Nov 25, 2014

Am I an 'expat' fraud?

I have been quiet for some time, as I am not really sure where I fall into on the the different blogger categories. Am I a local blogger? An expat blogger? I am definitely not one of those 'it' fashion, or cooking bloggers. So I have remained silent in hopes of having an 'aha' moment.

I was added a while back to a Facebook group for mulitcultural bloggers, where the wives (or husbands) are a different nationality from their spouse, and they made the big move to their spouses home country. It is really facinating to watch the different mixes, different languages at play, and the different clashes of traditions. And to be honest, these women are professional, I mean their blogs are amazing, they put time into it, share beautiful snapshots of their respective lives, and really make you feel like you are joining them on their adventures in a new land. And amazingly yet although we are all different (on different levels within the sacred bloggerdom hierarchy- like really different, there is that same basic feel to how our lives generally are. A stranger in a strange place trying to find their little corner in the world to make home. I love it.

Admittedly, I have been sitting back quietly, watching as they interact with one another, as they discuss their day to day dealings, and I can't help but thing, Dude I am a fraud! I shouldn't be here. I am peaking into the lives of these people i have no right to be part of. I am in Saudi, I've been here 10 years, I've got my entire maternal family from here- so yeah a halfie, so I am kinda local right? Well the reality is I am not. I'm a Canuck! A Canadian, living in Saudi with her Saudi hubby, and her Saudi kids. I never will be a full local. I will always be the foreigner, I will always be the expat who married into the family. Never will I be described as my mothers daughter, the daughter of a Saudi National female. It's OK, I am coming to terms with it, but seriously, I still haven't found my little area. I find I am not expat enough to be seen as a pure expat, or local enough to be local. It's not fun! I don't want to be the bloggers that bash the country they call home for ratings, because through it all, its a part of me, a part of my children, and a part of my future. I'll just need to fully come to terms that I am a local expat? lol. Is that a real thing? Most probably yes, especially after the scholarship kids return home from studying abroad, unable to fully go back to the culture they left, but not having embraced their new culture of wherever they studied fully. I think I need to stop trying to categorise myself, and ignore this feeling of being a fraud. Anyhoo,  I shall wear my expat (or am I a Saudi immigrant.. lol) hat with pride, and go back to uncategorised blogging about my day to day ramblings or rants, hoping that my thoughts may speak to someone out there. That on some level someone may think, 'dude, this lady has some kind of wisdom, (or dare I say idiotic musings) to share with the world!'

Have a wonderful day!

PS- As a follow up to my last blog, where I was worried about how my kids would do in an all Arabic school, they are doing great- Thank God- in the Arabic school, and I am one proud mama! They are learning, they are actually keeping up with their native Arabic speaking classmates, they have gotten trophies and awards, and have made friends with the students and teachers (and yes- even the administration) of the school alike. I am happy with my change.

Sep 3, 2014

The struggle for Multilingual kids

Firstly, let me put it out there that my children are still currently, single language children. They speak English. But they are Saudis, that do not speak Arabic. Saudis that were born and raised in Riyadh. Saudis, born and raised in Riyadh that do not speak Arabic and are fluent in English! Do you catch the drift? See where the problem is? So you can imagine how awkward that can be.

This year, I decided to put my middle son in Arabic school, he would be entering KG2, so I figured it would be the best time to add the new language. Then suddenly- as a joke at first- I asked Lujain if she wanted to go to Arabic school. She said YES, she also wanted to be able to speak with her cousins and her grandpa in Arabic! She was very interested! I asked the school if she would be allowed admittance, they said she would need to be tested. They had her take the entrance test, and lo and behold the fact that she knows how to read and write in a language she does not understand gained her admittance. At that very moment, we decided that if it wasn't done now, it would n't be easier a year or two from now. She is in the 2nd grade, she finished grade one with 97% average (in a class average of 55%!), I know she is smart, and I know she can do it, but to be perfectly honest, I have been freaking out from the start, and I am sure I shed more tears than any of them. 

