Diaries of an expat who just couldn’t love Riyadh… enough Part 1: The Move

Diaries of an expat who just couldn’t love Riyadh… enough Part 1: The Move

By Ruba Mahmoud

  • “Mom, why are we here in Riyadh?”
  • “To be with Dad”
  • “That’s it?”
  • “Yes, that’s it, but it’s everything that matters”

That was about all the conversation I had with my -back then seven-year-old daughter- to clarify to myself more than to her about the reason we had to leave our homeland, house, parents, friends, jobs and whole lives behind us and move to a city I couldn’t feel any connection with.

I was supposed to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the move because it didn’t come as a surprise. My husband has already been going back and forth for years, but the gap was only getting bigger, my role was getting bigger and tougher while his was becoming shallower. He was no longer there for birthdays, doctor appointments, first steps and first words. He was missing the milestones of our three children and I was starting to get used to his absence. He was no longer a part of our life. Something was wrong and we had to something about it.

So that was it, the decision was made and we had to be back together before my kids, myself, or even he got used to it. He tried to get me prepared in several direct and indirect ways to the life in Riyadh and I just thought to myself, well, how hard can it be? We speak the same language, same religion, very close culture, same manners and pretty much same history, I thought I got it all figured out despite all his warnings, but THIS I didn’t see coming!!!

It was August 2014, I have already quit my job that I loved so much, said goodbye to my kids’ nanny who left for good, sold my car, and packed what I thought would need for a basic life, because -after all- we’re not supposed to stay for long-or so I thought!

Saying the goodbyes was so hard- especially to my mom and dad, it was the first time to leave my family for a long time. My kids were so young and had no idea what’s going on, just excited for riding a plane with their new “Hello Kitty” and “Dora” suitcases, with all the nice stuff I got them to keep them busy during the flight,

My husband on the other hand was carefully watching; alert toward my reactions, following with anticipation my every move. He had worries, and they were in the right place.

Be it stress, anxiety or my subconscious; I got severely sick and had a terrible headache for the whole flight!  The two-hour flight turned into a nightmare. I’m used to travelling around to short and long destinations, yet never had I got sick or had a headache, but this time the pain was intolerable. Only to make things worse, my little son fell asleep on my lap so I couldn’t move, and my body got numb. Ironically enough the plane staff had no pain killers, and I just couldn’t open my eyes anymore. Law of attraction? I had no clue.

When we finally arrived at the airport, I was still in so much pain and could barely focus on what’s going on around me, everything was so blurry. Trying to pull myself together so we can finish the procedures and get to a place where I can finally rest, I had so much strange feelings and observations!

The only thing I remember my husband saying when the officer wanted to take my picture for the visa was: “smile, because this picture will stick to you”-oh God, nauseous with a smile, it turned out so bad, and yes it did stick!

Reaching the hotel was everything I wanted at that moment, so we collected our luggage, lots of luggage, ordered a taxi, and I finally took my first step in Riyadh, the first step into a lifetime.

To be continued….

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