I have a clean apartment that is slowly getting better by the day, I have met some amazing people, I've joined local groups for sports and leisure, I've scored a goal playing futbol, I've learned a dance that is named after a spicy dip, I've taken a 15 minute flight around Jeddah and over the Red Sea, I've edited a short video of my flight, I've nearly finished a book (Bruiser by Neal Shusterman), I've taught some wonderful new students that are eager to learn, I've dined with some awesome coworkers, I've been invited to go snorkeling, boating, and diving which I hope to take advantage of very soon!
So yeah, Jeddah is a little more "what I hoped it would be" and a little less "what we all thought it would be." This seems to be the case in my experience. Guatemala had all sorts of travel warnings when I went there in 2006 but it was one of the most beautiful, peaceful and inexpensive places I've ever visited. I was told that Russian people were hard and unfriendly, but when I visited Moscow in 2010 I had never felt more welcome in a foreign country because everyone I met was so friendly. I've also had friends tell me the same things about Cuba and Myanmar - two places Americans are not supposed to travel to, but by first hand accounts I've heard they're quite beautiful and tranquil travel destinations. Well, now I'm in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia which is also on the Travel Warnings list (along with every other country in the region) and almost no one that I talked had a positive mental image of life here, but just two weeks in and I feel like I made the right choice about taking this crazy chance.
First impressions: It's a city and just like other cities you can expect a lot of people, a lot of traffic, crazy driving habits, plenty of restaurants, and a fare amount of site-seeing or people watching available.
Yes, I feel safe. No, I haven't seen the dessert yet.
Also, there are some unique aspects to life here in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). First off, there is no alcohol. Yup, none. The punishments can be pretty severe too - the go medieval even though it's 2012. So no alcohol means no bars, no pubs, and no clubs. I would not have moved here if I was 22 like I did when I went to Korea, but at 29 I haven't really felt much of a change at all. It has only been two weeks though. There is also no public dancing or signs of affection between men and women. Women are only supposed to even be out in public with men who are relatives or their husband. They have to cover their bodies at all times in public, many just show their eyes, but here in Jeddah faces are shown pretty commonly, and on a rare occasion I've seen women walking around with their hair down too! :-o I know, how risque! Women are not allowed the right to drive here and as unfair as it is, it really puts a wrench in the age old joke about women being bad drivers because the drivers here are all pretty bad, but they're all men.
Since I'm not a woman I have some more freedoms, but I'm supposed to have clothes that cover my knees on at all times in public too. I thought that would be really hard here in the terrible heat, but I've been dealing pretty well so far. And the few times I've walked to the corner store with my scandalous and sexy kneecaps showing, nothing has happened. There is a little more leniency with men.
Ok, I'm a bit all over the place with this first posting because I've done so much in two weeks and talked to so many different people independently, I didn't know where to start or what to cover. And maybe I've just been out of the blogging game for a while and it will take some time to get back on the horse, I mean camel. I think that's what they say here. Maybe I'm making that up.