Sharing More Than Sushi

Karissa Johnson

Karissa Johnson

Dear Diary,

Tonight a couple of friends and I ventured out to Tokyo Restaurant in Riyadh. It’s a school night, but we decided to try out sushi in Saudi for the first time. We all love sushi and we were stoked about the chance to share it in Saudi. We walked in the restaurant and were quickly escorted to a table tucked away behind a wooden partition. As we walked into the room, three young ladies halted their laughter and conversation as they watched my friends and I walk in the room. We exchanged smiles and nods and quietly sat down. One of my friends asked me if I knew the girls who seemed to be locked in on me. I told her that I didn’t know them, but I had a hunch that maybe they were fascinated by my head wrap. Oh, what a hunch that was!

My friends and I chit chatted, placed our orders, and waited for the delivery of our culinary art. While we waited, we recounted our days to each other. Right after our food arrived, one of the girls from the table across from us waved to get our attention.

“Excuse me. Where are you from?”

I replied to her, “Guess.”

The young ladies appeared to be college students, so I wanted to check out their English skills.

“France? South Africa?”

I leaned in and said, “Listen to my accent.”

“America!” they shouted.

“You’re right!” I said smiling. “Good job!”

They continued to ask me questions about which state I was from and what brought me to Saudi Arabia. After even more small talk, one of the girls boldly asked, “So how did you tie your turban? I love it!” I laughed and tried to explain it to them with gestures and words, but apparently my explanation wasn’t enough. One of the girls pleaded, ‘Can you show me?’ So, right there, in the middle of the sushi restaurant, I walked over to the girls’ table and started my tutorial. I helped tie two of the girls’ hijabs and told them about the best materials for tying head wraps. We were all full of giggles and laughs about this surprising cultural exchange.

Karissa Johnson

Karissa Johnson

Who would’ve thought this American girl would be teaching an African technique to young Saudi women in a Japanese restaurant?! What a rich moment!

Karissa Johnson

Karissa Johnson

It doesn’t matter where I am, whenever I wear a head wrap, I’m always asked about how I created the look. Even when I was in China, a friend of mine from South Africa asked me how I tied my wrap. She joked about how she’s from Africa, but hasn’t quite gotten the hang of it. I told her about how I learned different styles from YouTube and then added my own little twist. The idea wasn’t my own. It comes off the heels of my ancestors. It was shared. It was passed on. Then it was tweaked. It was refined. Finally, it was embraced.

I came into the restaurant thinking I’d be sharing one thing, but I left sharing so much more than sushi.

Karissa Johnson

Karissa Johnson

Love Always,

Karissa from Saudi Arabia

Karissa Johnson is a licensed evangelist, certified educator, and a daring explorer. In the last three years she taught English at two universities in Saudi Arabia and at one English language school in China. When she’s home in Nebraska, this military brat and preacher’s kid loves singing with her three sisters, mentoring youth, and prison ministry. Karissa is a graduate of Oral Roberts University where she received her BA in International Community Development. This stroke survivor started traveling abroad in 2011 and has since traveled to over 20 countries on all seven continents. She accomplished her goal of seeing all seven continents by 30. Karissa is currently writing a book about her adventures around the globe. Visit to connect with Karissa through social media.