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Archive for the ‘Work Life’ Category

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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One can be forgiven, having never been to Saudi Arabia before, to not fully understand the extent of construction that is occurring at this point in time in the country. In fact the first thing a new arrival will see when leaving King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh is the phenomenal amount of construction taking place to develop Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University for Women. To create some kind of comparison, many people will have either seen or at least be aware of the amount of construction that is occurring in the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In Riyadh the construction effort is of a similar nature, except that instead of building up they are building out. In fact Riyadh only has two notable skyscrapers in the city, Kingdom Tower and Faisaliah Tower, separated by about four city blocks from each other in downtown Olaya. These two towers form a prominent part of the Riyadh sky line, which actually makes navigating quite simple as one can always tell which part of the city they are in in relation to where they see the towers.

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On Wednesday I sold my soul… for medical research. Our lab had its Grand Opening Ceremony on Wednesday and the financier of our Research Chair was of course invited to attend. The admin girls had been planning for this event for weeks, however, in true Saudi style there was a mad rush in the last few days to ensure everything was set up in time. On Monday we were informed that there was an article about us in the local Al-Jazirah newspaper. This is the second time we’ve been in the newspaper, the first was the KSU university paper. Unfortunately they have both been in Arabic, but its basically just a fluff piece about our lab opening. What I love is that my name is written in Arabic as ستيسي (read right to left), which when spelled out in English is ‘stiisy’. There’s no ‘c‘ or ‘aye’ sound in the Arabic language. Its no wonder people find it hard to pronounce my name.

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Under the veil.

Yesterday I got up early and caught the bus to King Khalid University Hospital (KKUH), which is situated on the campus of King Saud University. This hospital is a lot bigger and a lot newer than KAUH, where I work. The entrance forms a big marble-covered atrium and you would be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into a sofa warehouse upon entering. Now, anyone who’s worked in a hospital before will realise the words ‘marble’ and ‘sofa’ do not belong in your everyday hospital. Sadly, those words have no meaning in my hospital either. Also foreign to my hospital, is a coffee shop and I was delighted (and extraordinarily envious) to find that also resided in KKUH’s illustrious entrance.

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I have lots of good news today.

I received word this afternoon that my iqama is ready to be picked up from the university. Hoorah! I’ll be picking it up tomorrow morning. Tho we’re not out of the woods just yet. I still have a few more things I need to get before all my paperwork is finalised.

I am also the proud owner of lab coats that fit! In fact I’ve never had a lab coat that fit so well. C had some extra lab coats that fortunately fit me well and she took me up to the resident tailor’s office (one floor above our lab) and we got the sleeves taken up and the waist taken in. For the first time ever I don’t have to roll my sleeves up. Its pretty awesome really. I’d take a photo but they’re currently in the wash.

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I’m back at work again. A week off was nice but would have been much better spent in another country. Still, its been a long time since I have had time off and doing nothing is something I very rarely do so I can’t complain too much. However, that much time alone did lead to some self-absorbed homesickness and feeling sorry for myself but I’m looking at it as something that had to be done and now I’ve hopefully got it out of my system (with the necessary allowances for Christmas and New Years coming up).

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Medical testing.

Today I got up at stupid o’clock (otherwise known as 5:30am) to catch the early bus into work, which leaves at 6:15am. The reason for this was that I needed to make a trip to the King Saud University personnel department to begin my iqama application and wanted to leave before my normal arrival time of 10am. I got to the hospital at 6:30am, which of course is far too early for any self-respecting scientist to be working, and ended up hanging out in the nurses offices for a few hours with a coffee. At a more reasonable hour of 8:30am I went back upstairs and was informed that it was time for me to go over to the main building and meet one of the department secretaries who was going to accompany me to the university. For this I am very grateful as she was my eyes and ears and voice and pretty much everything else. All I had to do was hand over the paperwork. Without her I wouldn’t have even made it to the office.

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