Tuesday, June 29, 2010

...Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Leave This Place

The summer before my undergraduate years and every summer in between, I have visited Riyadh. This was not always my choice, but I had to return for official reasons, for at least 4 weeks from what I understand - ah, the pleasures of being a Saudi resident. Anyway, even though I have been here a lot, I don't actually have any friends. I have many acquaintances, most of whom I do not know by name, and I like them all very much, but I do not have any legitimate friends besides the one I wrote an earlier entry about.

So how do I spend the time here in Saudi without going totally insane? Here is a list for you:

1. I spend time with my parents. It is not every child's dream, to spend the summer hanging out with parents, but hey, it's not that bad. I actually like my parents and enjoy spending time with them. Therefore, it is with my parents that I go to the mall and other stores that are outside the compound we live in. However, they do get tired and they can't very well go out as often as I'd like - they actually have jobs. In the end, I don't get to go out much.

2. I go to the gym/swimming pool. My summers have become the healthiest time of year for me! I work out, eat better, and basically lose the weight I gain while living as a disgusting pizza-eating college student. I have already been successful after only being here for a week - I notice that my legs have become more sturdy and muscular.

3. I watch TV or movies. TV here is pretty horrible. I get reruns of some fun shows but all in all it's just as crappy as the US, mainly because we get reruns of American shows, host of which I hate. As for movies, here is a camera phone picture of my personal DVD collection (with some other things shoved in there for space!):

It isn't much, but it is something! My Dad has all 7 seasons of Buffy, 5 seasons of Angel, and many classic movies like Sunset Boulevard, The Thomas Crown Affair, and several others I still haven't seen yet. I prefer my own collection, but it contains everything my Dad wouldn't be caught dead watching. However, I only recently bought the Daria seasons, and I am curious as to whether or not he'd enjoy Daria's acid tongue.

4. I play video games. Ohhhh yes, video games. And not just puzzle games that girls are apparently so mad for. No, I play all kinds of things INCLUDING those! I play Prince of Persia just as often as I play Plants vs. Zombies, Peggle, or something like Diablo 2, which is probably one of my most favourite time wastes of all time. You would have probably noticed Prince of Persia hanging out next to my movies in the above photo. You probably also saw Grim Fandango there too, but alas, it is for the PC and I am blessed with a lovely Mac. I wish I could play all of my old adventure games...oh, adventure games! Your golden age has passed, but I still hold on to the hope that your glory will rise again from the ashes! The Tales of Monkey Island helped!

We also have a Wii, but we only have Wii Sports and Wii Fit at the moment. My Mom is a HUGE fan of those, but I am not as enthusiastic. Since I have been here this trip, I haven't even turned it on once. The Wii really is a family activity, so it's only fun when other people are around. These days, my Mom seems too tired to play, and my Dad is apparently too good for the Wii, or something.

5. I read books. I love to read. Right now, I have just gotten through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I did enjoy even though the protagonist is SO irresistible that every woman in the book absolutely needs to have sex with him - and those women don't seem to care that he has been with so many other women. What? That is the biggest letdown of the book to me. On the other hand, the crime aspect was so interesting and chilling that I would gladly read the sequels just to see more of that.

While here in Riyadh, I shop at Jarir Bookstore, a place that doesn't just sell books. They sell computers, phones, art supplies, amongst other awesome things. It is absolutely freakin' AMAZING. I could spend a whole day looking through their stock; it gives me so much inspiration. I buy all my books there, and they really do have everything, even controversial books about Saudi Arabia like Girls of Riyadh (which I do recommend to anyone who wants to read something that is feminist, funny, and heart-wrenching at the same time - as well as insanely educational). If I miss anything about Riyadh when I leave, it is definitely Jarir Bookstore. It really, really is not just a bookstore.

Reading books is probably the most productive thing that I can do while in Saudi, in a creative sense. Reading has always inspired me to become a better writer, and to become more analytical in general. I love being sucked into a good book. I also love being sucked into a good movie, but lately good movies have been very few and far between. I am incredibly lucky to have been able to watch Toy Story 3 before leaving the US because I was beginning to think that Hollywood was failing more than ever this summer. The last really good movie before Toy Story 3 was actually How to Train Your Dragon, a movie that has since become one of my favourites, so I guess it cannot be all that bad. I have to rely on old favourites, however, to let go of my present worries and immerse myself in a setting where there are characters I can really care about.

The sad truth is that when you are all alone in a place where you have only a few friends, what you have to do is get transported into a different world through artistic means - either you create art or you experience the art of others. Literature as well as film are forms of art to me, no matter how commercial they are considered to be. I let myself become part of the worlds they create for me; i.e. the audience. But then, after I lounge around like a princess, drinking tea with honey and reading my book, I turn to my laptop and write to my heart's content. These are my outlets and they allow me to stay more than sane in Riyadh - I actually find myself with some peace of mind.

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