It’s Christmas in Riyadh, 2012.
Most of the expats have already left the city for their home towns or holiday destinations to reconnect with family and friends. I wish them safe travels and good times.
We are staying in Riyadh for Christmas, as are a number of people we know.
Our remaining in the Middle East requires us to be overseas grandparents and we’re getting better at it each year. Money has been transferred for the grandchildren’s Xmas presents. And Hubster organised the Christmas ham to be delivered from the famous Pokeno Butchers for the family’s Christmas Day feast. Making a Christmas video for Dad is the only other thing we have left to do.
It’s a very quiet lead up to Christmas Day.
We aren’t complaining.
Living overseas has its pluses and minuses.
Hubster finds being away from family at Christmas time a huge minus as do most other expats who, for whatever reason, are also spending their Christmas 2012 in KSA.
Christmas Day is business as usual here in Riyadh.
Hubster and I are both working. Perhaps Hubster will be taking a few hours to enjoy a lunch with friends but then it’s nose back into the computer.
The only thing I’ve found in Riyadh’s local shops that acknowledges Christmas might exist is this…..
… and that was a week ago. When I checked this morning the trees had all gone though the orbs and the sleigh were still in situ.
In the past the NZ Embassy has organised a pre-Christmas get-together for fellow kiwi’s resident in Riyadh but this year the NZ Government thought it a good idea to have an Embassy clear out, as a cost cutting measure, so most of the staff were recently sent home and those that are left have enough on their festive plates.
So, instead, a group of friends organised a small get-together singing the Kiwi version of The Twelve Days of Christmas round the piano at The House of Louise. It was a fun evening with much food (The House of Louise always has loads of food) and NZ merriment.
Christmas isn’t publicly acknowledged by the masses in Saudi but every year a newby expat tells a story about a Saudi, or two, expecting the office will be closed so they, Saudi’s, can have Christmas Day day off. It makes one wonder if the average Saudi truly understands the rules in his own country.
Church gatherings are practically clandestine.
Activities that celebrate Christian events are code named.
December 25th is not a day off.
But none of that really matters.
Christmas is about blessings, large and small.
Like the taxi driver from Bangladesh I hailed off the street who wished me a nice Christmas. Yes, he’s Muslim but he’s human and thinks being kind to each other is what life is about.
Or, like the fabulous technology we have at our fingertips (and we’re very grateful for it).
Family and friends send us Christmas messages via e-mail and Facebook.
We’ll Skype most of them tomorrow and catch up on family news.
We can’t wait to see the grand kids faces.
And hear their ‘I got this from Aunty So ‘n So’ stories.
That’s what matters.
That’s what makes us smile.
Best of the season to you all.
Kiwi, and her Hubster, in Saudi.