While I grew up in Canada I am not a Canadian citizen. I am a permanent resident and carry a British passport (the land of my birth). As such, I couldn’t just go down to the local passport office and apply for a new passport and have it within a couple of weeks. Nope, not this cowpoke. I had to send my application away to Ottawa, to the British Embassy in Canada, and wait on them to issue me a new passport.
The renewal is easy if you have included the passport you wish to renew in circumstances that include not having any pages left, an expired passport, or a change of name. In the case where you’re trying to replace a current passport that you don’t know the whereabouts of… well, that situation is probably a little different. I had no idea how long I was going to have to wait to get my new passport.
I continued working at the plumbing warehouse, and cohabitating with my parents. I love them both to bits, don’t get me wrong, but this is the last place I wanted to be. I was 35, capable of taking care of myself, but here I was, under their roof and subject to my mom’s every fancy. I lost track of the number of times I’d be sitting upstairs hammering on the computer late at night only for her to ask if I needed anything. I know that’s what mothers do, and I don’t begrudge her for it, but it was all a little embarrassing and unnecessary. I knew where the kitchen was. I could cook. I had successfully mastered several dishes that could appear on any date night menu.
I decided to spend some of the money I had saved and visit my grandparents in Toronto. I was about to leave the country for 2 years, and with them both over 90 or approaching it, I didn’t know, whether I liked to admit it or not, if that might be the last time I got the chance to see them. My aunt and her friend from the UK were over as well so I had a fun 5 days hanging out with family and saying some “goodbyes” in person.
When I came back from my mini-vacation, golf season had started and the outdoor soccer season was about to get under way. April was nearly over and I hadn’t heard a thing from the company I was set to work for or the recruitment group in the UK. For the first time since signing my contract, doubts about whether or not I should go entered my mind. Serious doubts.
I was managing to keep my bills paid and bank a little extra money each month because of the job I had. Just a few weeks before I took the job I received a phone call from a tech company offering me a 3-month contract as a technical writer. I turned it down because I thought I only had 3 weeks left in Edmonton. Hindsight is always 20-20 and in retrospect, I could have taken the job. It would have looked much better on my CV than the blank space that currently sits there.
I agreed I’d only go out and practice with my team, not knowing how long I was going to be there, and not wanting to get too involved or have them rely on me too much. By the time the first game of the season rolled around, I was happy to stand on the sidelines and let the others, the players who would be there the whole year, take the reins and try and make my position theirs. That lasted about 30 minutes. By the time the first half ended, some 15 minutes later, I had scored two and we had a 3-1 lead. The spot was mine to lose.
By now I had started looking for work. And looking for work anywhere. Several job offers came in from people on my team, but at that point in time I was adamant that I would only take a job in the field I studied – professional writing. The thought of paying off my student loan doing something I didn’t quit my job for to go back to school in my 30s seemed like a failure to me. I was a writer, damnit, and I would work as one. I received 2 offers before I boarded a plane to come to Saudi and I turned both of them down. In both instances it was about money. Sure, you should love what you’re doing, but you should also be able to pay your bills and rent and have some money left over each month for yourself. Neither of these jobs afforded me that luxury. Were they good jobs? Yes. Was there room for advancement? Yes. But at the time they weren’t the right option for me.
Mid-May came around and I took an extra day off either side of the long weekend to go on one final soccer road trip with the lads. We’d head to Vernon, British Columbia, an 11-hour drive away, and take part in a Master’s tournament (over 35s). We got there on the Thursday night and myself and Peppermint (His name was Pat but we always called him Peppermint Patty for some reason), were the only 2 to go out on the town. I figured if this was my last trip I was going to make it legendary. We had a round of golf scheduled for the next day and the goal was to have a beer a hole (not the Tiger Woods holes either – if you know what I mean?) I had 2 beers for breakfast, another two when we got to the course and waited for our tee-time, and then fell 2 beers short of the 18-beer quota we had set for ourselves. That 20 beers, at mid-afternoon, was probably more beer than I had drunk the previous 5 years! I should have been dead, but instead managed another dozen or so more, and wine with dinner, before finally going to bed at 5 am (just in time for our 8 am wake-up call for our 9:30 am game.
I forgot to mention that at dinner, as we were leaving, a group at another table were celebrating a birthday. I asked whose birthday it was and they pointed to the girl at the end. I asked where her husband or boyfriend was, to which the table laughed, and proceeded to sit in her lap facing her (I guess you could call that straddling) and sing “Happy Birthday Mr President” in my sexiest voice ever. My team was in stitches. She was 5 shades of red. I was fucking hammered. Apparently she tried to pick me up at the bar later but I don’t remember. All I remember was waking up in the same room as Peppermint, neither of us knowing how we got there (it was our room though so that’s good).
As for the tournament, well, let’s just say we didn’t qualify to play in any of the final matches. The drive home was especially hard for some reason (could be the detox).
By now June beckoned and I still had no idea where my passport was or if the company still wanted me. I had heard nothing from them, unless I initiated the contact, and was really close to packing it in altogether. My friends started telling me that all of these set backs were a sign that I wasn’t supposed to go. And I do believe in fate and that all things happen for a reason.
And when the Canadian dollar started to gain ground on the American greenback it all got unbearable. The Saudi riyal is linked with the US dollar and never changes its value. When the US dollar tanks, the riyal is worth less against my currency back home, the currency I’m paying bills in. Surely, this trend was going to stop.