50 Shades of Homesickness

Two weeks in to my Kuwaiti adventure a contact of mine through work gave me some advice. She’d been living the expat life in Dubai and was originally from West London. It was nice to chat to someone outside of work who came from somewhere near home. She explained the newbie timeline. She warned me that the first month was a blur of meeting people and getting stuck in to work. The second month you’d feel like home and think moving was the best thing you’d ever done. The third month would bring on the completely irrational depression that is homesickness. You’d feel lonely, you’d miss your friends and family and you’d be making plans to get the hell outta the desert as fast as British Airways could take you. By the fourth month you’d accept that this was home now and you just had to knuckle down and get on with it. After that it really would be home. So much so that once you get back to the UK for a holiday you’d be itching to return to the smog, dust and dodgy tap water of the Middle East. I’ve now been here four months.

I debated writing this post as I know my mum will read it and get all upset that I struggled in month three as my contact said I would. So mother, don’t get so dramatic, I’m fine.

I’ve decided to write it as there’s truth in that timeline, as my flatmate proved this weekend when she announced she was ‘going out, and may be some time’. Thankfully Facebook informs me there wasn’t a suicidal undertone and I think she’s checked in to a spa to cheer herself up. I wish I’d thought of that. I just spent a couple of teary evenings thinking everyone hated me and crying my eyes out when my new friends tagged themselves somewhere online and hadn’t invited me. So I’ve written it in case any of your reading this are toying with the idea of the expat life, so that when you’re crying your eyes out for no reason other than you’ve run out of Pringles, you know this is completely normal behavior!

My homesickness was a combination of things. Mostly that some my old friends have dropped off radar. People that used to text, email and whatsapp all the time now do no more than click ‘like’ on Facebook statuses. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. But that’s completely bloody irrational thinking because I can’t remember the last time I messaged my Big Bro and I bet he’s not angry with me (might be if he’s had to take my old car to the garage again but that’s a long story). So it works both ways. I could message them and haven’t, so why expect it to be one way traffic?
Then I was missing my folks (mum, no crying). It was fine when they were 300 miles away as I could get in the car. I rarely did but the option was there. I found myself asking my dad for advice on which TV to get just to keep him on the phone one night. I know what damn TV to buy, whichever one is the cheapest! Then the bloody connection dropped out and I got upset. Again.

And then there were the new friends. You get told to accept every invite going when you first arrive and so I did. I fell in with a group of lovely girls but they were all a very close-knit group prior to my arrival. I don’t really do the big group of girls thing. Boys are far simpler and won’t slag you off behind your back. I started to question whether they actually liked me or were inviting me out through a sense of duty. So then I’d get paranoid when they didn’t invite me out. It felt like school again. Although at school I knew the girls didn’t like me as they told me often enough. I gave myself a talking to and started to be the one suggesting trips out. If they made excuses I had my answer. They didn’t. In fact one of them wandered round a mall on her own for an hour whilst I had my nails done just so we could have dinner after.

So month four has hit and my flights home are booked to see my friends and family, giving me something to look forward to. I have also taken the ‘sod you’ approach to the ‘do they or don’t they like me’ paranoia. If eventually they don’t then fine. I’m a great laugh so their loss! Besides, this lot wouldn’t have invited me to Dubai if they didn’t like me right?

It’s my flatmate that worries me. She’s not been here as long as I have so is only half way through month three. I can’t think of a way of cheering her up so I’ll have to wait until month four. If she ever gets back from that spa…


Thinking Money

I’ve started to think in Dinars. When I first came to Kuwait I would double the prices and add 20% to everything I bought but as time has gone on I have started to think in Kuwaiti Dinars, and it makes the UK very cheap. I earn near enough the same amount in KD as I did in Stirling so as a percentage of my income my rent and expenses arent considered extravagant. At 2.3 KDs to the Pound I have doubled my disposable income. Had I have been in the UK I would never have considered the rent on a one bedroom apartment being cheap at £850 a month. My UK mortgage is less than that!

