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18 April 2007

working away from home

CHAPTER 1
"Assalamu Alaikum!" was the first and only two arabic words I have ever known, and I thought the meaning of that was "welcome" well, I was so wrong...

1998 was in the period when the USA closes its door for nurses, it was a long frustrating time of waiting and hoping. The opportunity in the USA limited the nurses' world, that is why even the hotels, banks, airlines, and fast food chains was also been envaded by nurses just to earned a living...looking for a job elsewhere was so tough and competitive.

I was 23 years old when I took the risk of working abroad and in an arabic speaking country with a strong faith in their religion. Bringing with me was the only two arabic words I have ever known. I took the opportunity, disregarding the negative sides of the decision I made, I never asked any questions nor entertained any doubts in my head. What was important for me at that time was the job offered and the experienced of riding a camel! hmmm...

During my PDOS (pre-departure orientation seminar), which was a day before my flight, I just learned some "scary" things about Saudi Arabia. The more the speaker talks, the more I wanted to back out. " No alcohols allowed even the rubbing alcohol, no loud talking and laughing, no sitting beside a male co worker or friend, not allowed to go out of the hospital and accomodation compound beyond scheduled period, no picture taking anywhere without permission, no... "Oh, no!" I guess everything that I usually do is against their culture and belief... I started to think that I am losing my freedom... I wanted to protest but I had no time to make my banners.

When I was inside the Saudi Arabia Airlines, I started to cry, "Oh God! My two long years is just starting and I feel that I can't do it anymore!" It was a 9 long hours trip...I was aslept the whole time to avoid asking the pilot to please immediately drop me off! And most importantly, there was no cute guy beyond my eyesight at that very big plane with pretty stewardess in it! "So boring!" Kidding aside, I was so scared and regretful..It was an agonizing moment, confused of what was instore for me in that so called dessert for the next two years.

The moment came when we started to approched the landing area, I saw the buildings below me. It was so different! It seems it looks like hundreds of big boxes piled nicely on the sand with so many hairy ants walking around! I knew that I am a thousand miles, miles, miles ( the truth is I really don't know how many thousands of miles exactly!) away from home...and I am alone!

As I got hold of my baggage, we were place in the confined carpeted, airconditioned room as the immigration personnel checked our visas. We waited for several hours and everyone was stressed out including me. Then suddenly, a man came into the witholding area and spoken to us in an arab accent that we are going to ride a bus for another 4 -6 hours before reaching our main destination. Now here, implementation of rules begun... Boys were seated at the back then bags were place on the seats in font of them then the girls occupied the rest of the seats in front. The bus was just so ordinary unexpectedly, metroshuttle buses(local bus in Davao travelling within Davao region) are more comfortable as compared to their bus.

I recall how I felt the cool air swept my face as I walked through the bus. It was like 9pm in their clock (we're 6 hours advance )with a temperature of 16 degree celcius at that time. I never expected that Saudi Arabia has that kind of weather too, I thought because it is a dessert so it is always hot! well, I was wrong again, so I didn't prepare a jacket to warmed me up. I am expecting a human blanket but to no avail... hmmp.

As we travel, I started to observed the city. Watched some views in which most of them were tents and camels on the dessert, and so many old gas stations which I thought has been abandoned and haunted, same as those in most hollywood movies I've watched. After like an hour of travelling, the bus stopped for few minutes. The arab man (the one who entered at the witholding area at the airport before)together with his assistant brought some smelly food to us. It was our first taste of arabic cuisine: chicken kabsa! It smells so gross and I can't afford to eat that yellow colored rice topped with a big part of a chicken with millions of fresh onion and a green leaves that looks like a grass on it that I guess only horses can dare to eat. The single serving was so big I don't know how to finished it! "Are they trying to kill us?" I only said it to myself because if I will say it out loud maybe that arab man and his assistant will kill me! hmmp.

After six hours of travelling and sitting with those hard, uncomfortable and short backrest seats, we finally arrived at our destination... King Fahad Hospital In Buraydah. It was a long journey to somewhere unknown to most of us. We were welcomed with some Filipina nurses whose been working there for more than a couple of years already. For the first time after I left home, I felt a little secure and safe with their presence and warmed welcome.

Our new home was given to us, two rooms in each flat with complete beddings. Everyone was excited to see and feel the comfort of the bed except for me, I wasn't that happy, I felt anxious that everything that was happening was not right! After a while, everyone was aslept including me, I stopped my worries for I cannot control the call of my body to rest. The whole floor of the hostel was so silent. It was so cold... my body was adjusting to the coldness of the sorrounding. Everyone needed energy, I needed more for I will face tomorrow's biggest challenge... (to be continued.... Gikapoy nako ug type.)

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