|I still can't grow a proper beard!, but look at the waist size compared to my first pictures 6 months ago!|
6 months is a big one for a couple of reasons.
Obviously because its half a year...Duh! Its also half of a contract fulfilled, half of my mission accomplished. But its special also because its longer than I have ever been away from the safety and comfort of family. You really don't know what they mean to you until they aren't around anymore. 6 months is enough time to go through the really bad times, grow and explore and hopefully emerge stronger, settle into a routine and even go through hard times again when your routine that was your savior at 3 months becomes dull or tedious again. Someone wrote (during my Pre-Saudi research) that being a medic in Riyadh for 1 year is equivalent to 3-5 years anywhere in the US due to the shear amount of critical cases and the call volume itself. I have seen similar things at some of the stations here in the eastern region, especially the one I volunteer at in Al-Khobar. I'm going to take his suggestion of time one step if not two steps further though. As far as learning the region, the politics, the religion the area and figuring things out, 2 weeks here equals about 2 hours. BUT on the other hand, I would venture to say that in terms of self awareness 1 year is equal to about 3 at home. My reasoning for this stems from the fact that if you're here without family, and your not living on a compound, there is little to do but learn about yourself. Reading, exercise, TV, video games, shopping and food only go so far. You eventually have to start doing some deep, near meditation style thinking. And you won't have very many distractions strong enough to drown out your inner voice or thoughts like you would if there were access to mind altering substances such as women and booze. Yes I said women, and I actually mean it seriously but not intimately.
A woman's voice, laughter, opinion, smell and just presence has an effect on men. Here, it is absent. I'm sure that makes expat wives of the world happy, but I can imagine their severe shock and dismay if they were to find themselves in the company of only women, all day, every day. In fact I wouldn't like that either, there needs to be a balance, here there is not one.
Alcohol is another distractor, often times used in the US to "chemically convince" yourself everything is going to be fine. It is a CNS depressant, a sedative, a tasty beverage. At its best it is enjoyed responsibly throughout the world, at its worst it is abused the world over. No where though is it to blame, it is a substance that lowers inhibitions by acting on the brain, if a man when drunk is a "raving lunatic", a woman a "wanton harlot", you can rest assured that these are their truer states kept at bay by society's expectations and diplomacy. I get tired of hearing (here and the US) that alcohol causes behavioral problems, it does nothing of the sort, rather it simply forces the person to take off the mask. Here in Saudi, booze is absent...at least for the off compound expat. Oh sure there is some of it about, but its poor quality, homemade, "nail varnish" and has a high methanol content making it quite a dangerous little reprieve. For this reason, my students who do like to drink (about 25%), make weekly trips to Bahrain...something they are permitted to do, yet I am forbidden to do, remember the "golden rule" or equality tenet of Islam?...yeah I didn't think so, not here, not for "employees". Apparently it wouldn't apply to me anyway not being Muslim.
So without these distractors, this place is a wannabe monks dream. Meditation happens here without even trying, and I would guess that you learn more about yourself and your place in the world in seclusion than you do in a place full of man made noise and distraction. So here's my unscientific opinion. 1 year here = 2 years self actualization anywhere else, and 3 years at home, meaning an American expat alone in London still learns more about himself and the world than he would at home, but less than he would in Saudi.
Here's to 6 months of learning! Think I'll hit up "Crabalbee's" and celebrate!
|Handsome fella, aren't I!|
P.S. Months 7 and 8 actually hold some significance to me as well...but you'll just have to wait to find out what that is!