Last night, yet again, someone said to me: “I don’t know how you do it! You must be very strong”, referring to my living abroad without a familial support network.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard. Some days I want to pack up our things and run back to everything familiar (read Greggs cheese and onion pasty and a Costa hot chocolate) but those days are far and few between. It’s been almost 8 years since we left the breezy shores of the Queen’s country, and I can honestly (regardless of how cheesy this sounds) say life has never been better.
A few weeks ago, another friend reminded me that some people are born and die in the same house, having lived their lives in a linear and conventional manner. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to meet people who hail from many different points on this vast earth, and each person has had a lesson to teach me about myself, life, and God.
In other totally unrelated news, I met someone from Kyrgyzstan the other day! How cool is that!
The Syrians taught me about the multiple uses of chickpeas by means of delicious street food they cook – chickpea fettah, falafel, and hummus – and it was also the first place I discovered drains installed in kitchen and bathroom floors, to make cleaning these rooms so much easier. They (and now I) use what can only be described as a broom like wiper thingy to direct the buckets of water thrown onto the floor down into the drains, taking all of the grime and dirt with it.. Another cool floor-cleaning hack I learnt from the Syrians is to use a hard-bristled broom with soap to scrub floors clean! Damascus taught me about the nature of surprises in alleyways, not knowing what would be found at every turn – surprises of marketplaces filled with spices, fake designer handbags, oud music, and whirling dervishes.
Jordan was a short-lived experience, but beneficial. It was where I discovered the importance of healthy eating. I used to bake brownies with a Betty Crocker mix and then gleam with pride when they turned out well (yep, true story!). I remember going to a lunch date at someone’s house and taking these boxed brownies and being looked down upon like I’d committeda heinous crime. I have since repented and seen the errors of that boxed life. I now make brownies from scratch using this great recipe (with my own health tweaks of course like coconut sugar). They would be proud.
Where do I begin the eye-opening experiences Saudi provided us with? We learnt the art of sand-surfing (it’s really a thing!), the blessing of having a small but incredible group of like-minded friends around us; we also experienced a lot of kindness from both natives and expats alike. We lived amidst mountains and scorpions, and learnt to connect with nature by growing our own veggies. We were able to road-trip to the two blessed cities frequently, and completed the lesser pilgrimage more than ten times. We were able to have the time and space for introspection, and make life-transforming changes.
This was a shock to our desert-adjusted quiet souls. Traffic, food, malls amongst the glitz and glamour of well.. Qatar. We survived, ate lots and did lots of cool things like participate in a home-schooling co-op for the first time!
I think Turkey has been the cream on the cake as our adventures come to an end soon (inshallah!). We have discovered comical ways of communicating beyond language. Our eyes have been opened to the vast richness of Turkish culture, food and history – oh, and also Turkish television series (check them out!). Turkish home-keeping and their approach to home cleaning and organisation is the best of the best. I look at awe at the speed in which Turkish women operate, cook and complete their daily tasks- ‘bish, bash, bosh’ is their slogan. This has also been the COLDEST place we have lived in, with temperatures dipping to -13 degrees accompanied by up to 3 feet of pure white snow.