Kristine wanders

The musings of a wanderer......

Category: Random Musings (page 1 of 4)

Thoughts on Dreams

I was recently asked “what is your dream?” And it really got me thinking. My initial gut response was to answer “to meet an amazing partner and be a mother,” but that felt like a bit of a heavy response to the wide eyed teenager who was asking. So instead I paused and took a second before responding “well actually, I’m kinda already living my dream.” Don’t get me wrong, sometimes, living in Saudi is more of a nightmare type of dream than one where I’m skipping through a field of flowers while the wind blows through my hair and the smell of lavender lingers in the air. But what I really meant was that I’m not much of an “in 10 years I’ll do this…..” type of person. I’m more of the school of thought that if I want to do something or I have a dream and I’m healthy and able, I’ll do it now. That probably comes off as cheeky and filled with privilege, and some of you reading this are probably thinking “must be nice to have those type of options.” For me though,  it all comes down to choices. Originally, I came to Saudi Arabia with bucket loads of debt based off of years of frivolous materialistic living. I’ve lived on my own since I was 18. I had student loans from nursing school and a propensity towards new flashy cars and I lived off the thrill of putting things on a credit card where they would stay until future Kristine finally had to deal with them. And deal with them I did. It came down to either filing for bankruptcy or moving to Saudi Arabia to sort out my finances.  I chose to move to Saudi to sort things out. This probably was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was able to eventually become debt free, I learned a huge life lesson, and I currently get super stressed if I don’t pay my credit card off immediately. As many of you probably know, that type of financial stress weighs you down and can feel near impossible to pull yourself out of. But it was my choices that got my into that whole mess and it would be my choices that got me out of it.

My own personal choices allow me to travel wherever I would like. I do spend a decent amount of money on travel, but I rarely shop. I don’t buy fancy shoes or designer clothes. But those choices that allow me to travel also mean I don’t have a home base, and I have essentially nothing to my name except a storage unit that I dread eventually having to deal with. I literally have none of the possessions society believes a woman in her late 30’s should. No car. No house or apartment. No husband. No children. Some of these I am ok with, some of them I long for, but just aren’t a possibility right now. This nomadic lifestyle and independence that I love and have chosen are often incompatible with the side of me that would like to have a home base and someone to come home to. I choose to live in Saudi even though I’m sure this has put a strain on many of my relationships and possibly contributed to the reason for my perpetual singleness. That’s not to say that there aren’t dating options here, but most of the ones I’ve met haven’t been good, or like my most recent love disaster had me falling for a completely amazing but totally unavailable man. And now truth be told my heart just isn’t quite ready to meet someone new.

I guess the whole point of this post is that it’s good to have dreams, but for me living a full life is essentially a way of living your dreams as best you can in the now. I don’t really have much control over when I meet Mr Right, and while I could pursue having a baby alone right now I’m just not in that head space. But I can control whether I want to learn a second language, bicycle in the vineyards in France, or go on an African safari. I can choose these things by choosing not to pay for cable TV, or have a collection of purses, or put off buying a new iPhone. I tend to view things in terms of well that such and such thing is a plane ticket, and I’m way less inclined to spend my money on it. The other reason I don’t put off doing things is that as a nurse I often see people who have saved or worked hard their entire lives with plans to start living when they retire, or to take that dream trip in 5 years time. Then they or their partner’s health fails and they don’t get that chance. Instead I prefer to live my life in the present, basing my decisions off the here and now since tomorrow is never a guarantee. I’m reminded of this every time I fly as that’s the only real time I truly contemplate death. My fear of flying results in me spending a large portion of the flight convinced engine one is likely going to fail. When this happens I remind myself even if I were to die today I’ve lived a life. I haven’t just merely existed. I’ve done almost everything I’ve wanted to in my life up until this point. At least the things I have control of anyways.

So let me ask you….“what is your dream?”

Tribute to my Pops…..

Last month was Mother’s Day and I wrote a post for my Mom, so with Father’s Day this weekend it’s long overdue that I wrote a tribute to my Pops as well. My Dad responds to a variety of names, but mostly I call him Pops or Daddio, if he’s acting especially hip. In fact several of my friends refer to him as Pops as well. Pops and I have a unique bond- I would reckon we are tighter than your average father/daughter combos. I mean we did walk across a country together after all. We are close, and yet we are really quite different. Pops has a type A personality- he is a hard worker which means that he is an incredibly loyal employee and will work long hours to get the job done. He likes routine. He is financially responsible and careful with his money. He is the kind of guy who would cut his neighbours lawn when he knows they’ve injured their back, or visit someone in a nursing home even when the person will for sure not remember. He is reliable and hard working.

