The Academy, Chapter 1

Working in Saudi Arabia was a dream come true. I would be going to live in a different culture, different language, different environment. And, my housing would be paid for, my medical and dental, transportation would be provided, and I would even get a bonus at the end of my first year! I had never had a job with so many benefits. The icing on the cake would be a tax free salary. Could it possibly get any better? My employer offered to pay for my airline ticket, to Saudi Arabia and back, and I would get a month’s vacation pay after 11 months of work.

Before I left in 2013, I did some research on my employer on the internet. I found some positive things, and some negative things. I looked at the compound I’d be living in, an all female compound with a gym, pool and comfortable living quarters. I would be sharing with, possibly, two other teachers, but I was okay with that. After all, my housing would be free and sharing didn’t sound too complicated. Never mind that I had never had a roommate who wasn’t my family member, husband or child.

The company seemed to be comparable to others. I could possibly be working a straight shift, or a split shift. The split shift being 8-12 noon and 4-8 p.m. The straight shift being 8 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m. With my American mind, I assumed that I would be getting lunch and/or dinner breaks, regular work breaks and at least 10 sick leave days every year – after all, that’s what I got in the U.S. – why would Saudi Arabia be any different?

All in all, there was no way I’d ever get these kinds of benefits in the good ol’ USA. I was ready to go.

I packed up my condo, sold my car, and went through the long and painful process of getting an employment visa for Saudi Arabia. I had to get medical clearances, lab tests (they are specifically looking for +HIV to weed those candidates out), a police report, transcripts, a verified degree, and of course, I should already have had my passport in hand.

I did everything, sent my documents to the Washington D.C. Saudi embassy through a visa processing office, and … success! I got my 90 day employment visa to work in the Kingdom!

My Saudi employer was notified, and I waited for my airline ticket. I waited from mid-June to July. I waited from July through Ramadan. I waited until after Ramadan in July and August until September. I quit my teaching job, I quit my tutoring job, and I waited. Of course, I was sending emails to my employer every two or three days: When am I coming? They said: As soon as possible. When am I coming? Oh, choose a date after Ramadan. When am I coming? As soon as our company settles down after the personnel shake up. When am I coming???

I got my ticket in mid-September, 2013. At this point, I had a somewhat muted reaction. After all, I’d been waiting for more than two months, and had begun to have some creepy, sneaky doubts that I’d might not be going to the Kingdom at all. But, as it turns out, I would be going. So I repacked my suitcases, kissed my children, friends and family members goodbye, and went to San Francisco International to take off for Riyadh. My adventure was about to begin.


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