Thursday, 29 January 2015

New King In Town

We had hoped that by some miracle King Abdullah would live for some time yet, but 'The One Who Knows Best' decided it was time for him to go, so go he did.  Now we have a new King and nobody is really sure how good, or otherwise, the new bloke and his advisers are going to be.  Certainly there is a lot of rumour circulating about what kind of king is now in the palace.  And if you read the newspapers there is even more speculation about the leadership potential of the next couple of blokes in line as the Al Sauds attempt to clear the murky succession waters.

We had planned an excursion to the desert last Friday morning, but as I was packing the last lot of sandwiches into the chilly bin (esky to you Ozzies), Hubster came back from gassing up the car and broke the news of King Abdullah's death.

'Oh...sugar plum pie!' I said, in lieu of something more slang like that I could have said but children were present.  'That's not good news.'
'Miss Louise thinks we should cancel the desert trip', he said. 'There's no telling how people might react to this news.'  (Miss Louise has lived here for a few decades and has seen a King or two come and go.)  I looked at the chilly bin and thermos and various other food related items laid out in the lounge ready to be packed into the car while the kids were running round all excited for their first trip into the Saudi desert.

'What do you think?' said Hubster.
We were standing at the front door having this conversation and as I looked out over the garden wondering what to do, it occurred to me how quiet the city felt.   Granted Friday's are usually quiet early in the morning, but this was a different quiet.  The sky was a beautiful blue.  The air was cool.  And the city was unusually still.

Our grandson had a balloon in the shape of a helicopter (given to him by Madam Lily), and took it outside to play with while Hubster and I looked at each other, contemplating our options. Grandson had managed to keep the balloon inflated and anchored to the ground for almost a week.  That morning he snapped the string and the balloon floated up and away with him vainly calling for it to come back. We watched it on its skyward journey floating straight up into the cloudless, hushed blue sky, no breath of air shifting it from its upward path.
'Wow, look how straight that's going', I said.
 'I hope a Saudi doesn't see that and think we're celebrating', said Hubster.

We cancelled our desert trip.  We figured it wouldn't be right to have a couple of expats bar-b-queing in the sand dunes while most of the country either mourned or pondered the country's future.  And given the unrest in the region, I could imagine some drop kick might have decided that last Friday was the right moment to pull a coup and other drop kicks would have gone gun happy stupid at the idea, popping off a couple of desert picnicking expats while they were at it...(OK, so maybe I watch too many movies...)

Almost a week later, we still aren't certain how happy, or otherwise, everyone is.  Discussion of ones emotions re: Saudi ruling parties isn't something you do in public, and certainly not in front of strangers!

Tonight, while we were out at a nearby bar-b-q joint for dinner, I looked around at the groups of people dining.
Young couples.
Young families.
Young men sitting in the outdoor chairs.
And the mood on the streets was low key.
I got a sense that, though we are all carrying on as normal, everybody is waiting to see what, if any, changes may be afoot once the new King settles in.

Ka Kite,

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Post Holiday Post.

I'm back in the Kingdom and, for those of you the least bit interested, this is my "What I've Been Up To On Holiday" post.  Before getting into that, I have to say it's quite nice to be back.  Travelling the globe is awesome and I would encourage anyone thinking of seeing the world to do so, but it's also nice to have your feet back on home ground  - for recuperative purposes, of course,  before heading out again.

So, where did I go and what did I do?

First I flew off to Townsville in Australia.  My daughter has moved to the Big Smoke of Bris Vegas for work, but her hubby and kids were still in T'ville so I went there first to help finalize moving house and to keep an eye on the grandkids who started their school holidays the day I arrived.

It was lovely to be back in Oz (I don't admit that to too many Australians!).  And while out walking the dog one evening I came across Townsville's very own Christmas Lights strip down Greenwood Drive.  It was so nice seeing streets of houses done up in their twinkling, sparkling, sometimes singing, best.  It's been a while since I went looking at Christmas lights and I'd almost forgotten how magical rows of houses elaborately decorated in their Christmas finery can be.

Before leaving Townsville I had time to help daughter number two kick start a minor home renovation project by pulling up bathroom tiles.  Whoever thought I had come to T'ville for a holiday had certainly got the wrong end of the stick!

Then it was time for the grandchildren and I to head to Budapest.  We flew via Dubai and picked up Hubster on the way.  I have to say, for youngsters they are very good travelers.  It helped we had a night flight so after a dinner, a movie and a game or two on the LeapPad, they tucked themselves into their seats and slept a good part of the way.

