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|Paynesville Press - November 21, 2001|
A view from Saudi Arabia
Karen Koshiol Breuer, the daughter of Milt and Rosemary Koshiol, graduated from Paynesille High School in 1973 and earned a teaching degree from Bemidji State University. |
She taught elementary school in Farmington, Minn., for 11 years before marrying Bryan Breuer and moving to Phoenix, Ariz., with him. She taught fourth grade in Phoenix for another 11 years before moving to Saudi Arabia in August 2000 with their son, Nicholas, 9.
They still have a house in Arizona, where they intend to return when they leave Saudi Arabia in June 2003.
By e-mail, Karen shared with the Press aspects of their life in the Middle East and the impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the U.S. war with Afghanistan.
What brought you to Saudi Arabia?
Was this your first experience living abroad or
your first experience in the Middle East?
Where do you live in Saudi Arabia?
About 12,000 Americans live in this area. We live on a compound or "gated-community," which is a walled-in, guarded western community. There are many compounds in the city. It's a gated-community with armed guards, so I suppose you could think of it as similar to a military base. We have to go through two gates with armed guards to get in and out of the compound.
It's like a very small town. We have a little store, a small restaurant, a snack bar, a mailroom, a library, a track and field, exercise rooms, but that's about it. There are Safeway grocery stores and good hospitals off-compound. It is referred to as a "western" compound as the people living here are from countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, South Africa, and Japan.
Within the compound, it is semi-normal life. We can dress just like we do back home, play sports, rent movies, go to organized functions (Halloween parties, Christmas dinners) and have other activities.
My husband Bryan truly enjoys this lifestyle for a number of reasons: (1) even though he works more here, he feels he has more "family" time because everything we need and do are centrally-located on the compound so it takes little time to get anywhere; (2) we have an adult softball league that plays on a softball field; (3) we have our own bowling alley; (4) the beach is very close and very nice; (5) the compound gives a sense of "smalltown" living with everyone being very friendly, with children's sports and activities, with party functions, and with much visiting since there is not much to do in the city.
For myself, I have had a harder time adjusting. I substitute teach at the American school to keep busy, besides other activities.
What have you enjoyed
about your time there?
We enjoy shopping locally: the old fashioned way with numerous family-owned stores selling only carpets, or only light bulbs, or radios, trinkets, and other Arabian items. There are tailor shops and fabric shops and jewelry souks. Getting to know the sales people is an experience in itself. Every shop owner is extremely friendly. Bargaining for the best price is a fact of life here.
We enjoy going out into the desert, seeing camel herds with local herdsman on camelback, living in tents in the desert. There are huge sand dunes with virtually no vegetation or life, unlike the Sonoran desert in Arizona. We have a new appreciation of the Bedouin Arabian culture but on the other hand have also learned a great deal how this country represses its women.
What was your response to the
terrorist attacks in America on Tuesday, September 11?
We watched the events unfold live on World CNN and panic set in almost immediately concerning our safety here in Saudi. Many of us were afraid to go off the compound; school was closed. No one knew what would happen next as we awaited news from the U.S. Consulate. We strongly considered leaving here immediately. We soul-searched many many days over this, and finally agreed to take things day-by-day, then week-by-week. At the moment we feel secure and safe but are also aware that things can change any minute.
We never forget about the Khobar towers, the bombings of the British and American people last year, and the latest bombing in Al-Khobar.
(Editor's Note: The second half of this interview will run next week. News about Saudi Arabia is available online at www.arabnews.com.)
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