Monday, March 2, 2015

Our everyday life in Jeddah

Lately, nothing major has happened, but I still wanted to keep everybody updated with our daily life ;-)

I'm 30 weeks pregnant now, and I'll be flying to Germany in only 25 days - crazy!!!

Well, there is something 'a little bit' major that happened last week: We found out where the State Department is sending us after our time in Jeddah.
We will be living in Baku, Azerbaijan from 2016 to 2017.

Anthon and I are thrilled about our assignment. Of course, Baku is not like Germany or the US, but our bid list was kind of crappy this time with these 5 options: Baku (Azerbaijan), Pristina (Kosovo) (which were our 2 top choices), Port-au-Prince (Haiti), Dakar (Senegal) and Shenyang (China).

We have heard many good things about Baku, including a 10-minute walk from home to the consulate which makes it possible for Anthon to come home for lunch and play with our baby (or me to bring lunch over and eat together), many beautiful green parks to walk around which will also be nice for when we have a baby/toddler, plenty of fun things to do and see in the city, decent climate, great restaurants, great pay for Anthon, and a good variety of groceries which is important to us food lovers. And, a roundtrip ticket to Munich is only about $400-500, which is pretty affordable.
As you can tell, we're pretty excited about our new assignment! Start booking your flights to come and visit us ;-)

Besides waiting patiently on our next assignment, we've been busy preparing everything for our baby boy who is coming very soon - in plus/minus 10 weeks!!!
Last week, we pretty much purchased everything from Amazon that we would need during the first months: over 60 items, which added up to a total of about $2,400.
Not as bad as I had expected for the fact that we bought everything new. That's still cheaper than our Apple products or my camera :-)

Also, Anthon turned 27 years! Yep, only 27 years. Most people think he's older :-)
I made a cake and we had a couple of friends over for a movie night, which was fun. We had originally planned on eating out that night, but Anthon couldn't wait to eat sushi, so we already went out 2 days before his birthday :-D

Our families and friends often ask us what life is like in Jeddah. Well, I would say that about 80% of our life is very similar to what our life in the US would be like.
Anthon drives to work in the morning, works there for about 8-10 hours, drives home, we eat dinner, then we just relax, and go to bed. Pretty much what most of you do during the week.
The only difference is maybe that Anthon works a lot with staff that is not from the US. Most of his staff is from Yemen, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines. Since the Jeddah consulate is not in the US, Anthon has to deal quite a bit with cultural differences and restrictions typical for this region, which make his work very interesting.

Since I got pregnant soon after I came to Jeddah, and it would have taken about 2-3 months to get a security clearance in order to work at the consulate, and we had already planned several vacations, we decided that I'll just stay at home and be a homemaker until the baby gets here... well, after that, too, of course.
So, right now, I'm a typical housewife.... or somewhat typical. I guess there is a lot of variation in what people consider a "typical housewife".

I get up with Anthon every morning, prepare a good breakfast, pack Anthon's lunch, kiss him good-bye, clean up the kitchen, get ready for the day, stay busy with cleaning the house, preparing meal plans and shopping lists, answering e-mails, preparing my weekly Sunday school lessons, and cooking dinner. Since Anthon is the hardworking breadwinner in our house, I try to be as diligent as possible while he's at work. I would find it unfair towards him if I just stayed at home, watched TV and did nothing while he's working.
Many women here in the expat community have maids that do almost everything for them, so that they can meet up with other women during the day and have a cup of coffee, or go shopping in the malls and souks. But that's not me... I'm too German :-)  I always make a to-do list for every day. If I'm running out of to-dos, I'm working on some longer term projects, like our 5-year anniversary book.
With our baby coming in 2.5 months, I've also been busy looking for baby and nursery stuff. Once the baby is here, I'm sure that I'll stay busy without writing a daily to-do list, though :-D

While other guys would prefer having a second income, Anthon prefers having a stay-at-home-wife. This was a little surprising to me since Anthon loves finances, saving more money to become financially independent by age 50 (= the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live, without having to work actively for basic necessities) and all that kind of financial stuff.
However, Anthon tells me quite often that he LOVES coming home from work to a wife that is not stressed out and complains about work, coming home to a clean house, dinner ready on the table, ironed clothes, not having to worry about laundry and other household stuff,... and I enjoy being at home. For me, it is fulfilling to take care of my husband and make him happy, and to take care of our home.
But Anthon is not a macho at all (luckily!). If I need his help, he jumps up and helps me. We've just decided to do it this way - he goes to work and makes the big bucks, while I stay at home and do everything to support him in his job, and make his life easier, and save some money by smart householding (not sure if this is a word, but in my opinion it should be one) :-)

