I just had one of the most exasperating 10 minutes that I've maybe ever experienced.
We have some new neighbors from Saudi Arabia, and I walked into our family room today to find their four kids standing at our sliding glass door. They beckoned me over, so I opened the door. Turns out they just wanted to say hi. The 13-year-old spoke a teensy bit of English, and we chit chatted as best we could.
But then they suddenly walked in and made themselves at home. The little boy grabbed a toy and took off down the hall, the next youngest girl sat on the couch with her plate and food and kept eating, and the older girls picked up Addy and smothered (like seriously smothered) her in kisses, causing her to have a class A freak out session. While I comforted Addy, the older girls sat on the couch and took turns trying to take Addy from me, and kissing her on the face when she kept crying. Meanwhile younger girl finished her lunch, and with a running start threw the plate and spoon out the back door. Makes sense, right?
I finally gestured to them that Addy was tired and I should go put her down, so could they leave? Addy truly was tired and we'd already exhausted the oldest girl's 5-word English vocabulary. They stayed on the couch, so I stayed put too. One of the girls walked to the front where I was hoping she was going to get the younger kids, but no--she just came back with a paper towel.
So... I kept telling them she was tired and that it was time for them to go. To leave. To say good-bye. I was racking my brain for different ways to ask them to go, realizing my pointing and shooing wasn't getting the job done. I even started saying out loud in English, "I just don't know how I'm going to get you out of my house. You're going to stay forever, aren't you?" No response.
I finally walked out the back door, signaling for them to come out too. They didn't take the bait, but one of the older girls did frantically point to the wrap on her head and point to my bare head. I told her I don't wear a cover, but I could see how concerned that made her. But not concerned enough to leave.
Finally, I walked back in to the front and grabbed the little boy by the hand. I pulled him towards the back door (with Addy frantically clinging to me in my other arm), and finally got through to the rest of them that it was time to go. The little boy wriggled out of my hand and ran to the front again. The sisters didn't seem fazed, so I went and got his hand again. I pulled him outside this time, and one of the sisters followed and held him. The other older girl started putting on her shoes too, but the younger girl thought it was a big game. I couldn't get her out. The sisters said a few things in their language, but the girl just kept running around the room, diving onto the couch, running to me and kissing Addy, and then running away before I could grab her. I finally lucked out and grabbed her by the wrist and wrangled her outside.
They didn't seem to think I had been offensive (I was worried they'd think I was nutso for dragging some stranger's kids around), and they waved goodbye like this had been a totally normal interaction. I shut the door, flipped the door lock, and turned to go. But lest I think it was over, the younger girl opened the door again (how?!) and ran back in. After dragging her out for the final time, I locked the door AND put the bar in it and gratefully watched them walk away, leaving just the plate and spoon behind.
I love the diverse cultures in our neighborhood, I really do. But today taught me that as a psycho boundary-obsessed American, I'd never fit in in Saudi Arabia.