Stephanie Goes to the Magic Kingdom

Stephanie Goes to the Magic Kingdom

Howdy, dear readers. It has been an exciting week here at islamwich! Firstly, because snowball stands have reopened in the New Orleans area after an off-and-on winter, and I (Corbin) have had one too many.

Secondly, because Gracie Lawrence was accepted to a PhD program and promptly left the continent. Don’t worry, she’s a busy lady but she will be back to islamwich and to her PhD program.

And lastly but not least-ly because, islamwich is welcoming a new blogger to the team. Her name is Stephanie, she hold a Masters in English (impressed yet?!) and she loves long walks off of short precipices … But let’s let her introduce herself in the third person:

Stephanie Siam, a native of Mobile, Alabama, converted to Islam approximately a decade ago. Currently, she resides in stephanieMuscat, Oman, with her husband and daughter, where she teaches English in the Foundation Programme of the country’s top university. When in the US, she can usually be found navigating between Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Alabama, as these are the four corners of her heartland. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing and spending time with her family doing various activities. Her intention is to share her perspective on being a non-Arab Muslim living in an Arab Muslim world.

And now it is time for you, dear readers, to snuggle up to your laptop and a cup of tea and hear the tale of how Stephanie unwillingly became a Saudi … kind of.

Stephanie writes:

(To the tune of “Party in the U.S.A”)

I hopped off the plane at DMM

With an abaya and the hubs in hand

Welcome to the land of religious men

Whoa, am I gonna fit in?

Jumped on the bus –

‘Cause I’m not allowed to drive –

Look to my right, and I see a Camel Crossing sign

All the drivers so crazy

Transportation’s so dangerous

So I put my hands up

And say a little prayer

The butterflies fly away

Sayin’ takbir, oh yeah

Make du’a, like yeah

When I put my hands down

And take a look around

I know I’m gonna be okay

Yeah, residentin’ in the KSA

Yeah, residentin’ in the KSA

Okay, so I’m not exactly a songwriter. But it embodies those first feelings I had when the conversation my husband and I had several months prior to this event (the one that began, “Why don’t you try to get a job in Saudi?”) culminated in the three of us – me, my hubby and our then 2-year-old daughter – landing in the middle of nowhere with nothing but some luggage and curiosity.

But before we go on, I want to share with you about how we got there in the first place.

After I finished grad school, I became a stay-at-home mom, and I tried to take on that personality of Domestic Diva – the one who cooks and cleans all day and greets her man at the door with fresh makeup and gorgeousness to spare. But it’s not me.

For dinner we’re having repressed emotions. And quiet desperation for dessert.

And, honestly, being a SAHM isn’t me, either.  I have a lot of respect for women who do stay at home and raise the children and cook, clean, launder and look fabulous at 5 pm for their husbands. It made me lazy, overly tired (read: depressed), and I felt like I was failing as a wife.

I had been trying to learn Arabic in my free time (when I wasn’t busy being lazy?), but it wasn’t coming along as I expected. We were living in Florida, which is pretty insanely uncomfortable for me in general – plus, I am a hijabi, so just tack on another fifty degrees of perpetual grumpiness because I hate heat. I wanted to work, but I had no idea where to start. I had no contacts, and I had few friends.

Then one day, when my husband’s friend-slash-business partner was over for a visit, he mentioned trying to find a job in the Middle East, specifically Saudi Arabia. At first, the idea was almost a joke. When we got married, it was practically understood that I had no desire whatsoever to ever live in Saudi Arabia. My husband, a Palestinian-by-blood/Jordanian-by-nationality Arab, wasn’t exactly keen on the idea either. But ever-the-open-minded, he said, “Just try it, and see what happens.”

Me: Okay, but I’m not moving to Saudi Arabia.

Hubby: Yeah, yeah, I know . . . let’s just see if they offer you a job . . .

Me (going back inside from our screened-in back lanai): Okay . . . but I’m not moving to Saudi Arabia.

So, I applied for a job, and they wanted to interview me. I got up at some awful hour of the night to be waiting for the Skype call. The interview lasted approximately 3 minutes.

Husband (calling to me in the living room while still asleep): Was that it?

Me: Yeah . . .

Husband: I don’t think you got it.

Me: Ya think?

We went on with our lives, and I continued being a SAHM. I put the idea of working in the Middle East out of my mind, half relieved that we wouldn’t move to Saudi and half dejected because they weren’t interested.

Then out of nowhere, a few months later, I get an offer by email asking me to join the university as an instructor. Shocked, and duly unimpressed by the length of my interview, I sat with the hubby and shared the news.

Husband: I’ll ask (friend) if that’s a good offer.

Me: But we’re not moving to Saudi Arabia, right?

Husband: No, no . . . I just want to see if it’s a good offer.

Me: Okay, but we’re not moving to Saudi Arabia, right?

And he asked his friend, who told him it was a decent package.

So, we’re sitting outside one night after dinner, and we’re talking about the offer. I’m joking around about the likelihood of us ever moving to Saudi, and he’s talking about other countries in the Middle East where it might be nice to find work.

Husband: What do you think if we try it out?

Me: Try what out?

Husband: Saudi  . . .

Me: Are you kidding? You want us to move to Saudi Arabia?!?!

Husband: I mean, I don’t want to force you. I was just thinking it would be interesting to  . . .  try it out.

Me: But what if we don’t like it? It’s a two-year contract.

Husband: If we don’t like it, we’ll come back.

Me: But what if I don’t like it?

Husband: I’m not going to stay somewhere you’re unhappy. If you don’t like it, we’ll leave.

Me: Yeah . . . (I think it over for a few minutes, ever-the-impulsive) Okay. Sure. Are you sure?

Husband: Why not?

Me: And if don’t like it, we’ll leave? We agree on that here? Absolutely?

Husband: Of course, insha’Allah.

Me (most likely cocking an eyebrow): We’ll leave. . . . ? . . .

Husband: . . .  if we’re not happy. Yes.

So began the back-and-forth of paperwork and emails and negotiating that, eventually, led to us arriving in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia in the near-middle of the night. Luckily, my husband had a family member whose husband was also working at the same university I would be teaching at – different campus, of course. They gave us a warm welcome and some food, and the husband helped us get settled in our apartment, which wasn’t as bad as I expected.

And that is the beginning of our two-year residency in the Magical Kingdom.

Click here to find out if Stephanie likes the Saudi life,  if the camels will obey the crossing sign we saw in the beginning, or if she will dress like a man just to get a driving fix. Click here for the continuation

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