Things slowly improved in the villa, we had some cups, a few plates and a couple of pans handed down from people who wanted to help. Three pads were purchased for the four kids and myself to sleep on.They were thin, made of some type of foam with a cover of material sewn on them. Again, we made do and snuggled up in our mommy and baby world. There were no phones available, no p.o.boxes, so no real communication with the outside world.
The Saudi family that lived downstairs owned the villa. Um Abdullah (mother of Abdullah) her husband, Abu Abdullah (father of Abdullah) and their four children lived in the home directly under us. She came up one day to give me some tea and cake. I didn’t speak much Arabic but she welcomed me to this place and gave me a kiss on each cheek, some things transcend language and culture. I was told I could go down to her villa any time to use her phone. But, it occurred to me, who would I call? I didn’t know anyone and could not call my parents long distance, but all the same the offer felt good and was a nice gesture on her part.
She looked at my stomach and asked me if I was pregnant or that is what I surmised from her face and gestures. I shook my head yes and then a twinge of nerves washed over me making me feel sick. I was, as always, very excited for this new baby, but after arriving to this place and these circumstances, I felt unsure and quite ridiculous for leaving the comfort of my home and family. In Seattle I had a wonderful OB who had delivered my 4 babies and who had inquired about religion, culture and anything that might effect me or my birth experience. I thought it would be easy in Saudi and quite similar, maybe even better! Now I had no idea where to find a qualified doctor or a hospital or how I would be able to deliver. All of my idealistic dreams were now blown away in a bubble out in space. But there was no way to turn back after selling the house, saying our goodbyes and agreeing to “give it a try”.
Life drug on for a few days, the heat and jet lag lulled us to sleep and we had nothing in particular to keep us awake. I pushed to get a stove, a refrigerator, any small improvement would do. I tried to be patient and not arrogant, after all patience is a virtue, right? I missed my mother and my father and my friends. Each night when he arrived home he brought with him a large brown paper bag, inside was a plastic bag, this was filled with rice and chicken or Mendi. This is a common rice dish served in various Middle Eastern countries. I inquired about loaf bread, peanut butter, cheese and juice. I was told that now we lived here, in Saudi and we were to forget that old life and eat like the locals. Those other products were more costly and we needed to adjust to life in Saudi Arabia.
Finally a huge addition to the house was added, it was not the stove I had imagined but it was a stove. At that point anything to cook on besides a camp fire would be fine! The stove was yellow and it was electric not gas. This was a plus because I was not used to cooking on a gas stove. It had been purchased at a place that would best be described as a flea market. I tried to whip up some cookie dough with a bowl and spoon even though I did not have the complete list of ingredients I thought, why not try? It was lumpy and dry but I still felt I could make something of it. I turned the oven on 350 and went about my daily chores. Smoke billowed out of the kitchen from the inside of the stove. I ran to turn it off and decided that baking was out of the question for now. At least it was a stove and surely something could be made on this appliance that would be edible and possibly comforting. I set to making noodles, just plain noodles would be fine and given the ban on the list of products, I felt lucky to have pasta. The kids were tired of eating rice and chicken and wanted something else, something that reminded them of home, Grama and Grampa, their backyard. I had a pan that someone had given to me and that would do nicely. I put the water in it and started it to boiling, I realized at that point that only two burners were operable, again make do with what you are given. I drained the noodles and stirred in some butter and salt. I felt a tiny buzz when I stirred, I moved my hand quickly and pondered this strange sensation. Hmmm again stirring and a slight zap. I got the noodles off the stove and continued with my preparation.
That night I was told with great irritation that, I was not acting like a woman who loved to create pastries and homemade dishes, what was wrong with me, noodles with salt and butter? Why, no one would imagine I was a lady who loved to experiment with baking and cooking, host dinner parties and prepare special dishes for ailing friends. I explained that the inside of the stove did not work properly and when I stirred food on the stove top it seemed something was shocking me. This was met with a long hard look and a pause, I then heard the words which would prove to epitomize my life from that point forward, “Well, USE a wooden spoon then!”
Pads we slept on until moving into the compound.