How Living in Saudi Arabia Helped Me Navigate Covid-19– With Splashes of Joy! guest post from Doreen M. Cumberford

I‘m delighted to have Doreen Cumberford as a guest on the DZA blog today. There’s information at the end of the post about her new book, Life in the Camel Lane, but first…the most interesting post you’ll read all week….

My family and I lived in Saudi Arabia during the 9/11 disaster.  From the vantage point of Saudi, we looked back at the US with great concern and consternation.   The perspectives we were to learn and glean over the next nine years provided me with a clear way to react and consider major calamities in a new light. 

This is my own personal recipe that I have developed after living overseas for four decades and observing earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorism, bombings, hijackings and pandemics on multiple continents, many events occurring simultaneously.  

Watch and Wait – Practice Wondering

After 9/11, that gut-punching sense of disorientation arrived when I wondered if we would ever, ever be able to go home again, much like today where we are wondering if and when we will ever be able to return to “normal”.     The pull to react is always strong, and usually provides more stimulation & release of adrenaline and cortisol than we can manage.

Observe and Record – Watch My Thinking

Then came the trauma reaction and thoughts.  Living on a compound in Saudi we were surrounded by Saudi Arabian people.  They were our colleagues at work, our neighbors next door, our friends, chums, cronies and we were immersed in their country living in a bubble inside their country. 

Random thoughts ran through my head as soon as it became known that Saudis were implicated in the events of 9/11.  Will we ever be able to travel back to the US again?  Are we safe here?  How do I trust this nation I am surrounded by?  Are there Al Qaeda agents here on the compound?  What is the company doing to protect us? 

It took weeks of ploughing through really, really strange days, as if the fabric of life had distorted itself and we were living inside a constantly moving kaleidoscope where all the colors were dull, muddy and bland instead of normal life which used to feel bright and multi-colored.  Finally, I was able to reach a different spot from where I could observe the thinking and then change it.

Adjust, Adapt and Accept

Modifying our behavior, staying home, avoiding gatherings, not going into town and staying on the compound – much as Covid has trapped us in our homes during lockdown, became the new normal.   We managed the situation, did our best to make daily tweaks to our thinking and our behavior in response to what was unfolding.

Practice Gratitude and Grieve Well

Focusing on the good we had remaining in our lives became the norm.   Neighbors moved away, great friends who had become like family packed up and left the Kingdom.  We began to feel distanced from people who had been pillars of support for us.  Mixing gratitude and grief like a cocktail became a constant practice and thing.   Loss became normalized, grief became our friend and doing it well was critical to get us through.  

Pouring more love into the positive aspects of the lives we had left, doing what we could with what we had meant more time on the compound, smaller more intimate gatherings and doing our best to create positive conversations all the while making adjustments and adaptions as we went along.

May the blessings from the land of Allah be with you as you navigate your own unique Covid experience, and may you Watch, Observe, Adjust, Adapt, Accept, Practice Gratitude and Grieve Well every day!

From living in the Camel Lane, I learned that practicing all of these are what create a more joy filled life.   Keep creating your own Joy!

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses.

The book takes the reader through the four stages of culture shock: arrival, honeymoon, frustration and adjustment stages to final acceptance followed by the return journey back to their home country – mostly the USA. From Saudi weddings, to falconry, to the inability of women to drive at that time, the book seeks to familiarize us with the Saudi culture, lifestyle, and deep traditions of hospitality, generosity and tolerance from an insider’s perspective.

There are also chapters on the experiences of 9/11 in the terrorists’ home country and the “Terror Years” of internal terror tactics from inside Saudi Arabia designed to drive the expats out of the country and destroy the Saudi government. Full of examples, stories and compelling honesty the author describes their most challenging journey and many of the lessons learned in the process together.

Designed to provide useful insights and inspiration to anyone considering living abroad, Life in the Camel Lane shines the light on the subject of building a new identity and home while abroad, and the difficulties of the journey home.

Buy the Book:
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About the Author

Doreen Cumberford is a Scottish expat author who has been global traveler for more than four decades. In her 20s Doreen left her home in Scotland and drove down to London to become a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her first posting was as the youngest and most junior British Embassy staffer in Cameroon, West Africa. Later she moved back to London and took a position with an American oil-field construction company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. After moving to America, living in Louisiana then California, two extremely different cultures in the USofA, Doreen and family moved overseas to Japan then spent the following 15 years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With 13 major moves under her belt, she understands the value of moving, building a new life and handling inter-cultural hurdles. One constant has been her ability to explore through the lens of adventure. Her stories are full of multi-cultural intelligence, messy multilingual communications and multi-global perspectives. Doreen is currently based on Denver, Colorado although spends most of the year living adventurously in the Housesitting Lane, which takes her around the globe. Currently she is doing her best to install Spanish in her brain which previously had French and smatterings of Japanese and Arabic. She is passionate about cultural intelligence, global heartedness and life on the road. Featured in the Anthology: Empowering Women, and a co-author in 2018 of Arriving Well: Stories About Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering Home After Living Abroad. 2020 sees the publication of Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure. Honest, compassionate, full of wisdom and inspiration, Life in the Camel Lane comprises stories mostly from women and men who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1950s onward. This memoir contains expert advice sage wisdom and stories that all globally mobile families can use to navigate their international journey. The principles in this book will also encourage anyone who is embracing a more adventurous life, or considering taking the leap to move overseas.

Connect with the Author:  website  ~ twitter  ~ facebook pinterest  ~ instagram  ~ goodreads

5 thoughts on “How Living in Saudi Arabia Helped Me Navigate Covid-19– With Splashes of Joy! guest post from Doreen M. Cumberford

  1. Hi Deborah, Thanks so much for hosting Life in the Camel Lane and a blog. I really enjoyed writing this, feel free to reach out any time for more fodder! I studied yoga in Arabia and I agree with you, yoga makes you smarter! Greetings and appreciation.

    1. I’m so glad to have your post on my blog, Doreen! And I’d love to have you share more of your adventures and insights any time you’ve got a minute!

      1. Please tell me more. Would you like more general posts, or travel related or petsitting adventures? And how do you prefer to receive them? I am always having mini adventures and would love to share if they could make a difference & populate your lovely blog.

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