Shortly after arriving, Rhi wrote to us, "Yes, I'm here. I made it ha ha. The flight was pretty intense, but Australia is so far away from anything, I kind of expected to be jet-lagged. I've just had my first day of General Hospital Orientation - it's really good to see such a mix of new staff.
I'm settled into E Complex, with another new nurse as my housemate.
All things considered, I'm feeling pretty good about being here. I have two weeks of nursing orientation, and then I can start working on the ward. There's no last-minute butterflies or bad vibes, so I think I'll really enjoy it here."
Three months later, Rhi shared with us a photo journal of her adventures so far:
This photo was taken outside the new KACOLD (King Abdullah Centre for Oncology and Liver Diseases) building, on my third day of General Hospital Orientation.
I was still jet-lagged, and still completely lost trying to navigate through the hospital. But these girls started with me, and we're all in the same boat. They friends you make here are amazing, and they can get you through anything!
The hospital does a lot for the new starters during your General Nursing Orientation (GNO), including a traditional Saudi dinner. You're given Arabic coffee and dates, and the whole meal is served on the carpet. Try everything! Even if you're not sure, just try it. But make sure to ask what it is after, so you know either to avoid it or to order it in the future.
The next five pictures were all taken at the Al Janadriyah Festival. It's a free, month-long gathering of all the Saudi regions, and while it's not really aimed at expats, it is well worth the look.
My patients recommended that I go, and I'm so happy I did. This is Saudi hospitality at it finest. There are souqs (traditional style markets), foods, clothing, and dancing. It's a huge, colorful, wonderful chaotic mess of people.
As a Westerner here, I was something of a novelty. But so many people made the effort to speak with me (my Arabic was practically non-existent at this stage), all welcoming me to Saudi Arabia, and offering advice on what to see next. I ended up going twice, because there was so much there!
The souq, or market.
A Saudi lady spinning wool.
You could ride camels, try camel milk, and try cheese made with camel milk.
Saudi traditional painted gates, meant to be inviting to good fortune and to charity.
Al Janadriyah Festival sign.
Below is a traditional Saudi lounge room. A patient showed his appreciation for his wonderful nurses, but not in the typical Western way of a box of chocolates. He invited the entire unit to his house for lunch!
After nearly three months living in Riyadh, I was close to pulling my hair out. This is the furthest I have ever lived from the ocean, and I was starting to regret that I came.
Luckily, the amazing friends I've made here pulled me out of my slump with a perfect weekend of sea, sun, and snorkeling in Jeddah.
Yes, you have to wear an abaya to get there because you are still in Saudi. But there are Western beaches available, and there are wonderful snorkeling tours available that go out into the Red Sea - no abaya required!
Saudi certainly is the land of opportunity, because never in my life did I expect to go to a Mariah Carey concert in the Saudi Arabian desert of all places! The concert was held on February 1, 2019 and was part of a pro golf tournament held in Jeddah. (We were already in Jeddah for a relaxing weekend of sun and sea, but when we heard about the concert we couldn't pass it up!)