Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Leaving Home - Arrival in KSA - First Impressions

It's been a while since I posted - life got busy wrapping things up at home.  It was sure hard to leave everyone - especially my family.  I miss my parents and the rest of my family but it's nice to know that we can use skype to talk and see each other so easily.  So here is the update...I don't have very many pictures of this time so this will be a lot of words.  I hope to follow up with more pictures soon!

We spent our last evening in Michigan with my parents, my brother Rich, Laura and their kids Cameron & Trevor and my brother Russell with his two boys, Nicholas & Nathan.  We had our good friends the Lindows and the Johnsons stop by to say good-bye to us also.  We were pretty well packed by late in the afternoon so when we got up in the morning to leave, we just had to throw our dirty clothes in a suitcase and say our final farewells.  I really tried not to cry but I did - so did the kids.  We made it to the airport very easily, turned in the rental car and got on our flight to DC.  It was delayed an hour but we had a 6 1/2 hour layover in DC so not that big of a deal.  I was so grateful that our luggage got checked all the way from Detroit to Jeddah so I didn't have to deal with getting it to the next airline in DC.  My mom's cousin Lucille was nice enough to meet us in DC - she helped us through the airport and we had lunch with her.  She hung out with us during our layover and we got to chat and enjoy some time together before our flight left.

 Waiting in DTW for flight to DC

More waiting...

Our very large airplane from DC to Jeddah

The flight from DC to Jeddah was uneventful but VERY long - 12 hours.  Next time, I won't have the kids pack as much to do because the plane had individual video screens and that kept everyone entertained the entire flight.  I don't think anyone opened their backpacks at all.  We flew Saudi Airlines and it was interesting how the movies were edited - for example, I watched Music & Lyrics and if Drew Barrymore's top was a little low cut - it was blurred in that area.  Hugh Grant had a necklace on that I believe was probably a cross and that was blurred out too.  Also, most women were dressed in western dress on the plane and as we got close to landing, changed into their abayas.  Alex had to use the bathroom but got frustrated because the line was so long :-)  I had worn black pants and top and brought a dark hoodie that I wore so I didn't stand out.  It probably wouldn't have mattered, we were in the airport maybe a total of 45 minutes.

Nobody slept very well except for the little girls but we made it and landed in Jeddah about 1:00 pm local time.  We did not step right onto a jetway as we do in the states, but you actually take stairs down to the tarmac and then hop onto a bus that takes you into customs.  The heat hits you as you exit the plane like a brick wall.  On our descent, Megan had some water drip from above her - the flight attendant says that happens all the time because it's so cold up high and then as the plane descends into Jeddah, there is a lot of condensation.  You never know where it's going to drip.

Getting through customs was fairly easy - we found the desk for KAUST, filled out some paperwork and got through the first part of customs in about 15 minutes.  We picked up our luggage with the help of a KAUST representative and while we were waiting for it, we saw Mark outside the customs area.  Our luggage was scanned but not opened at all and off we went.  It was good to see Mark!  He was there with two cars for us - one for luggage and one for the family.  Three KAUST representatives were there to help us...we got to the cars and off we went.

Driving from Jeddah to KAUST was not that interesting - a lot of deserty looking area although we did see camels.  The most interesting part was that there were these HUGE homes with big high walls around them.  They were gorgeous and then outside of the walls, there were piles of dirt and trash.  Most people have told us that it is like that around the world in a lot of places - it's just odd to see such oppulence with such garbage around.

We arrived at our townhome where we will stay until a bigger home is available (hopefully).  We are a little tight in this house.  It is good size but there are only 2 bedrooms and they are not big enough for 3 beds.  Megan is sleeping in the little maid's quarters downstairs.  It has it's own bathroom but the shower is just a shower head next to the toilet - no tub or anything - it would make a huge wet mess if she were to use it.  Also, to get into the little wardrobe, you have to move the nightstand.  So it is not the best situation, but it is working for right now.  Mark says I have to traipse into the housing office with all of my 5 kids and ask them when they'll have the bigger house ready for us :-)

We had dinner at the dining hall on campus - where we've had most of our main meals since we don't have a whole ton of groceries yet.  There is a supermarket on campus which has a lot of things but there are bigger stores in Jeddah with better selection and prices so I am waiting until we get there to stock up on necessary pantry items.  We need lots of things for the house too - laundry baskets, towels, hangars, etc.  The dining hall is awesome and has a great selection of food so we haven't been suffering.  The prices are great too!  Yesterday for a great dinner, we spent 101 Riyals which equals $27.    Another interesting thing is that they don't use change here very often.  So if I'm at the grocery store and the cost is 141.60 Riyals and I pay 150, they will give me 8 Riyals in change and then some candy or a soda or something.  The kids like it because they usually get the treat.

I was hoping to get the kids started in school right away, but they only do intake interviews on Sat and Tues so Tuesday it was.  Megan and Spencer will be in the secondary school and the triplets will be in the elementary school.  The nice thing about our current home is that it is right across the street from the schools so the kids can walk very easily.  They are excited to start and will begin on Saturday.  The work week here is Saturday to Wednesday with the weekend on Thursday and Friday so we will go to church in Jeddah on Friday.  I'm looking forward to meeting more of our ward.  I already have a friend in our ward that lives on campus named Belky - her husband David is a professor here in Applied Mathmatics and they have two adorable daughters named Elena and Victoria.  I am very grateful for the church and that it allows me to already know someone anywhere I go.  They have been so helpful and welcoming!  Belky has driven us all over the place because we are still without a car (we will be buying one soon!).

We've had some little pest problems since we got here :-)  We had ants in the kids bedrooms and we had a little mouse visitor that was caught today.  Nothing too different than the states but it was nice that I could just call someone up and tell them and they came to take care of it.  I think I could get used to that.  People are extremely friendly here and very helpful! 

So some of the things that we have to get used to:
  • Heat AND Humidity - we can see the Red Sea from our home and it is very humid.  There is always a humid haziness during the day.
  • The constant hum of air conditioners - we have 4 units in our 3 BR townhome which I would say is probably about 2400 sq ft.
  • The layout of the homes are set up for maids - the kitchen has a door to close it off from the rest of the house so you have to walk way around to get in there.  The rest of the space isn't set up very efficiently either - this seems to be a trend in the design of a lot of their buildings.
  • Blue sky ALL THE TIME!!!  This one won't be hard to get used to - just have to remember the sunscreen.
We are enjoying are new home so far - the kids say it feels like we're on vacation (we're reminded a lot of FL being here).  We'll see if that lasts as they start school and get into more of a routine schedule!

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