I must admit that I do feel some frustrations in this Kingdom: sometimes, and very rarely, I want to run an errand by driving myself. But, I have to sit and wait for a school driver, a private driver, or a taxi driver to take me. There are also times I want to go and see a movie. I love the whole experience of movie-going. I love the smell of the theater, popcorn falling on my lap, the enormous screen, and especially my fellow movie-goers. When everyone in the theater gets engaged in a great movie, and they start to yell and clap, there is nothing else like it.
And I miss live music. I have never appreciated Yoshi’s Jazz Club the way I appreciate it now. The small intimate club where I saw so many jazz greats. Where I would take my young daughter who squirmed through a lot of the music, but developed a deep appreciation of jazz. Where Afro-Cuban bands would play and they would open up the dance floor. Where you could buy a relatively cheap matinee ticket and hear phenomenal music.
I miss the rolling, green hills and parks. Walking near the water at Point Pinole. Watching the dogs play at Point Isabel. Shopping at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning.
All of these things have become very precious memories for me, and at times I wistfully ache for them.
But, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gives me comfort. The city of Riyadh is large and wide. But I don’t think I have ever slept so peacefully. There is the noise of some very, very low key traffic, but no sirens, no drunken brawls, no music blasting from passing cars, no neighbors partying and playing loud music.
And it is a color-blind culture. I feel freer than I thought would be possible from the constraints of a constant barrage of racism. When you are Black in America, it never ceases – it is just open, debilitating and poisonous in some places, or subtle, insidious, and soul-stealing in others. But it is a constant, daily ritual that every person of color must face on any and everyday of their lives. That burden has been lifted. I now wear a skin suit of no particular color. There is no African-American me. No Black me. No part-this and part-that me. No curly or kinky hair me. I am simply me.
Also, where else will I be so close to so many ancient cultures? I can easily travel to north and east Africa, Greece, Spain and Italy. Dubai is an hour away, and Abu-Dhabi just minutes from Dubai.
Unless I am a politician, CEO or a high-ranking employee of a public or private organization in the U.S., I will never, ever get free housing, free transportation, and comprehensive medical care – as well as a tax free salary – in my home country.
That’s what’s so great about the KSA.