Words cannot express how thankful we are for the six years that we’ve been online. We’ve had our moments of absence in the Net and we have our moments when it seemed like blogging is what we just do, updating our website almost every day. Like a true-blue woman, the website has its own mood swings. Haha! Anyway, THANK YOU so much dear readers for the endless support you’ve been giving The Pink Tarha. You are such a breath of fresh air in our lives in Saudi Arabia. You think you’re the only ones who get bored? Well, you wouldn’t have The Pink Tarha if we were frolicking all day every day! And so you’ve read and have participated in the giveaways we ran in our Facebook page. One of the most important one is the #Riyadhizelfie contest where I asked you to send me a photo of your Riyadhizen planner in the most creative way possible and the answer to the questions: “What does it mean to be a Riyadhizen?”
A Riyadhizen is a term we coined for a person living in Riyadh regardless of nationality, gender, or age. If you’re living and working in Riyadh, then you’re a Riyadhizen! That’s it. Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, and its largest city too. It is one of the richest cities in the Middle East and home to more than five million people. It is one huge melting pot. Literally and not. Known as one of the hottest cities in the world, Riyadh is also a place where people of various nationalities, languages, and cultures meet and converge. It has also a reputation of being one of the ‘strictest’ cities of Saudi Arabia. We often hear complaints from friends living in Jeddah and Al-Khobar that going to Riyadh feels so different for them; it’s as if the city is too strict, too conservative, too prim and proper compared to their laid-back cities. While that is true, The Pink Tarha actually enjoys the cosmopolitan vibe of this city more than the other cities in the Kingdom. Yes it’s stricter (well, what do you expect when the King and most of the important institutions and embassies are here) but it’s also more modern, developed, and more Pink Tarha-ish. Haha! Unique, we mean.
Being an expat in Riyadh has its advantages and disadvantages but one thing that we cherish is that we are able to live in Riyadh independently. Most of us are away from our families and friends and away from the life we were used to but we’re thriving; our hearts always filled with dreams and hope. While Riyadh is far from being the “greener pasture” that most of those back in our home country think of, Riyadh has been our home for years and without our work here, we will not be who we are today. Riyadh is a major part of our life. Riyadh has taught us to be stronger and to work hard for our goals. It shows us how to bloom where we are planted and to cherish the simple joys and great surprises that come along our way. So for you, what does it mean to be a Riyadhizen?
Our winner, Hygeia Valerie Abellanosa, shares us her answer through a series of photos and an almost essay that is even longer than most of our entries! Haha! But we appreciate her entry and we are now publishing it here to share with you how she sees her life as a Riyadhizen. (Edited for brevity)
My name is Hygeia Valerie. I’m 28 years old, a true-blue Riyadhizen from one of the busiest and well-developed streets in Riyadh… Olaya.
When I first heard my colleagues applying for a job in Riyadh it wasn’t “love at first sight.” I’ve heard a lot of unimpressive notions about Riyadh so why will I dip myself in the water? I can’t even imagine myself wearing an abaya. Me, being some kind of a vagabond won’t surely survive in a place filled with all those restrictions. Nah! Never! (wry face) Weeks have passed and there I was… pretty well enlightened and finally gave in to such kind of what we call as “Riyadh-Mania”. I submitted my requirements and luckily I got accepted. My parents didn’t allow me, but as for my professional growth’s sake, they somehow supported my semi-impulsive decision.
Time slipped so fast. The old closed-minded, pessimist me have been enduring my almost 5 years (and counting) stay here in Riyadh. The road that I’ve tackled hasn’t been all smooth.Yet it molded me into an independent and fulfilled “Riyadhizen”. So what does it mean to be a Riyadhizen for me? As for me the word RIYADHIZEN is synonymous to LOVE. Such a simple and short word yet so hard to fathom due to its various definitions. #lovemonth? Let me share to you some of my realizations:
1.Being a Riyadhizen means knowing where you are and being open to change.
