Week One…

August 10-16, 2014

Week 1 in Saudi Arabia… Week 1 in Riyadh… Week 1 at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center… I’m absolutely LOVING it!!!!!

Life here started out with a bang… a few hours of sleep after arriving… and then off to an afternoon welcome tea for all the new arrivals! We had a general introduction to the hospital and a bit of a tour around… found out what we’d be doing all week… and then it was back to settling in to our apartments and catching up on sleep!!

Fortunately, the housing department had put together little packages of food supplies to get us through a couple days until we could make it to the grocery store and get set up. Also, the hospital has a great cafeteria that serves massive portions of delicious food… for super cheap!! For 10-15 Saudi Riyals, you can get a massive meal including a beverage and a salad!! Thats only about 3 USD!!! Starbucks here costs more than that!!!

Day number 2… and we started General Hospital Orientation, along with about 60-70 other new hospital staff members! General Hospital Orientation was basically a general introduction to the hospital, security services, fire and safety, employee benefits and such… a lot of basic info. But along with it came several very inspiring speakers who were extremely passionate about the hospital and providing and promoting excellent patient care. King Faisal was recently awarded magnet status and there is a huge push to excel in all areas of care! It is very motivating and encouraging. The education opportunities are immense. The career opportunities are even better! So much potential here and I’m so excited to see where the journey will take me!!!


So, we had a couple days of general hospital orientation, which was then followed by a couple days of general nursing orientation. Most of it was a lot of information we knew already, just refreshers on moving and handling, program quality indicators and all sorts of things. But there were some very fun and informative and interesting classes… such as the Saudization class where we learned a bit more about the culture of Saudi, some of the unspoken rules and customs… we tried Saudi coffee and fresh dates and sweets… and even got to try on traditional Saudi costumes… ones that women would generally wear to a fancy formal event. We learned a few words of Arabic too, but I’m definitely going to need classes still!!



Now… I plan to share more about what the hospital itself looks like and is like… but for now I’ll just say that it is absolutely massive!! Takes a good 10 minutes at Annemarie speed (which is like a serious power walk) to get from my housing complex to the Main Entrance Starbucks!! It’s over a kilometer! And there are parts of it that are absolutely glamorous… marble everywhere… supremely clean… absolutely gorgeous! You’d think you were in a hotel, not a hospital!! And then other parts are older and somewhat dated. But overall… its an amazing hospital and I haven’t even discovered half of the different areas yet. But I do know where the two Starbucks are… and the Dunkin Donuts… and a couple of the Dr. Cafe’s (the Saudi version of Starbucks)… And that’s all the really matters. Hehe.

Below is the North Tower, aka the Marble Tower. Obviously due to the great quantity of marble inside. It is mostly Administration stuff, but there’s also some auditioriums and the Pain Clinic and a bunch of other stuff in it.


The hospital grounds are absolutely massive also. Theres at least 6 housing complexes just for female staff, which all have their own pools and gyms and such. And then there’s the social club which has offices, an amenities center and some shops. There’s a grocery store, souvenir shops, a pharmacy, a mini spa… Squash courts, tennis courts, basketball courts… And all of it is right by my apartment complex! Super convenient! However, there is construction happening everywhere and it’s always supremely dusty and theres big metal walls up everywhere blocking off construction sites… so the grounds aren’t quite as beautiful as they could be or as the pictures show. So I’m excited to see what it looks like eventually once all the construction is done.

The new King Abdullah Center for Oncology and Liver Disease (shown below) is where I’ll eventually be working, but it’s still being built and Inshallah we will be in it next year sometime! It will be amazing once it’s finished! 19 floors… all dedicated to cancer and liver disease…


So, enough about the hospital… and more about Saudi life…

One of the first days in Riyadh, the nurse volunteer group took us out to Lulu, a big supermarket here, to stock up on groceries. One thing I definitely did not think of before I left home, was how I’d need to set up my own home for the first time, and buy everything in a strange new country where not many of the brands are the same and supplies in general are quite different. Never mind trying to find the English label vs the Arabic labels! But it’s not so bad at all. It’s all part of the adventure!

Although I did a lot of reading about Saudi Arabia before I left, there is so much to learn still!! And so much that is so completely foreign and unfamiliar to us!!  I knew that the vast majority of men wear thobes (the white robes) and either the white or the red and white checked head covering, known as a ghutra or shemagh (not sure which it is yet and google was no help!) and women wear black abayas and generally wear a head covering called hijab… but nothing prepares you for being completely surrounded by people dressed like that!! It is a bit of a shock to the system. Raises some feelings of outrage that a country and religion mandates such  dress… and you can potentially feel oppressed by it…But then you get used to it. You realize that you don’t want to be the one person that stands out by dressing completely different. It’s always nice to have people notice you and to maybe take a second look, but not here! You don’t want to be stared at all the time! Plus, I think it is amazing that this culture mandates modesty!! North America could really take lessons!!

And then humorous situations arise… like the first time we ate at a food court in a mall, one of the girls went to grab a table as the women’s eating area was very crowded as it was nearly prayer time… when my friend and I attempted to find her, we realized that wasn’t the most brilliant idea we’d ever had. Trying to find your friend in a group of a couple hundred women all dressed in black, most of them covering their hair and faces also… very difficult!

Anyways. That’s it for this post. Just a bit of a blurb on my first week.

So many things to get used to…the heat probably being the most difficult thing to get used to actually!!! Coming from the very temperate climate of the west coast of Canada… this is a bit brutal some days. But fortunately there is a gorgeous pool in my housing complex and I thoroughly enjoy relaxing by it in the heat and sunshine after a day of orientation is over! Rest and relax and rejuvinate my brain 🙂

imageimageMore to come on my first night out in Saudi… stay tuned!!!


Love Annemarie

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