Sunday, November 22, 2020

Where Are They Now?

A few weeks ago my college alumni page on Facebook featured me in an ongoing series called "Where Are They Now?" - that highlights former students and where their lives have taken them since graduation.  I thought you might enjoy learning a little more about me and my story.    

Where are they now?

She has traveled the world, waited patiently (13 years) to be married to the man of her dreams, had ambitions of becoming a judge, and writes blogs about her experiences in foreign countries.
Susie Johnson Khalil, (1975, AA, Police Science), is the daughter of Trudy Johnson, who served on the founding committee to get Cochise College up and running. She has four brothers: Roy and Gary (both Cochise College alums) and Doug and Barry, and her dream was to eventually become a judge - but Iife took her on a different route.
She truly enjoyed instructors Keith Jackson and Dewey Tally, who made learning about the law, self-defense, crime scene investigations, and analyzing forensics so fascinating – as she says, “long before shows like CSI were on TV.” Art was also an interest of hers. She attributes her appreciation of art to Ray Levra, who showed a true exuberance in teaching.
She was hired by the Douglas Police Department as a dispatcher. She left for a job at Fort Whipple in Prescott, AZ, with the Veterans Administration as their first female Police Officer. She loved being on patrol and out and about. Her routine included duties like directing traffic, patrol, and raising or lowering the flag. And then there were other more memorable moments in the line of duty, like capturing a huge snake on the loose, subduing a hallucinating mental patient, and discovering a dead body in a car in the middle of the night.

Every two weeks the working schedule rotated, making life harder for her as a single working mom. Finding a reliable babysitter to accommodate the shift work was practically impossible back then. So after a couple years of struggling and juggling police work and motherhood in Prescott, she decided to go back to Cochise College with a focus on Journalism and Creative Writing. Instructor Baysol Turner challenged and inspired her.
During this time she was also in charge of Cultural Events at the college, working in Don Fry’s office. She brought in acts like an awesome musician who played a Moog Synthesizer and a fascinating UFO expert. Friends that she remembers hanging out with at Cochise were Pam Halfin Wombles, Debbie Sywassink Hruschka, Robert Clare, Margarita Quinonez Neverman, and Edna Elias Smith.
Susie soon transferred to the University of Arizona, and there she met her future husband. They met shortly after the fall semester began. Adnan, from Saudi Arabia, as Susie describes him, was a “tall exotic handsome hunk with the biggest Afro you ever saw.” He walked in to play pool while she was working in the games room at the Student Union. She was instantly smitten. Within a few short weeks, they were inseparable.
Getting to know Adnan and his Saudi friends instilled an interest in her to learn more about their culture, beliefs, food, passion, humor, and world views. Susie took a job with Braniff Airlines in Houston, and eventually moved back to Tucson and worked for travel agencies. The perks she enjoyed in the travel industry took her to places like Egypt, Australia, Tahiti, and Rio de Janeiro.
Meanwhile Adnan finally was awarded his PhD in Linguistics and Reading in 1989, which meant that he would be going home to Saudi Arabia to try to find work in his field. Once back in Jeddah he looked for work, but to no avail. Even though his government had paid for all those years of schooling and he was highly qualified, they refused to hire him because he was not a native speaker of English – which ended up being her good fortune! Frustrated after looking for work in his field for a whole year, he returned to the USA. They married immediately – she had waited for him for 13 long years and as she says, "I didn’t want to wait another minute!"
Eventually, they decided that perhaps Saudi Arabia would indeed be a good place to live, so they arrived in Jeddah, a captivating city of about 3 million people on the Red Sea coastline. Susie started a blog to share her experiences, to educate others, and it gave her a purpose in her new life. Little did she know that people from all over the world would be interested in her blog posts, and she became a resource for people seeking information, helping many interested in moving to Saudi Arabia to find jobs.
She is the founder of two Facebook groups. One is called “Susie of Arabia” and has over 20,000 members. It’s dedicated to providing information about Saudi Arabia. The other is “Our Hometown - Douglas, Arizona,” for anyone with a connection to Douglas. It’s been a lifeline for her living so far away, keeping her in touch with many old friends and neighbors.
In Susie’s words, “Every day I am thankful for the wonders of the internet and other modern technology. If it weren’t for these things, I don’t know that I could handle living so far away from my family and friends. The question I’m asked most when people find out I live in Saudi Arabia is “Aren’t you afraid?” The truth is that I feel much safer living here than when I am in the U.S. I’m happy living here. My husband is very good to me, spoils me. Moving here has changed my life in countless positive ways. Sure, this country is not perfect – but what place is? My hope is that I’ve helped to change some of the negative perceptions the rest of the world has about this fascinating country and its people.”