Monthly Archives: April 2013

British Embassy and Blagging Drinks

Dodgy camel-piss vodka aside I have been booze free for two months, so when I got an email from a friend to say the Saracens Rugby Club Ball at The British Embassy tickets were on sale I jumped at the chance. Even if it was the wrong club for a Wasps fan to associate with, the call of British soil and the alcohol acceptance which that brings about was too strong to ignore. So, Friday night the black dress and heels got dusted off and the girls and I hit the town.

No phones or cameras were allowed past security so unfortunately I have no lasting images of the beautiful garden setting, and couldn’t tweet ‘hilarious’ drunken comments during the speeches. Any South African rugby coach with an association to Sarries that admits, albeit as a joke, to paying referees deserved a tweet or two!

Thankfully during the tedious speeches there was a three course meal and wine rationing. You see, to avoid 150 drunken Brits emptying out on to the streets of Kuwait City at 1am they ration the drinks. Six vouchers on arrival and then you could exchange your ticket for a further three after 10.30. This isn’t a problem in itself. Nine drinks after two dry months should be plenty. But I have espresso mugs that carry more liquid than a 125ml wine glass. Seriously, 125ml is not a drink, it’s a mixer. So after 20 minutes and I’m on glass number two with four hours to go I envisage a problem. On drink order number three I smile sweetly at the Indian man behind the bar and ask if he can just pretend to stamp my card. He says no, I laugh and tell him it was worth a try. On drink number four I hand over an unstamped card to the same bar man. He stamps my card and with a slight of hand Paul Daniels would have been impressed with, slides a full unstamped card of three drinks under the stamped one and hands both back to me. Result!

So, safe in the knowledge I can stop switching between water and wine I toddle off to network. And sing. I may have sung ‘Stand up, for London Wasps’ very loudly over the ridiculous Saracens song. That’ll be the wine’s fault, not mine!

Later on, after being dragged on the dancefloor, I escape to the toilets. These are accessed down a pathway and through a courtyard. On my way back to the party a young man compliments me on my walk. This causes me to stop and laugh. He insists he’s serious, and that I walk like a supermodel. I thanked him and explained the focus on putting one foot in front of the other in such a definate way was more about thin heels, soft ground and several wines. If I didn’t walk with purpose my heels would sink in and I’d fall over. Falling over is a trick my UK friends can vouch for. So we chat for a bit longer, the ice having been broken by my walk, and end up discussing rugby. I forgave him for being a Saints fan, he congratulated me on having a good season and then his friend signalled that they were leaving. He laughs and says this is the moment he should ask for my number but neither of us had a phone. I laugh and say he knows my name and where I work so if he’s interested he’ll find me. At this I kiss him on the cheek and stride off.

08.02am Sunday morning… Work email pops up:

‘Are you free for dinner on Wednesday?’

Now I just have to remember what he looked like. Bloody wine.

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Blogging from the back of the cab

Kuwait is one of the richest economies in the world. It’s infrastructure however, sucks! No pavements, the tap water comes out sandy and first (and gives you the shits) and the Internet seems to allow a third of the population on at any one time. It appears April wasn’t my turn. So, thanks to the WordPress app I can kill time on the cab ride to work by blogging and then when the powers that be decide it is my turn to be online I can post!
So here’s a catch up:

I’ve moved. Twice. I’m in my third month here and on apartment number three. My first lease was only for 2 months and I hated the area. There was nothing to walk to, my friends lived a cab ride away and I got stared at. A lot! So I put a deposit down on a one bedroom place in the same building as four of my new friends. Unfortunately for me the apartment was still being finished inside and when it came to moving day I was informed it wouldn’t be ready and I could borrow the show flat for a few week. So, myself and another friend (who is also waiting on a one bed in the building) packed all our wordly belongings in to cabs and moved in to the massive show flat. The place was huge and looked like a footballers wife had thrown up in it. It even had black and grey swirly carpet. Carpet is unheard of here so whoever fitted it wasn’t trained. They cut the rough size and glued it down. The electrics were a joke and the air con could turn the TV off.

We were supposed to be there, rent free, until 5th May. It was quite a surprise therefore when at 9pm on a Wednesday night we had a letter to tell us to move out on the Saturday. Well that wasn’t happening. I went off on the Thursday night to flat hunt (my flat mate was in Dubai). I found nothing. So, we figured things would resolve themselves and we weren’t going to move. Lucky for us that during this time a furnished, two bedroom apartment became free! So, Saturday was spent loading all our belongings in to a lift, descending two floors and then dragging them along the corridor. We don’t know when our two one bedrooms flats will be finished but at least we still have a roof over our heads and only have to descend another five floors when we do move in to apartment number four.

I also had the date. All two hours of it. I’m still not quite sure what I did wrong and why he didn’t text again but as I wasn’t that fussed by him anyway it makes no difference. I was just glad for a free meal out seeing as our oven didn’t work!

Most importantly though I had my medicals. The medical should be the last stage of my residency process, but that’s a blog all of its own!

