Sunday, October 14, 2012

Welcome To The World Little Prince!

We were blessed with a healthy baby boy a week ago. Everything went well with the labor this time and we had a beautiful all natural birth experience. I could not have done it without the support of my husband! It was the most amazing experience of my life. We are so proud of our little peanut. His birth weight was 4 kg and he was 53 cm long like a Viking!
The little man is keeping us very busy and eating non-stop so I will probably not be able to blog much in the near future from this milk monsters demands :)

The hospital we went to is a large private hospital in the center of Riyadh. The reason we went there was actually to be able to do the labor with a western midwife, not a doctor and thus have a better chance for a more natural birthing experience. Because my first delivery ended up in an emergency cesarean section also here in Riyadh, we were hopeful to have a VBAC this time. I had been told by all the obgynes I had seen (there were over 15 in different hospitals) for the entire nine months that this would be practically impossible. These physicians only discouraged me and pushed me for another c-section that I had lost most hope to actually succeed in avoiding another c-section.
Birthing in Saudi has become such a business it's actually sad to see how far people have gone. Many if not most of women going to private hospitals are now opting for elective c-sections. Having experienced both a natural birth and a c-section, I cannot fathom how anyone would choose to have the surgery. It is simply a nightmare to recover from and is a huge risk as surgery always is both to the mothers and the babies. The c-section rate in Saudi-Arabia is very high, one of the highest in the world.

All this laboring business has somehow become about making the delivery most convenient for the mothers (although I still don't see how major abdominal surgery would be convenient for anyone). Nothing about child birth seems to be natural anymore, it's all about getting the baby out as "easy" as possible with least damage down there to the woman and then after the birth going overboard and showing off. Many Saudi women are so concerned that their husbands would take a second wife if they get damaged from childbirth and this is even openly discussed among women here which came as a surprise to me.
I was shocked how the hospital was offering all sorts of "vanity" services to mothers who have just delivered, as if the baby itself is secondary importance. Most important thing here seems to be looks. The hospital catalog was more like a five star hotel directory. The services on offer tell a lot about the priorities of women giving birth nowadays.

Where are the breast feeding support services and lactation consultants? How about nutrition and exercise support and advice? Which of these services actually support bonding of a healthy mother and a baby? The sad truth is breast feeding is not at all encouraged and all newborns will be offered formula from day one unless the parents specifically refuse it. Infants will spend most of their time in the nursery where nurses change diapers and give formula, then bring the tightly swaddled babies to the rooms for viewing.

We were told by the pediatrician that our baby was in fact starving and NEEDED formula. Unbelievable. How did the human race survive I wonder? And for the record our baby has gained 200 grams in just six days on breastmilk only, despite the fact that infants normally LOOSE weight for the first two weeks.

Only in Saudi? In room maids and private nurses so that mothers don't have to "lift a finger".
The most shocking service to me was the piercing of the newborn babies ears. In my country it's simply not common at all and girls get ears pierced at the around the same time they would start doing other "beautification" such as wearing make-up. So to me piercing a babies ears has always been strange but I understand that it's a cultural thing. To do it on the first days..and while the baby is sleeping? As if they want to say it will not wake up to this? Quite frankly in Finland this would be categorized as child abuse.
I'm all for women being able to look and feel beautiful after delivery and it surely makes us feel better after all those 9 months of feeling bloated and what else..But maybe this is going a bit overboard..This is not Oscar night, it's a special time with your baby..
The price of this service is mind blowing. 5200SAR for room decorations! For the love of God I don't see the point. Even if you swim in money, it's just too much. I would like to see how the beds are decorated with crystals and lights though, it must look like a spaceship.
And after they are done entertaining the guests for a good 4-6 days..How to get all this stuff out of the hospital?? Answer: Hire a TRUCK.
My husband had ordered these balloons for me. Now in Finland people would probably laugh their butts off if they saw someone bring all these balloons to the hospital, but in Saudi these are actually quite modest.
And now I'm off to feed our little prince again!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

InterNations Expat Community

In case you haven't heard of them, InterNations is a very useful site aimed for expatriates to share information, network, meet other expatriates and find interesting places and things to do. They require you to request for an invitation to join and you can do it for free here:

Blue Abaya is one of the InterNations recommended expat blogs and I did a short interview with them some while ago which you can read on the site as well.