Budapest wasn't as cold as we thought (well, not for the first three days).  We were hoping for a white Christmas but unfortunately this part of Europe was having an unseasonably warm winter, so snow was scarce on the ground in Budapest in December.  Although the temperature did eventually fall below zero, it only snowed a couple of times, just enough for the kids to see snow falling and have a little play around in it.

The lack of snowfall didn't detract from our holiday though.  We had a couple of friends living in Budapest, so we got to have Christmas Day dinner and New Years Eve celebrtations at their home so the Christmas and New Year season still felt like a special family affair.  We also had a great time visiting hot baths, zoos and model towns, walking the hills, riding the trams and metro, searching for outdoor skating rinks to get in a spot of ice skating and sussing out all the kids parks.  In fact, the kids had the best time because of all the parks.

One day we took a day train trip to Vienna because it's only a couple of hours away and because Vienna has all sorts of kid friendly stuff to do.  Dressing up in the kids museum at the Schonbrunn Palace was a real hit, as was visiting the Imperial Zoo.

It is fantastic seeing things through the eyes of young children.  They are so excited and/or honest about every new experience and having them around reminds me on one hand how jaded we adults can get, but on the other how wonderful life is.

After 15 days of sending photos and video reports home to anxious parents it was time to leave Budapest and head to Saudi Arabia.  So now my grandchildren are with us here in Riyadh, (and the parents are even more anxious!)  Our grandson has asked if we are still on holiday or if this is our real house now.  And we are on a 'What Is There To Do With Kids In Saudi' learning curve!  I had a few ideas in mind before they came but am fast finding that most things I thought were available currently aren't.  Although there are a number of fun parks about that the kids would no doubt be quite happy being let loose in, I'm more interested in structured activities, like art, music, sport and dance.  Such activities for youngsters seem to be few and far between.  I'm confident there are suitable activities for the kids out there, it's just that knowledge of them is typically buried in 'Inner Circle' email lists.  If any of you has any suggestions at all about activities for two under 9 year old's here in Riyadh, they will be gratefully accepted.

Ka Kite,

Thursday, 1 January 2015

2015 Has Arrived.

Budapest 1 Jan 2015

2015 has arrived.
Time to refocus folks.

It has been five years since I first arrived in Saudi Arabia and how time has flown. I have to say, I've enjoyed most of that time.  Starting this blog was a bit of a whim but I'm glad I did it and am equally impressed it's still going given my capacity for not always finishing what I start.  Granted, it has been over a month since I last posted on my blog - not because I have nothing to say.  It's just that 'busy-ness' seems to have sidetracked me from doing the things I usually do.

There was a time when I couldn't wait to be busy in Riyadh.  Sitting around at manicure salons, roaming malls and gossiping at coffee mornings day after day might be a dream life for some expat women, but not for me.  I need a few more mentally stimulating and intellectually challenging activities to break up my week.  (I can hear some of you laughing out there! Where the heck am I going to find that in Saudi, right?)

Well, I did find something more interesting to occupy my time.  And, as is typical of me, I have dedicated myself totally to the role.  In doing so, my blogging has been pushed a little to the side and I have to admit I miss it.  As I read the Happy New Year greetings that friends and family from NZ and Oz have been posting on Facebook (they welcomed in the New Year 9 hours before me) and the numerous New Year resolutions that go with it, it dawned on me that it's time for me to re-focus. And there is a very good reason for doing so.

The beginning of 2015 is going to be interesting for Hubster and I because we have two of our grandchildren coming to join us in Saudi for a couple of months.  The past week we have been on holiday with them, here in Budapest, and we have spent most of our time being thoroughly entertained by them.  I'm fairly certain the entertainment will continue once we get to Saudi even though we are all going to have to make a few lifestyle changes.  First and foremost will be getting used to two bundles of energy bouncing around our one bedroom flat!

Being a grandmother in Saudi is going to give life in Saudi a different spin and though I didn't totally think through exactly how this was going to work, I'm confident we will all manage just fine.   It seems my Saudi friends are more concerned about how I'm going to cope than I am.  Already one friend has offered me the use of her home as a 'day school' complete with Filipino carer available all day.  I'm wondering how to let her down gently on that idea!  (It always amuses me how Saudi women can't understand why we would possibly want to look after our children ourselves).

Suffice to say that, last night, as we welcomed in 2015 while watching the firework action along the Danube from an apartment window, I decided it was time to put a bit more balance into my days and to get my Blogging Mojo back.  What better way to do that than to kick start the New Year with a blog post.  So here it is, the first post of 2015 being typed up while our grandson is attempting to get his grandfather out of bed and our granddaughter is still sound asleep (she stayed up for the fireworks too).  Yep, 2015 has arrived and I'm quite looking forward to the rest of it.

Ka Kite,

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