Thankfully I am able to speak Arabic with the admin, and teachers and get extra info directly from them, and kind of be what they call a helicopter mama- for now at least.. Most of the admin and teachers are on board, there are a few that silently think I am crazy, but hey, crazy is good! I just feel that overall, the introduction of Arabic as a second language is foreign to the schools. You are either stuck in an International school, where if you do not speak Arabic, you are put in beginners Arabic, learning the alphabets over and over again. Or you are in the Arabic school, where you are expected to be fluent in Arabic. I guess unlike Canada they aren't too used to foreign students coming and needing to learn the language of the their Host country. My daughter has been extremely amused with coming home showing me her English work, (ABC's, and colouring), hey at least I know she'll get 100% in English! 

Anyways, today after coming home from dropping off my kids,  I reflected, and felt like the worst parent ever- akin to a child abuser (I know... I am not!) My son cried today, he really cried! Mind you in school last year, he would run off to his friends, and not look back at me even once- he is that kinda kid! It broke my heart that he wanted me to stay and I knew for his sake, I couldn't stay too long.  He looked lost, and did not feel understood- which is truly the case. I know this is just the beginning,  I know it'll be a hard and very bumpy start. My daughter didn't cry but her eyes spoke differently.  Being thrown into a new school and a new language all at once, I've experienced a school with a new language twice and I successfully blended in after confusion and a whole lot of work. At about her age, my mom moved us to Montreal, where I knew ZERO french, but then again, the schools there are equipped with teaching foreign students the language. I learned it pretty fast. The school helped me during my transitioning period,  they openly welcomed students to allow them to emerge with their new surroundings, something that I wish they would work on here in Saudi.

PS- On her first day at school, she came home with a picture a classmate made for her, where language was the barrier, there was Art to build a bridge! <3

May 21, 2014

I simply can't....

Summer is nearly here, I am trying to keep my little ones busy, and there is this Coronavirus that has put my husband at constant fear. I get daily phone calls/msgs from him, giving me an update on how many new cases have popped up in Riyadh alone. How many were fatalities, and reminding me that it's safer to stay home.

Problem is I can't  be quarantined at home, it'll be the end of my perceived sanity. I will start talking to walls, and quite honestly ever since I have gotten my car and driver, this new freedom can\t be put to an end. I need to see people, my kids will need to get out once school is out, and with very little social life. So what I have done is I have met him half way. I don't go to crowded places in the evenings, and have completely stopped going to malls on weekends and evenings with the kids. I honestly love the malls in the Morning when it's empty and I can shop in peace and quiet. We each carry hand sanitizer, I have drilled them again to cough into their inner elbow area- not hands. We wash our hands often, stay healthy, take vitamins, and read our Quran daily. All I can keep thinking of is that I survived SARS in Toronto', I can handle a little coronowhatever. I'm not sure if I am being careless, but this genuinely does not really scare me from hiding indoors.

The million messages the MOH sends have become tedious where they are telling us countless times just how to wash our hands, to stop consuming camel meat, or the latest where it is safe to consume camel meat that has been cooked well (no kidding?!!). I'll just keep my faith in Allah, and if anything does happen to me, ya'll can all laugh at my foolishness ;)

Here are some additions to my already overflowing 'mommy' purse, Alcohol spray (I didn't even know alcohol in this form was allowed here!), Hand sanitizer, and Masks, lots of masks!

May 17, 2014

Areej Cafe at Centria Mall

It's nearly summer here in Rio De Najdero, most schools are already out, and parents are scrambling around to find activities their little ones will enjoy, and can keep them busy. 

I have been following Areej Cafe on Instagram for quite some time, and have been really interested in taking my daughter to their Art classes. It's a 2 hour session that involves a chosen weekly activity, and your children are served a delicious spread for lunch, along with a yummy delicious milkshake. They have made artsy balls, masks, but yesterday we were there for the Stenciling class. 

My daughter absolutely enjoyed it, the ladies behind it are amazing, and a pleasure to be around. They give attention to the kids, play with them, and are very approachable which is key for young children. The class including lunch costs 140SAR which is honestly a great price for such a fun activity. I really wish I took my daughter much sooner! I will be taking her for as long as the classes are available, with Ramadan and summer travels coming, I need to ask what the summer schedule will be like. The great part is while your child is busy with crafts you can sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, some sweets of even lunch. Seriously a wonderful experience!

If you'd like to check them out, follow them on Instagram at @Areej_Artcafe or follow them on twitter under @areejartcafe , they can also be found on Facebook at Areej Art Cafe.

