I was asked a couple of days ago if I could write about my experiences on moving to the Middle East. I’ll go over the entire process from application to thoughts and worries after I got here nearly 7 years ago now. As always, feel free to comment and ask questions. Sabina, since you asked so nicely, here you go.
This will be the first entry of a new series I’ll try to do daily (until I get told to stop because I’m boring you all to death) about how I ended up in Saudi Arabia and then Dubai. I’ll just start with the boring preliminaries today and hopefully things will pick up as the series continues.
It was early January 2007 and I had just put my updated CV on Monster.com. My current job, working as a technical writer for Intuit in Edmonton, Canada was set to end on March 31 of that year. I still have no idea why they didn’t want to re-contract me (and have recently found out that my entire department besides me was still there 3 years later. Talk about a kick to the ego’s scrotum). But, as I had a few months to look for work and not stress about where my next rent check was coming from I hadn’t really had time to notice that the job prospects in my field were limited (and those that were available paid considerably less than what my current position paid).
Back in December I had gone for an interview that resembled speed dating more than an attempt at landing a job, and since that fateful day, my prospects were zilch. But, with my updated CV available worldwide I thought I would at least get an email from somebody offering “marketing” positions that involved walking around the city with a giant bag of junk to sell. At roughly the same time, for shits and giggles, I put up an online dating profile to see which would get more hits.
After 3 days I received an email from a company asking that I fill out the attached application form and send it back to them for their client – a private hospital in Saudi Arabia. I thought, why not. Having gone back to college in my 30s and generally being a rookie in my new profession, I didn’t want to be selective about the things I applied for. In those same 3 days I received 26 emails about my online dating profile. Just my luck, I was about to be unemployed and homeless but I was a hit with the ladies (and 3 men who thought they could sway me).
Within a couple of days I received an email response from the recruitment unit at the hospital telling me that they weren’t hiring for my position. Naturally, I did what anyone would do – I set up a date with one of the interested parties from my online dating profile.
The next day I received an email with several attachments, including a writing test, and a test document to be completed. Well, the nerve of them, I thought. They’ve just told me they’re not hiring and now they want me to do some work for free? Fuck them. I completely ignored the 5 day time limit they gave me (although for some reason I didn’t delete the email) and when they emailed back, on the sixth day asking if I had forgotten to complete the test, I responded by telling them that I wasn’t going to do the test if they weren’t hiring. Through some quirk of fate… they were.
I sent the documents off within a couple of days and carried on my life as normal. I played soccer with the lads, got embarrassed about my recently published non-fiction book, and tried to live up to my self-styled image of eligible bachelor #1. So yeah, my life was full. And I didn’t have too long to wait. An email came telling me they would conduct a phone interview, at 1400 hours Saudi time, on Wednesday January 24. My first thought was to let it be a woman interviewing me because I have never not got a job I was directly being interviewed for when interviewed by a woman. My second thought was, what the fuck time is that in Edmonton?
It turns out it was 4 in the morning Edmonton time. On a Wednesday. I had work that day. But, a man has to do what a man has to do. I woke up at 3:45 (not needing to shower or shave – or even put on clothes for that matter), made a cup of tea and waited for the phone call. It didn’t come. My first thought was, damn it Ger you idiot, they might only be 9 hours ahead of you. My second thought was, those fuckers forgot. I’m sending them an email.
After I hit send on the email, a surprisingly courteous little ditty asking if they had forgotten the interview because I didn’t appreciate having to wake up in the middle of the night, on a day I work, to be disappointed, I crawled back into bed. By this time, I can’t sleep. My cats are wondering aloud, looking at me like I’m crazy, and the look on their faces tell me they just want me to make up my damn mind and go back to sleep or get up already. I get up and go back to the computer thinking it might be a good time to turn the speakers up real high and blow things up in Medal of Honor.
For some reason I detour and check my email first, you know, in case anyone has checked out my dating profile at 5 am. I notice an email from the hospital and have to read it. Basically, the email states that when they told my future employer when the interview was, she was smart enough to suggest that “4 am is an awful time to conduct an interview” and suggested it be changed to 7 am my time. They all agreed, but failed to inform me. So, I had 2 hours to go before the phone call, was too awake to sleep, and not in the mood to blow things up anymore. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bigger breakfast on a weekday as I did that day.
The phone call came at 7. The 30 minute interview went smoother than any interview I have ever had. She told me she was impressed with my writing test and test document, and very interested in hearing about my book. When we hung up, I knew she was going to offer me the job.
Another 3 days pass and I receive a formal offer. The initial offer for money insults me so I decline. They come back to me a few days later with an improved offer. This time, I thought the offer would suffice. This set the wheels in motion for what would be an interesting few months…