While our daily life is very similar to what our life would be like in the US, our weekends look a little bit different. We especially feel that we live in a different country when we go outside of our compound.
Before we go out, we always check when the next prayer time starts. Stores close during the 5 prayer times a day for about 30-45 minutes. If you happen to be at the grocery store when the prayer starts, you are not able to check out and/or exit the store. Your frozen items have to either be brought back to the freezer and picked up again later, or you just let it thaw in your cart if you're too lazy :-)
Restaurants won't let you in during prayer time either, but most places will let you exit during prayer time, which is nice.

As you might have noticed in our pictures, I'm always wearing a black outfit. No, I've not joined the gothic scene. That's a long dark dress that every woman has to wear in public, called the abaya. Some Western women absolutely hate it, but I wouldn't say that I hate it. I would just prefer only wearing 1 layer of clothing in this very hot and very humid climate. Especially when I see Anthon only wearing a short sleeve shirt and shorts. Kind of unfair, but I guess I have to accept the rules of the country.

As a woman, I am also not allowed to drive here. You know, it could curl up my ovaries, push my pelvis upwards and make me infertile... or I could show my willingness to be raped, in case the car breaks down at the side of the road (someone please make sense out of these arguments why women can't drive!?!?).

Luckily, our consulate provides motor pool services, so that I can go to the hospital, consulate, go shopping if I wanted to, etc. Honestly, in this crazy Jeddah traffic,  I prefer to not drive here. It seems like the only rule is that there is no rule :-)
Usually, I always fall asleep when Anthon is driving... I'm like a baby. I just get tired with the white noise in the background and the car rocking me to sleep. But here in Jeddah, I cannot fall asleep in the car no matter how tired I am. Since people drive like crazy here, Anthon has to constantly switch lanes, step on his brakes, honk at people who randomly change lanes without looking and almost bumping into our car,....
My blood pressure probably always goes up a little bit when we're out and about. I just can't stay calm enough to fall asleep while we're on the road :-)

Something that is also a little bit different is our kind of entertainment here. In the US, we loved going to concerts, theater plays, go bowling, eating out,...
Here, we don't really do any of that much. Saudi Arabia doesn't really have typical theaters with classical concerts and plays. If they have something like that and I'm just unaware of it, I'm sure that it would be for men only, or it would be in Arabic which we both don't speak.
Mixing genders is not liked here, which is the reason why there are family sections and single sections for men at each restaurant. Many fast food restaurants like McDonald's and Papa John's even have separate entrances - one for families, and one for men. Some places that sell Middle Eastern fast food even don't allow women in them, so I usually just stay in the car while Anthon orders the food.

We don't really eat out that much here, though. We definitely ate out a lot more when we were in the US. Restaurants can be quite pricey (or at least cost more than we are willing to pay for American, Italian, Asian food), and I pretty much never crave Middle Eastern food, which is mostly a little bit to a lot cheaper than other cuisines.
Since Middle Eastern food is some of the most affordable food here, you would think that we mostly eat out at Middle Eastern restaurants. The problem is that I never crave Middle Eastern food. There are only 3 cuisines that I never crave (at least 3 of the many cuisines that I have tried so far)- Mexican (sorry!), Indian and Middle Eastern. I don't know what it is about these foods that I just never crave them. I don't mind eating them and I like them when I happen to eat them, but they never really sound good to me and I just never crave them. So, that's another reason why we don't go out to eat that often. The foods that we like and crave are just a little bit too pricey for us to go out often. So, I usually just make those at home.
However, when we do go out by ourselves, we mostly get Korean food. I cook very internationally, but it takes a lot of time to prepare Korean food with all of its side dishes, so I prefer eating out when we're craving Korean food.
Two weeks ago, I felt a little bit experimental and cooked Bulgogi with 6 different Paanchi (side dishes). Anthon is excited that he no longer has to pay for Korean food. One less reason to eat out and spend money :-)

When we do go out to eat to other restaurants then usually with friends, which brings me back to the topic of entertainment.
Since the things that we like doing in the US/Germany don't really exist here and we don't share a love for many Saudis' favorite hobby, which is shopping, we hang out a lot with other people from the consulate. We have also made some friends here on the compound.
I can't remember the last time we had a weekend without a potluck, birthday party, some event at the consulate, or us hosting dinner. That's the kind of entertainment you do here the most, and our weekends are always filled with these kinds of get-togethers.
Luckily, the consulate has plenty of nice young people in their late 20s like us, who we really enjoy hanging out with. The good thing is that most of them came to Jeddah only a couple of months before us or came after we arrived, so we'll have them here for the majority of our time.

