Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Lessons We Learn Through Friendship and Change

Transitions, no matter how big or small, are always difficult in some way shape or form.  Sometimes it’s just an icky feeling of being out of your comfort zone.  Other times it’s extreme discomfort and mental anguish.  Either way, change is the only constant in life and it’s simply something that we must learn to deal with if we are to exist happily during the time we’re on this earth.

I always knew the changes that would occur for me during my move and adjustment to Saudi Arabia would be hard to some extent or another.  To be honest, it has been pretty smooth sailing in a lot of ways for the 2 and ½ months since I moved here.  So, of course I was bound to experience a bit of transition agony and homesickness at some point or another.  It’s interesting, however, how the homesick feelings were triggered.

When I say it’s been smooth sailing living here in Saudi, it’s not exactly true.  There have been bumps and blips and obstacles, but they’ve happened one at a time and I’ve had people here that supported me through them.  The last few weeks, however, I’ve felt hit by a few difficulties that seemed to pile on top of each other.  The first being that I’m recognizing how different the attitudes of Saudi people are.  I won’t go into detail here, but their work ethics and reliability tend to be different and it can be hard to adjust at times.  It’s the Saudi way and they seem to be fine with the way things are, but I still have a tendency to be surprised when things don’t happen as quickly or are not done with as much care and quality as I am used to in Canada.  I keep having to remind myself that things needing to be done won’t occur with as much reliability as they would have at home.  I really miss Canada at these times.   It’s a mindset adjustment that is doable, but the transition can wear on a person and it’s wearing on me at this point in time. 

Another and, really, a very important thing that has happened (and that I can’t go into detail with) is I’ve experienced stress in the area of the health of the sweet and darling child that I work with.  It’s hard enough seeing a child that is sick when you don’t know them well.  It’s excruciating to watch my sweet little patient whom I adore regress due to health issues.  Thankfully, he’s on the mend now and doing oh so well.  Big thank you going out to the powers that be.  It was a very stressful three weeks prior to this.

Those stressors have been making a mark on my experience here in Saudi Arabia and have been making me miss home a lot, but they are and were both bearable.  That is until I began to feel my connections to some people who were so kind to me when I first arrived begin to fade.  I would love to say that this is a result of natural shifts in interests and schedules, but unfortunately that’s not the case.  At least that’s my interpretation of it.  Let me explain.

I live a life of trust and I live according to the belief that everyone has goodness in their hearts.  One of the wonderful people I’ve met here in Saudi Arabia said I have an “alb abyad” (white heart) which, I was told, means that I have a pure heart that looks for the good in others.  This compliment was not only amazingly flattering, but I also feel that it’s very true; I really believe that if you give someone a chance to show goodness, they will come through.  It’s like what Paul Rudd’s character, Ned, in “Our Idiot Brother says, “I like to think that if you put your trust out there, I mean if you really give people the benefit of the doubt and see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.”

I still believe this concept to be true, but recently my beliefs were tested.  There were people that I met upon coming to Saudi Arabia that I felt treated me with genuine kindness and gave their support to me willingly and without conditions.  Some of these people were sincere and good.  Others were not so honest.  I say this because it recently came to my attention that a few of the people I felt were friends were saying things about me amongst themselves and to others that did not reflect a sense of friendship by any means.  The general sense that I got from the things I’ve been told were said seem to stem from a misunderstanding as to the type of person that I am and the life that I lead.  It is quite apparent that, while at home in British Columbia, Canada I am an average girl.  In Saudi Arabia, however, I am different from many of the women that live in this country.  Women aren’t typically interested in sports here.  They certainly aren’t interested in what some Arab people consider “extreme” sports like mountain biking, snowboarding, rock climbing, and jumping horses over big fences.  The women, instead, tend to have interests and priorities geared towards making themselves look beautiful and being good mothers (which they are on both accounts to every extent and them some).  Along with this, I’m also different because I’m not interested in having a family.  My priorities are odd to many of the people that live here.  As a result, it seems, I am hard to “figure out.”  So in trying to figure me out some of the people who I initially felt were my friends decided to make fun of my passion for the sports that I love and also to make assumptions about me.  The assumptions were inaccurate.  They didn’t talk to me about where my interests and priorities stem from.  They weren’t open-minded about how the interests of a woman from a different culture could be a result of simple love for the activities combined with living in a place where those interests can be nurtured.  Instead, these people decided to disrespect my love of sports, describing them as trivial and silly activities to be made fun of, and they also spread their assumptions of the way I lead my life to people around the compound in which I live.  This caused even more people to have an inaccurate view of the person that I am and to pass judgment on me before getting to know me.

