Well it has been two weeks now since we left Saudi so I thought it was about time I caught up!
After the heart wrenching goodbyes of the Wednesday we had two days left to get organised, and there was still a lot to do. What didn't help was we didn't have a washing machine nor did our air conditioning work properly, and one of the toilets was also broken. If we were looking for a sign that we were making the right decision then here were three!!!!
The suitcases were packed - but waaaaay over weight - so we decided to do another cargo package, I dread to think what our new employer will think in Qatar when they receive it all!!
We also had plenty in the villa that we wouldn't be taking with us. Farah became overloaded with food; I doubt she will have to grocery shop for a while to come. Erika had said to take anything to her villa that we wouldn't be taking and she or someone else would make use of it. Hmmmm, I think she may have underestimated this one! It will be like Christmas when she returns in September!!
Packing done, unloading of stuff to other's done and cargo shipped! Farah was cooking us dinner on the Thursday evening. Some quiet time, just our families. Haleem (sp!) - Jason's absolute favourite!!!! The food was, of course, delicious as per usual and the company perfection. The following morning we all had breakfast together again. I finally felt that I had spent some quality time with Farah, who I had neglected somewhat over the previous weeks with the stress of packing. Maybe because I am so comfortable with her friendship, I knew she would always be there, however, was still a little unfair, so I am glad I could have this time with her!
Friday evening, one more sleeps! I was surprisingly organised. A little disconcerting in itself! I managed a few hours sleep before getting up at just before 4am. I got myself ready, then everyone else was up and they were soon ready too. The bus was to collect us at 6am. In true transport style it was almost half an hour late! Farah sat with us until the bus arrived. By this point I was such a mix of emotions I didn't know what to do. I was fully aware that we were the ones leaving; we were off for a new adventure and had our summer to look forward to as well. So emotionally this was more difficult for Farah. Once on the bus, I felt the emotions once again take their toll. The tears filled my eyes. And seeing Farah's little face as we pulled away was equally as heart wrenching as the Wednesday goodbyes!
The journey to the airport was pretty quiet. We arrived at Abha and checked in. Still overweight with our luggage but the guy saw we were on final exit and let us off the 20kg over!!!! A fairly easy flight to Jeddah, so time to go onto our next flight. Homeward bound. Passport control - stuck for 2 hours!!!! The systems went down and so we were stuck, if we left the hall, there was a huge line just to get back in, so we had to stay. No water. No toilets. No air conditioning! And certainly no level of a queuing system! It resembled a rugby scrum, being pushed further and further into the barriers! Ridiculous - we were all in the same situation, but some people had no patience and no manners!
We had planned to go into the VIP lounge before flying. When we finally got through there was only about 30 mins before we would have to board. However there is no longer a smoking area in Jeddah airport!! So we went to the lounge to smoke and get a drink. They were originally going to charge us 200 SAR, but we knew they had let 3 of our friends in just days before for 100 SAR in total. So we haggled him down to 100 SAR! The lounge was cool, comfy, food and drink and a comfy smoking room. Pity we didn't have longer to enjoy it.
Our flight was displaying on time. Needless to say, it wasn't! So we left the lounge earlier than we needed to. The pilot did catch up on the journey, arriving in London on time! And the flight was pretty painless too!
Walking through the gates and seeing my Dad was utter relief! Although this time we were far calmer than previous times. We loaded up the car and sat in the very long queue to get out. Although this wasn't so bad as Aunty Val had packed some nice cold beers! A sweet, sweet taste after so long in Saudi!
Everything here is so green!!! Everything was so alive!
We finally arrived home at about 11pm. Tired, emotionally drained, excited, anxious - too many feelings really!
After a good night's sleep we got back into the British way of life the following day. Bacon butties and beer!
On reflection, Saudi was a great place to be. A place I would never have envisaged visiting, let alone living. It was hard work. The cultural differences are immense. In fact the cultural difference was intense. But we survived it and learned a lot. Experienced a lot. I truly believe we made the most of our Saudi experience. We didn't live in a little expat bubble. We tried to live the Saudi way as much as we could. And the friendships made were quite simply out of this world. They are friendships I will hold onto forever. They enhanced our experience and we got each other though the tougher times that are inevitable in this type of living.
I have no regrets about Saudi. It has changed me as a person. It changed my soul. It increased my knowledge, of life, of religion, of people and most of all myself. It is unlikely we shall ever return, purely because we still have so much more to see. But Saudi will always have a special place in my heart, the first place overseas we lived and the place that changed our lives forever.