A planned two year stint in Saudi Arabia turned out a bit differently for Lyn Dancer than expected.
“Fifteen and a half years later I came back. With a husband!” she laughs, with an affectionate look at Graham, her English-born husband of 17 years.
Lyn’s crossroads moment occurred when she turned 50.
“I had just completed a Master’s degree – I’m an occupational therapist by background. My girls were through university and into their jobs and I decided I wanted to have an adventure!”
- Murray Halberg residents revel in stories about village namesake
- 'It's just so homely, sometimes it's hard to leave!'
A friend told her about a job opportunity in Saudi Arabia, expanding a programme of services for disabled children, and, with the support of her two daughters and her parents, she decided to go for it.
“It was a fabulous job, I loved it.
“I feel extremely privileged that I got to go into so many Saudi households – we were dealing with disabled children and their families so we needed to do home visits – and we saw everything from a tent to a palace and everything in between.”
Lyn met Graham, an English language teacher who had already worked in Spain, Portugal, Brazil plus a previous stint in Saudi Arabia teaching English to Aramco apprentices.
He returned to run a teacher training programme for Saudi English graduates who would later work for BAE Systems and, as a keen tennis player and former footballer, Graham hit it off with the soccer-loving Saudis.
Both marvelled at the many different cultures their colleagues came from and the chance to experience a different perspective on life.
“They were from Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Lebanon… it was very interesting for me,” says Graham.
Adds Lyn: “What is fascinating is the feeling that you are now part of the non-dominant culture and you’re learning the dominant culture’s way.”
They admit that perks such as several paid-for trips home per year and decent salaries outweighed the restrictions of Lyn being forbidden to drive and no alcohol allowed, according to the country’s strict laws.
Being in a volatile part of the world did have its drawbacks, however, especially when it came to their wedding.
“We planned to have it at the British Consul’s house with a reception for about 30 friends afterwards,” says Lyn.
“It was all under way but then the second invasion of Iraq occurred so there were no big gatherings allowed. Luckily the wedding went ahead with just one friend each, and the Consul and his wife were lovely. Because the diplomatic areas are allowed real alcohol we even had champagne to celebrate!”
When it came time to retire and leave in 2011, the couple decided to make New Zealand their home, choosing to settle in Lynfield which is just down the road from Lyn’s daughter and three grandsons in Mt Albert.
Living just a couple of streets away, the couple watched the village gradually being built while out on their walks and at the beginning of the year decided to make the move.
Says Graham: “We knew some people from the Lynfield Tennis Club who had moved in and another friend is moving into the next block.”
“We wanted a three-bedroom corner apartment and there was one going in the Magee block,” says Lyn.
“We came down, walked in, had a look and said ‘yep, we like that!’ It faced the way we wanted it to face and it was full of sunlight. We came home and thought ‘Oops now we have to sell the house!’”
Just four days from their auction date, New Zealand went into lockdown and everything ground to a halt.
However, that gave them plenty of time to downsize, with Graham’s 2000-plus books on literature, history, philosophy and political theory a particular challenge to sift through!
“Moving in here has just been so easy and Ryman has been wonderful, keeping in touch with us through lockdown,” says Lyn.
“And they were so good with the second lockdown, we found out what it’s like, having our Happy Hour deliveries in a bag.
“Now all we have to do is get the maintenance guys to help us with the bookcases for the remaining 18 boxes of books!” she laughs.