Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Saudi Arabia Lacking Physical-ness

We were talking, a fellow expat and I, just last night about how Saudi Arabia lacks physical-ness.  The general consensus from western sporty types is that Saudi's are, in short, soft.  It reminded me of a blog post I started to write a long while back (over two years ago by my calculations), but never finished, which is sometimes what happens to my posts.  I throw them onto the draft page in a rush of bleh! and then let them lie.  Here's how that post started...

My photo album is full of my grand kids enjoying the outdoors and engaging in healthy physical activity.

 It's great that they love to run and jump and climb trees and walls and swing over jungle gyms with carefree abandon.  They enjoy swimming at the beach, splashing about in waves.  Or kicking a rugby ball, throwing a frisbee or bouncing on the trampoline.  Watching them reminds me of the days and times we spent with our own kids on the front lawn playing cricket or touch rugby.  Heck, we still enjoy getting out on the front lawn to play with the kids.   

Saudi, at least the Saudi I live in, is not that physical.  

In the cooler evenings our park is full of maids doing most of the leg work for the kids - pushing them on the swings, pumping the see-saw for them, lifting them onto trikes and lifting them off again. 

It's disheartening to see a three year old, who is quite capable of being taught to climb the ladder to a plastic slide on their own, waiting with arms raised in the air, oft times accompanied by hollering, for his maid to hoist him up past the four or five rungs he'd have to clamber up so he can sit atop the platform.  And hollering again for the maid to hold his hand on the way down.  

And the parents?  Why, the parents have abandoned their children to maids in favour of sitting in the coffee shop oblivious to what may be happening at the park with their offspring. 

The older kids get tired of the limited space, so start annoying each other till their annoyance winds up at the coffee shop, whining to their parents who shoo them back to the house with a wave to argue over the latest whizz bang battle games!

This post was going to go on about the difference in attitude to physical activity for children and adults in Saudi Arabia (well, my part of Riyadh anyways), and the almost total lack of participation by the parents with their kids games.

I could continue my ramble about the lack of physicality in Saudi (as I had intended to do initially), but I won't.  That would be extremely negative and today is a beautiful day - like most days in Saudi - so instead I'll ply you avid readers with positive situation updates.  (Did I hear some of you say 'Buggar that...I want Gossip! You are Sad People!)

Here's some updates.

Also opened in Riyadh recently are children's activity centers like My Gym and, coming soon, Gymboree.

All these initiatives have my support (not that they need my support, but I'm just saying).  It all sounds very positive and there is hope that these programs will encourage Saudi folks off the couch and out of the shopping malls from a very young age.

The party line handed down to the locals for the implementation of these activity centers is along the lines of 'health and wellness'.  However, I get the feeling the point of the youth clubs, women's sports centers and kiddie gyms isn't just to cater to the issues of bored youth and obesity related health issues plaguing the country at the moment.  The real point is to harden up Saudi Arabia's future generations and nip in the bud the current, generally accepted idea that Saudi's lack the characteristics needed to grow their country in the hard times ahead, because all predictions are harder times are comin!

I'm talking about the stuff pioneers of the past possessed when they left their homes in search of something better.  Things like courage, daring, fortitude, work ethic, dedication, commitment, self-determination, creativity, patience, strength.  The ability to endure hardships and set backs, to persevere.  Never giving up.  Having grit.  Thinking outside the square.  Problem solving.  Taking the bull by the horns.  Knowing how to co-operate with others and truly respecting others as you work towards a common goal.  Knowing how to respond to victory and, just as importantly, how to regroup and start again after a defeat.
That kind of stuff.
Isn't it amazing what sport has the potential to do for a country!

I get the feeling that the joke going around that Saudi has Pakistan in its back pocket to fight its battles because the locals would run away from a fight is like grit in the mouth to some local leaders.  (A number of folks I've spoken to on the ground are perfectly happy with that plan because anything that reduces the number of Pakistani's in the world suits them just fine, thanks!)

Anyway... back on track.
It's great that the Powers That Be of Saudi Arabia are doing their bit for Saudi's future through providing youth clubs and sports centers for all, regardless of their actual reasons for it.  Next step is to get the parents involved in their children's activities and tell the maids to back off!

Ka Kite,

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