Over the years we have had several adventures. Many many moons ago I decided to move from Philadelphia to Phoenix Arizona. In December. So Pops flew out and we road tripped down the eastern coast of the U.S. and then across the south for a week in this ridiculous sports car that I used to own. We (me) drove long hours staying in motels along the way. Stopping off at Cracker Barrels to eat and rent audio books, and taking in the scenery. Two of my favourite memories from this trip where going to return my cable box the day before we were to leave and a couple girls jay-walking across the street.  I probably could’ve stopped but I didn’t and one of them yelled “I’m gonna whoop yo ass.” Another time we stopped in Alabama or Louisiana and we asked a lady at a cashier somewhere how far the next state line was and she replied in a very southern accent “Golly. I never been that far before.” Both those lines we still quote to each other every now and then and laugh.

In 2009 I really wanted to visit Scotland so I invited Pops to come with me and he jumped on the opportunity to visit the place where our “people” immigrated from. I think we spent about 10 days traveling around the country. It was a great adventure and we even got to meet the Clan chief of our Scottish ancestors. We rented a car. Because I am a little (more often than not) scared driving with Pops it was agree (I made the executive decision) that I would be the sole driver. I told Pops that I couldn’t read a map in the car while it is moving (which is true because I get bad motion sickness) and he seemed cool with it. Plus I had already once mostly successfully (minus a few scratches) driven on the opposite side of the road, so clearly I was the most experienced choice out of the two of us. So after a couple days in Edinburgh we rented a car. Flash forward like 3 hours later and we are driving through the stunning Scottish Highlands. The scenery is gorgeous. We are having a nice time. We approach a narrow bridge. At the same time as we drive onto the bridge so does a rather large truck coming the other direction. In hind sight I could’ve stopped. But I’ve never had cat like reflexes at the best of times. So I moved over to the left as much as I could. Pops let out a heart stopping scream at about the same time as the passenger mirror collided with the bridge. I pulled over on the other side of the bridge and the mirror was literally holding on by a thread and Pops composed himself and pulled it off and we put it in the trunk where it stayed for the rest of the trip. We both just kinda looked at each other like “well that happened.” I know he was dying to say more but you can’t really scold an adult child can you? The rest of the trip Pops would reference things like “well I would be able to see that if I had a side mirror” and such and we would laugh. That trip was really quite fun. One night I booked us to stay in a room on top of a local pub. They had a band and Pops and I drank with the locals and Pops chatted up the band and we had a great time. We also visited a Scotch festival, saw sooo many castles and visited the actual homestead area where our people immigrated from. It was awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As many of you know this past fall I invited Pops to walk the Camino de Santiago with me- something that had long been on my bucket list. He very quicky said yes and we started planning. Together we walked 700km across Spain over about 5 weeks. We shared a room every night for those 5 weeks. I like to think that I push Pops out of his comfort zone (which I purposely do because I want him to have new experiences.) The great thing is that he just goes along with things most of the time. It was wonderful to travel with him and see things through his eyes. To watch him interact with a vast variety of people, to see him forming friendships and having new experiences. I want those things for him. After all it’s stuff like that, that life’s made of. Also Pops is down to take selfies anytime. Sunrise selfie. Action shot selfie. Night selfie. He’s on board for all of them! I have a few really special memories from that trip. One was early on in the walk where we stayed in a small town. It was Pops first experience with staying in a mixed dorm room with bunk beds. We were in a room with probably 6-7 bunks and Pops and another fellow were the only men. Both Pops and I had bottom bunks and there was a young lady on the bunk above Pops. In the morning we woke early so we could get to the top of a ridge in time to see the sunrise. While packing up our things Pops tried to pack his sleep  sheet into its bag but it wouldn’t quite fit. Turns out the gal above him had washed her panties and they had fallen onto Pops bunk and he had mistaken them for the bag. Sooooo funny the look on his face when he realized what happened. I still laugh about that one. Anther great memory was when Pops left his prescription sunglasses in a church but we didn’t realize it until we got to our hotel in the next town. I jumped into action and got us a taxi which took us back to the town only to find out that the church was closed and the priest didn’t live in that town and the church wouldn’t open until 10am the following morning well after we would already be on the road. The taxi driver didn’t speak English but I was able to convey via uber basic Spanish and sign language that Pops couldn’t see without his spectacles and the driver drove us to the convent where the Priest lived. Here’s the thing: I’m a huge believer that most people are good hearted and I like to see how a situation plays out. Anyways the Priest wasn’t home, but the taxi driver stopped a local guy on the sidewalk who had the Priest’s phone number and called him. Later that evening Pops was driven back to the town where the Priest had unlocked the church and the sunglasses were reunited! My other favourite memory was getting day drunk with Pops when we completed our Camino which happened to coincide with his birthday. You guys know I’m a fan of getting a buzz on while the sun is up. Turns out Pops is as well. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Pops here’s to you on Father’s Day. Thanks for the adventures of the past and I look forward to the new ones we will make. The offer still stands- I’d love to show you around the Middle East if you ever feel up to it!