I set myself a budget each month, like I did in the UK, however back home that budget ensured I could eat and drive. Over here I can eat, pay my driver, pay my cleaner and buy shoes and stay within budget. I’ve bought a lot of shoes. And two Chloe bags. But I’m coming home in September for a week and this is where thinking in KD has really got exciting. I’m coming home for the London Double Header at Twickenham Stadium. I haven’t missed that fixture in years and moving 3,000 miles wasn’t going to change that. Rather than get from Heathrow to home and back to Twickers 24 hours later I thought I’d stay at the Marriott at the stadium for two nights. When I looked at rooms a suite was only 50kd a night more than a twin room. I have quite a few mates to see that weekend and my Partner in Crime is joining me at the hotel. So, the thought of one room with possibly four bodies passing out in it made the suite and it’s bedroom and separate living room appealing. So my Titanium credit card came out and I booked the suite for two nights at around 200kd. The email confirmed the booking at £468. My old budget would have needed to save for 6 months for that. But it’s my holiday. And more than that it’s a gesture. Last year, when it was a toss up at month end whether to fill the car up or buy food I could always still have a night out because of my wonderful friends. From the PIC and the bottles of wine at the pub, Mr Always Right and the dinners or cocktails in London to Wizbit and Tubes turning up on my doorstep with prosecco before dragging me out for jaegers, I have always managed a social life because my friends are amazing. So, they have a bed for the night post game, they’ll be booze in the room and they’ll be jaegers at the bar. It’s not a conventional thank you but I think they deserve it, and it’s about time I repaid the favours!

Ps. Tubes, I know you can’t make the rugby but pork belly and prosecco are on me the week following.

A night at the theatre

Shopping and eating as a social life gets a bit tired so I jumped at the chance for a night at the theatre for something different to do. By ‘theatre’ I mean an am dram production of Grease but I was assured that it was an established theatre company and their last production was fabulous. So four of us parted with over £10 each and set off for a night of Pink Ladies and T Birds.

We set off after a pre theatre dinner and non alcoholic cocktail at Dean & Deluca and drove for what seemed like forever. The buildings fell away, the airport lights faded behind the car and the motorway stretched on. We finally arrived at a strange compound-type get-up in the arse end of beyond. Oil country. It was the Kuwait Petroleum Company’s offices/town and had the feeling of an RAF base with pre-fab offices and signs directing you to the ‘medical unit’ or ‘passport office’. We pulled up to a massive Anderson Shelter with Kuwait Little Theatre signage. I wasn’t expecting much but what looked like a World War Two bomb shelter was what I got. I fully expected Damn Vera Lynn to do the sound check.

We got our programmes (how professional) and took our seats in the stands (slightly tiered theatre seating) and waited for Grease to begin. I should have valued that few minutes of silence as I was soon aurally assaulted by what sounded like a drunk hen party sharing one mic at a karaoke. Grease is The Word being screamed out was the theme tune to what became the worst two hours of my life since landing.

Everyone knows the plot line to Grease. I’d count on most people being able to list at least three songs from Grease. The cast and Director have clearly never seen Grease and decided to loosely base their production on the plot line and chuck in a few songs no one knew for good measure.

There were a couple of glimmers of hope. The girl that played Jan was really good. Rizzo had the odd moment of brilliance when she acted alone. She couldn’t interact with anyone else but was great if this wasn’t required. Although the fact that most of the cast stumbled over their lines and repeatedly missed their cues wouldn’t have helped. Frenchie looked like Frenchie and for the first few scenes was actually a good likeness. Then she lost it. The T-birds were the funniest of all though. Danny, the ‘cool dude’ and supposed ‘heart throb’ of the show was a slightly tubby Irishman with very little charisma and one of this ‘hard’ group of leather jacket wearing ‘punks’ was so camp you thought it was a panto not a musical.

