I have been back home for five months now and life has settled into a pleasant enough routine. What I don’t take for granted is the freedom I enjoy here. I grieve for the people of Bahrain whose freedom is currently being squelched and the turmoil across Libya means I won’t be travelling there anytime soon. To all my Saudi friends, I miss your smiling faces and hope you are keeping safe. Bill and I haven’t given up the thought of working overseas totally but I know we will never return to Riyadh. As with most things in my life, I am grateful for having had the ‘Saudi experience’ and I will cry with joy the day I hear the news that women are driving there and have the kind of freedom I cherish here in Australia. xxx
On the 5th September we left Riyadh not realising we would never be going back.
We are now safely back in Melbourne – relishing in the beauty of a Spring day and overwhelmed by our sense of freedom!
Within 24 hours of being notified that Wallace ”was not required to return to work” in Riyadh, we received the devastating news that his Dad had incurable cancer. Our minds quickly focused on forgetting the dismissal and making plans to visit our Dad.
God is gracious and tenderhearted: He made it possible for us to not only travel unencumbered by work obligations but provided a slice of His best creation by giving us a week in the Royal Terranora Resort, nestled within the hinterlands of NSW – and all for only $240 for a week’s stay.
Each morning as I drank my coffee overlooking the vast and verdant view, I could feel myself being healed and restored and made confident to face any further trials that came my way. You see, it is nearly a year since my lovely mother died and two and half years since my own Dad passed on. Grief for my dear father-in-law could easily eclipse me but my faith in God and the beauty of His awesome creation has renewed my strength.
Just to be able to express this faith that I have frees me.
When I first began writing this blog in Riyadh, I choked on each word- so cautious not to offend, not to be discovered by the authorities and held indiscriminately for proselytising or speaking out against Islam. I hid behind a veil within this blog and out in Riyadh’s streets and as each day passed I grew more neurotic about either being discovered or becoming a victim of terrorism. Currently, there is a high terrorism alert for Saudi Arabia: you can only pass so many checkpoints armed with tanks and automatic weapons before you start to feel vulnerable and shaky at the knees.
To have to live in that kind of fragility, day in day out is tiring at best; to have to go to work and be harassed and undermined is despicable and no salary package is worth an iota if you lose your dignity.
Wallace recently sat down and thought through all the times he had been ‘dicked’ at work and every time happened to involve an overseas posting.
There are no unfair dismissal tribunals you can attend in places like Arabia, India or Indonesia – unless you possibly want to sit it out for ten years and spend gazillions of dollars in legal fees. You do not have the rights that a western legal system provides and you expose yourself to being thrown in jail guilty until proven innocent. Take the case of a French gentleman who went to Dubai to take over the project director’s role on a large construction site. He had only been in the job eight weeks when the project went belly up and he was imprisoned and held responsible for the project’s demise. Last I heard, he was under house arrest in the French Embassy- where he sleeps- his passport confiscated and his family missing him back home.
No wonder then that when the global financial crisis hit the Arab world, hundreds of thousands of retrenched expats literally left their leased vehicles – keys in the ignition- scattered throughout airport car parks. Many not wanting to raise suspicion left all their possessions behind and checked in only a suitcase to make it look like they were going on a holiday!
For Wallace and I, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day and living life to the full does not mean living dangerously.
Don’t get me wrong, life in the Arab states is not dangerous for all and there are many western expats there who have survived decades with little inconvenience and a truck load of money. Several do nothing more than work a little and drink a lot. Quality of life means something different to every body and I am nothing without the freedom to be and to say what I think. Sure, I can get mugged in a Melbourne street but I will sooner hear a cheery ”Good Morning!” from a passing neighbour then “Cover your hair!!” from a zealot.
So, Wallace and I are rethinking expat life and relishing the thought of a huge family Christmas!