May 15, 2014

Kid friendly restaurants- Piatto

The boys racing to get in first!

I like it when I can go somewhere my kids can actually enjoy themselves with waiters that understand the mainly foreign concept that kids will not act like adults at all times. Waiters that will take the time to play with your kids, give them treats, and all in all let your family feel wanted and respected in their establishment. There are many restaurants that fit this description here in Rio De Najdero AKA Riyadh but today I will give a quick review of Piatto, the newer one at Panorama Mall, which is smaller than the main branch, but seems much airier and fresher then the original. There will be a new one opening near my home, which will hopefully be the best Piatto in town!

I've gone there with all 3 of my kids, on about 3 occasion, and today only took the boys since my eldest daughter had school. They have a delightful kids menu that comes with a colouring book with a menu and a box of coloured pencils, to keep your little ones- and well adults alike- busy. For breakfast they will give you all you can eat loaves of this oh so delicious bread I am pretty sure I was allergic to, but it was so good, I decided to pick out the nuts, and munch on the parts that weren't infused in nuts. Piatto is also pretty well known for offering all you can eat Caesar salad, and garlic bread when you go there during lunch or dinner time. I have known a few people that got filled on the free stuff, and had to pack up their actual food in a doggy bag to take home. I have tried several foods from them, and to be perfectly honest not all their food is good, there are certain things that never fail, like the pizza for instance. My kids usually get the pizza they get to make themselves, which is super fun for them, and the last time we were at the Panorama location, the waiters let the kids put their pizza in the stone oven and wait till their pizza was fully done and ready to eat. the kids were super excited, and I think it may have helped them love their pizza even more. After all its their hard work that make it right? The Panorama location also has a lunch menu, where you pay 45 SAR for a wide choice of pizzas or pastas, the chicken, and fish options cost you 55 SAR and you get free refills on fountain drinks, and get some yummy gelato at the end with all your lunch meals. We never actually finish any of the food, because their portions are rather big, but you do leave satisfied.

Another pretty awesome thing about the Panorama location is that when nature calls, and you enter the washroom, you get a crash course on Italian. It'll give you a phrase in English, Arabic, and then Italian. My daughter absolutely loved it, and I think she may have learned a few new words that day!

Although the restaurant is nice on its own, when you know what to order, I'll admit what gets my kids to really love this location is the fact that Candylawa is right next door, and admittedly I bribe my middle son to behave by promising them that they can get 1 item from the candy shop once done. That place needs a blog post of its own, but it is pretty awesome! Anyway, there you have it, a place to take your kids to, that won't leave you feeling bad for being a parent of kids that behave like kids. I'll leave you with a few pics I snapped of our time there. Enjoy.

An extremely filling breakfast! Finishing even half of this omelette proved impossible, but is it not absolutely beautiful?

Chicken and broccoli fettucini

The outdoor sitting area when the weather permits.

The oven where the pizza is made.

Kids breakfast- again pretty big portions.

the oh so delicious bread!

The delicious gelato we were too full to finish!

This is the breakfast menu, they kids breakfast choices are at the bottom.

Piatto Sells Gelato to go, as well as sauces, dressings, and pasta you can take home and enjoy!

May 12, 2014

Burj Rafal Hotel Kempinski Riyadh

Kempinski in Riyadh had its soft opening on March 4th.  The official grand opening has not been officially announced yet, but people have been able to book their stay with the understanding that construction has not finished, and many amenities such as the pool are not completed yet. Once completed this hotel will boast a luxury designer mall with many if the high end outlets available to the Riyadhistas. I know I'm looking forward to this new spot Riyadh will have to offer. And yet another bonus for me, it's not too far from my house and there isn't much traffic headed there.

I've been there for breakfast two times so far- Once with a group of friends and the second time with my family, and  although I found the serving time rather slow (I know, its a buffet, youre supposed to serve yourself, but it was a coffee that took about 10 minutes both times), the food was OK, and the atmosphere alone was worth the second visit. There were a few glitches,  the toaster the second time around wasn't working too well, and kept getting stuck, and I found the food a tad bit on the colder side (perhaps better heating containers/trays should be used?), it is obviously not at the same ranks as the other 5 star hotel buffet breakfasts we may be used to,  and certainly not like the Faisaliya breakfast spread my husband and I usually enjoy. I kept reminding myself that after all the hotel is still in its soft opening phase and the services and food will evolve to its 5 star status soon after the construction is completed. 

