As expats we live in a secure compound with high walls, inside those walls we have grass, trees, flowers, beauty and order.
Many local families live in their own high walled “compounds” with their extended families. And although I have never been behind those walls I have heard of their gardens.
Outside of all of our walls is the city we all share. Most of the city is full of trash, partially developed buildings, blowing sand, broken sidewalks – if there are sidewalks at all; narrow streets and tiny parking lots that don’t accommodate all of the cars, and random unmatched street lights that don’t begin to illuminate the dark.
A few weeks ago I met with some local women and they encouraged me to check out a city that is 101 kilometers (62.75 miles) away.
This past weekend, my husband and I rode there on our Harley with several other couples.
Before we left one of the women commented about how much she likes the city we were driving to. When I asked why she said, “it is just like the movies at night, it is all lit up…”
So as we drove into this neighboring city my eyes were wide open…
As I looked specifically for light sources I noticed several things:
I was a new middle manager on my first trip across the country to the Corporate Office and was seated in the Executive Boardroom for a meeting. As we were preparing to take a short break, the CEO leaned across the table and asked me,
“Chery, have you shared your vision with your team?”
I gulped and my mind raced… Oh no! I’m supposed to have one of those? (My mind quickly visualized the formal vision statements that are printed and hung on the wall for all to see.) As I exited the boardroom, I wandered down the hallway wondering what a vision was and how to get one FAST!
Change is growth.
This week I realized that it has been 8 months since we agreed to turn an unwanted opportunity into an adventure. Today as I type this the last box has just been unpacked, the pictures are hung, and we’ve taken one quick spin around the compound on the Harley – celebrating that we are finally settled!
This weekend we shopped at one of the stores that we were in, on my first day here, causing me to reflect on that day:
- Shortly after 3 AM the anticipated call to prayer blared from a speaker.
- Once we were up we drove on roads that have lanes painted on them, however those lanes really don’t mean anything, as drivers simply drive wherever they want, whenever they want with no driving protocol or enforcement.
- As a woman – driving is not a wise option for me. (It’s not a law, but you can get arrested if you do it!)
- I was wearing my new black “cloak of invisibility.” (In case you wondered, it is effective – as my husband quickly discovered how difficult it was to identify his wife when everyone is wearing a cloaking device! Since that day we have wondered how small children learn to identify their mothers in a crowd and joked that perhaps I should add a huge Harley Davidson decal to the back of my “cloak” so he can spot me in a crowd!)
Once upon a time I worked for a charismatic leader with a serious set of skills. Someone I learned from constantly and deeply admired …
- Until I caught him in a lie.
- And then a second one.
- A third one.
- A fourth one.
- And finally a fifth one.
The crazy part was – I wasn’t hunting for lies. I literally kept tripping into them – all five in a very short amount of time after years of working together.
When I confronted for the last time. He said, “I don’t know how you keep finding these things out.” No denial. No excuses. No apology.
A short time later – I “fired him” by turning in my notice.
Titled leaders and employees can all be tempted to overlook honesty because of skill.
Since our return home from Saudi Arabia, (A place I once feared and had zero desire to move to.) I have been facilitating a series of workshops for students – sharing what day-to-day life was like while emphasizing critical life, leadership and people skills that they will need throughout their lives.
In each workshop students are given a visual of a natural process that will happen the rest of their lives – as they decide if they have the courage to leave their comfort zones or the grit to survive when life hands them circumstances they can’t control.
Some of the questions I’ve been asked about Saudi are worth sharing:
What was the best part?
- Living in an International Compound: Sharing life, friendship, and food with people from more than 50 nations and learning from them.
- Riding motorcycle with men and women from all over the world and getting to experience parts of Saudi that many expats don’t get to enjoy. (Yes – My motorcycle jacket had ½ of an abaya attached to it and could be rolled up when I was on the bike and rolled down when I was off the bike. Allowing me to be respectful and safe while enjoying time on the bike with my husband.)
- Vacationing in 11 countries besides Saudi and Bahrain in the 4 years we were there.
What was the hardest thing for you?