Ramadan

Last weekend while I was away in Switzerland, marked the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. So Ramadan Mubarak (a Blessed Ramadan) to my Muslim readers and fellow ex-pats in the Middle East. I know people back home have some basic understanding about what Ramadan is, but I thought I’d take a little bit of time and tell you more about it, and what it’s like to live in a Muslim country as a non-Muslim during Ramadan.

First off, Ramadan takes place during the 9th month of the Islamic Hijri calendar. This calendar is about 10-11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar so Ramadan shifts forward by nearly half a month from the preceding year. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with believing in only one God, praying 5 times a day, giving to charity and making pilgrimage to Mecca. This year Ramadan started on May 27th and will likely end on June 24th or 25th depending on how visible the moon is. For the entire month Muslims will fast from the morning prayer (dawn) until sunset. Here in Saudi this is from around 4am until 6:30ish pm. Children, the elderly, those traveling, people who are sick and in the hospital, diabetics, and women who are pregnant, or breastfeeding or menstrating are exempt from having to fast. In addition to fasting Muslims are also to abstain from gossiping, smoking, daytime intimacy and sex, and really anything that would make their fasting efforts less noble. Fasting basically means no food, drink (including water) or chewing gum or candies.

So what’s it like during Ramadan for non-Muslims? Well it’s a whole lot quieter during the daytime that’s for sure. Grocery stores are open in the day but restaurants are all closed. No lunch time McDonald’s drive-thru or delivery. Starbucks is closed. Most things open after sunset and stay open until late into the night. At sunset Muslims break their fast with dates and Arabic coffee. This breaking of the fast is called Iftar and throughout the Middle East there are Iftar buffets which is basically like a dinner buffet. Here in Riyadh Iftar buffets are often very lavish and often on the pricey side between 200-400 riyals ($50-100 U.S.) Next week I’m going to the Iftar at the Ritz Carlton with a group of friends which I imagine will be well worth the splurge.

For non-Muslims it’s advised to not drink or eat in public or chew gum. If you’re going to eat and drink than just be sneaky about it. The hospital I work at has a cafeteria and restaurant that are open for us to eat at, but the main public coffee shops and restaurants are closed during the day. I’m working night shift for the entire month so for me this isn’t a problem. Muslim hospital staff are not required to work the full amount of hours as they would during the rest of the year. They can chose between working 6 hour shifts, or chose to work night shift instead. Clinics and such are open but on shorter hours so usually 9am-3:30pm or so. Saudi culture (especially during the summer) tends to stay up late into the night and sleep during the day because of the heat. This is especially so during Ramadan. Working night shift is actually like working day shift as the patients are awake the entire night often going to sleep around 5-6am and sleeping most of the day. Medications often have to be re-timed around this sleep schedule especially if they are food related and the patient is fasting. Sometimes patients who are in the hospital will want to fast and will decline things like IV fluids which would interfere with their fast- I have found that to be pretty rare though.

Ramadan ends with the sighting of the new moon in Mecca, or after 30 full days of fasting if the new moon isn’t visible because of clouds. The new month is kicked off with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr in which the fasting is broken. I will be away for about 10 days later this month as I’ll be traveling solo to Azerbaijan and Georgia. Azerbaijan is a Muslim country but everything I’ve read says restaurants and coffee shops will be open for non-Muslims and Georgia is a mix of Muslim and Orthodox Christians so traveling during Ramadan shouldn’t be an issue.

So to those of you who are celebrating Ramadan I wish you all a Blessed Ramadan and may your prayers be answered!

Tribute to My Mom…..