Moving overseas isn’t easy. It’s a total transition. Coming to Saudi Arabia is more of a bitter-sweet affair. You have to deal with all sorts of changes which would lead to “culture shock” if left unprepared. Islam dominates life not just in Riyadh, but in the whole Saudi Arabia. Tons of restrictions. Gender segregation. Living the kind of lifestyle which is way too different from what most of us have been accustomed to makes our sense of freedom restricted. Different culture, religion, traditions, etc. It’ll surely take time for one to adjust. (Be still! It’s not yet the end of the world.) The key to knowing a new culture is to learn their language. Who among us did not struggle with this? Lucky are those who are native Arabic speakers. That feeling when you’re still new and you simply have these 3 MAGIC WORDS: Aiwa, Mafi, Baden as your bullets ’til someone ask you if What’s your name? What’s your work? (All in Arabic) Surely, it’ll make your eyes roll on both sides. But fret not! You can always say this phrase: MAFI MALOM ARABI Brother/Sister as your defense. (Don’t forget to be polite.) I have learned to make room for new learnings and adventures and to BREATHE!
2. Being a Riyadhizen means embracing the perks that Saudi Arabia has to offer.
You may be here for work or your spouse, parents, son or daughter have sponsored you for your stay. For whatever reason, be grateful for such opportunity. Embrace it. Know that not everyone gets the chance to be where they want to be. PLUS You’re in a TAX-FREE Country! (Hoooray!) Do your best in everything that you do.Take every experience for your own advantage. Luck may not be at your side for always, but who knows? Tomorrow maybe you’ll be promoted to a much higher position which opens new doors for better chances. It’s also more convenient to raise a family here with all the benefits. At some point restrictions aren’t always negative. Forms of socialization might be less yet it’s a perfect way to spend more time with your family and make your bond even stronger. I learned to aim high and dedicate my work to my family.
3. Being a Riyadhizen means being self-reliant.
To become a citizen in a certain place you have to abide by their laws and regulations and be responsible for your own actions. Be independent and share what you have to make your community a beautiful place to live in. I learned to participate in various activities, be flexible and dynamic. And of course, wherever I go, I always carry my Iqama – my passport to independence with identity!
4. Being a Riyadhizen means making the time to explore.
BORED are for the BORING! It may be silly for me to compare…But YES! Sometimes we need be our own version of “DORA the EXPLORER” (It’s up to you if you’ll wear your backpacks too.*grin*) Others might choose to stay here permanently or temporarily. But you won’t be a full-pledged Riyadhizen if you haven’t tasted their traditional foods,the authentic Arabian sweets, dates and visited the highlights of Riyadh such as: Red Sand, Sky Bridge in Kingdom Tower, Faisaliah Tower, Riyadh Zoo, Riyadh Museum, Dancing Fountain at the King Abdullah Park, etc.
5. Being a Riyadhizen means turning “sun” into “fun”.
Most of the people when they hear the word Riyadh or Saudi Arabia in general… Oh yeah! They’ll surely think about the extreme-HOT-climate. Summer used to fall during mid-March with a little rainfall and some sand storms in between. However winter usually blows it’s way nearly within late October til early in March. It’s a cycle. Most people spend their summer either in the compounds or in the esteraha (rest area,rest home) for some swimming and barbecuing just to beat the summer heat. However, during the winter Riyadh is filled with women in their fashionable winter coats covering the abaya and dainty boots while the males also have their thicker blue, brown or grey thobe. No matter what the weather is you can always join in some activities in the compounds if you happen to have friends who are staying their just like Zumba party or simply have some brisk walking in the park and be one with the nature. At the end of the day, it’s not all about the weather. It’s all about finding ways on how to break the ice despite of your roller coaster schedule. Relax!
