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Archive for the ‘Expat Life’ Category

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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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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An interesting idea was bought up by my Mum while I was back in Australia. After having suffered a fairly nasty infection a few months earlier, I decided to pay a visit to my doctor in Australia, while on vacation, to get some standard tests to ensure that I didn’t have any residual side effects from my sickness. When I returned from the doctor my Mum asked me whether I had gotten my Vitamin D levels checked. It seems like a strange request given I live in probably one of the sunniest countries in the world but in reality its quite a valid suggestion.

Due to the rules of modesty here in Saudi Arabia it is not considered appropriate for a woman to show any part of her body in public. This can go so far as to include the face, hands and feet. Therefore, unless in the privacy of her own home a woman would never be showing a large enough amount of skin to reap the benefits of UV exposure, resulting in healthy Vitamin D synthesis. The other option is to eat lots of oily fish, milk and eggs, which have Vitamin D in much smaller amounts and while milk and eggs are definitely staples in Arabic cuisine, I’ve seen very little fish on the menu.

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Hiding in plain sight.

Alright, I admit its been a very long time between posts. The question is, am I really that boring or that busy? Well, its a mix of both really. For now I’ll just update on what I’ve been doing but I have a few good ideas for posts on some interesting things I’ve learned throughout the past few months. So stay tuned.

Around the time of my last post I was surprised to find out that my contract was due for renewal at the start of September instead of what I expected to be November. Turns out my contract is for an ‘Academic Year’ so regardless of my start date it would be renewed at the start of the next academic year (24/Ramadan/1431… or 03/Sept/2010). Written into my contract is the statement that my contract will be automatically renewed if I don’t give a minimum of 2 months notice if I do not wish that to be the case. At the time I found this out I had approximately 3 weeks before I crossed that 2 month deadline, leaving me with very little time to re-negotiate some issues I had with my current contract before being happy to renew. I won’t go into too many specifics because no doubt its boring to everyone else but me, but after an enormously stressful 3 weeks trying to work out if I was staying or going, I reached a compromise with the University that I was happy to take.

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We’re now 10 days into summer so I thought I would let you know a little about what that means in a country composed predominantly of desert. To give you a quick overview, I have posted a screen shot of my weather forecast for this week from my iPhone.

Now my idea of summer started about 4 months ago when the mercury was hovering around the 30-35C mark, a temperature I would now consider as ‘cool’. Ever since getting back from the States the daily highs have been notching themselves up at least one degree each week to where we are now, a balmy 43-45C.

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