In honour of Mother’s Day being this weekend I thought I’d write a tribute to my mom and write about a few of the things I’ve learned from her over the years.  Since I was young I’ve had more of a friendship with my mom than the typical parent child relationship. My friends would often comment how they wished they could be so open with their own mothers. She instilled in me an openness and an honesty to a point where I never felt like I had to hide things or couldn’t be open with my thoughts and feelings. This hugely spilled over into my relationships with others also. Those of you who know me know that I tend to be an open book- I’ve never really put much worry into whether people might judge my decisions or not. So I’ve always chosen to be open because I long ago stopped trying to live for other peoples expectations.

My mom taught me that nothing was out of my reach. And reach I have. Across the globe I’ve stretched my legs and opened my heart to a world of opportunities I could not have dreamed up as a child. And she has faithfully supported every one of them, even when they might not have been her first choice for me. She has been my cheerleader. Always in my corner. Always ready to take my side against whomever perpetrated a wrong against me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She taught me to have an artistic eye. She is an artist,  a trait I sadly did not inherit. But I did inherit an eye and appreciation for the arts. My only artistic outlet is a love of photography. Playing with lights, shadows and reflections in my pictures. I’ve always loved how the world looks through the lens of a camera.

My mom taught me to be bold. Not just with decisions but with colours and accessories. She herself sports a hair colour that is a fiery orange hue and I’m surprised that she has yet to colour it purple after her most favourite colour. I too have a love of bold colours. Hot pink and emerald green would be my two top contenders and I’ve got a pretty distinct assortment of funky rings and earrings and bracelets that I’ve collected from my travels to jazz up an otherwise mainstream sense of style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She taught me to have empathy for humanity. That the world was wide and vast, as are the people in it. She always had pictures of adopted children she was supporting clipped up on our fridge long before I knew exactly where Cambodia or Bangladesh were on a map. She taught me that people are interconnected regardless of the distance between them. She taught me to view the world in a global view and not just in terms of those who look like me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So mom here’s to you for instilling in me so many lessons that allowed me to spread my wings and truly see the world and for standing behind every crazy decision I’ve ever made. And for continuing to support those same crazy decisions of the future……..Love you mama xxx

Goodbyes

One would think that if there is anything I would be an expert in at this point in my life it should be saying goodbyes and packing. And yet I’m total shit at both. I spend my 20’s bouncing between the states of North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Arizona, California and Washington. My car loaded to the brim as I would drive cross country to whichever city held my next adventure. Many of these states I yo-yo’d in between, setting up a life in San Francisco and San Diego a couple times, and in Seattle several more times. Since I first left Canada in 2002 I’ve moved at least 26 times. I’m saying at least because my memory isn’t super sharp, and I’m sure there’s one or two moves I may have forgotten. So much packing and unpacking. This is of course spread between Canada, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Each assignment brought with it a new set of friends and a new set of adventures. And a new set of goodbyes.

The expat world is similarly as transient as the world of travel nursing. People come into your life and you form intense bonds over a short period of time and then either you leave, or they leave, or both. It’s the nature of the life style, because especially in Saudi, no one stays forever. Some goodbyes are easy because the world is sprinkled with assholes. Some are gut wrenchingly hard. Sometimes these goodbyes take a long time to get over. The void that’s left takes a while to fill. It’s a blessing and a curse. To allow people to deeply touch you in ways you don’t initially realize, and then have to part ways with them. That the world can feel both so small and enormous at the same time. But such is life. And if I’ve learned one thing it’s that love is infinite. It goes beyond goodbyes. It lives in the spaces in between those goodbyes.

So here’s to those of you who have deeply touched my life. I do so hope that our paths cross again. See you someplace down the road……

“The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be.

Maybe we’ve lived a thousand lives before this one and in each if them we’ve found each other.

And maybe each time, we’ve been forced apart by the same reasons.

That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years

and a prelude for what will come”

From the book The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

 

 

A Saudi Update…..

Well. Where has the time gone? I’ve been a very bad blogger as of late. I arrived back on Saudi Arabian soil on the 2nd of February and its been a whirlwind of embassy parties, overcoming jetlag, catching up with old friends over dinners out, and settling back into my old job. This past weekend was the first set of days off where I finally feel like I’ve gotten caught up on sleep. In fact it felt so strange having a day of downtime that the very unfamiliar feeling of being a little lonely crept in, which is not an emotion I’m very well acquainted with. While my body desperately needed some downtime my mind wasn’t quite on board. Thankfully, that uneasy feeling quickly passed!

