MEET THE “AMERICAN BEDU”
By Mona Rahman
5 July 2009
Carol Fleming Al-Ajroush, an American national in Riyadh married to a Saudi, and who is known as the ‘American Bedu’ in cyberspace, in her blog with the same title, sheds light on the life of an expat woman in the Kingdom. Carol started her blog initially to maintain contact with her family and friends in the US and share with them her experiences and observations of life in Saudi Arabia.
“However, I was egged on to open up the blog to the world and post daily on aspects of life, culture, tradition and experiences in Saudi Arabia,” she said.
Describing her blog as “a mechanism towards bridging the gap between the East and the West as well as presenting a realistic perspective on day-to-day life in the Kingdom”, she said it has further opened up her “network of friends and opportunities” in Saudi Arabia.
Carol, who works as a medical education coordinator with the College of Medicine of the National Guard Health Affairs and as an International Affairs specialist, referred to one incident in which she shared on her blog her experience of undergoing cancer treatment in Saudi Arabia.
“Because I shared my cancer story on the blog, I continue to receive private email requests from other women afflicted with cancer and seeking support,” Carol said.
She said her husband gave her the title of ‘American Bedu’after learning that she was from a small village in Northwest Pennsylvania in the US. “He quipped ‘only Bedus come from villages so I guess that makes you my American Bedu’, and the name has stuck ever since,” she said.
Carol, a former American diplomat, resigned after 20 years of service to marry her Saudi husband.
“I met my husband when we were both working in Pakistan for different employers. Our courtship took place over several years and in five countries. I arrived with him in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan in 2006, and together we performed Umrah as a married couple,” she said.
Carol said she enjoys the culture and lifestyle of Saudi Arabia.
“Living here has been a great experience for me and I attribute it to having done extensive research about the Kingdom prior to coming here. This also included making contacts with individuals in the Kingdom on social networking sites and newsgroups. As a result, even prior to my arrival I had a social network of like-minded friends in place,” she said.
Carol believes that though there are a lot of cultural differences between the Kingdom and the US, there are also similarities, such as, “one’s dedication to the family”.
She said she enjoys her present job as it “allows her to routinely interact with expats from across the world as well as Saudi nationals”, prior to which she worked as a media consultant for Saudi TV Channel 2.
Several of Carol’s stories based on her cross-cultural experiences have been published in the book “Bridges – An Anthology”. Recently, her articles were published in the Oasis Magazine.
Referring to the Kingdom’s humanitarian gesture of performing free-of-charge surgery for separating conjoined twins, she said she is ‘highly impressed’ by Saudi hospitality.
Carol is optimistic that opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia are growing, especially in the education sector. “I would like to see regular physical education programs implemented in all schools for both boys and girls, and more educational choices for women as they begin university studies,” she said.
Carol said she has learned a lot in the Kingdom and that she continues to learn and improve her Arabic language skills.
“As a foreigner married to a Saudi national, it is essential to have a good grasp of the local lingo. My Saudi mother-in-law gives me lessons on how to prepare many of the popular Saudi dishes, such as, kabsa, jeerish, garcon,and seleek,” she added.
Carol has a word for all new expats in the Kingdom. “Do your research well in advance before arrival. Get the support network in place and do not be shy or afraid as an expat to interact with Saudis. Venture out and explore the beautiful sites in the Kingdom,” she said.
As she continues to learn more about the customs, practices and traditions of life in Saudi Arabia, Carol says: “I have discovered that every region and town has its own hidden treasures, history and places of interest.”