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My story with adapting to a new environment

Elvis Elvis

I struggled to adjust to my new environment. I got used to men holding hands or kissing each other’s cheeks when they met. Wearing my scarf and abaya became automatic whenever I ventured with friends outside the compound. Once in a while, the Mutaween, the police who enforced the restrictions would shout to cover the hair and harassed those women who didn’t comply.

I learned to schedule my shopping and other activities such that it would not coincide with the prayers. My friends and I avoided places where women were not allowed.

As though coping with our new environment was not enough, the American Embassy in Riyadh kept warning us to be alert and watch out for terrorist attack. Fortunately, because of my Asian features I was not a target.

These features, however, were also a disadvantage. One day I wanted to buy a wall rug and I asked an American friend to accompany me to the store. As soon as we entered the store, the owner greeted my friend and asked her what kind of rug she was looking for.

My story with adapting to a new environment

He went on to show the displayed rugs. I made more money than my friend. I asked the owner to show me the best Persian wall rug. He just smiled at me and kept on talking to my friend. After asking him the third time, I told him that I could afford the rug. I was an American citizen and I had a passport to prove it. He hesitated but finally complied. I was attracted by a 4 ft x 2 ft exquisite rug. Displayed on the wall, it looked as though it changed colors and designs. It was also reversible and could be hung vertically and horizontally. It was very expensive but affordable at that time.

I was also discriminated by some American expatriates. One day I went to a coffee shop. I decided to joined an American lady in her table. I started to talk to her. She didn’t bother to respond and moved to another table. Talking to some of my friends, I found out that she was a secretary at the hospital. A few months later, she joined me at the cafeteria and apologized for her behavior.