So what have I been up to since my return? I arrived late on a Wednesday night to my housing unit. When I left Saudi I was in single housing, but this time I’m in a different building sharing with an American girl who arrived a few months ago. I spent the following day running around with my lovely driver Joseph who is a  very dear person here in Saudi for me. We had to visit 3 different stores in order to get my internet reinstated which was priority numero uno for me, and then did a little grocery shopping. Then it was nap time because jet lag is the worst. That first weekend passed with a night out at the American embassy with friends and then a party in the Diplomatic Quarters. One surprising thing about life in Saudi Arabia is that the social scene is anything but dull. The next week involved updating my medical, reopening my bank account, getting a photo shoot for my hospital ID, getting sized for our super sexy white scrubs  and various other work related things. I started work back on my unit. The following weekend was pretty much a repeat of that first weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Arabian return happened to coincide with the Janadriyah festival. This festival is a yearly event in February that is one of my most favourite things to do here. It’s a huge cultural festival with arts, food and local dancers (males only). It’s similar to a county fair in the U.S. minus the rides and beer garden, and where everyone is dressed in traditional Arabian attire. So it’s basically a sea of black and white as far as the eye can see. It has a very jovial feel and the local Saudis are super friendly and it’s a very merry time. I love it a lot and so I dragged a couple girls from work with me. The really great thing about the festival for me is that taking pictures is allowed. Obviously, this means being careful about taking pictures of women, but nobody seems to mind!

Adjusting back to life in Saudi hasn’t been too terribly hard. I’m very familiar with how things work here, and the cultural differences are less jarring the more one is exposed to them. I’m lucky enough to have several friends that are still here which also makes things easier. It is weird for me being here without my kiwi sidekick though- I think I underestimated just how much I relied on her before. Work is work. It was strange returning after having over 5 months off, but after a handful of orientation shifts things fell back into place. I’m still working on a VIP floor that looks after members of the Saudi royal family and other important people. The patient population has definitely changed since I first arrived here in 2010- the patients are much sicker than they were back then, and while our patients do end up staying in the hospital much longer than they would back home (often by personal choice) gone are the days of people admitting themselves to the hospital over a hangnail or sprained ankle (true story).

So that’s pretty much the latest. By some complete stroke of luck I’ve managed to get a ticket to the Irish embassy for St Pats. That might be a bigger deal than that one time I had my birthday party at the Canadian embassy a couple years ago!! So this upcoming weekend is filled with celebrating with the Irish, steak night with the Americans and of course work.  As always I’ve got a long to-do list of things I want to do here including seeing the horse races which end at they end of this month. There’s also an upcoming camel beauty competition but it’s rumored to only be for males attendees. Oh how males get to have all the fun in this country! I also want to plan a couple overnight trips to other parts of Saudi Arabia before the weather gets too hot. Last weekend there was a food festival at the French embassy that showcased local foods from France, Belgium, Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, and few others that I can’t recall off the top of my head. It was one of those events where you could easily forget that you were even in Saudi Arabia. A couple weekends ago I met up with a walking group and we walked the 12km track around the Diplomatic Quarter which had me reminiscing my Camino walking days from this past fall. So apart from embassy gigs there’s still a ton of things to keep ex-pats busy in Saudi Arabia. The important thing is to be motivated enough to take part!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I promise to do my best to get back into a blogging routine. I still have so much to write about from Pops and my Camino experience, and my winter in Paris, Amsterdam and Iceland. I’m trying to find a better balance between being social and also needing time alone to write and reflect. Thanks for being patient with me!

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to take a moment and wish you all a Merry Christmas and the happiest of holidays from the cold weather of Canada. I know that this time of year can be full of happiness and excitement, full of memories from the past and hopes for the future as the new year quickly approaches. It can equally be difficult. Many people are facing the holidays alone, or having financial problems, or dealing with the many forms that loss takes. I think it’s important to approach this time of year with kindness. Kindness for mankind, but also for yourself.  Be patient with others. Be gentle with yourselves. Take the time to rest. Do the things that nurture your spirit. Be compassionate. Practice self compassion.

As someone who has a spent a couple lonely Christmases in the desert of Saudi Arabia I can offer a few ideas to make the season more pleasant for expats living abroad. Decorate. Surprisingly you can get some “holiday” decorations in Saudi. Well as long as you don’t say the “C” word (Christmas) you can find things at many of the local stores. I can remember IKEA having some interesting winter holiday themed items last year. Get your party on. Many of the compounds will have some type of holiday party. The past 2 years I was able to have a full home cooked turkey meal, with real Christmas decorations and music. I almost forgot I wasn’t home. Almost. Gift exchange. I’m a big fan of presents (who isn’t) so I found it was fun to organize a gift swap as it makes for a merry gathering. But most importantly don’t be alone. My first Christmas in Saudi back in 2010 I was miserable. It was my first Christmas away from home and I was so homesick. I had to work, and since it’s not being a holiday in Saudi it was just a regular day. I cried off and on that whole shift, and I had a hard time even chatting with my family back home. After work I just wanted to go home and be sad, but thankfully, my Czech roommate dragged me out to a Christmas dinner at a nearby compound and I had the nicest of times. So surround yourself with people and you won’t be as homesick over the holidays. Hopefully those of you that are away from home over the holidays will find these tips helpful.

