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Clearance – Part 4

I left the travel agent empty handed on the first visit because despite the notice on the door to the ladies section stating the opening hours of 9am – 9pm, they actually closed at 3pm during Ramadan and didn’t open again until 9pm that night. I made a second trip the next morning and went through the standard process of booking a flight to Melbourne:

I present a flight voucher from KSU for a ticket to Canberra, I explain that I want to fly to Melbourne instead, travel agent spends 30 minutes trying to determine if a flight to Melbourne will be cheaper (it is), I present a list of the dates and times I specifically want to fly, travel agent books with the right carrier but wrong times, I insist that flights be changed to the ones I want, travel agent expresses concern with long stopover in Dubai, I explain the advantages of direct flights to Melbourne as opposed to stopovers in Asia, travel agent sits in confused silence but eventually relents to my demands.

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Clearance – Part 3

I think I have mentioned it before but the university administration is broken up into two sections, male only and female only. Obviously, I had never had any interaction with anyone outside of the ladies’ section, as I’m not allowed into the men’s building. That all changed, however, when I arrived at the ladies’ section requesting signatures for my clearance. I was advised by one of the ladies in finance that I had to get a signature from the finance manager before anyone else could sign my form and he could only be reached by entering the men’s section. This put me at a significant disadvantage as I don’t travel with a man in waiting who could run errands for me when the need arose, such as this one. My lack of male escort seemed to surprise and confuse some of the ladies, who offered the solution of trying to talk to the security guards at the entrance to the building.

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Clearance – Part 2

Now that I had the proper forms the real work began. I visited a number of departments at both the hospital and the university on multiple occasions and returned with a total of three signatures. It had become apparent that almost every single manager was away on vacation during the final weeks of July. Immediately before the start of Ramadan (August 1st) a number of staff members returned from their holidays and I was fortunate enough to obtain another five signatures before the inevitable slow down approached. By this time I had seen more of the hospital than ever, met people who had never seen me before (and believe me, I stick out) and asked for their signature to state that I didn’t owe them anything. It was all a little confusing, and I make it sound a lot easier than it was. Very rarely did I arrive at an office the first time and be granted a signature, either the person with the authority to sign my paperwork wasn’t there (“after salat” or “maybe tomorrow” were the most frequent responses to my queries) or I was presented with the department’s own form that I needed to fill in and get signed by someone else before a signature would be granted. There was even one department that no one knew about. For that signature I was sent to various offices, only to be told I was in the wrong place and sent somewhere else where I got the same response. In the end I found a very nice man who knew who I needed to find and instead of sending my off somewhere else, called the man and got him to come to me. I have to admit that while the process was frustrating, I did meet some very nice people.

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Clearance – Part 1

Unlike most countries, when you decide to quit your job in Saudi Arabia you can’t just pack up your things and leave on the next flight out. Why? Because all travel both into and out of the country is tightly regulated by the issuance of visas. That’s right, you don’t just need a visa to enter the country, you also need one to exit it. I’ve written in great depth about the initial entry visa process and I was pretty sure that it couldn’t get much harder than that to acquire a visa, however, I was surprised to find that it paled in comparison the headache I had to endure to get my final exit visa out of Saudi Arabia, otherwise known as clearance.

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Heading overseas again.

Last time I posted I was in the process of exiting from the Kingdom. I’m happy to say that I did finally receive my clearance and have been back in Australia for about 6 weeks now. For those who are interested, I have been writing up my experiences of the exit procedure and I will post what will likely be a 4 part series in the not too distant future. My one problem is that re-living the experience is almost as frustrating as when it happened so it is taking me some time to complete to my satisfaction. I can understand why people don’t write about exiting from Saudi Arabia because it really can be quite a traumatic experience. To help me in this matter I could really do with some editing assistance, so if any of my lovely readers have experience, send me an email, otherwise I am going to have to do it myself and it is taking a lot of time.

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Some of you might be wondering what I have been up to for the past few months since last posting. A few months ago, after a rather distressing 36 hours where my electricity was turned off because the university admin neglected to pay my bill for over 9 months, I decided that the stress of my constant housing uncertainty (including an instance where I was told I had to move back to my old housing situation) was getting too much. It may seem silly to be so upset about a simple power outage but the core issue was that someone who I don’t know and have probably never met had complete control over where and how I lived. This is not uncommon for expats living in the Kingdom, especially unmarried women, but after the past two years of issues I never really felt like they had my best interests at heart. Therefore, I decided not to renew my contract at KSU and will be heading back to Australia for a while to enjoy some down time before moving onto life’s next challenge.

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Driving Miss Saudi.

This week there was an interesting development in the case for Saudi women driving in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi woman, Manal al-Sharif, made a daring statement to the country and to the world by videoing herself driving around her city of Dhahran and posting it on YouTube (in Arabic).

The Al Jazeera news report in English provides a good summary of the story.

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