August 9, 2014
Hello from Riyadh!!!
Finally, after several months of paperwork and preparation and a lovely month off work to hang out with my friends and family at home before leaving, I have finally travelled to Saudi and am settling into life here in Riyadh!
Saying goodbye to my family at the airport in Vancouver and walking away from them to set off on this great life adventure, was definitely one of the most challenging moments of my life!! I’d been saying many goodbyes for days but they didn’t seem really real until I stood there in the airport hugging my family goodbye. As excited as I was to set out and start this new phase in life… I am so sad to leave my family behind as they are most loving, supportive and wonderful group of people in my life and I seriously adore them all and will miss them terribly. But change and adventure and new life experiences are calling my name!!
One last hug from everyone… One last baby snuggle… And I walked through security… Away from my family… And on to this amazing adventure!!!
Flying out of Vancouver is almost always breathtakingly beautiful!!. The day I left was beautifully sunny and relatively clear… and the mountains and ocean view was incredible!!! I am definitely going to miss all the greenery and the mountains and the ocean… lakes…
After about 10 hours of flying, I made it to Frankfurt, my first stop over… I had about 6 hours of time to kill in the airport, so I did a lot of walking…trying to stay awake because I was SO tired!
I was getting pretty nervous about the next leg of the journey… what would happen when I got to Riyadh, how would I know where to go? Would I easily find the group of girls I would be arriving with? Would I get hassled going through immigrations? And how would I know who was the right person to take me to King Faisal?!!
I don’t know why I bothered worrying… while I sat waiting at my gate for my flight to Riyadh… I heard a few distinctly American voices… and then I saw one of the girls pull out a package of paperwork that looked identical to mine… So I introduced myself… turns out they were all from nurses going to King Faisal also, through the same nursing agency as me!! So I found my group before I even got to Riyadh! It’s just so much less stressful going off into an uncertain future when you’ve got friends with you… even if they’re just brand new friends!
Flying into Riyadh was beautiful!!! So many lights everywhere and so much color!!! It was amazing and exciting and a little frightening to see this huge city that would be my home for the next year!
Shortly before the plane landed and immediately after landing, you could see women getting up everywhere and heading to the restrooms and returning, swathed in their black abayas and hijab. So… I put mine on also… Very relieved that it came in on time so I’d fit into this country immediately instead of sticking out terribly. Never mind the fact that I wouldn’t be allowed to go out anywhere in public without my abaya on! (More to come on the abaya discussion…)
Anyways… We got through immigrations with relative ease… Not the challenge we expected it to be!! We joined what we thought was the appropriate line… until some airport official in a thobe (the long white “dress” that is never called a “dress!!!”) came and placed us in a different, much shorter line… and the immigrations officials were pleasant and polite and gave us no trouble at all, and within a short period of time, fingerprinted, photographed (for the Saudi residency cards we would eventually get that would have this ghastly 24+ hours of travel airport photo on it :S) and passports stamped, we were exiting the airport!
On exiting the secure area, we were greater with smiles and warm hugs of welcome… the nursing recruitment and retention team from King Faisal had come to great us and take us to our new homes. It was so amazing to see their friendliness and warmth and kindness… I felt immediately welcomed and at ease!
The ride from the airport to King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center was a bit of a blur.. It was nearly 2 am by this time. But we spotted the Kingdom Tower and Faisaliyah Tower… two major landmarks… both relatively close to the hospital and definite “must see soon” places!!!
We arrived at C complex…. and the recruitment team helped us haul our many heavy suitcases to our apartments… and I found out… I have a lovely flat mate… from the UK and she just arrived also. It took a couple hours to wind down, and Kalitta and I spent plenty of time chatting and getting to know each other a little. But eventually, just after Fajr, the first call to prayer of the day… we finally said goodnight and went to sleep for the first time… in the Magic Kingdom.
And so life starts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
(As a note: I’m way behind on my blogging updates… but eventually I’ll catch up… as I’m now actually 2 whole weeks into life here in KSA!! Stay tuned… more to come!!!)