Monday, July 18, 2011

Friends, Relationships and Groceries

Most of us are here on “bachelor status”, meaning we are alone.  My husband, parents and sons are still in the U.S. – except my eldest son that lives in London.  Being here alone means that you make friends really fast and they become GOOD friends!  The names of my friends are fictional and these descriptions are really a compilation of people I have met – not intended to describe a certain individual but the sentiments are real.
Sometimes you meet a person and you just know immediately they are going to be someone you want to hang with.  You can’t really say why, but you just know – the way the smile, the way they laugh, the things they like, the places they frequent – it just makes it really easy to be with them.  I got lucky and met three people like that almost the minute I landed in Kingdom.  These are the ladies I spend all of my free time with.  We like the same things, we laugh at the same things, we gossip about the same things and we have a great time just being with each other. 
Sally is from the Midwest US, she is full of life and so much an extrovert she literally knows everyone on the camp.  She took me under her wing the very first day and we have had some really good laughs.  Sally always sees the glass half full and when I am just desperate to find the fastest way home she can totally turn my thinking around and make me see all of the positive reasons for staying.  She helped me get stuff for my apartment, she arranged for me to borrow a car when I first arrived and she has introduced me to several other people that have become my surrogate family.  I had only been here a couple of weeks when I decided to drive the borrowed car to work for the first time.  I did a test run to make sure I knew how to get to the office.  Since I was always a passenger on my first trips to the office I didn’t really pay close attention to the route.  As is true with people who have lived in a place for a long time, no one knows the names of the streets so getting good directions was impossible.  The camp is relatively small and built like a US Military Base, so not really that hard to follow.  Rush hour traffic here consists of maybe 10-12 cars on the road at one time!  This seemed like an easy task, after all, I have been driving for a very long time!  I head out with plenty of time to spare and take the route I practiced the day before but as luck would have, all 12 cars were on the road that morning and I wasn’t exactly confident about the route.   As I was looking for the right road to turn on, I missed seeing a STOP sign until I was too late and ended up running the stop sign right in front of a security guard.  Needless to say, I got stopped and was given a ticket.  A traffic ticket here is really bad!  Your boss is notified and you get counseled, it goes into your personnel record and you don’t get your “safety award” for the year.  And the safety award is a big deal because you can choose things like a microwave or GPS unit.  I was pretty upset by this – especially since I was using my borrowed car for the first time and the car belonged to Sally’s good friend.  I told her about this as soon as got to work and she jumped into action – we spent the next 4 hours going all over the camp looking for someone with the authority to void the ticket.  When she asked me if I had tried to cry in front of the officer, I said I really had to try NOT to cry and we both laughed so hard we about wet ourselves.  The friendship was forever forged after that day.
Kathy lives out west.  She had to leave her husband and kids at home too and we spend a lot of time talking about how hard it is to be here without your husband.  It is funny how many things you take for granted and how much you miss them when you don’t have them!!  Our husbands take really good care of us and we both feel a huge void without them here!  Kathy and I have a really easy time together.  We are both very committed to our faith and enjoy our fellowship times together.  We have fun shopping, eating out, exploring and just relaxing at our apartments. 
Alice is my pal for spa days, pedicures, trips to the beauty salon and lounging by the swimming pool.  We both love being girly girls and shopping trips always cost way too much money.  I am usually just a by-stander on those trips but I have no problem choosing clothes that look great on her.  The days at the pool are always fun – the sun is warm and strong, like a bold cup of coffee.  The pool is chilled to the perfect temperature so when you jump in it is just cool enough to catch your breath but feel totally refreshing.  Hours fly by in conversation, sharing stories about life in the Middle East, travels to exotic places and experiences over 15 + years of working abroad.  The only thing we really miss is umbrella drinks.
I usually venture into Khobar on the weekends with one of my friends.  One day, I decided to be adventurous and go on my own after all, I only needed to go to the grocery store and we take a bus that only makes two stops.  On the bus, I met Karen, a woman I work with but don’t really know that well.  We had a nice chat along the route to the shops and she got off at the first stop to visit an Indian bakery and get some other things for a party she was having that night.  I got off at the second stop – LuLu market.  I was in the store about 20 minutes with several items in my cart when I started to feel very bad.  I was suddenly overcome by a feeling that was all too familiar; I was going to be sick and needed to get to a toilet – quick!  Well, public toilets are few and far between in this country so no luck.  I sat on a bench in front of the store with a plastic bag in my hands and reviewed my options:  bus wasn’t coming back for at least an hour; I couldn’t call anyone to pick me up because they aren’t allowed to drive, and calling an ambulance would surely land me in some forsaken hospital which made that not even an option!  As I sat on a bench in front of the store my bus-mate Karen appeared.  I explained the situation and she hailed a taxi, helped me into it and escorted me back to my apartment.  My grocery shopping was abandoned but another friendship was forged.  
Everyone I have met since I arrived has gone out of their way to help me, provide for me, care for me and be genuinely kind.  I work with a fabulous group of people from around the globe and we have all come to appreciate the similarities and differences we experience every day.  We have shared plenty of laughs and some tears.  We are beginning to know a little about the tapestry that makes up our lives.  We are forming relationships – some will probably last for a lifetime and others will only last for the moment.  It is all part of this incredible journey called life – in the Magic Kingdom

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