I am a strong and independent person who has a solid sense of who I am and where I stand in life.  It is difficult to shake the psychological foundation that I have developed for myself.  This circumstance shook me to the core.  I am not the type of person who is concerned about others’ opinions of who I am nor what they think of the things that I love to do.  I am, however, someone who has strong feelings towards the people I care about.  I cared about these people and held them in high regard.  In return, they did something that was disrespectful and showed me that I was wrong to trust them to the degree I would hold for a close friend.  It devastated me.  To the point where it took a lot of time for me to gain clarity of the situation, step away from the sense of betrayal that I was feeling, and step towards recognition of the lessons that I was learning from it.  The interesting thing about this was, I learned that I’m not so independent after all.  I gained awareness that sometimes I just need to allow the good people around me to help when helping myself isn’t an option yet.

For a long while I have worked hard at growing and learning through my life experiences.  During this time I did this on my own.  It was a personal journey and I loved every minute of it.  I had the loveliest friends and family around me who were always there for me to vent to or to sort out my thoughts with.  But, when it all came down to it, I figured the tough stuff out on my own.  The difference between then and now is I was able to keep a sense of my “zen” during those past rough patches.  I could always feel the light shining out from the darkness I may have been feeling.  This time was different.  My mind was clouded and I forgot what it was like to have clarity.  I couldn’t step back and look at the situation with an objective perspective.  This is likely because of the buildup of multiple stressors that wore me down and also because being hurt by friends is a new experience for me.  Regardless of why it happened, I was lost and I could feel my energy lowering to a frequency that I hadn’t felt in a long time.  I was becoming negative.  Thankfully whatever powers that be didn’t leave me hanging.  There was a lesson for me to learn here and it was that it’s time for me to recognize that I can use my connections to others to help me out of a funk.  When my energy is too drained to be able to do it on my own, it’s okay to grab on to someone and ask to be pulled out of the hole I am falling into.  While I always knew about this concept, I needed to learn how to actually go ahead and do it.  Thankfully, I had someone around who knew how to listen and also what to say to help me gain my positive perspective again.  And, most importantly, this person knew how to bring a posse of goodness around me in the form of genuine people whose priorities have always been to be caring and understanding friends of mine as well as others.  It wasn’t long after I confided in one person that a team of love surrounded me and showed me that I am cared for and supported after all.

Having the love of others around me is important.  I’ve always known this, but I never really ever utilized it.  The transitions and change that are occurring in my life as a result of moving to Saudi Arabia are showing me that, while I appreciated the support of my friends and family back home, I may have taken it for granted in a lot of ways.  I think this is part of why I have been so homesick and feeling a lot of pain from what happened.  Sometimes you need darkness in your life to recognize the light that existed in what you had.  I had an amazing thing going for me back home with my fantastic friends and fun things to do that I’m passionate about.  I’ve been missing my friends and the activities we did together with every ounce of my existence.  I’ve also been feeling desperate to get back to that life again because what has been happening here has been miserable.  Things are getting better now, however, and I do feel in my heart that Saudi Arabia is where I’m meant to be at this time.  While I have been feeling exceptionally low lately, I can sense my energy getting higher again and I know that all is well and all will be wonderful again.  It’s all about flowing with life and I had a downward swing for a little while.  The upswing is kicking into gear now.

As for the folks that played a part in the downward swing that I experienced as of late, I am still feeling the sting of what occurred as a result of their behavior.  I do, however, recognize that their intentions were very likely not vindictive.  They were just inconsiderate and acted that way without any forethought, and that’s okay.  I do believe that they have goodness in their hearts.  For some reason, they decided to behave in a way that did not represent their underlying goodness.  Again, that’s okay.  I forgive them for doing the things they did.  I also appreciate the lessons that the situation they created gave me and also for showing me who those people are that really are my sincere and true friends here in Saudi Arabia and that homesickness is something that can be overcome with time and support.

In Joy,



  1. Oh Bonnie! So heart breaking to read of your trials in Saudi. You truly are a friend with a 'white heart'; what an accurate description. I'm sorry you had to experience this unfortunate lesson so far away from home. You do a fantastic job of analyzing, stepping away, and forgiving. Friendships in new places can be hard and I'm glad that now you feel like you've got a true support network there.

    Thinking of you often,
    Jenn, Dave, Gavin, Lilly, and Bacho too

    1. Jenn, Dave, and fam!!
      Thank you for this. You know I think of you, Jenn, every time I go for a round of laps in the pool here at the compound. You would be proud of me and my progress.
      Thank you for your love and support! No matter how far from home I am, I know that having you guys cheering me on makes me able to handle the crappie days and appreciate the awesome days.
      Love you all!

  2. Bonnie,

    It has been a pleasure reading the last several months of your new adventures in Saudi. I really want to thank you for sharing with us.

    Transitions are never easy, but with Big Changes, we know there are Big Opportunities. Transitions can hurt, as our comfort zones are stretched. Through the stretching produces growth.

    Reading your blogs, I'm watching a beautiful bud become a flower. Keep going... at times you'll be tested and pruned; as you discovered, it hurts.. but it helps to create something very exquisite.

    May you continue in your reflections, which will return to you wisdom and peace.


    1. Barbara,
      Thank you for your lovely words and your fantastic support!!!


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