Eating Yemeni food with friends at the Corniche

Branch Pool Party on our compound

Cooking Middle Eastern food with friends

Enjoying some American food 

Hosting friends for a Raclette dinner

Dinner at a friend's house

National Day celebration at the Consulate a couple of weeks ago. It's just too miserably hot and humid in July to celebrate it then :-)

National Day at the Consulate

Date night at the Jeddah festival

They don't happen too often, but sometimes expats put together little events that we like to go to to feel normal again - no separated gender sections, no abaya needed, and PDA is allowed :-)
A couple of months ago, one of the international schools performed the Wizard of Oz at their school, which was awesome. The other day, the British consulate hosted their yearly X-Pat factor talent show, which was a lot of fun, too. We wish there were more of these kinds of events, but... you can't have it all, right?

Wizard of Oz performance

If we find some time between all these get-togethers and events, Anthon and I like hanging out on the couch and watching shows that we can watch for free on Amazon instant or Youtube.
We also like baking and cooking together. I love having a husband, who loves to cook, who enjoys good food, and who really appreciates homemade food. This has challenged me to make almost everything from scratch - normal noodles, SpƤtzle, Schupfnudeln, German potato and bread dumplings, bread, rolls, pretzels, ice-cream, homemade broth and soup,...
Living abroad and not being able to buy baking mixes and all kinds of other stuff really makes you a better homemaker, I feel :-)

So yeah, that's a little insight into our daily life here in Jeddah.
Let me know if you have any questions about life here and I'll answer them in my next blog post ;-)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Pregnancy so far...

Since Anthon and I got married almost 5 years ago, we knew that we wanted to have children. However, I hadn't even started school yet for various reasons and wanted to first get a degree before starting a family.
It was not always easy to wait for that time to come. Most of our friends started having kids and already worked on their 2nd and 3rd babies, and people kept asking us about when we would start a family. People started wondering if we had problems getting pregnant, which bothered me a lot. Just because everybody in Utah decides to start a family right after they get married, that does not mean that we are not able to have children. We had simply decided to wait until I was done with school. And hey, we're still pretty young with 26 and 27 years. I guess we just happened to live in the 'wrong' state where it's normal to start a family at 21 years. So, we did stand out a little bit.

But now that I graduated in June 2014, and Anthon and I would not have to live apart from each other anymore due to school and his work, we finally came to that point in our lives where we could and wanted to start a family - exciting!
We are so glad that we waited to start a family until after I had graduated. I might or might not ever use this degree, but I wanted to be an example to my children and let them know how important a good education is.
I also don't think I could have ever done a good job at being a wife, mom, full-time student, taking care of a household and doing all this while Anthon is away from me for his job. As many of you know, we have had quite a bit of separation time due to Anthon's work and me staying at BYU. So yeah, looking back, we are soooo glad that we waited to welcome new members to our little gypsy family.

Over the years, we've been told A LOT by other couples that we should first get to know each other well and do as much traveling as possible before we have kids.
I think we can truly say that we have had enough time to get to know each other and to grow together, and we've certainly had enough time to travel in the past 4.5 years. We went to Germany several times, traveled around the US quite a bit, spent time in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Jordan, Brazil, Peru, and Saudi Arabia. A couple of months ago, we also went on another trip to the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Egypt. And with Anthon's work, I'm sure we'll see and live in plenty of other places in the world in the next 25 years.

I guess, we ran out of excuses to postpone having kids :-D

Lately, I have been asked a lot by friends and family about my pregnancy, how I've been doing, about pregnancy cravings, if I'm going to deliver the baby here in Jeddah, etc.

So far, this pregnancy hasn't been as bad as I expected. Yes, I was very tired in the beginning and took at least 1-2 naps during the day. I also often felt weak, especially when I had to stand on my feet for longer than a couple of minutes, but I was lucky to not get very nauseous. I also never had to throw up during the first 11 weeks.

