Monday, August 30, 2010

To Leave Saudi: Turn, Turn, Turn

NOTE: I apologise for the BIZARRE spacing that Blogspot is forcing on me. No matter what I do, the spacing is weird. Know that I tried my very best to even things out, to no avail! Curses!

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

I'm so anxious. I haven't been able to sleep properly for days, I'm constantly eating and regaining all those pounds, and I have an upset stomach that never seems to get better.

I'm leaving Riyadh today.

What I mean is, I am leaving Riyadh tonight. Very, very late tonight. I'm taking a plane and finally going back to the US to continue my life, or something. It is the end of my period of stagnation! I should rejoice!

But was this really stagnation, or was there anything useful in this time? Did I really get to reflect and learn anything? Did I really lose any pounds to regain? Did I prepare myself at all for the very difficult journey ahead?

I do not have an answer yet, to any of those questions!

The best thing about being here in the summer is that time stood extremely still. I didn't need to think about anything except how to pass each coming day; what to eat, watch on TV, do on the internet, books to read...

The first few weeks were different, because I had to make decisions: will I be going to graduate school yet? Will I be staying in Saudi Arabia for longer to apply to different schools? Am I happy with my life? In the end, I answered the first two questions with a Yes and a No. The last question can't just be answered like that. I'm still thinking about it.

In some ways, I am leaving tonight with more questions than answers. I've learned new things about Saudi Arabia and allowed myself to be exposed to what certain people living outside and in Saudi think. All of this mostly happened on the internet through other blogs and news articles, but I have never been as informed about some of the goings on in Saudi than I am now. No way am I an expert, but my online self-education has made me more aware. Maybe that is why I am so full of questions!

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

The greatest thing I have learned this summer is that I am not the saviour of Saudi Arabia. I am not a superhero who can make disappear all of the problems and issues that exist over here. What I can do, in the end, is read and write about what I think. When I do that, I am supporting people who can do what I cannot. In the end, I have realised that I am not a person to cause any political change or unrest in this country, mostly due to a very, very simple thing:

This is not my country. I do not belong here. I may appreciate and love some of the things, but I cannot begin to understand what Saudis and non-Saudis go through in this country because I don't work here. I have come here three summers without a scratch, because I have been forced to avoid all dangers. I am one of the luckiest people who has ever been to Riyadh! Other people either have the time of their life at places I will never be able to visit, and yet another group will be miserable because they have their dignity stripped from them.

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

But what do I really know? In the end, I don't really know how to help people in need here because I don't live here often enough, nor do I socialise with many people. In fact, I only sort of socialised with one, and that was over the phone! On top of that, I am not even a Saudi. The change needs to come from Saudis themselves, and Saudi women in particular. They are the ones who can create the most change. The last thing they need is a foreigner barging in and telling them what to do. That creates a backlash, not change.

The truth is, there are more capable Saudis who can do more to help their country, and they already are and will. I am not good at political change at all. When it comes to human rights, the rights of the child, joblessness, religious bastardisation, I am not even knowledgeable about world standards! I know what is wrong, but what model is right? I cannot dictate what Saudi Arabia's model should be. That is up to the people who actually live, work, and breathe this country. 

If I could do anything, I wouldn't touch policies or government. I have to admit there are times when I'd like to put up my own signs and do my own protests, but guess what? I'd be doing it alone. I'd be mocked for being that foolish foreign girl who doesn't understand anything and they would be absolutely right. If I knew any better, I'd know that public demonstrations here mostly lead to arrests. I don't know what to even protest for: as I said, I know the problems (and not even to their full extent!) but I do not know what the solutions are.

A time of war, a time of peace
A time of love, a time of hate
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

There are people who definitely know what to rally for. There are a lot of people who know Riyadh and Saudi back to front and know the culture and society much better. These are the people, men and women, who will end up making the most of the country while still staying true to its spirit. The optimistic thing is that they have a rather progressive King who seems to be mostly on their side, and from my point of view that means a lot. There are still fatwas by random dudes, but even the Royal family is putting them down.

I am not World Police. Even if I were a foreign government, I still have no right to go barge into any country. It is really because of foreign involvement from the West that so much resistance to change has happened in the Middle East. I know what is done is done, so I think I am going to be one less (half)Westerner who tries to impose my beliefs in the future. I know many people in the US and other Western nations also want to help but the best help anyone from there can do is just take a step back and let the experts do the job. We are not the experts. As much as I want and desire change, I can't get it the way that Westerners know how because things are different here than what we all know and understand. And for the sake of diversity and richness of our cultural planet, I commend that.

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

I have said the same thing over and over, I apologise, but the truth is that I feel so helpless about certain issues that really touch my heart that I can't really deal with the frustration, even though I am leaving soon. It is in fact due to my departure that I feel even more irritated with myself and my relationship to the political world. I'm just packing my bags and leaving. That is what I have always done, whether it is my choice or not. Maybe all of what I said before is just my way of trying to cope with the fact that I actually can't do anything.

Every time I think that, I remember how much of a stranger I am to this place even though I lived here when younger, and I came here every summer for 3 years. I have residency here but I am no resident. That is why it is a good thing that I made no crazy rash decisions for anyone else. Whatever I feel like doing, how can I ever follow through? In the end, I will always have to leave.

I wish sometimes that I could really follow through, especially for people like Mr. F. There are others like him who are only tied to this country for money, and they are in great need of it back home. If I could do one good thing for this country, it'd be getting him or someone like him a job somewhere else where they are appreciated and respected. Is there even such a place? 

I know there are some people from the Indian sub-continent who are depressed and angry here. Some of them feel they are the subject of constant racism; that they are treated as inferior. They do their jobs as best as they possibly can with only a promise of money they cannot earn back in their home country. They would go back and continue their lives with their families if they could.

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time for every purpose under heaven

To me, it's not about women's rights or religion. It's about giving poorer foreigners back their pride. They deserve it because they are the most worthy of praise and yet they get nothing. I know how dramatic it sounds, but every summer and every time I would go back to college it would eat at my soul. I would have dreams of these men and their faces. They were not crying out for my help, but I always felt afterwards that I begged for their forgiveness. I'm so sorry, workers of Saudi, that I have no power to get you out of your positions. I don't even have a job of my own.

Before I get too crazy and emotional, I want to say that one of the best things about Saudi this summer was this blog. Even though I didn't always write things of substance and I rattle on for ages, I loved doing this for myself and the people who read what I wrote. Right now, I feel like I got through the summer in a much more productive and enlightened way than usual. I have regained the drive to write, and that means so much to me. I'm not writing only for academic purposes anymore. I never thought that day would come!

What will happen? I am not the Gypsy in the Desert anymore after tonight, am I? Well, not physically. But in the end, I will always be in the desert. In my mind, I am always alone, watching the rest of the world. I am standing in a sandstorm that constantly beats at me, I am shielding my eyes from the sharp cutting particles and cupping my hands over my ears from the dirt. Things like this don't change. No matter where I am, I'm always in the desert. It just isn't the desert of Saudi Arabia.

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time to love, a time to hate
A time of peace, I swear it's not too late!


  1. ksa *_*
    where ever i have been i miss the kingdom
    to be in ksa to be a human who shring every thing wity athor love peace food every thing
    god help me in EU ( my study my li.... etc
    hey u go on i will be in touch
    with gypse in the desert

  2. I think you will find that there is love and sharing in every place...just a different kind; it's like they have their own flavour. If you are in the EU now I hope you'll find that love and sharing in whatever country you are in.