Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Countdown

All of you have moved at one point or another in your lives, so you know what I have been going through these past few weeks. It is such a huge undertaking dismantling a home after 14 years of living in it and pretty overwhelming. Since we will be taking very few items with us to our new home in Jeddah, I am faced with what to get rid of, what is most sentimental to me, and what I feel I can't live without that I may not be able to acquire in Arabia. Adnan tells me that everything that we need should be available over there, so I am taking his word for it.

Looking through all of our belongings, it is easy to see what I value the most. Photos would have to be on top of my list. And since photography is one of my passions, I have TONS of photos. I realize I won't be able to take ALL the photos with us, so I am having to sort through them carefully. I have been busy making sure I have the last few years photos on CDs, which will be much easier to take with me. The rest will remain in the States boxed up.

Also at the top of my list is movies, however strict censorship is alive and well in Arabia. Adnan has told me to be careful in this area because if the movie has bad language, is sexy or immoral or indecent, it will not be allowed into the country. By the way, there are no movie theaters in Arabia. This will be an adjustment for both Adam and me as we are both big movie buffs. We will be able to have satellite TV though, so hopefully we will be able to still see our movies on TV - maybe not as soon as they come out, but... well, we'll just have to see how that goes. Hmmm...I wonder what TV shows we will be able to view there as well.

Books would also have to be near the top of my list. This presents a problem because of the amount of space that books take up and their weight and also because of the censorship. I have so many books on painting and I know I can't possibly take them all with me. Adnan has his books too. We really have some weeding through to do. Plus there are my old school yearbooks and Adam's too.

And then of course there are my paints and all the equipment that goes with it. I know I can purchase painting supplies over in Arabia, but I just hate to part with all of it.

We had planned on selling the house before we leave, but now we have decided that since the market is slow right now, we will wait. A close friend will live in the house for the next year or so, take care of it and make the payments. This will leave our options open too, just in case. Plus it lifted the enormous pressure off of us to get the house sold in a slow market. We can feel comfortable leaving some things in the house, instead of feeling like everything must be disposed of. We did have the entire kitchen redone recently, had a new garage door installed, and we have been painting and fixing things up around the house so it is in tip top shape when we leave. Hopefully in a year or two the market will have picked up again and we will sell the house then.

When we made the decision to move out of the U.S. a few months ago, I had shared this news with only my family and very few of my friends and co-workers. When I decided that the time had come to inform all my other friends and acquaintances, I released the first edition of my blog. So far the reaction to the news of our moving to Saudi Arabia has been overwhelmingly positive. Many friends have reacted with almost as much enthusiasm as I have for our adventure. Some have expressed excitement, mixed with a little apprehension and maybe even a little fear. Others have been very supportive, while some have been so shocked that they are literally speechless. I have also been pleasantly surprised at the number of like-spirited souls who have even asked about the possibility of coming over to visit us once we get settled. Everyone I have heard from, except for one, has graciously wished us their best. Some people I have yet to hear from. And then there have been a few who have just blurted out, "ARE YOU CRAZY?"

I don't know...is it crazy to follow the man I love half way around the world to experience his culture and be accepted into his family? I realize I don't speak the language and my lifestyle will drastically change from what I am used to. But I think most people have misconceptions and are misinformed and uneducated about what Saudi Arabia is really like and what its people are really like, too. There is a fear of the unknown that a lot of people have of the Middle East. I doubt that anyone who asked if I am crazy has ever had a friend or known anyone personally from the Middle East. The people are warm, friendly, honest, decent, sincere, and have very high morals. Contrary to the propaganda Americans have been fed by the right wing news media, Moslems do not hate Americans and our freedom. They simply do not like our foreign policies, and frankly, neither do I. So, if anyone wants to call me crazy, go ahead. I am not afraid of change or new experiences in my life.

In fact, there are many changes that I look forward to in Arabia. I look forward to a simpler life with far less stress. I look forward to living in a place where modesty is required and vulgarity is forbidden, where children can be children and they are not exposed to adult issues and behaviors too early in life. I anticipate being treated with courtesy and respect by others - I guess I have lived in South Florida too long where it is normal for salespeople to treat customers rudely, indifferently, or just simply ignore them! It was definitely culture shock when I made the move from Arizona to South Florida 14 years ago. I knew I would never get used to how I was treated in stores or while driving on the roads. Don't get me wrong - I have managed to make some wonderful friends here and I will miss them immensely, but I can't imagine myself missing South Florida itself.

Getting back to the one person who chose not to wish us well in our new life: I have been friends with his wife for about 25 years. His wife and I used to work together back in Tucson and we were also roommates for a time as well - long before she ever met her future husband. During my visits back to Arizona since our move to Florida, I have always made the effort to see her. However it has always been disappointing for me because as soon as I drive up, her husband suddenly appears, and he completely dominates the conversation. I have always thought he was an obnoxious, pompous ass. My girlfriend has seemingly become a distant shadow of the person she used to be since she met this man and barely even speaks anymore when he is around. He also has polar opposite political views than I and is intolerant of people who disagree with him. This is the exact verbatim email response that I received from him:

"Please remove me from your list. I have very strong feelings that need not be discussed with you. I will inform A****** (his wife) of your decision. Please don't write anymore, I don't want to have my e-mail associated with you or Adnan."

My impression is that he is living in fear of Big Brother watching his every move and that he feels Adnan and I are traitors to this country, maybe even terrorists ourselves. But he had neither the decency nor the grace to at least wish us well in our new venture.

I know that not all of my friends agree with my political views. But isn't that what our country is all about? We have the right - and the duty - to question things we don't agree with. I must admit that I am extremely disappointed in this country right now. I feel that we have lost many of the freedoms we have always had and have taken for granted for far too long. I also feel that the current administration has driven this country down a road that is very treacherous and harmful to many of its citizens. And our children will have to be paying for the mistakes of this administration's policies for many years to come.

We think we have freedom here, but do we really? We are forced by law to pay for things like insurance, for example. Is this freedom? Just try making a claim - the insurance companies gladly accept your premiums and keep getting richer and richer, but when it comes time for them to settle your claim, they try every way they know how to get out of paying you. And then they raise your premiums or cancel your policy. Have you ever sat down and figured out how much you have actually paid in over the years for health insurance? We figured ours out the other day, and Adnan has paid in over $250,000 in 14 years. Our claims have - at the most - come to maybe $20,000 in all those years. There is something really wrong here. Add your premiums up - you will be astounded.

Anyway, my family and I have reservations to depart on August 30. As of today, less than two weeks away, I still have not been issued my documentation to enter Saudi Arabia. It is looking like Adnan and Adam may have to go on ahead without me and I will remain in the U.S. until my paperwork is approved. I am disappointed that I may not get to travel over there with them. I am so anxious to go - I can hardly wait! Until next time....