After I had taken a home pregnancy test that turned out positive, I waited 2 or 3 days to tell Anthon about it (yep, I'm veeery good at keeping secrets!). I wanted to do something neat to tell him, but I didn't get any awesome inspiration. So, I kept it simple.
I decided to make cinnabuns/cinnamon rolls for Anthon and me. While the cinna'buns' were in the oven, Anthon and I were kissing each other in the kitchen. I decided to use the opportunity to tell him: "I think there is a bun in the oven!"
Anthon got the hint right away and got super excited :-)

Here are pictures from our first ultrasound:

Ugh, I guess I have to get used to needles... the things you do for a baby! :-)

At around 8-9 weeks, Anthon and I went on a 2-week vacation to Europe and Egypt. I felt so blessed to have enough energy to walk around the cities all day long and to go on longer train and bus rides.

The only issue I had during the first 11 weeks (besides the normal fatigue) was that I couldn't eat much. I just felt full very quickly, as if my stomach had shrunk. That didn't change until about week 22. 
In Berlin, Anthon and I went to a 2-Michelin-star restaurant "Tim Raue", which was phenomenal! We both had ordered an 8 course meal so that we could try as many dishes as possible, but I was already completely full after 4 courses although all of the courses were pretty small - fine cuisine sizes :-)
 I wanted to eat more, but I just couldn't. I hated that time when I couldn't eat much, it was pretty frustrating! I always felt bad sending almost full plates of delicious food back to the kitchen all the time :-(

Jessi, Anthon's sister, and her family who live in Switzerland decided to be crazy enough to change their Paris trip plans and drive to Vienna to spend a couple of days with us during our Europe/Egypt trip. Since she had already been pregnant 5x, we were a little bit worried that she might just feel or notice that I was pregnant. But luckily we were able to hide it from the family :-)

Something funny: Anthon and I decided to take the two oldest kids to the "Vienna Prater" - an all-year-round outside amusement area with rides and fun games. Since I was pregnant and we didn't want to tell the kids yet, I had to pretend the entire time that I was "too scared to go on most rides". Our nephew probably thought that I was the lamest aunt ever and Anthon was the coolest uncle ever because he went on all the cool rides with him :-D 
I still went on several lame, pregnancy friendly rides with our niece and played several carnival games with the kids, so that I was at least in some of the pictures and Anthon's sister wouldn't get too suspicious about why I never went on any rides...  :-)

One of the few advantages of being pregnant - I finally qualify for this seat! :-)

In Egypt at around 9.5 weeks pregnant. 

After the first 11 weeks, I started throwing up in the evenings. My guess is that it came from my new prenatal vitamins that already had iron in them, and probably exhaustion, too. I had to fly a lot during that time, which made it a lot worse. Luckily, it didn't last for too long!

At 11 and 12 weeks, we decided to finally tell our families that we were expecting. My mom and sister came to visit us here in Jeddah and since I had to fly out to London for a couple of days for a standard genetic testing appointment while they were here, I knew that I couldn't really hide my pregnancy anymore. We had put our ultrasound pictures on our fridge, guided my mom and sister to the kitchen right after they had arrived, offered them drinks and lingered around in the kitchen until they discovered the ultrasound pictures :-)

11 weeks: They don't have a qualified person here in Jeddah to do the genetic test that you're supposed to take before the 13th week, so I had to fly out to London to get it done there. After the appointment, I still had some time to walk around London and see some of the tourist sights. Here I am at the Buckingham Palace. I was pretty proud of myself for finding my way around a big city I had never been to without a map on my phone - yay! 

After my trip to London and great results at the genetic testing, we called and e-mailed the rest of the family and let them know that we were expecting. Of course, it wasn't a super huge surprise to everybody because our families knew that we wanted to start a family right after I'm done with school.

