Let's Do It Right This Time....
coming home to Halifax in 1988, I decided to head out west to
Banff and work there for awhile before deciding seriously what to do
next. I inquired on who and where to contact the agency that was
responsible for recruiting people for the King Faisal Specialist
Hospital and Research Center. Back then, the recruiter was Hospital
Corporation International, part of Hospital Corporation America, which
was located in Nashville, Tennessee. Again, those long, warm summer days
of Riyadh became quite appealing again, as well as the prospect of
playing softball twice a year. More importantly, I knew the laboratory
at the King Faisal was big and up to date, and the salary was quite
good. I sent my resume off to Nashville. About three weeks later the
phone rings very early one Sunday morning around 5 A.M. The Hematology
supervisor and Lab Manager were on the phone and proceeded to do my
'interview' right then and there. Still half asleep, I managed to answer
their questions well enough because the following week, I received a
phone call from Nashville informing me my application had been approved.
Arriving in the mail was the same ton of paperwork that had to be filled
out, but it was a little easier the second time around. I sent off all
the completed documents and my new passport on to Nashville, and about
three weeks later, I received the plane ticket for Riyadh in the mail.
However, this time, I would be attending a two day orientation in
Nashville before flying off to JFK in New York, and then picking up the
Saudia flight to Riyadh. Flying to Nashville was a nice bonus. Once I
arrived there, I met up with the other 11 members of the group that
would be flying out the next day. A new group of people usually came out
of Nashville every month or so. The orientation that HCI gave us on
living and working in Saudi Arabia was quite thorough. Since I had been
before, it was not much new for me. After the day long orientation, the
group met together for a big meal at the hotel restaurant. We did not
have much time to look around, we did make it for some late afternoon
shopping. The members of the group become your first friends that you
make before heading off to Riyadh. Once you get there and get into your
own departments, you make new friends, but the group usually stays
pretty close for a while. In fact, my family and I are still in contact
with a very nice couple we met back in 1990 who were in our Nashville
group. We all decided to crash out early because we knew that the flight
the next day would be very long, and the thought of going through the
hell of immigration and baggage checking was in the backs of our minds.
But, it was nice leaving all together.
After the long journey, we landed later in Riyadh
after stopping in Jeddah to let people off the flight. While the airline
service has vastly improved now compared to back then, flying on Saudia
always proved to be an event. Unscheduled stops on long flights for
re-fueling, or stopping because there was a Prince or Princess on
the flight who wanted to stop in Paris or London to 'pick up a few
things' was always a possibility. The flights were never on time and
they always seemed to leave late. The service is much better now, but
alas, the cold beer is still absent from the refreshment carts.
Immigration and customs was as expected, taking
almost two hours to get through. Again, in the long lines beside us at
passport control were the people from India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh,
Pakistan and Sri Lanka, all looking like they could use about three good
meals. They had meager possessions, and they looked at us as if we came
from a different world, and I guess, we did. I'll never forget those
dark eyes hidden behind tense faces as they stared at me, watching my
every move. What were they thinking?
Finally through passport control and onto the
dreaded baggage check. I didn't bring as much stuff with me this time,
and I was ready. While I was waiting, in another line next to me,
Passport officials were rummaging through the luggage of a person from
the Philippines. There goes his bible, there goes a T-shirt with a
picture of a women's face on the front of it: RRRIIPPP and tossed in the
garbage. There goes his entertainment magazine he must have brought from
home, tossed in the can as well. Shoes were checked as well. Man oh man,
what an ordeal this is. I went through with less apprehension and was
finished quite quickly. (Baggage checking is less of strain now as X-ray
machines are being used on some flights to check bags instead of airing
out your underwear for everyone to see).
The group, looking quite tired and haggard,
gathered together, not saying much. The KFSH & RC human resources
person found us and we quickly loaded our stuff in the courtesy bus.
Since the hospital is located downtown, we had to endure the weekend
night traffic. Boy, what fun, those horns really come in handy. We were
dropped off at our housing. The single male housing was located about 20
minutes from the hospital, we were dropped off first. The married
housing was located across the street from the hospital at MCV and
single female housing was located on the hospital grounds. The single
male housing was pretty good with a large weight room and pool. Across
the busy street was a large shopping mall, and Pizza Hut was beside our
compound as well.
Next morning we took the hospital bus to the
hospital and re-grouped at Human resources. Another day and a half of
orientation and it was off to our separate departments. The laboratory
was exactly what I expected and I knew I had made the right decision to
return to Riyadh.
About a month later, I was sitting by the pool
drinking terrible home made wine that still had a yeasty taste with some
other guys from the compound, when our neighbor came over and told us the Iraq had invaded
Kuwait. (See my page on the Gulf War for a description of this
interesting part of my second tour.)
Again, I got into the routine of the work, made
new friends and played softball again, and the war didn't last too long,
things were fine. During the first thee years of my second tour, I took
some memorable vacations to Bangkok, Thailand, Cyprus and Israel, and to
In 1993 I met my future wife. She was also
working in the laboratory in specimen processing. We started 'dating'
which proved to be mostly talking on the phone and meeting for lunch at
the hospital restaurant. It was kind of okay to be seen with women while
on the hospital grounds. Going outside the hospital grounds was another
matter. Luckily for us, my wife's sister and husband were also working
at the hospital, so we could all meet together in their house for meals
and small parties. We decided to marry in the Philippines at her home
Now, you simply cannot
return to Riyadh with a new wife and go on as if nothing happened. That
would be too simple and nice. We had to get our marriage contract
authenticated and verified by various Philippine government agencies
which took about 4 days. I had to return alone to Riyadh to work, and also
begin the process and paperwork to apply for a visa for my wife to come
back to Riyadh. This took a lot of patience dealing with the hospital
passport office, but like all things in Saudi Arabia, finally, I
received the visa and my wife joined me a few months later.
We stayed in Riyadh another couple of years, in
that time, we had to go through more paperwork for my wife, this time
with the Canadian Embassy. We applied for her Landed Immigrant Visa,
received excellent help and cooperation from the embassy, and about 9
months later, we received her landed immigrant visa.
Once we got the visa, we had to land in Canada
within one year or lose the precious document. We decided to leave in
1995 and try our luck out in B.C.
While we were in Canada, our first child was born
in Chilliwack. On the job front, as all tech's in Canada know, the
middle 1990's were not good time for hospital workers, especially in our
field. Health care in Canada was undergoing major down sizing and
restructuring. Hospitals were closing, and jobs were scarce. I was able
to work as a casual tech and things were fine in the summer and fall.
However, once the crunch of winter came in February and March, shifts
were hard to get. I decided to phone up my old supervisor in
Riyadh at the King Faisal and see if I could come back. He said it
wouldn't be a problem which was good news. The bad news was that I would
have to go to Riyadh initially by myself, and apply for that special
dependent visa for my wife and daughter later after I finished my
probation. If I had been a medical doctor, or taking some sort of
managerial job, I could have brought my my and daughter with me.
We decided that my wife and daughter would go to
the Philippines and stay with her family while the visa papers were in
process. Again, second time around was easier, but the wait was the
This began our third, and final tour of Saudi