I think I'm at the point where things have just dipped below the dashed line. A lot of things have piled up on me in the past few days, and they're starting to wear on my mind. Here's a few things I worry about/stress at the moment.
- Women and the way they're treated here. During interviews of married couples, I have to speak to the wife as part of the interview. Not always, but often she will be very shy and will turn to her husband to ask him to repeat every word I said - even if I said it all in perfectly comprehensible Arabic. Less frequently, she will just stare at the ground and refuse to answer while her husband leans over to shout her answers to me. I'm having to fight a habit I already see developing in me - the tendency to direct all questions to the husband in English, even though the wife doesn't speak the language. The worst is seeing the husbands who are in their early thirties and the wives who are barely 19 or 20. The absolute worst is seeing those wives look so listless and resigned. (To be clear: it's not every couple that's like this; indeed, it's nowhere near a majority. Still, one or two a day of these interviews gets you down quickly.)
- The gravity of my job is finally sinking in. I have laid awake in bed for the past five nights, either having trouble falling asleep or waking up in a nightmare, thinking that a visa I issued will turn out to be the key to the next terrorist attack. I have dreamed about specific cases, held the transcripts and passports and paperwork in my hands in my dream. Don't get me wrong, my job is fascinating. I'm finally doing something that matters, and I'm so glad that I have this opportunity. It's just that I now fully realize that lives literally may depend on the decisions I make every morning.
- The class hierarchy is starting to wear on my nerves more and more. It's hard to maintain contact with what I consider normal society. (Not that any of my friends qualify as normal, but that's a different issue.) Life in the DQ is screwy, but Riyadh itself is even worse. I can see why they give us two R&Rs at this post.
- I did my first representational event last night (more on that later, it deserves its own post), and it was underwhelming, to say the least. I assumed that "business attire or traditional dress" meant that my suit was acceptable... yeah. I was one of two people in suits, whereas the roughly 70 Saudi women (and all but one of the American contingent) were in gorgeous, expensive, showy robe-dress-caftan thingies. (I'm going to kill the person who introduced me to the crowd and said that I work in the consular section.)
Also, I came home from a crappy day at work to find a note that Fathima (see last week's post) left me when she was here today, telling me that she prays for me every night. It's a nice feeling.