At around 13 weeks, I had my first public throw-up... at the fancy breakfast buffet of a beautiful Marriott hotel in Riyadh :-S
Anthon had gone to work early and I had to go to eat breakfast by myself. After eating a little bit of fruit and drinking a glass of orange juice, I started feeling nauseous. I had to hurry up because a taxi was about to pick me up in 10 minutes, but I decided to just stay seated for a moment until I would feel better. But I did not feel better and couldn't hold it. I threw up my entire delicious breakfast right on the table. The waiter came and wanted to help, but I thought that it might be a little gross for him to clean up my mess. I kept telling him how sorry I was, told him that I was pregnant, and he told me several times to not worry about it. He was so nice and handled the situation so well, but I'm sure that he was pretty grossed out by my pineapple-orange smoothie :-) 
So, I just grabbed a bunch of napkins and cleaned it up and left the room, probably with a very very red face. 
Of course, the following days after this incident, the servers kept asking me if I was doing better and how my pregnancy was going.... so embarrassing!!! Luckily, I never had another public throw-up after that again.... 
Well, I had 1 other one, but I think nobody really saw it. That was right after we arrived at the Frankfurt airport (I told you, I do not handle flying during pregnancy very well!). We had to take a train in order to get to the car rental place. The train was so full that there were no empty seats left and I had to stand. Since I couldn't stand for very long during my early pregnancy, I started feeling dizzy and knew that I was going to faint. Because the train would soon stop and we had to get out, I kept wiggling around, hoping to not faint. As soon as the train doors opened, I jumped out and sat down on the floor. Anthon was so nice to get all of our baggage out of the train before it would depart again. So, as I was laying/sitting there on the ground by myself, people gave me a strange look and walked by. I think, they thought that I was totally drunk and couldn't stand anymore...embarrassing! :-S
Anyways, after I got up again, I had to throw up again.... ugh... no traveling for me the next time I'm pregnant. 

At 15.5 weeks, I felt the first flutters, which was pretty surprising. I had read everywhere that first-time-moms start feeling movements/twitches/flutters somewhere between 18-22 weeks. But I guess, I have a very active little baby. He really kicks A LOT! He'll be a little Anthon - full of energy.

At 16.5 weeks, we finally announced my pregnancy on FaceBook while we were in Germany. Since I already had a little bump by then, and we were about to meet good old friends and visit my old ward in Augsburg, we thought that it would be a good time to announce it to the public.

Just a couple of days later, at 17 weeks, we already found out that we are having a boy!

A sister from my ward in Augsburg is a midwife and happens to work at the hospital where I'm planning on delivering the baby. She was so kind to take some of her time to show me the delivery rooms and tell me more about delivering a baby at their hospital.
The birthing section of the hospital (I forgot the real name for it) had been in renovation for a while and was finished in the middle of November (?), so everything is now totally new and is equipped with new technology.
Although I'm not excited about the delivery itself, I'm excited to have our baby in such a great hospital that has all kinds of labor 'toys' and labor services like foot massage, aroma oil therapy, acupuncture, homeopathy, and water birth. They also offer all kinds of classes for before and after the delivery - pretty much everything a pregnant lady could want.

Waiting for our appointment

One of the delivery rooms. Unfortunately, this picture doesn't show the entire room with the nice decoration, labor toys, music player, etc. It looked really nice, comfortable and surprisingly homey.

After our appointment, we went to a baby store just for fun to look at different strollers. Kind of overwhelming with the amount of different strollers!

20 weeks, back in Saudi Arabia: 
Baking German Elisenlebkuchen and a bunch of other German Christmas goodies. I know, my bump is still pretty small there. I didn't start showing until pretty late, which is a little bit surprising to me since I have never been a skinny girl.

21 weeks: Unwrapping presents that I had hid so well that we forgot about them :-)

22 weeks: 
Since I still hadn't gained any weight at this point (I had lost 14 lbs in the first months because of my tiny pregnancy stomach), my doctor ordered me to eat more fast food after I told her what I usually eat at home. So, Anthon dragged me to this burger place after our appointment :-)  I think, Anthon really liked that excuse to go there. We shared this portion and I think he ate the whole burger (except 2 small bites), half of the fries and some of the shake... hahaha... 
I loooove shakes, but I'm not a big fan of burgers and fast food in general. 
But as long as the baby is growing well and I keep eating a balanced diet, I still don't feel like freaking out about not gaining enough weight. 

Around 24 weeks:
Anthon, I, and a couple of our consulate friends were invited by this lovely family to an awesome Middle Eastern dinner. So delicious - I just wish I could eat more! Still struggling with eating more...

Anthon and I noticed last week that we haven't taken any real belly pictures during this entire pregnancy. So now, Anthon keeps taking random pictures of me whenever he thinks of it - while teaching, while being sick and super exhausted, before going to bed after a long busy day and looking crappy, while getting ready in the morning, and while cleaning... this guy :-D

25 weeks!

