Saturday, 12 January 2013

Masalama Riyadh

January is no longer in its infancy and our year in the desert is well behind us. We came home on the 17th of December to a crazy time of travelling to Hester's wedding in Vryburg, the never-ending building project at home, sorting out our belongings (those that stayed in the house while we were away, those that came with us, and those that are yet to come with the courier company) and then a last minute, gruelling, fieldwork trip to Marakele.

At last, the inlaws have gone home (boy, is Mieke missing them!), our suitcases are unpacked, we don't have any serious comittments for the rest of this week. Rean and Mieke have taken a walk to the post office, leaving me with a few quiet moments to write.

This is probably my last entry to the blog. I'm going to miss saving up thoughts to write here. I'm also going to miss quite a few other things from my time in Sandland. A suprising one is my vast collection of abayas. Wearing the black robe in public became such a part of my life, and the secondhand souq provided me with glorious collection of abayas with styles and trims for every mood. I left them all there of course, except for my favourite. It has wide flimsy greensleeves style sleeves embroidered with blue, yellow, green and red wool. That brings me to another thing I am going to be dreaming nostalgically about for years to come; the secondhand souq. That, (and camping in the desert) is something every woman should experience if ever she finds herself in that part of the world.

My biggest loss is the social life I managed to carve out amongst the ladies in the compound. I grew up thinking of myself as antisocial and I have never been able to make friends easily. But in Seder Village I was drawn into various social groups. Back home, plopped into my old haunts, I find it difficult to hold onto the me I was in Riyadh. Of course this is not the same place and I will never be that me again because I occupy a different space now, but I hope that I can hold onto some of the growth I was able to achieve in the past year. Here is a sketch of some of the ladies I will miss most:

Cecelia was my neighbour for only a month. Our front doors opened facing one another so we saw each other every day. One afternoon she knocked on my door to come and show me the crazy, bright, pink sequinced ball gown she had bought at the secondhand souq. It looked so beautiful on her! She and Sandy were between microwaves, so she sometimes popped in to heat something in our microwave, passed on a few delicious recipes, showed us how to make paper chain dolls and snowflakes, drew chalk pattern and rainbows with us on our fences, generally listened to my woes and  invited me to gatherings with ladies in her social group.

Grace is such a graceful lady who has inspired me deeply. I had lunch with her after outings on the shopping bus a few times and we had such wonderful long talks about Australian aboriginal issues, faith and personal growth. I almost always saw her with earphones, she loved to fill her life with 'beautiful noise', happy bright music.

Linda and her two daughter, Grace and Hannah and her husband Javier, took in our whole family. The first months of our stay I felt quite out of my depth, especially with Mieke. We were stuck indoors in that tiny shoebox house most of the time,  and it seemed that everyone was frowning at my parenting choices. I was so thankful for being able to talk to Linda about this, and she and her two girls showed me such a beautiful example of what moms and daughters can be together. The whole Cifuentes family also gave us such deep spiritual support. I loved every moment of being their friend!

Liz was the lady who arranged all the teaparties, she knew and was friends with everyone, she was the larger-than-life popular girl on the block, beautiful, an incredible cook and entertainer, fashion guru and mommy extraordinaire. To my great surprise, I found myself slap bang in the middle of her social circle. I really enjoyed dressing up and going to tea at Liz's with the other mommies, Nur, Romana, Danny, Ilgi. We had a fingerpainting day, a musical afternoon, made handprints with our babies, swopped hand-me-downs.

Romana and her little boy, Jibreel, were my and Mieke's best friends during the hot summer months. We spent almost every morning together. This was so precious to me, and Mieke loved her little buddy so much.

Edith came and cleaned our house and played with Mieke a few times a week. I am so thankful for her support when Mieke was sick, and just her general friendship. It was hard saying goodbye to Edith, I miss having her around. Ahmed, the young shop assistant had such a gentle friendship with Mieke, The other mommies who gathered at the pool with their kids in the afternoons, Magda, Adriana, Yani, and so many others were such an important part of our lives.

It is a tradition in the compound, to have a Masalama (farewell) when it is your time to leave. If you don't arrange one, your friends will do it for you. People will come who you didn't even know, but maybe chatted to on the bus once or twice. Well, this is how it was for us. The word of our Masalama spread and quite a few ladies came who I didn't really know. This made me feel that I had really connected at Seder during our year in the desert.

Next week we will start to unpack our boxes which finally arrive tonight. I will try to find spaces for all the nifty Ikea kitchen goodies I accumulated, the piles of toys, and of course, mountains of second-hand clothes.

Masalama Riyadh

Cecilia and Linda at Linda's Christmas party

Fingerpainting with Liz and Charles

Mieke loves Romana and Jibreel

Gonna miss my Abaya

  Friends in the Big Gym

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