The ambiance is lovely, the decor is bright and perfect to just relax right here in our lovely city.  The waiters were amazing and even remembered me when I returned with my family the second time. My 3 children ate for free, and are 2, 4, and 6 years old. The charge is 150 SAR a person which is pretty good for the breakfast buffet prices in the city. The ambiance, oh the ambiance was just great, the music was playing at a volume just right, where you can hear, yet still keep up a conversation with your companions.  The buffet has all the usual favourites and you can order your eggs to your desired liking. All in all, for a soft opening the place us a great place to enjoy breakfast,  lunch or dinner with friends and family alike. I'll leave you with some pictures I snapped on both visits.

May 3, 2014
So it's been a rather long time since I have posted here. Its gotten to a point where I am sure the blog has been sent off the bloggers of the past and laid to rest. But then a small part of me wants to keep it alive- even if for myself only. So here I am ready to share some random rambles.

What have I been up to? Honestly, just living. Kids, Family obligations, meeting up with friends, shopping, eating, and just making the best of what I've got. I've been here, there and everywhere in between. School recitals which have left me a gushing and proud mommy, mall dates that have had me nearly at tears and questioning my sanity for attempting to take 3 kids to the mall with me. Admittedly, I see kids that are far worst then my own. But this near perfectionist in me expects my kids to act like adults. To listen to what I say, to walk in a orderly fashion, to enjoy going in and out of shops without a break, to let ME sit at Starbucks and enjoy finishing my coffee, to allow ME the time to find something I like without giving up, and rushing out before I face embarrassment.  As a matter of fact, I am the problem. I need to just give in, let my kids be kids, they have a long road of adulthood ahead of them, and quite frankly I love the innocence of their current state.

I have finally gotten my own car and driver, and find myself going out just to go out,  I have even taken a few spins (yes, I know driving while women is looked down upon).. but I had to put my mark on my car. right? I am finally- after 10 years- getting a hang of the roads here. I can actually get from one side of the city to the other, and know the street names! No more asking people which mall they live near. :) And I am enjoying the lovely city of mine so much more and meeting new faces daily, all while enjoying some quality time with my little guy Boodz! I love it.

Anyway, I'll leave you with some random pics I have taken, and hope you are all in the best of health. Peace, and  love.

Picking up some bagels from Circles & Circles here in Riyadh. Only place to get real bagels.

Always time for some coffee...  Caribou Coffee @ Sahara Mall.

Who doesn't like candy? Get your fix at Candylawa @ Panorama Mall.

One of the parks at the DQ- this one is right next to the Canadian embassy.

Same park by the Canadian embassy

Boodz exploring a bit at the park.

Another park in the DQ- one of my favorite spots to let the kids run around freely without worrying too much.

Our turtle Chicken hanging out with some of the boys cars at home.

And that was my attempt at stopping the very near demise of my blog!

Feb 26, 2014

Tis that time of the year again... Jenedriya!

 After living here fore nearly a decade in which 2 past Jenedriyas oast whule I lived about 10 minutes away, I am embarrassed to admit I finally went for the first time this year! It was a beautiful experience, for the first time in Riyadh I was able to snap pictures of everyone and anything- I really wasn't used to it, and since I have become conditioned to sneaking pics here, my phone camera pictures were not as good as I would want them to be. But seriously, there were no looks at me for snapping pictures of complete strangers. It really felt like Riyadh had taken a chill pill in the photography department and I absolutely loved it!

The space is separated in different areas where each space is for a certain region of Riyadh. Admittedly it was so full when we went we didn't get to see all the beautiful culture there was to offer, couple in the factor that we completely forgot the strollers so my younger 2- heck all 3 of them- were absolutely tired and really could not handle being up so late (my kids are snoozing by 7pm, and we stayed till about 9 that night since it was a weekend) Needless to say they crashed in the car, and then sleep walked through the bedtime routine, and still were up at the crack of dawn. Go figure!

Anyway I will be going again today (daylight photos will hopefully be better!) with a friend and her kids (I went with the hubby last time- and will go back with thim tomorrow again as well)... so I will probably have a follow up post on it enshallah :) Enjoy!

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