One year ago today I packed my bags and headed to Saudi Arabia. I must say it’s been the quickest year I can ever remember and also a whole lot of fun (and work, despite how it might seem at times, I do work).
The morning when I left it felt a little bit like I was heading off on holiday but once I was a few hours into the flight to Dammam, reality hit – this wasn’t a holiday at all, this was a whole new start. It was scary and exciting; what would the job be like, what sort of people would I meet, would I make new friends? What if it was awful?
Luckily my worries were unfounded. I was extremely lucky to initially be sharing a house with a lovely girl called Cheryl and we made friends with others who arrived at the same time as us and, over the first few weeks we made other friends. Now I have a lovely group of friends from all over the world; we spend a lot of time together, mostly going shopping or for dinner through the week and having weekends away.
We started the year armed with our work calendar, which highlighted all the holidays, and planned our weekends/weeks away. Regular readers will know that we have had quite a few trips over the year; all fantastic fun and so many experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I had not made the move. Highlights for me were our long weekend in Muscat staying at the Chedi Hotel; a fairly expensive weekend but if you are in the Middle East, or just want to book a luxurious weekend away, this is definitely one hotel worth checking out. Sri Lanka was also excellent, my most favourite thing of the year was when we released baby turtles back to the sea, it was so emotional and inspiring to see them pause to look at the waves then run toward them, starting out on their own adventures. For a fun girls weekend nothing beats our weekend at the Dubai Rugby 7s (which I’ve just realised I didn’t write about). It was such a lot of fun – we met some great people, enjoyed some beers in the sun and watched some rugby. Definitely a weekend that we will do again.
I had also worried about homesickness but, apart from a few days after my first trip home in May, I can honestly say that this hasn’t been a problem. Technology has a lot to do with this; Facebook, Skype and What’s App make such a difference. I’m sure if I had moved in the days where my only contact was landline phone and letters it might have been different. That said, I do like to receive and send ‘snail mail’ letters – and it certainly is snail mail. Letters I send home can arrive within 10-14 days, however letters from home to me take around 3 to 4 weeks!! This means that I’m always in contact with family and friends in Scotland and elsewhere and as my bestie Lucia says, sometimes you can forget I’m so far away.
Work is also turning out well. Initially I thought my job wasn’t going to be overly exciting, although I had lovely colleagues, but after a bit of a reshuffle within my department I’m now in a much more interesting and busy job, I have a new bunch of wonderful colleagues and I have become one of those annoying people who genuinely love their job and I really don’t mind when Sunday morning rolls around – the working week in the Middle East is Sunday to Thursday. However, I would be totally lying if I said I didn’t mind when my alarm goes off at 5.15am on weekdays – I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this, every morning I have to fight the urge to hide under my duvet and pretend it really isn’t time to get up!! On the flip side, work finishes at 4pm and I can be home to my apartment by 4.15pm which means plenty of time in the evening for going shopping, going to the gym or meeting friends for dinner.
Given all of the above, I think it is fairly obvious that I love my new life in Saudi. It’s made me more confident and comfortable with who I am as a person, I’ve made fabulous new friends, travelled to places I’d never have dreamed of visiting, had amazing experiences and basically had a year of having fun and feeling extremely happy.
My plan is to stay in Saudi Arabia for 5 years; if every year is as fast and as fun as the first one all I can say is – bring it on!!