25 weeks: I was sooo sick and exhausted the entire week. I can't remember the last time I have felt that sick! Of course, Anthon had to take a picture of that, too :-D

26 weeks: After a loooong day. I was so exhausted.

Getting ready in the morning...

Still 26 weeks: Here, I'm cleaning the kitchen. I told you, he takes random pictures of me now all the time :-D

I am at 26 weeks now, or 27 weeks according to our last couple of ultrasounds (not sure who and what to believe), and I'm still feeling pretty good. I started sleeping on my side as recommended, as the blood flow to the baby is better when laying on your side than on the back, but I miss sleeping on my back!!! I always slept on my back like a mummy and did not move at all during the night.
We bought a pregnancy sleep pillow to help my body get used to sleeping on my side. It has actually helped me to train my body to sleep on my sides, but I do miss my good old sleeping on the back.... oh well...
And, I hate how big those pregnancy pillows are. Anthon and I used to fall asleep while cuddling, but with this huge "Berlin Wall" as we call my big pregnancy pillow, it is not as easy anymore. We miss falling asleep glued to each other :-(

The "Berlin Wall"

I've also recently started to get heartburn, even from eating the tiniest portions of plain rice and salad. It's ridiculous! Now that I'm finally able to eat more again (and I finally gained 4 lbs back), I'm starting again to not be able to eat much because I always get the feeling of having food all the way up to my throat. I hate that feeling! I've never really had heartburn before, but I guess that this is pretty common during pregnancy.
I'll try some anti-acid medication soon and hope that this will help. Wish me luck! ;-)

As far as cravings and aversions go, I haven't had any cravings yet. I still believe that pregnant women just make them up as an excuse to indulge in something :-) But maybe the last weeks of my pregnancy, or my next pregnancy, will proof me wrong.
However, I have had several aversions during the first 20ish (?) weeks. I could not eat anything with cooked tomatoes (lasagna, pasta with tomato sauce, chili,...), cooked bell peppers and red beets.
I also haven't had any mood swings and we haven't argued at all since I've been pregnant (but we generally never really argue). I think that pregnant women use the 'mean hormones' as an excuse to be bitchy, irritable, and get mad at their poor husbands. But again, maybe the last weeks of my pregnancy will proof me wrong. We'll see...  :-)

To answer the question if I am going to deliver the baby here in Jeddah, I'm happy to tell you that I don't have to deliver the baby here. In fact, I would not want to have my baby here! The health care system is decent, but it is definitely not as good as the health care in Germany or in the US. The hospital I go to for ultrasound appointments looks great and new and everything, but we have to keep reminding them of doing certain tests, and they keep forgetting to document all results from the appointments. Luckily, our health team at the consulate has been very helpful during this whole pregnancy and has been kicking the hospital peoples' butts.

I'll fly out to Germany 6 weeks before the due date and stay there until 6 weeks after the birth, so that I have enough time to get a passport and a visa for the baby for Saudi Arabia and all that kind of paper stuff.
Anthon is planning on flying out on May 1st (our 5-year anniversary!) and the due date is May 10 or 11th. So, we hope that the baby doesn't come too early. I do not want to deliver the baby without the support of my awesome husband!!!

Anyways, Anthon and I are super excited about our baby boy and we're excited to finally become parents and start a new adventure together.
And as a pleasant side effect, we'll get to spend several weeks together in Germany and enjoy all the delicious German foods.... not too bad! :-)

Well, I think that's it so far. We'll keep you updated ;-)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Our first Foreign Service assignment: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia!

Last summer, Anthon was initiated into the State Department - we are all super proud of our "Foreign Service Specialist". Since Anthon and I started dating, Anthon has always talked about joining the Foreign Service one day, so we are super excited that his, and also mine, dream has finally come true.   
Welcome to a crazy and exciting life of moving from country to country every 2-3 years!

A couple of weeks into Anthon's training in DC, we got our first bid list with 10 Facility Management openings. We had to decide the order of how much we would like/or not like to go to these places. This is how we ranked the posts:

1.   Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
   2.   Cape Town, South Africa
   3.   Pristina, Kosovo
   4.   Shenyang, China
   5.   Moscow, Russia
   6.   Baku, Azerbaijan
   7.   Brasilia, Brazil (We were already there for 3.5 months last year and preferred a new adventure)
   8.   Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Anthon had already been there and had no desire to go back)
   9.   Dakar, Senegal
 10. Khartoum, Sudan (unaccompanied tour)

A few weeks later, there was a “Flag Day” ceremony to which the new Foreign Service employees could invite family and friends to. We were lucky to have my mom, Anthon’s parents and Anthon’s brother with his family in town – it was awesome having everybody there for this special day!
Since our last name starts with a “P”, and they went through the assignments in alphabetical order, it took quite a while to get to our first assignment…. The excitement and nervosity about where we could end up living for the next 2 years grew a lot, until the speaker finally announced that Anthon Petty would go to: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia!