6. Being a Riyadhizen means finding your big love!
May it be a love for baking, biking, food, passion for reading, writing, photography, discovering new things, traveling, going to the gym etc. Riyadh gives us the opportunity to spend some time in cultivating our talents, nourishing our hobbies, improving our fitness and health, seeing things in a new perspective and pour out some love for the things that you want to develop and pursue.
7. Being a Riyadhizen means being well-diversified.
Riyadh’s economy is booming. No wonder why people all around the globe wants to apply for a job here. In each and every institution comes employees from different nationalities with different cultures and traditions. Despite our differences, we live with the same goals: earn money, make a living, build our lives. Working with people from various nationalities is such a great experience. You get to know more about them, their countries and their cultural background. It’s like taking a quick tour on the other side of the world. It’s a pleasure to those people who have their families here much more to those who have kids. It’s good to expose them to different cultures while they’re still young.
8. Being a Riyadhizen means being free!
For us women, wearing an abaya and tarha won’t hinder us into being fashionable. Keeping our “black long gown” is not an excuse for us to be fashion freaks and live a life filled with bad hair days. SALE is so apt for the season and SALONS are everywhere! Time to experiment, beautify, update your wardrobes, eat delish foods and be full.
9. Being a Riyadhizen means living life in a new dimension.
You may be alone or together with your family. Each of us has our own purpose and goals. Life here is totally different back home. I’ve never been so mature in dealing things and in making decisions not until when I came here. I become more goal-oriented. I never let my failures rule over me. Instead,I conquer them and gained lessons out of them. Here I have found friends who turned out to be my own set of family or shall I say Families.
10. Being a Riyadhizen means being happy!
Happiness starts with oneself. Being a HAPPY RIYADHIZEN paints colors (aside from green) in this oasis making it a better place to live in. You yourself is holding one color to make our Riyadhizen community more brighter. Never make it dull and lose its glow.
In the end, it’s not about the place that we live in, the restrictions and the adjustments. We’re the creator of our very own lifelines. At some point we also need to take such leap of faith.Take chances! Go out from our comfort zones.We have dreams waiting to be pursued. Being a Riyadhizen is a step not just to be inspired, but be an inspiration to many.
So there you go… this year’s winner to The Pink Tarha is 6 Anniversary Contest. She won not because her answer was long but because she was brave enough to say the answers most of us were already probably thinking but were afraid or shy to say so. Congratulations, Hygeia Valerie Abellanosa! It was a pleasure reading your entry and looking at your photo collages (sabi nga naman, tinalo mo ang usual entries namin sa website haha!). And it sure is a pleasure knowing that we have you as our reader and that we share the same “positive, good vibes” going on. Haha! Thank you! We would also like to extend our sincerest Congratulations to all the winners of our contests:
#RIYADHIZELFIE: Nadia Haque and Oum Harun Jibreel
#MISTERPINKTARHA: Jefferson Simbulan, Michael Angelo Racelis, Sherwin Nora, Noel Angat, Adnan Zaheer, and Abd-Albar Refaee
#MISSPINKTARHA: Donai Cabiles, Karthiga Mahesh, and Mjhae Bateo II
SOCIAL MEDIA SHARER: Jhyll Joya
To everyone who joined… THANK YOU SOOOOO MUCH! To our readers and supporters throughout the years, thank you so much and we love you! Thank you to our ever generous sponsors! 🙂
So you might be wondering… what does being a Riyadhizen mean for The Pink Tarha? (Parang Miss Universe question lang!) Reina says, “more than its meaning of being a citizen of Riyadh, a Riyadhizen is someone who makes the most out what there is, someone who chooses to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. When people hear the city name of “Riyadh” they might not think of it as the city to thrive in generally, but a Riyadhizen sure thinks the opposite of that!” As for me, I second the motion! Hahahaha! Being a Riyadhizen is simply making the most out of our stay in Riyadh, spreading good vibes, inspiring others, and taking the lessons that living here has taught us wherever we are and we will be. Riyadh Pride! Mabuhay! Shukran jazeelan!