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John and Nina Adventures – Exploring the Compound

by Nina Sabin - Travel

Welcome to Blog #5

In my last blog, Expat life… Unusual but Rewarding! I shared with you about our first days of living overseas. I left off with explaining that due to the incidents of September 11, 2001, our sea shipment did not arrive in usual three months. During that time, we had to learn to adapt and determine what we could live without. In my earlier blog, I mentioned we arrived in August. The camp was pretty empty and not many people were around at that time. But within a couple of weeks, everyone was back from summer holiday and in no time we began to make friends and learn more about getting around the compound. As I mentioned before, the friends you make on the compound become more than just friends, they become family. God blessed us with two families that had children just a few doors down from us. That was such a help in adapting and acclimating to our new home and surroundings.

Let me share a little detail about our compound. It was like living in a small city, but with nationalities from all over the world. In total there were about two hundred nationalities that lived on our compound. We did not have a car at the beginning, so walking was our main way we explored the camp. We lived close to the commissary (market) and library which was very convenient. We were assigned a single family home that had three bedrooms and two and a half baths; perfect size for our family. Until our furniture arrived we were given temporary furniture. It wasn’t our style, but we were grateful to have something to use. They also provide a care package with pots, pans, sheets, plate, utensils, etc. It included the essentials to living in house.

People were so friendly with loaning items that were not included in the care package, like baking dishes, cake pans, mixers, etc. Two months after we arrived, my youngest daughter turned four. We, of course, had planned to make her a cake, but discovered we had nothing to bake the cake. Thanks to the loving friends and neighbors we were able to borrow items to make the cake and make her a special birthday party.

After a month without a car, we realized we needed to do something. Some people rent cars until they buy one. We had our car in the sea shipment; we couldn’t wait till that arrived. We looked into renting, but didn’t need to. One of John’s co-workers offered for us to borrow his car since they had an extra one. All expats understand at the beginning how hard it is adjusting and starting over in a foreign country. They look out for each other and help those who are new.

Woman in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to drive except on camp. That made it inconvenient when you needed to go off camp as you had to wait for your husband to drive or hire a taxi. However, to compensate, the company provided a free bus service to town in the morning and evening. Part of the reason it was only two times a day is the buses had to work around prayer time. In Saudi, the call of prayer happened five times a day. Three of them interfered with shopping, as all stores closed during prayer time for 20-30 minutes. Most people just stood outside the store waiting for it to reopen. Some places allowed you to stay inside, like restaurants and big grocery stores, but you were locked in until prayer time was over. We always felt like we were in a rush to beat prayer time.

On camp we had the commissary (market), a convenience store (mini market), post office, simple shops and restaurants. They did not close for prayer time, which was helpful. However, if you ever experienced cabin fever, you will understand, that staying on camp had the same feeling, if you did not go out into town occasionally.

Our camp was basically a little oasis in the desert. We had the only green area with trees and grass. It was like living in a country club. There was two swimming pools, a bowling alley, the only movie theater in Saudi Arabia, a middle school and an elementary school, a golf course, tennis courts, running tracks, exercise facilities, and activities for families of all ages. It was a great place for us to bring up our girls. The times when we realized that we were in another country from our own is when we went to the medical facility and saw ladies in abayas and men in thobes or seeing mosques on camp.

In my next blog will include our first trip out of the Saudi Arabia and when our shipment finally arrived. Stay tuned.

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