-   Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Saudi Arabia, etc. 
I'm a Finnish medical professional who moved to Saudi-Arabia four years ago for a position in a large government hospital. Originally the plan was to come for one year and then go back home, but you never know where life will lead you!

-    When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I actually started a blog about Saudi when I moved but I only wrote a few times and then deleted it because I simply did not have the time. I started again after my life had settled a bit from the hectic first two years. After reading so many negative and biased views from other blogs, I wanted to write about Saudi in a more light hearted but also realistic perspective and to help expats find activities around the Kingdom. Having a Saudi husband gives me a special insight into both the local and the expat life of the Kingdom.

-      Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I like some posts about Saudis as patients most and then the cultural comparisons of the Finns and the Saudis J

-     Tell us about the ways your new life in Riyadh differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Oh it differs a lot of course! There are some things that are better now, some worse like the obvious no driving for women. I find the relaxed pace of life here is more suitable for my nature and I love the weather (except sandstorms!).
Everyone experiences culture shock; people just go through it differently. I think I had an easier time than many because I had previously lived and worked abroad and was used to scenery changes since childhood.  My culture shock presented itself as an unexplained anxiety and restlessness which I treated by keeping myself active and making many friends as well as getting to know and understand the local culture better.

-    Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Saudi Arabia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I think I was fairly well prepared, but could have read up more on the local customs and culture and especially religion before coming! I was in the impression that the hospital's three week orientation program would prepare us but I was very wrong! Knowing just the basics of Islam I think should be included in the orientation especially the medical professionals would benefit from it greatly and it would prevent many misunderstandings from occurring.

-      Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Oh there are so many stories! I think some of the funniest happened with patients and lack of understandings of each other's cultures. Bedouin patients would be among the funniest because their style of life is just so different from ours. I have many such experiences on the blog J

-      Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Saudi Arabia?
-Keep your mind open, try to take things with a dash of humor and surround yourself with positive people.
-Try and find out as much as you can about local customs and culture before you come and once you're here, ask the locals and get to know them. Don't get stuck in the closed (minded) expats circles only.
- Keep in mind that although this is a Muslim country not everything you see around you is from Islam. Don't judge the book by its covers or the religion by some of its followers. Always try to find out for yourself and don't listen to or believe in the rumor mills.
-     How is the expat community in Riyadh? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community is very lively and there are many different nationalities. Unfortunately some nationalities prefer to only socialize with their "own kind" and sometimes very tight knit groups form. Saudi has the tendency to make people very patriotic and unfortunately some become extremely negative of the host country.
Some western expats that live in closed compounds hardly ever interact with other nationalities let alone locals which is a shame.
There are of course many like-minded expats out there who have no problems making friends across borders and religions which makes Saudi-Arabia such an amazing place to make new friends. I have made true friends from around the world here and am truly grateful for that. It was one of the reasons I came here!

-      How would you summarize your expat life in Saudi Arabia in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in the Magic Kingdom is full of surprising adventures and undiscovered beauty for those who seek them!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saudi IKEA's Misogynistic Madness

I might have gotten out of bed with the wrong foot as we say in Finland, but I noticed something so disturbing today that I just HAD to rant a little bit about it. I mean this is complete and utter madness. So Dumb. Disturbs me what kind of sickos and women haters are out there.

This is the source of my headache, an article in the Swedish Metro magazine this morning:!2mPseJ6LPTrK2/
So the new IKEA catalogs are out and can be viewed online at their site
All the countries have pretty much the same stuff on offer and the catalogs look the same. Except for of course Saudi-Arabia, the so called model country of Islam.

What's different in the Saudi IKEA catalog then? Can anyone take a wild guess?
They censored it. ALL THE IMAGES OF WOMEN have magically disappeared from the Saudi version. A misogynistic airbrusher has vandalized the entire catalog.