My Christmas wish for you this year is that your year will be filled with Joy and Peace. That you will love and be loved. That you will bask in the simple pleasures that we so often overlook. That you will have clarity into what you want out of life. That you will go forth with a heart full of gratitude and compassion.

Merry Merry Christmas.

Goodbye Saudi…..

fullsizerender-21Well my 2 years here are coming to an end and it’s time to say Goodbye Saudi. At least for now. There are many things that I’m going to miss, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you….

  1. I will miss that things are never dull here. If you are a blond westerner (or really just a western woman in general) even the most simple things can end up turning into a complete spectacle. A trip to the grocery store might include your driver almost getting into no less than 5 accidents, a phone number handed to you in Arabic, getting locked inside the store because you forgot it was prayer time, and you feeling like you hit the jackpot because you came across your favorite brand of peanut butter, or tortilla chips which had been out of stock for months.
  2. You meet people of so many different nationalities every single day. I currently work with nurses from India, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, the UK, USA, New Zealand, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Finland, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Just to name a few. My driver is from India. My favourite guy who bags my groceries is from Bangladesh. I love interacting with different cultures, especially if someone is from a country I’ve already visited. I think this is actually one of the things I will miss the most.
  3. People are for the most part very friendly. When you walk down the hospital corridor the housekeepers and dietary staff say hello. We are like a weird little family since most people are living far away from their families. People notice when I’ve been away on holiday and I notice when they’ve been away. When I work night shift and walk home on my break I usually cross paths with this same older male housekeeper. He always hands me a cold bottle of water and tells me to have a nice day. Another housekeeper and I have this running routine that when we see each other no matter how far away we are we both salute one another. He even clicks his heels which makes me laugh every time. We’ve probably done this back and forth at least 100 times. I will miss their smiling faces immensely. People have a way of getting inside your heart and whenever I think of these people I know I will smile. I’m smiling right now just writing this.
  4. My Abaya. Lets be honest. I have a love hate relationship with this unflattering costume. And yet weirdly I will miss it. Outside of Saudi Arabia I actually have to put some thought into what I’m wearing. I’m expected to show up to dinner wearing something a little nicer than yoga pants or PJ bottoms. Not here in Saudi though. If I’m going to an event where I can’t remove my abaya (which is basically everywhere outside of a compound or the Diplomatic Quarter) I’ve been know to wear PJ bottoms under my abaya and pair it with a cure pair of heels. Because, who the heck is going to know anyways!!
  5. The travel. Duh. This is actually the main thing I will miss. Saudi Arabia is so central it’s easy get to Europe, Africa and Asia. It’s a great travel hub and I love hearing about upcoming trips my coworkers have coming up. I could talk travel all day every day.

So what’s in store for future Kristine? Well this weekend I fly to Paris for a few nights to meet up with my Pops and we will make our way to the France/Spain border to start our walk to the Spanish city of Santiago some 800km away. Fingers crossed we finish the walk around the end of October. I will stay in Paris for a month and then take the train to Amsterdam for a week and then fly back to North America via Iceland. I’ll likely be in the US/Canada for a month or so. Then if there is a position open at my current hospital and the Saudi government hasn’t introduced the rumored 10% tax to expats I’ll return mid to late January. There have been some recent restrictions here in Saudi and basically any form of internet calling has been blocked. That means you can’t use Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp or Facebook messenger for calls. I’m unclear what the rational is behind this recent development as the 9million expat workers here rely on this type of communication to speak with their loved ones back home. Then there is this rumored tax…..initially a tax system was going to be implemented in 2018, but a recent email that’s been circulated amongst expats states that it will likely come into effect in the next few months. That coupled with the planned 6% tax on money being sent out of the country would essentially mean I would be making much less than I would in North America all while being require to work an extra 32 hrs a month. But again, most of this is rumors so I’m eagerly waiting to see how it all shakes down!

