Book Title: Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure by Doreen M. Cumberford
Category: Adult Non-Fiction (18 +), 288 pages
Publisher: White Heather Press
Release date: April, 2020
Tour dates: Jan 25 to Feb 12, 2021
Content Rating: G. There are no offensive scenes or language
Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses.
The book takes the reader through the four stages of culture shock: arrival, honeymoon, frustration and adjustment stages to final acceptance followed by the return journey back to their home country – mostly the USA. From Saudi weddings, to falconry, to the inability of women to drive at that time, the book seeks to familiarize us with the Saudi culture, lifestyle, and deep traditions of hospitality, generosity and tolerance from an insider’s perspective. There are also chapters on the experiences of 9/11 in the terrorists’ home country and the “Terror Years” of internal terror tactics from inside Saudi Arabia designed to drive the expats out of the country and destroy the Saudi government.
Full of examples, stories and compelling honesty the author describes their most challenging journey and many of the lessons learned in the process together. Designed to provide useful insights and inspiration to anyone considering living abroad, Life in the Camel Lane shines the light on the subject of building a new identity and home while abroad, and the difficulties of the journey home.
Doreen Cumberford is a Scottish expat author who has been global traveler for more than four decades. In her 20s Doreen left her home in Scotland and drove down to London to become a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Her first posting was as the youngest and most junior British Embassy staffer in Cameroon, West Africa. Later she moved back to London and took a position with an American oil-field construction company based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.
After moving to America, living in Louisiana then California, two extremely different cultures in the USofA, Doreen and family moved overseas to Japan then spent the following 15 years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With 13 major moves under her belt, she understands the value of moving, building a new life and handling inter-cultural hurdles. One constant has been her ability to explore through the lens of adventure. Her stories are full of multi-cultural intelligence, messy multilingual communications and multi-global perspectives.
Doreen is currently based on Denver, Colorado although spends most of the year living adventurously in the Housesitting Lane, which takes her around the globe. Currently she is doing her best to install Spanish in her brain which previously had French and smatterings of Japanese and Arabic. She is passionate about cultural intelligence, global heartedness and life on the road. Featured in the Anthology: Empowering Women, and a co-author in 2018 of Arriving Well: Stories About Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering Home After Living Abroad.
2020 sees the publication of Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure. Honest, compassionate, full of wisdom and inspiration, Life in the Camel Lane comprises stories mostly from women and men who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1950s onward. This memoir contains expert advice sage wisdom and stories that all globally mobile families can use to navigate their international journey. The principles in this book will also encourage anyone who is embracing a more adventurous life, or considering taking the leap to move overseas.
Connect with the Author: website ~ twitter ~ facebook ~ pinterest ~ instagram ~ goodreads
Your book is set in Saudi Arabia. Have you ever been there?
Oh yes! Not only have I been there, I actually lived there for fifteen years.
Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is based upon my story and stories of other Western women along with a few good men’s stories. The lifestyle in Saudi was like night and day from the West, with women not being able to drive, living on a compound surrounded by initially by barbed wire and after 9/11 by the highest security technology available on the planet.
There are stories about driving, weddings, shopping, food, cultural dissonance and all the fun experiences our kids enjoyed by growing up somewhere different. There truly is nothing like living and working abroad to transform our mindset and to stimulate our understanding of humans and the vast differences we embrace.
I consider myself very fortunate to have lived in Saudi; it confronted me with my white, middle-class bias and privilege every single day. I still have so much to learn from that journey. I have learned to be grateful for the opportunity to simply be human, and to be connected to people who have vastly different culture and experiences, and to learn from them.
How do you escape everyday doldrums in your writing
Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, writing can take us on journeys around and across the page driven by our mind’s eye.
If we are writing fiction, it’s a wonderful way to escape from dull daily drumbeats of our normal lives and, if we are writing non-fiction, research and reporting is another method by which we can evade and avoid aimlessness.
It took me many attempts to write Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure, but when I reflect on the book, I see the places where I was in the zone and other places where I was most probably not and then the spaces where I balanced on the edge.
I personally enjoy the fascination of writing, the sense of building a body of work, word by word on a page and the accomplishment when something is published. I find writing similar to cross-stich or embroidery without the color and tactile sensation. But when I get on a roll and my fingers fly across the keyboard, I frequently find myself in what Cal Newport calls Deep Work.
Deep Work helps us perform better and generate a sense of flow while being in our zone of genius. Deep Work is the result of focus and consistency so when it’s applied by writers it can transport us to the opposite of the doldrums.