You might have seen how they censor stuff in Saudi-Arabia before, like blacking out half clad women from the swimming pool packages or placing white tape on celebrity decolletages, drawing imaginary black leggings and T-shirts on women in the women's magazines or spray painting the bare skin parts black. Heck they even black out the word PORK from food items.
I can understand why some of the censoring is done in Saudi-Arabia if I really really try hard to block most of my brain activity while at the same placing my head in a very narrow tunnel. But people, this is a furniture catalog, OK? Who the hell needs to censor a furniture catalog anyways?

Take a tour of the Saudisized IKEA here:
The censorship at the actual Riyadh IKEA store has always creeped me out. Check this out:
 What on earth was going on in their minds when they decided to do that? It's just the babies mother for God's sake!
How about this? The woman is fully covered! Looks like someone has some serious issues with women.

As a woman I find this highly offensive and insulting. This must also be the height of hypocrisy. I wonder how many of the men responsible for this stupidity have maids (as in unrelated females) living in their houses? I would guess 99%.

What is the point to remove all the women from the Saudi catalog? Women do exist. What are these misogynist men trying to accomplish by this, trying to imagine women don't exist? Do they not watch the news or TV at all? Do they not go to malls or grocery stores? Images of women are everywhere in Saudi-Arabia! Heck there is even REAL uncovered women out there on the streets of the conservative capital Riyadh. Should they be blocked from public view too? Even the women's magazines that are allowed in the Magic Kingdom are not censored like this. So why IKEA?

I wonder how IKEA as a Scandinavian company is even agreeing to this. Sweden is one of the most gender equal countries in the world. What a mockery this is to equality of women. This is oppression of women. What an absolute shame and disgrace that is going on with Saudi IKEA. I feel insulted as a Scandinavian. As if the women are indecent or shameful and thus needed to be removed. These are normal everyday images of women, of mothers with children in their homes, not of women posing in sexy positions in bikinis or miniskirts.

What do these people think, that Saudi men can't handle a few images of mostly fully clad women? Are Saudi men expected to be so sex deprived they would go crazy to see these tempting Swedish women? Do these perverted minds assume all men think like them and would take the magazine into the bathroom for some "private viewing"? How disgusting. Is someone out there really this sick? For the life of me I can't understand what is wrong with this picture of a family brushing their teeth together:

And in the Saudi version the mother has disappeared. I find this very sad that someone thought she needed to be removed. What kind sick minds are these?
This is the scene from the normal catalog kitchen section, the screen shot taken from the UAE catalog. How are the UAE men able to handle the images of women btw?

You would think that women naturally appear in the kitchens right? Not in Saudi! They also removed the man though. But hey, by taking a closer look we can see the woman looks Asian. Wouldn't this be a scene from a typical Saudi home then? An unrelated, uncovered Asian woman working in the kitchen, mixing with the Saudi males of the family. Why is it totally fine in the home but not in the catalog? Can anyone say double standards?
Maybe they removed the guy too so that Saudi women don't get any ideas of hiring male maids! God forbid an unrelated male mixing with Saudi women. What would the world turn into.

Another image from the real world. A family cooking happily together, father, grandfather, mother, children all joyfully together. What is so wrong with this image that Saudi-Arabia can't handle it?

First of all scenes like this just don't exist in Saudi homes. Better to remove the grandpa (although he looks culturally acceptable with his muttawa-look) and the father so that Saudi women won't get any ideas in their heads that men do actually cook in countries like Sweden and thus become too demanding on the Saudi men. The woman is dressed so indecently that she needs to be removed straight away. The kids `re helping to set up the table. What! Helping?? Where is the maid? Totally unacceptable to make children to do housework. This is what it should look like:

Except that the magic deleting wand forgot the wine bottle on the table. What a horrific mistake! Someone might some bad ideas from that!
How about this image. Honestly I can't even tell which one is the woman immediately. She seems to be dressed just like the male counterparts. But because she's a woman..DELETE.

How ridiculous can this get really? The entire catalog is full of examples like this. Why does the IKEA censor hate women so much they need to be completely deleted from the catalog? Above all how could IKEA, which is a company based on family values and comes from a country once chosen as the best country for women to live in, accept this misogynistic madness? Are women not welcome into the Saudi-Arabian IKEA stores?

Edit: IKEA has issued a statement saying it regrets its decision saying "We should have reacted and realized that excluding women from the Saudi Arabian version of the catalog is in conflict with the IKEA Group values."