So assuming those things don’t happen and there is a job in an area I want to work in I’ll most likely be back in Saudi in January for another year of travel. But that will be my last year. I promise. I know I said that before……but I really mean it this time!! But of course there’s always the chance that I really like having an apartment in Paris for a month, and access to wine and decide that what I really want after all is to drop some roots and make a permanent move back to North America. Those of you who know me I’m sure are laughing out loud at the prospect of me wanting to settle down I’m sure, but honestly I have no idea what will happen after these 4 months of travel. One thing I’m certain of though is that I will have clarity after walking some 800km. This I’m sure of!! But for now I’m going to be Paris bound in less than 24 hrs. See you soon Pops! And for my Saudi peeps- I miss you already!!

 

Feeling Very Conflicted…

I’m currently in the midst of a trip to my 2 homes of Canada and Seattle, and while I’m super happy to be home, I’m also feeling very conflicted. You see this last month I’ve been processing a lot of emotions. My time in Saudi is coming to an end. And while a big part of me is ready to leave, there’s a part of me that feels like I have unfinished business there. There’s still a bunch of places in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I would like to visit. Farasan Islands. Taif. Hail. I work with a great bunch of people at work, and for the most part I enjoy my job. Truth be told, it is by far the easiest nursing job I’ve ever had. Far easier than any bedside nursing jig I would get in Canada or the U.S.. Since I work on a VIP unit here in Saudi that’s not to say that dealing with VIP patients doesn’t present a whole world of other challenges to caring for this type of patient. But most days I really don’t mind it.

As I’ve already mentioned I will be leaving Saudi in mid September, flying to Paris to meet my dad and then together we will make our way to the village of St Jean Pied de Port which is on the French side of the Pyrenees mountain range. From here we will embark on a 40 day trek/walk to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela some 800km away. We are not camping, and will have a warmish place and a bed to lay our heads every night. We will be packing very light. This will be an incredible challenge for me as I’m only taking 2 pairs of clothes and a set of PJs. I’ve decided not to bring my nice camera with me which will be difficult as I love to take photos, but I just can’t justify carrying the extra weight. I am taking my iPad mini though as I want to have a way to blog on a regular basis about this journey. Once in Santiago we will make the decision to walk another 100km to the coastal town of Finisterre which was believed to be the edge of the world in the Medieval times and is still referred to as such by Pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago. I’ll then make my way to Paris where I’m planning on staying for a month. Then I’m toying with a couple weeks in the UK and then flying back to North America via a stopover in Iceland. Then comes the difficult part……

After Christmas I may keep traveling for another few months. Mexico is calling to me. As is Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and Laos. But eventually, I will have to make some semi permanent decisions. So here’s the conflicted part……I literally have no idea what to do after that. This will horrify many of my friends and family alike, but the truth is I’m not leaning any one direction over another. I could go back to Saudi for another year. I could move back to Seattle. I could move to Vancouver. I could do any number of things, and this is the first time that my gut is letting me down. When I try and really think about it, or make a plan, because I know that’s what sane people should do (is have a life plan) I just get anxious. And mostly, that’s when I start to think about doing another year in Saudi because the job is easy, the money is decent, and if I stay another year there, I delay having to make any concrete real life decisions. Which I realize isn’t that healthy. Here’s what I do deep down know though- my days of being a bedside nurse are rapidly coming to an end. I’m becoming burnt out of nursing. The thought of returning to the stress that I left at my previous job in Seattle doesn’t interest me. Nor does the rotating day shift/night shift schedule I would have to work if I returned to bedside nursing in Canada. This I know for sure.

The other thing that I know deep deep down is that I want to set aside time just to be. I want a couple months to spent just reading, writing, and doing yoga. I’m sure to some people this sounds like a hugely selfish luxury. And mostly I’m ok with that because I learned a long time ago that I’m not living this one precious life of mine for anyone else, or to meet other people’s expectations. I’m ok with going against the grain. Doing the exact opposite of what society tells us we should be doing. This coming week marks my 20 year graduation from high school. 20 years. How the hell did that happen? I got an invite to the reunion, but it was too last minute for me to change my travel plans and make the trip to Calgary so I’m not going. But I did spend some time looking at (stalking) the Facebook profiles of my fellow classmates. Many of them that I haven’t thought of in well over a decade. While part of me would love to catch up, a big part of me realizes that I’m truly a minority amongst my peers. To be 37, unmarried, never married, living abroad and childless is by far the minority compared with my fellow high school grads. Sometimes I feel like I’m just adrift in the world- since besides having some belongings in storage I truly have nothing to my name. No house, no car, no home to come back to. And while sometimes when I process that it makes my scared or uneasy, more often then not I think of how fortunate I am. Looking back 20 years that young girl who graduated high school could never, ever have envisioned that she would end up spending 3 years of her life living in Saudi Arabia. That she would visit more than 50 countries, and have a deep yearning to see more. That she would become very comfortable with the uncomfortable. It makes me so very curious to see what the next 20 years will bring.