We were so thrilled that we got our No 1!!! We had heard many good things about the post and were really, really excited that we actually got it. I mean, Anthon could have been sent to an unaccompanied post for the next 2 years, which would have been horrible!!!


           Swearing-In Ceremony:

 Besides family, we were excited that Judy and Kaylie came to the Swearing-In Ceremony, too. We lived with them for about 6 months in the DC area after we got married 

 Anthon's Facility Manager group that he was in training with for 6 months. Yep, Anthon was by far the youngest

Family Picture time!

The whole experience from passing interviews, to receiving a 'call' to a specific area in the world, sitting in training for several months with a group of people like you, and then being sent to a new country kind of reminded us of our LDS mission calls and the time at the MTC. We just wish we would have received some language training. But luckily, most people here speak English and we haven't had any language problems yet.

 Big shopping trip before the movers came. I think we filled 4-6 of these Costco carts. And yes, we did buy toilet paper and kitchen towels - we have traveled enough to say that most countries have the crappiest, thinnest paper products... and on top of that they are super expensive!

Before the movers came. Most of the stuff you can see here was from the big shopping trip.

Almost done packing

Shipment did not sink to the bottom of the ocean like some do, and eventually arrived in Jeddah - yay!

 My shipment from Provo... see you in 4 months! It will be like Christmas when my shipment finally comes. I'm sooooo excited to have my steam iron back soon!!!! :-D 

A little side track here about our separation time due to Anthon's job and me finishing up school at BYU:
So, while Anthon was in training in DC, I was in Provo to finish up school. Not sure if I could have survived that time without family, friends, joining choirs/orchestras, and good entertainment :-)

My friend Yue - When I first moved back from DC to Provo, I lived in an apartment with two other girls. I didn't really like having roommates again and didn't really like the ward I was assigned to, so I moved to a small apartment at South Wymount after that semester. Luckily, Yue and I became very good friends and kept hanging out with each other even after I moved out. Hanging out with her kept me somewhat sane during that long separation time :-) I already miss talking to her! 

Day with Yue in SL - of course, I had to introduce her to Siegfried's

 My German friends - Christine is my 'mission grandmother' (person who trained my trainer). We 'accidentally' ran into each other in a music class we both signed up for, and have been good friends ever since. Grit was in the same stake as I was (Munich), but we had totally different circles of friends, so we never really talked to each other until we both served on Temple Square. I'm really glad that I was able to find some great German friends during my time in Provo - talking about good 'ole home and eating some German food together was always a perfect break from school stuff.

I will definitely miss singing in BYU's university chorale!

Our voice teacher's fan club :-)

During our separation time, Anthon and I tried to see each other every 4-6 weeks, which made the separation a little bit more bearable. The hardest part was probably the time after Anthon moved to Saudi Arabia in January, and we could no longer see each other for a weekend every once in a while. We didn't see each other for 6 months, but somehow survived with just face-timing 2x every day. We also tried our best to stay emotionally connected by doing nice things for each other like sending cookies, putting together a picture slideshow with self-sung music, writing each other love 'letters', etc.
Now, being back together, we have no idea how we survived 6 (to 10 months) of separation. We are soooooo happy that we are here together now!!! 

 Thanksgiving Weekend in DC

Little surprises that Anthon sent in the mail
 Georgetown Cupcakes - my favorite cupcakes!!!

 In the meantime, I got my American citizenship! I'm now a German American and an American German :-)

We went to a Josh Groban concert when Anthon was in town

 Fancy Dinner at Chef's Table

Our first photo shoot since the wedding 4.5 years ago - it was about time! :-) 

As you can see, our time of separation was not ideal and we would not want to be apart from each other for that long ever again, but at least we made the best out of it and enjoyed our weekends together as much as possible.

Now jumping back to Jeddah:

Since I've moved here two months ago, I've received many e-mails from friends, asking how I like Jeddah.
The answer: So far, it has been awesome!!! 

