It's a funny story actually. Ok, maybe not so funny. But it began a few years ago.
Before I begin though, you must understand, dear reader, that I had at no point in my life, ever intended or wished to come and live in the KSA. EVER. In fact, I had a very long list of places I wanted to live in - from Colombia to Tunisia, and even Japan - but Arabia was never even on the list.
This is mainly because all my life, all I ever heard from everyone in our somewhat warped misogynistic patriarchal society was how it was IMPOSSIBLE to even get here without a Mahram. And having no son, husband, brothers, uncles or really any male relative that I could count on in that sense, nor seeing any potential for that to change, I had long put away any intention or will to come here or to visit any of the holy cities. I didn't even entertain the idea on any level, shelving it to the abyss of dreams not bothered being dreamt.
And so it was, that day in 2011. I had just read Paulo Coelho's Brida, which I thought was absolute shit (that's 8 hours of my life I'll never get back), and I was at my wits end with just about everything in life, as I usually am at sporadic points in time. That was the first time I had a strange and mystic longing to be in the desert. It was inexplicable because really, if you don't know by now, I'm very much a girl of the high seas and seven oceans of the world.
But in some unconscious way, that longing grew because a couple of weeks after that; after being frustrated over something that I can't even remember now; I declared in a voice devoid of any meaning or intention (basically, I was just talking absolute crap) (or so I thought) - I told my Mother: "I'm going to the desert, I will find what I'm looking for there". And my Mother did what she always does, rolled her eyes and asked God why she couldn't have normal children.
After that, every time I was irritated or annoyed, I told everyone I was going to the desert. Sometimes I even added that I'm going to become a shepherd - for extra fun. And of course, everyone laughed (including me). And every time, these were just words, said in jest, with no real meaning or intention behind them.
I eventually got another job - swinging in the corporate jungle from one branch to the next like fucking Tarzan chasing Jane - becoming increasingly discontent; either running after time, or running out of time, or running around time like a headless chicken, constantly agitated, questioning what I'm doing with my life. And all the while, that absurd longing and yearning to be in the desert hadn't abated. It became a running joke and was too outrageous to entertain seriously, yet the thought of the vast emptiness of the landscape was strangely comforting.
So when I was asked if I wanted to work in Saudi Arabia, I said yes without even thinking about it. It was all a big joke by then, only it wasn't, this time. Before I knew it, in barely two months, I was sent packing with only twenty-four hours notice to get here. And as I type this out, a warm midnight breeze blows across an arid landscape, not too far from here, scattering the hopes and dreams of Nomads and Bedouins alike in every grain of sand.
The great debate now, is whether the words I had uttered had materialized (words are indeed powerful - that is true), or whether I had somehow predicted that I would be here. I'm more inclined to believe the latter for two reasons:
1. I've been talking about getting a million bucks for ages, and that hasn't happened yet.
2. When I was very little, I used to live with my Grandma while my parents worked, and I only saw them on the weekends. But one day, my Mother decided to leave work early and come visit me without informing anyone. That afternoon, I insisted my Grandma run a bath for me, telling her that I needed to be ready for when my Mother came to see me. My Grandma, knowing my Mother only came on weekends, didn't think much of it so when my Mother pitched up, she said "Weet jy, die kind bly my vertel ek moet haar bad..." transl: Y'know, this child kept telling me to bath her...
I think some unconscious part of me always knew I was coming here, even when I didn't know. But contrary to the way things seem, it hasn't always been easy... every day brings new challenges. I've been tried and tested in every way, still am. I'm learning new lessons, about life and my religion, in a way I won't be able to learn elsewhere. There are some days I feel ready to pack up and leave. And then there are other days when it feels like "home". There are days I'm convinced that I've died, and that this is Hell. And then there are other days, when I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.