No More Tears

It’s been a well-documented fact amongst my friends and Twitter followers that I detested my last job. I’d lost all respect for my boss, known as Boss Man to my Twitter followers. They read daily updates on his belching, nose picking, writing emails whilst driving, making me car sick with erratic acceleration and generally speaking to me like an idiot. I was convinced I was going to die in a Volvo during office hours. The speaking to me like I was stupid pissed me off the most though. A graduate with 9 years industry experience, 7 of which were spent keeping his damn company afloat, were ignored. I could write a series of blog posts on that man but I won’t waste your time. I will admit that it had got so bad I’d worked out what the minimum salary I could live on was and applied for entry level jobs in other industries to get away. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I cried either at work or on the drive home, not to mention the days I called in sick and was made to feel like I was lying and told to come in. Coughing up blood because you’ve ignored a chest infection? Well you have antibiotics now so what time will you be in?

One of the steps to getting my new job was a psychometric test on current perceptions of my work and ability. For once I was honest with my answers, despite knowing it could hold me back. When I met the person who is now Boss Lady she told me the results nearly meant I wasn’t shortlisted. I was depressed, demotivated and stagnant. But from talking to me on several occasions she got the feeling there was more to the results. So she flew me out to Kuwait for rounds of interviews. I don’t know what all my feedback was but I know the Head of All Things Marketing loved me!

Two months in to the job and I enjoy being at work. I’m surrounded by colleagues I like and I’m being mentally stimulated like never before. My old company used to like running events for staff, or ‘enforced fun’ as I titled them. I told bare-faced lies to escape them. Especially bowling night.

I went bowling with my team last week. It was great fun.

Boss Lady beats Boss Man hands down. I’m pretty sure if confronted with him she’d outsmart him in seconds and then beat him to death with a YSL peep toe stiletto. But I don’t just have shoe envy of this woman, I have the thirst to learn from her and wring as much out of this opportunity as possible. She’s not only given me a chance but she’s taking a chance on me. I’m setting up an entire department from scratch within her division.

But Boss Lady nearly made me cry today. We had our weekly catch up and she interrupted me…
To tell me she was so happy I was there and was amazed by the impact I have already made. It’s been noticed by other departments that I am there and making a difference and she’s got great reports from people. I knew this woman had eyes everywhere but seems she has spies too! But for the first time in my professional life someone gave me massive positive encouragement and recognised my achievements. And that only spurs me on to do more.
So I nearly cried. But I didn’t, because I have my confidence back. Now I just need the power shoes to go with it. And now I take home double what I did in the UK I can afford them.

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First Steps to Residency

The slightly ‘alternative’ way I came to be in Kuwait quickly has meant a long winded process now I’m here.

The standard procedure when moving here for work is to go down the NOC route involving getting a criminal records check and medical done at great expense and then having all bits of paper stamped at the embassy in Knightsbridge. This can take 8-12 weeks I hear. I was on the plane within 6 weeks of being offered the job. How? Well I skipped the NOC and its pricey trip to Harley Street and came in on a Commercial Visit Visa. So I rocked up with the criminal record certificate, a visa and a return flight home booked for March. Once in country my company would then convert my ‘visit’ to a permanent arrangement and my flight would be cancelled. Unfortunately, despite my company having permission for me to do this (as I’m the only person in the company that does my job therefore I’m indispensable and was needed immediately) many other firms didn’t. So the Government decided to ban all transfers of Commercial Visit to Work visas. Leaving me in limbo.

It’s taken 8 weeks and it looks like the ball is finally rolling to sort out my residency. The biggest benefit to having residency for most people is the health care. I have private cover. The biggest benefit to me is getting my passport back. I last saw my passport on 17th February when I handed it in to start the process. Then the ban happened. My poor passport was then relegated to a drawer. If I left the country my visit visa would end, so I didn’t need the passport. But the lack of end in sight to the situation has made it hard to make plans in the future. I need to travel for work, but more importantly I have a very important game of rugby at Twickenham to watch in September.

But last night I got the email. ‘Please be ready for your finger printing appointment on Monday morning’. Finally!

To get anything done quickly in this country you need Wasta (clout/influence). I was collected from the office by Wasta Woman herself. A member of a very powerful family in Kuwait, this woman assured me that with her on my case I will be processed very quickly. And boy was I!

After driving me through downtown Kuwait pointing out landmarks on the way, we arrive at a car park (these are dry, sandy squares of land littered with rubbish and stray cats that people abandon cars on). She leads me down a parade of toy shops and in the middle of them all is a tinted glass door. We enter and there are people queuing up the stairs. No queuing for Wasta Woman. She pushes me past everyone, thrusts my paperwork at a uniformed officer, grabs my finger and presses it on a sensor. I’m then pushed towards another door and told to sit. In the corner of the room is an old lady making a rug and listening to what sounded a bit like an Arabic version of the Archers on the radio. She smiles a toothy grin at me and points to a rug-like piece of artwork on the wall. Her handiwork I’m guessing. At the far side of the room a tiny Philippino girl is having her fingerprints registered on a machine. She seems terrified by the woman in full hijab who is shouting at her to relax and grabbing her wrists. On seeing me the Philippino is sent to sit down and I am ushered forward. From my brief observation I know to dry my hands and relax. Prints done, what I assume from her eyes was a smile from the clerk and I’m dragged off by Wasta Woman and am suddenly back in the car whizzing back towards the office. Wasta Woman gives me more of a tour on the way back and explains that the massive pick up truck we’re in is her work car, her real cars are a Ferrari Modena and a Morris Minor.

An hour after I arrived at work I am back at my desk slightly bewildered. But part one is finally done.

Medicals next. Some how I don’t think that will be as quick…

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