We got assigned to a house on one of the nicest compounds in the area. Every time I look out of the window, I feel like I'm in a resort. The sun shines every day, there are lots of green plants and flowers (on the compound - not outside), then there are several swimming pools, tennis courts, a beach volleyball field, ping pong, billiard and bowling.
Our townhouse also looks beautiful - definitely an upgrade from the small, old, and dark apartments we used to live in. And.... we finally have a dishwasher, a washing machine and a dryer!!! Halleluja!

I still haven't taken pictures of our home. I feel like we still need to buy a lot of stuff like carpets, pictures, plants, some other decoration,... but we've been spending so much money on traveling that those things have to wait for a little bit. My predictions are that the house will be finally 'complete' a month or two before we move again :-)

But here are some pictures of the outside: 
 The main pool, playgrounds, tennis, etc
 An on-compound restaurant/cafe
Main Building

Everything is great and we couldn't be more content with our housing situation, but we are just really excited that our separation time is finally completely over! 
It is so nice to be a 'real' wife again - to wake up together, eat breakfast together, pack Anthon's lunch, prepare dinner, make homemade bread, spend the evenings together and do fun things, and to be silly and flirty again. We also finally have time again to host people, which we have already done quite a bit. Aaaand... I finally have time to work out again!!! I've gained about 26 lbs since I started school - boooooh! So wish me luck ;-)

 Anthon bought some Arabic breakfast for our first morning together in Jeddah

 Eating typical Arabic/Middle Eastern Fast Food - Shwarma 

 There is a Korean restaurant in town! Anthon and I looooove Korean food and were a little worried that they might not have Korean restaurants here in Jeddah, but they do!

Introducing Raclette to some Consulate friends 

To answer the question how I like Jeddah, I don't really have an answer yet. I love life here, but I don't know the city very well yet. A couple of days after I arrived here, Ramadan started. Which means that everything is dead and closed during the day, and life starts to get crazy after 10pm - the time when we usually go to bed! 
So, I haven't seen too much of Jeddah yet. But the grocery stores are pretty good here - lots of fresh produce for good prices, a great variety of super fresh fish, a great variety of cheeses, etc. 
So far, we've been able to get all the products we needed, but products like pickles, ricotta cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese, celery, strawberries are imported and can be quite pricey. I always cook and bake fresh and from scratch, so we haven't had problems with not getting the foods/dishes we like. I think not having a massive amount of American packaged foods here, really helps to be a better homemaker. We bake our own bread, we make our own ice-cream, steak sauce, sushi, pizza, granola, lava cakes, lye pretzels, etc. I love cooking and baking, therefore I love learning how to make all these fancy homemade dinners and desserts.

 Vanilla bean and deep chocolate ice-cream

 Lye pretzels - they turned out even better than the ones at most German bakeries - that made me a proud German :-)

Anthon's amazing sushi

There is soooo much to tell about living in Saudi Arabia - I could probably already write a book just about my first impressions, but I think I'll just write a little here and there about certain aspects of our life in Saudi Arabia. Now that I'm at home during the day, I finally don't have an excuse anymore for not posting regularly, right?!? ;-)

Here are some random pictures we took around Jeddah in the last couple of weeks: 

 Buying plants for the house - luckily we had a driver from the Consulate with us. The sales person did not speak a lick of English and we don't speak a lick of Arabic. Negotiating would have been very interesting :-S

 The tallest (but definitely not most beautiful) fountain in the world

 Anthon and I were invited to watch the World Cup final at the German Consul's home - it was so much fun!!!
 Free drinks, ice-cream, shwarma, popcorn

And as the cherry on top of the evening, the German soccer team won the world cup!

 This guy walked around old down town and sold some kind of Syrian juice - really yummy!

Enjoying some super cheap street food

Some Arabic fast food that we picked up from a popular chain
Buying tons of nuts and dates at a nuts & candy store

At the vegetable market. Anthon and I wanted to find a good vegetable market where we could buy vegetables for super cheap. What we didn't know before driving there was that this is more a commercial/big family vegetable market and you can only buy vegetables in big boxes - definitely too much for us two - bummer! Oh well... I guess we'll just keep going to the normal grocery store :-)

I think, that's it for now. There is so much to tell everybody about life in Saudi Arabia, but I think this post is already quite long... Congratulations to those who were patient and curious enough to actually read this entire post! :-)