Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saudi Arabia

My fascination with Saudi Arabia started this year when I took the teaching job at the local university in my city. About 80% of the students in our ESL program are from Saudi Arabia.

My love for varying cultures is no secret. It was Korean culture that I fell in love with, as evident in my blog banner. So it should come as no surprise that I want to learn more about Saudi culture; partly because I want to 'understand' the actions of my students -- most of which are culturally unacceptable by Western standards -- and party because I'm curious.

I've thought about the possibility of going to Saudi Arabia to 'experience' the culture. I've looked into teaching jobs for me and welding jobs for Sung Hyun. The motive behind my move would not be economical but for educational reasons -- mostly revolving around gender division, responsibility and roles. But I now realize I'm naive to think that I would be able to 'truly experience' the authentic Saudi culture since the division between Foreigners and Saudi people is very evident. I would live in a secluded area known as a compound. I would not be permitted to drive, drink or eat pork. I would have to wear an abaya in public. Not to mention work and social life are distinctly divided by sex.

I have just spent the last 5 hours watching various videos on YouTube. The search started with: "life in Saudi Arabia". It has been an interesting 5 hours to say the least. See for yourself:






And now I'm ready to hear what Shelley has to say!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I think living in any country/culture for a short period of time is interesting. I've lived in Africa, Mongolia, China and Europe. Some of those places I would NEVER consider for the long term, but for a year? I think the experience is worth it. If you absolutely hate it, you can always pack up and go back home.

Shelley said...

I'm all for educating yourself, but there is quite another actually living in a culture that views women as second class citizens. It would not be fun for you. I have a friend who lives there, her husband is a pilot, and they live on a compound and rarely ever go off of it, so learning about Saudi is pretty much non-existent. Also forget about ever leaving the compound without your husband, in Saudi if you walk around by yourself, you'll be arrested for solicitation. So yeah, essentially prostitution. I'm all for every country having their own culture, and even though my husband is a Muslim and part of his religion is eventually going to Saudi to perform Haj (pilgrimage), I will not be going with him. I respect women's rights way too much and am afraid I'd get myself in a world of problems with my big mouth over there. LOL. I think places like Dubai and Abhu Dhabi are better places to learn more about middle eastern culture where women still have some rights.
Jenn you'd be miserable over there...

Shelley said...

Jenn: I just watched all the videos. Thanks for posting them, I found them quite educational. The first video literally made me sick to my stomach. I told my husband what the man said about beating his wife and we had a good laugh over it in the sense that it is NOT something widespread across Islam. I mean the bible also says a husband can beat his wife with a stick no thicker than his thumb, but no one does that, do they? My hubby would never hit me, even if "I deserved it." LOL! i also asked him if he'd take a 2nd wife..and he jokingly reassured me that of course not...one was quite enough to deal with! HA!

The other videos were nice, in the sense that I liked to see the Muslim women standing up for themselves and educating themselves and also working, but boy would I be uncomfortable wearing an abaya all day at work. I mean good grief. I personally find them to be the most chauvinist and misogynist thing about Islam. If you read about why women should wear them, it's ridiculous.

Anyway...I think I'll get off my soapbox now ;) This is why I am so glad to have such a strong, open minded modern Mother-in-law and sister-in-law. They have taught me A LOT about Islam and also have told me that a lot of these women rights issues really are cultural and not religious, as the Koran is interpreted so differently by so many people. And I think like in the 2nd video, the journalist had a point, that people in Saudi are being brainwashed because they are forced to memorize the Koran, instead of learning it.

Thanks for the educational blog post Jenn :)

Why am I here??? said...

I agree Anony! Do you have a blog of your travels? I'd love to read it!

Shelley, I love your comments on the videos. Thank you so much for your educational response ;)

Anonymous said...

I had a blog until 2009, when it crashed and I basically lost everything (except for a few posts and photos I had saved). I think I almost had a heart attack at the time.

My time in Africa was especially eye-opening. So much poverty, so many things I would never be able to live with... I lived in Togo and Niger and it wasn't exactly paradise. Then I spent almost a year in Uganda, and fell in love with the place. Still, I don't think I could live in Africa forever. I missed comfort, freedom (too much crime to go out by yourself), modern facilities... But wow, what an experience. I would do it again in a second. I mean, why not? You can learn so much when living abroad. Even if it's just to come back home and write a book about it or start a petition or a movement about it... Whatever it is. Why live a "normal" life when you have a chance to explore the world?

Why am I here??? said...

Totally agreed Anony! Ahhhh that must have been so frustrating when your blog crashed! I'm sad I couldn't get a peek :)

Anonymous said...

I'm living in Thailand now, so maybe I'll start a new blog (I think my heart has healed since 2009) :)

Why am I here??? said...

DO IT~

Shelley said...

I'd read your blog anony about living in Thailand! I live in India right now...white girl married to an Indian ;)

I love Thailand though!

David said...

lived in iran for four years. also not a place for western women.

Dodo said...

Happy to hear that you cancelled your plans - for something like our fun nights out on the Yonsei basketball court you would probably end up being stoned there^^ HUGS!!!