the closeness of family. I am glad that my son will finally be able to get to know his aunts and uncles and cousins that he has never even met, that he will become fluent in Arabic, and that he will be able to learn firsthand about the faraway and exotic land his father came from. For the past 14 years we have been here in Florida, far away from my family, and it has been difficult. My daughter is in Arizona, my mom and two brothers in the Seattle area, and my two other brothers in Utah and Indiana. I have hated that our family is so spread out. For us all to get together for a reunion every few years is a major undertaking.

My husband has given it his best shot here for thirty years. He is ready to go home. My place, as his wife, is with my husband. He has been a good provider, a good father, and a good husband. I am up for the challenge and I am - and always have been - very flexible. I really and truly believe that this will be a good move for our family. And who knows? Maybe this will turn out to be just another case of "the grass is always greener on the other side." Maybe we will come to appreciate the USA again, from afar. But we will never know unless we try, will we? All I know is that I am ready for a change - and what a change this will be!

I plan to document our move, planned for late summer 2007, and our new life in Arabia here in this blog. So stay tuned for future installments of "Susie's Big Adventure!" And I hope you will wish us the best and keep us in your prayers.


  1. Susie,
    WOW, what a change that will be for you, especially since the culture is so different in Saudi Arabia compared to the USA (where freedom for women is concerned). But I understand that you have to do what is best for your family. Having lived all over the world myself, home has always been where my family was, even though conditions were not always what I expected. You have my best wishes! I know the move will be exiting, and as they say "change is good". Can't wait to hear from you after you have moved.
    Love, Sabine

  2. Susie, I remember when my husband was asked to edit the newspaper in Dayton, Ohio, (nearly a foreign country to a diehard Westerner) my Mom said with a sad kind of finality "You have to go with your love." I am sorry that your decision was predicated in part by financial concerns -- I wish all life decisions could be free of such things (how unrealistic is that) -- but I do understand your disenchantment with the current state of things in the U.S. I have friends in Taos who traveled to Costa Rica immediately after the 2004 election looking for property but ultimately decided that, in their 80s, they were too old to make such a move no matter how much they wanted to live in a country that hadn't elected George Bush. So I wish you and your family the best and look forward to your posts on your great adventure. And it will be great, I think, because life is truly what you make it. I'll think of you next weekend -- a quincinera in Douglas of all things. Come back often -- your Mother needs you. Carol

  3. Susie,
    I wish you and yours all the best. I am sure there will be adjustments but there is with any move. I can't wait to hear your updates when you do move. I can only imagine what it would be like. I have lived in many places but never outside of western civilazation but I must admit I am jealous as you will be able to experience so many wonderful new things. Please keep us updated.

  4. Susie, Hey Girlfriend! I totally understand your move and wish all the happiness in the world. Just don't forget your American Friends. Just remember there is no perfect place to live on this earth, with all the moves Randy and I have made, we always made the place we were a home no matter what it handed us. We have lived in some strange places and experienced different areas of the U.S. and it is not all bad. You need to make the best of any situation, just like you will make the best situation in Saudi Arabia, and you may not agree on everything that happens to you. Have a positive outlook and everything will be all right. Take care, we love you, Pam

  5. When did your son get so big? Geesh, too bad they don't play "football" in Saudi Arabia - that being the US version where you throw and run with the ball and not kick it - he has tight end written all over him - maybe weak side linbacker...

    Any be safe - in travels and in a new country.



  6. Hey Susie--We're all wondering how things are going and waiting for your newest blog. Keep us posted.

  7. Just letting you know you are in my thoughts as the Thanksgiving Holiday approaches. We are anxious to hear from you with an update on how you are making the transition. Know we love you and send warm wishes to your family.

  8. Dear Susie of Arabia - I have loved looking through your blog! I just discovered it tonight from my computer here in Eagan, Minnesota. How did I not find it until now??? Asleep at the wheel I guess! I always like your daily Jeddah postings but this blog goes deeper and you really "let your hair down" or culturally maybe we could say you "let your veil down."
    I've long been fascinated by Saudi Arabia! Thanks for an in-depth look around the kingdom and its culture! Kind regards from Leif at EAGAN daily photo blog
    Time to get our 3 daughters to bed

  9. Thanks Everybody for your well wishes and your comments and concerns!

    To Leif - I'm glad you have found this blog from my photo blog! Thanks for letting me know that you're enjoying it. You made my day!

  10. Esalaam Susie,

    As I mentioned in my email to you I am now a follower of your blog and adventures.

    I thought it logical to start at the beginning ... so my comments will begin here enchallah!

    big hugs to you! and thanks for linking my blog too! =)