But enough about reminiscing about the past and talking about the future. The present day me is gearing up for this walk across Spain. Researching hiking poles, and rain ponchos and 3 in 1 shampoo/soap/conditioner. The present day me is soaking up this time being home with my friends and family, and thinking about what I can fit into the 2 months I have left in Saudi. I’m sure that 40 days spent walking across Spain will provide me with introspection and answers for the decisions I’ll need to make in the upcoming year. Or at least that’s what my gut is telling me……

 

Changing Plans……

The past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of ever changing plans, so I thought I would update you about my latest ones. I had been planning on leaving Saudi Arabia in August to come back to Canada and the U.S. before flying to Europe in early September to walk the Camino de Santiago with my pops for 5-6 weeks depending on how fast our legs move. Then I was going to hang out in Europe and meet my best friend in November to go to Iran. But alas, somethings never go as planned…….

A couple weeks ago I was working with a Pakistani nurse and it was pay day and this nurse said to me how she was excited because it was her “double salary month.” And I was like “double salary month?? What the heck is that?” And she informed me that apparently per our contract we get a months salary as a bonus when we re-contract. Naturally I was skeptical because I re-contracted last year and got no such thing. Upon further investigation I learned that I was due to get the extra months salary as a bonus upon my contract completion. But here’s the kicker……you have to work until your final contract date. Leave even one day early and you  forfeit the entire thing.

This presented a huge problem for my as my contract end date isn’t until mid September. I was planning on leaving early to head home to Canada to get in some proper hiking and get supplies for pops and my hike, and to drop off my belongings. The Camino de Santiago is an old pilgrimage route that starts on the French border and goes 800km to the Spanish city of Santiago. For obvious weather related issues, it’s better for us to walk it earlier  as opposed to later in September. I will have some unused leave, so at present my last working day in Saudi will be September 14, which means likely around the 16th of September I’ll fly to Europe to stow whatever belongings I haven’t shipped and meet my pops in France to start our pilgrimage. This will likely take me until the end of October/beginning of November which means Iran has been bumped until the spring. I’m planning on staying in Europe until around Christmastime and am looking into house sitting gigs, but if nothing turns up I’ll likely rent an apartment for 6-8 weeks. My Europe plans are very lose at the moment. I’m currently thinking about basing myself in Paris, but that could very well change!

Since I won’t have a chance to go home in between finishing in Saudi and starting our walk I’ve decided to fly home for a visit at the end of June. I’ll be spending a week in Warsaw Poland solo in early June, coming back to Saudi to work for a week and then flying to Canada for 5 nights and Seattle for 10 or so. That way I can get hiking supplies like shoes, a sleeping bag, and a long list of other necessities, and get some actual hiking in. Since the daytime temps here in Saudi are already above 40C/100F it’s going to make training outside of the gym rather difficult, but I’ll do the best I can! For those of you not familiar with the Camino de Santiago I’ll be blogging more about it soon, rest assured!!

So that’s the latest in my life. I do have some rather unpleasant news about expat life in Saudi. Last week Facebook calling and video calling was blocked, which is a real bummer because that was the primary way I spoke with my mom as I find Skype not great here, and she doesn’t have an iPhone. There are many rumors going around that as of the 26th of this month all internet based calling apps will be blocked. Whatsapp calling is already blocked, but the rumored list includes Skype and FaceTime as well. I’m not exactly sure why they would want to alienate the literally millions of expat workers here who rely on these apps to communicate with their loved ones in their home countries. If this is true I’m especially glad I’ll be leaving in a few months as having to rely on paying to make calls from my cell phone is super pricey. To give you an example if I call the U.S. to speak to my bank and I’m on the phone for 15min it will easily cost me 40riyals which is close to $10 U.S. Saudi Arabia is facing an economic crisis so I’m sure this is just a crafty way to recoup money but it’s going to be especially difficult for so many of the nurses I work with who rely on daily video calls back to the Philippines or India to be able to see their young children.  I really hope that it’s all just rumor, or we find the loophole around it. Fingers crossed.

Anyways, that’s all for now. More to come!!

Older posts

© 2017 Kristine wanders

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