I highly recommend that if you are in fact approaching the doldrums, the very act of making time, sitting down, picking up a pen and recording will change the sensation. This sounds way too easy, you say. Yes, it is simple, but in fact when you are battling your inner demons, that is not easy.
Writing your way through your challenges, your miserable moments and the doldrums is the way to produce a higher quality content and bring your writing to an almost unrecognizable level. Like chopping wood and carrying water, it’s a simplistic recipe that when followed can bring amazing results.
Here’s to better writing!
How did you decide what to keep in and what to leave out?
While writing Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure, I had to navigate several threads that could have resulted in family relationships being soured, community relationships mangled or casting the country of Saudi Arabia in a negative light.
Like every country Saudi Arabia has it’s light and dark sides. I was living in a Muslim country as a Western woman, with basically very few rights since I was there as a dependent wife. I lived on a compound with barbed wire fences and was not permitted to drive outside the compound.
Of course, the stories in Life in the Camel Lane are mostly about difference, living as the other and learning life lessons in the process. I wanted to be careful not to complain about the conditions – I was well advised and orientated before I arrived there.
I was careful not to
tell stories about alcohol and some of the community secrets
get too personal around the disappoints that many members of family were disinterested and disinclined to visit (and yes, the news was frequently scary)!
get too political and talk about the politics, which are fascinating but I did address them in the postscript.
I kept the positive, upbeat lessons I and other Westerners learned and had to leave out dozens of stories that just simply didn’t apply to the points I was making. I wanted to keep the book upbeat and to encourage people to think of this beautiful country in a more positive light than it is portrayed by the world-wide press.
There are two sides to every story!
Books “Have Legs” – Does Life in the Camel Lane Inspire, Support, Inform or Entertain?
Well unfortunately I refused to choose one of the above choices and set out to do all of the above.
I think in future I would revisit that decision and perhaps choose one lane in which to write. Living in Saudi Arabia was a completely different lifestyle and people love to hear the stories, so many of the stories are inspirational.
The book can also be useful to people moving to Saudi Arabia or anywhere in the Middle East in fact to live because it carefully outlines much of the living conditions and the very difficult parts one might experience while living overseas.
Finally, I hope that Life in the Camel Lane will be received as an armchair adventure story. Not everyone wants or needs to go there to learn the lessons shared within the covers, but my deep desire is that people will learn and will consider their reaction next time they hear dramatic news about that country and/or its people.
I also hope that if you have the opportunity to meet a person from Saudi Arabia, that you will give them your time, a good dose of tolerance and an open-mindedness. In that, you will be passing along some of the lessons outlined in the book.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I have been involved in three books.
One was an anthology for which I had to write one chapter and that was a number of years ago. It is called Empowering! Women’s Stories of Breakthrough, Discover and Triumph
My second book was also an anthology that I planned, organized and published as an E-book along with two other Re-entry or Repatriation coaches and containing five elaborate repatriation stories. I believe it has become quite the staple for people who are repatriating or moving home after living overseas. It is available at Arriving Well: Stories of Identity, Belonging and Rediscovering Home After Living Abroad.
My solo authored book is Life in the Camel Lane and like having a favorite child I would not want to comment, but I do love this book.
The writing of these three books were very different experiences. The first anthology, Empower allowed me to dip my toe in the water as a new author. The second was a two year collaboration effort which took two years and I loved the association with my fellow authors, Cate Brubaker and Helen Watts.
My own book, Life in the Camel Lane took several years to write. I wrote it on my different continents and in several different places. It took twists, turns and rather than being a straight road was more like a series of hairpin bends which wended their way up and down mountains, hills and valleys.
Living in Saudi Arabia was surely a big challenge. How did you cope?
The entire time I lived inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I kept three things at the top of
First, I was a guest in their country and guests are honored and held in high esteem. Indeed
one of the major life lessons I learned in KSA was the “art of welcome”.
Secondly, I needed to be global hearted; I was a human, just like them. I learned to bridge
differences hopefully with grace. It was the best opportunity to stretch, to include “the
other” and to practice the art of being “global hearted”! To connect with others who
looked different, had different traditions, religion and cultural backgrounds was the best
gift ever – one that I never will take for granted.
Thirdly, I had a role to play as a citizen diplomat. When overseas we don’t only represent
ourselves personally, we also represent our countries.
Now while I am in fact Scottish, I do carry a US passport and am a US citizen. Inside my
brain though, I am Scottish first and US second. I was always conscious of the fact that people saw me as an American – because how could they differentiate even if I was speaking with a Scottish accent?
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