Testimonial – Lisa Altmann, Saudi Arabia

MY EXPERINCE IN “THE SAND PIT”

by Lisa Altmann

When I decided to pack up and travel to the Riyadh I’m sure some people questioned my sanity. Others thought I was off to Iraq (the only part of the Middle East that seemed to be headlining the news for all the wrong reasons) and one person who I held in high regard said: “why would you go to a country that deprives you of everything you have here”. These opinions and thoughts didn’t change my mind, in fact they only made me more determined to “prove everyone wrong”.  I was off on an adventure, having packed up my house in Sydney and driven literally across Australia to leave all of my belonging in Adelaide until my indefinite return.

Having researched and been told many things from CCM about Riyadh I was excited but apprehensive about my journey. I arrived safely and smoothly in Riyadh and was met by two lovely housemates who had even cooked me a roast dinner the night I arrived and made my room so that all I had to do was fall into bed with a full stomach after a long journey.

 Arriving in August (Ramadan and ridiculous heat), the months that followed were a whirlwind filled with excitement, apprehension, adapting to a new place and a completely different way of life. Yes there were many frustrations adjusting to the weather, wearing the Abaya, catching Taxis, learning Arabic, working in a new environment and living on the other side of the world, but looking back these were all part of the challenge and most of these experiences I wouldn’t change. In fact many I now look back and laugh at. I now love wearing my abaya with my trackies underneath.  Just put on a nice pair of heels and no-one knows the difference! No need to match clothes or decide what to wear.

There are times I look around and say to myself “I live in one of the strangest places in the world… why the hell am I here?” There are days when I walk the shopping malls and think to myself “no-one would seriously believe the stories or the lifestyle unless you had physically been here and lived it”. On other days, I sit and laugh and reflect on how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learnt and the friendships I’ve made.

I came to Riyadh for an adventure. To travel the world. To experience something different. I have done all of these things and have learnt that I am stronger and more resilient than I thought. At work I have been given the opportunity to see and do things that I wouldn’t have done in Australia. I have been challenged on a regular basis and have just moved into a new role which wouldn’t have been possible had I still been in Australia.

Riyadh has given me the opportunity to broaden my nursing skills and knowledge, experience a different culture, travel internationally and to discover that life is what you make it. Whether it be shopping, eating out or a lazy Friday afternoon (equivalent to the Aussie Sunday) by the pool having a BBQ , location doesn’t matter it’s the company you have and the experiences that make the adventure!

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