Before departing the states, I met two Sudan’s who live in Riyadh. They work for a company that is contracted by Princess Noura University, so we immediately hit it off when I told them I was an English teacher headed to Riyadh. We had the same flight, so they offered to check one of my extra bags for me because they only had one bag, and you could check up to two, however, they had a layover in Jeddah, where as I had a direct flight to Riyadh…we exchanged contact information and they will drop off my suitcase to me tomorrow (Saturday). They also translated my visa for me and made me aware that I had a residency permit! Glad they did so, although I still don’t have an Iqama which means at some point I will still have to surrender my passport. Also, one thing that I didn’t realize when coming was that the Saudi weekend is Thursday and Friday (I thought it was Friday and Saturday), so tomorrow Abdel and Muhammad will have work! Hopefully we can arrange a time that will work for both of us. I’m not worried. They were very nice and reassuring.
The plane ride was long and exhausting, but I met a Saudi woman named Abeer who was kind enough to also exchange contact information, and offer any assistance that I may need in the future. She is currently home (KSA) to visit her family, but will return to the states in a month to finish her education. She is Single, uninterested in marriage, or having kids. I asked to take a picture with her, but she said no pictures. She didn’t have a full face mask, which might have been why, or it could be religious reasons. Regardless, we talked about our experiences and our plans for the future and really hit it off; Can’t wait to see her again!
Another interesting woman on the plan was a Pakistani woman…. I thought she was a little crazy at first, but she turned out to be alright. I didn’t enjoy her dry, crusty bare feet next to me while she slept, nor did I like that she stole the two open seats next to Abeer and I so we couldn’t sprawl out… but after she got her sleep she grabbed my legs and put them on top of her lap so I could lay down on all the seats in exchange for allowing her to steal our seats most the flight. What a trade!!! I guess it’s one of those “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” type of culture, except in my case it was more like, “Let me put my feet next to you, and you can put yours next to mine”… Even though it was comforting to know that we were in way looking out for each other, I would still have preferred if she had stayed in her own seat and left our two seats alone! We were too nice to deny her though.
I learned from my driver, Osama, that I will not be working at Princess Noura University, which was disappointing, but hopefully all my sweet talking will encourage him to put in a good word for me and get me on one of the nicer compounds! When we first met we didn’t hit it off because the other female teacher and I were a bit weary of what was to come since our recruiters haven’t given us much information. We immediately drilled him for info which took him by surprise, and rather irritated him. It also didn’t help that we flat out said we thought Al Khaleej was disorganized, dishonest, and shady… He was not pleased, but neither were we when we found out that meals wouldn’t be provided for us, and that we were just going to be dropped off at some hotel to await further directions. Once I vented my concerns though, I won him over by not talking (my Dad would be proud..Ha!), and letting the other teacher drive him nuts with all her questions and answers. By the end of the night (he took us to a store to get food and an Abaya) Osama even offered to buy me the lingerie I had pointed out at the store (it was a very stylish negligee)… that was a bit odd, but I wasn’t surprised by his offer. Instead, I told him a better gift would be to make sure I was on a secure compound with good amenities, and a job in a city that I would be happy with. I think I did good! He seemed very concerned about my well being when he dropped me off at the hotel, and he apologized for all the negative feedback I had been given by past and current teachers of the company.
Our Hotel is shady looking….Not the best way to introduce Americans to Saudi Arabia. Just see the pics below! But, it is what it is so won’t complain anymore about it. Another teacher (male) just showed up a t our hotel! Trivendran-South African. He has had nothing but problems with Al Khaleej since he arrived (about two weeks ago). He was told he would be teaching in Riyadh, and they shipped him out in the middle of the desert- Shakra- and now he is back in Riyadh, and doesn’t know where he is supposed to go. Everything is so disorganized, and his experience thus far has really freaked me out. I talked to my recruiter, Cara, and she reassured me that everything would be okay. She honestly seemed much more sincere than normal, and I think I might believe her when she says she’ll take care of me. She did keep her promise and paid me the money she said I would be reimbursed for the medical and visa costs. I was very happy about that. Raised my spirits. It’s just very hard to trust these people after hearing such horror stories from other people. The three of us are unhappy with the company, and we plan on addressing all these concerns tomorrow with the director at our meeting.
From what I’ve seen the city looks incredible (for being in the middle of a desert). Bright lights, big stores, and every American fast food shop you can think of… including Krispy Kreme!!! Hurray! I’m happy that non-saudi women can walk around without the Hijab (face mask) if they want, and wearing the abaya really isn’t all that bad. I don’t mind it at all – yet. Despite all the fussing and venting of frustrations, the three of had tea time and relaxed in the hotel lobby. We also met an American man, Bob, who is here on business for two weeks. We all went for a night walk, stopped at a grocery store, and then called it a night.
Plan for tomorrow:
Medical exams – not looking forward to it
Meeting with Director – hopefully we will receive our placements
Our trio is going to have lunch/dinner with Bob at a local Mall – he’ll drive and show us around
Obtain my suitcase!!!! Hopefully I can get my suitcase back from Abdel and Muhammad!!!
My Advice to future teachers:
Be sure to be thankful, and to butter up your driver/contact person
Bring extra passport pictures – for some reason we need 10?!?! I hope I can get some tomorrow since no one told me I would be needing them until after I arrived.
Come with at least $200-300 since you won’t get paid until the end of the month and meals/transportation during free-time is not provided.
Try to purchase an Abaya before arriving in Saudi – they are much cheaper online than they are at the store your driver will take you to. Drivers don’t care how much money you are wasting. They just want to get the job done.
HAVE FAITH. BE PATIENT. The best way that I found to voice my concerns with Cara, my recruiter, is to simply tell her that I am scared. Rather than shifting the blame to one person, just make her or your recruiter aware that you are feeling distressed, betrayed, and fearful; Also make them aware that you know people have had negative experiences (several people), and that you don’t want to have the same types of experiences because then the company looks bad, and as an employee of the company you want to promote it. You can’t promote something if you are unhappy, and good publicity is very important for a country like Saudi Arabia. Recruiters (especially Saudi ones) forget that sometimes because they think their country is the best.
It’s 3:30am and I’m going to sleep with a positive attitude… not giving up quite yet. I still believe that things could turn around, and honestly the night ended really well. It was great to meet new teachers and friends today; everybody is so generous and helpful. It’s not like America at all; EVERYONE here wants to help us, or so it seems, and I’m grateful for that. I do miss my friends and family, and I’m having a hard time falling asleep, but at least I have WiFi and was able to make contact with everyone.
P.S – A British teacher just showed up!!! He’s exhausted!!! So late!
Enjoy the pictures!!! I will talk to you soon!
My hotel room (we each have our own room) Beds are as stiff as a board!
Bathroom.. not sure why the men need their own toilet? The one works just fine!
Female teacher from America – Virginia I believe – Evalyn
Trivendran on the left – from South Africa – Tea Time in the hotel lobby!
The staff made us Tea!!!