Saturday, April 20, 2024

Kelah the globetrotter


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Kelah McConaghy is living the life many can only dream of.
With her husband Steve at her side, this 36-year-old is travelling the world, exploring different cultures, savouring tantalizing experiences and sampling mouth-watering cuisines.
For this Barbadian, there is nothing quite like it.
Over the last two years or so, Kelah has been clocking up many miles jetting to places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Jordan, Paris, England and Turkey, to name a few.
Right now, she is in Saudi Arabia, her home since January.
Though the whirlwind journey has been dizzying at times, Kelah would be the first to say just how blessed and fortunate she is to travel the globe. And what’s better, is that she gets to do it with someone she loves, and someone who enjoys travelling as much as she does.
“It’s a great opportunity to see other places. We enjoy travelling. Just being able to go places you have only read about is mind blowing” she marvels.
Chatting via Skype last Wednesday morning – 9 a.m. Barbados time, 4 p.m. Saudi Arabia time, Kelah was well into her day, and soon heading off to an early dinner with her husband.
Steve and Kelah have been married for 15 months.
The two met while Steve, who is English, was in Barbados.
From the start, Kelah knew she would have to leave Barbados behind for a while, as Steve’s job in construction would require a lot of travel. With that, Kelah packed her bags.
First stop was Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where the couple lived for about a year before getting married.
There was some trepidation though, recalls Kelah, who said the images portrayed of some Arab countries in the media played on her mind before she made the move.
“I was a little scared. I was very hesitant about moving,” she said.
But, with her husband-to-be at her side, she was ready and willing to make the move.
She became excited at the prospects of seeing and living in a new country and experiencing a different culture.
Time spent in Abu Dhabi and Dubai prepared Kelah for life in Saudi Arabia.
In Saudi Arabia, Kelah and Steve live at the five-star Intercontinental Hotel in Jeddah, which she says is quite roomy and comfortable with three-bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom.
She quickly pipes in that although they eat out three to four times a week, she sometimes whips up some “good Bajan food” in the kitchen.
For Kelah one of the biggest adjustments was the wearing of the abaya – a robe-like dress which is worn by women in some parts of the Middle East, especially in Saudi Arabia.
The abaya is long-sleeved and floor-length and is worn over clothes when women leave their homes. It is designed to be loose and flowing, intentionally hiding the curves of the body.
For Kelah it is about respecting the rules and religion and, therefore, she dons the abaya whenever she leaves home.
And even though her fashionable and trendy clothing is concealed, she still enjoys going shopping. “Retail therapy is a must” she says laughing.
She notes that in Saudi Arabia, while many adore her accent, they are clueless about where Barbados is. 
“Many people don’t know where Barbados, is so usually I have to draw a reference to the Caribbean, explaining that Barbados is part of the Caribbean and I use Usain Bolt as an example of someone who lives in that region”. Then, she says, they have a better understanding.
Kelah also dispels some of the myths about some Arab states. For example, she said she was told she would have to walk several steps behind her husband. Not so, says she who walks hand in hand, next to her husband.
She was also told women aren’t allowed out on their own. Again, nothing is further from the truth for this woman who heads out to the mall without her hubby at her side.
As for the violence she was told she would witness, she is yet to see it. She admits though that while the Arabic accent sounds “aggressive” but she describes the people are friendly.
Kelah and Steve will be in Saudi Arabia for another six months and after that, another adventure awaits.
Over the past few months though, this couple has been travelling the globe.
Over Skype there is excitement in her voice as she quickly lists her exciting adventures. Next month, the couple will be heading to Egypt.
Some places are exciting, some are fun, and some are simply overwhelming, she says, like her visit to the baptism site of Jesus in Jordan.
But even though Kelah is out exploring the world, she sometimes still misses home, and her family. Thankfully with technology, she stays in touch each and every day.
She especially misses her son Hakeem, who is 16. His is usually an early morning wake-up call while her mother Maria Welch gets a regular check-up.
She knows home will always be there, and her family’s love and support she can count on.
In the meantime, Kelah’s living in the moment and enjoying life travelling the world with her husband at her side.


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