Saturday, 26 February 2011

A New Beginning

My husband has worked in Saudi for the last five years. About six months ago, I finally decided to join him. For many years I’ve been convinced I could never live in a society where women were so repressed. But oddly enough, I reached a point where I did feel ready to join him. I even felt mildly excited.

Odysseus faced one-eyed beasts and whirlpools. As a western woman, I too will have to navigate my way through a vastly different culture.

Encouraged by my family, I’ve decided to keep a blog. This is it.

Ironically, arriving in Saudi was more straightforward than leaving New Zealand.

The day had arrived. The house was let. I had successfully navigated the R--- visa application minefield (more medical tests than a jam donut has calories). Now here I was, bags packed and at the airport. Ready to go.

Or so I thought. I handed over my passport. As the woman behind the Singapore Airlines counter looked at my visa, I sensed her alarm. “I’ve never done one of these before,” she said. “It’s not a place many people go to.”

(R--- is unlikely to be on anyone’s list of ‘Top Ten Places to Visit Before You Die’. It’s certainly not on mine…)

She tried to decipher the information she needed for airline records from my visa’s largely Arabic script. In answer to her question about visa category and expiry date, I explained that mine was a residency visa. There was no expiry date. “It’s permanent,” I said, adding, ‘for ever’. I said this with an assurance I didn't really feel. Family farewells were just around the corner and 'for ever' was not something I wanted to think about.

Confused and making no headway despite my helpful interjections, she asked for help. Four others from adjacent counters joined her. There was lengthy discussion. I glanced nervously over my shoulder. No queue, fortunately.

At long last something was entered into the computer database that seemed to satisfy all those there. Thinking thoughts about patience and being long-suffering, I walked away, boarding pass firmly in my grasp.

Oh my goodness.