Thankfully you got the odd break to let your eyes and ears stop bleeding as between every scene was a five minute break to rearrange the minimal scenery. None of which added anything to the show. It gave something for Sandy to sit at whilst she missed the high school dance. You know, the dance she actually goes to in the film?

I am starting to get used to the censorship in this country. Even ‘Hello!’ magazine gets the odd picture blacked out. I do NOT expect an amateur production of Grease to get the same treatment. Greased Lightening is a well known song, it’s probably one of the ones every fan can sing along to. It does not contain the line ‘she’s a real dragon wagon’. It’s ‘pussy wagon’. The chicks won’t scream, they cream.

At the interval the two rows in front of us left and never came back. One of our party suggested we do the same but as painful as it was I was fully prepared to stick it out for the big finale. As there was no big car race it was interesting as to how they were going to engineer the final showdown but it happened. Sandy walked out in cheap, skintight leggings and a manky looking wig and approached Danny… ‘Tell me about it, stud’ being the line to lead in to the big final tune and…
I had never heard the song that then started up at that moment in my life. I was ready to throw things at the stage at this point. I had been robbed of the best moment of the show.

They did play it eventually. As an encore. Too little, too late.

Needless to say I won’t be returning to the arse end of beyond any time soon. Torture by amateur theatre in a dry country. At least if there was wine flowing I may have seen the funny side.

Quick little update

I’m off to a party tonight. I’m hoping that blogging my thoughts around this party will mean nothing exceptional happens and there won’t be anything worthy of a follow up post. It’s not the party itself that causes concern, it’s the potential attendees!

Firstly we have the married junior member of my department going. He has a tendency to stare at me. A lot. And took to calling me (from 3 desks away) to find out what I did/was doing at weekends. That was until I told him his behaviour was inappropriate as I was a manager and it stopped. But the staring didn’t. He also gave me a big wet smacker on the cheek on my birthday in full view of my colleagues. Not appropriate.

Next up with have the man from the date!! The date that didn’t deserve a write up on here as it lasted two hours and he never got in touch again. He did hand his notice in shortly after the date. I have messed dates up in the past but they have never caused the other party to leave the country afterwards (usually I want to leave the country afterwards).

Then we have Office Sugar Daddy. A while ago a female colleague started asking if I was single and was I looking to date. She was asking because someone from another floor had been fishing for information about me as he was quite interested. This was a month ago but she has renewed her efforts to play matchmaker and is insistent on a blind date. I looked him up on LinkedIn last week. He started secondary school the year I was born. If you are 12 years older than a girl I would expect you to have the ability to approach said girl yourself. Especially when you look like you’ve chatted up half the expat community previously. He’s been seen loitering near my office a lot this week and I think he winked at me in Starbucks last Thursday. Cringe! Also, as his age he’s bound to have children from a previous relationship. This is a deal breaker for me as I’m not convinced I want my own kids, let alone anyone else’s! I can’t stand the little buggers.

Next up we have Aussie Dave who spent the last embassy do (one I haven’t blogged about as nowt much happened and it was during the period of Internet darkness) telling me he could drown in my beautiful brown eyes. My eyes are blue. Quite obviously blue!

And if I can escape all of these men there is the one I DO want to bump in to. The object of my work crush. Shorter than I would normally go for (about 5 10) and blonde (I usually like my men like my coffee – hot, black, rich and strong) and looks rather hot in a suit. I see him everywhere and not had the chance to speak to him yet. Tonight could be the night.

So in my head this could turn in to a complete comedy of errors tonight. Or none of them turn up and I just party with the girls. We’ll see…

Spa Time

I had a birthday. My first birthday in Kuwait and I was expecting a very sober affair with no cards or presents seeing as I’ve not known my new friends for that long. I ended up having a BBQ for about 20 people and some of them I didn’t even know! It was a chance to bond with colleagues I’d not met outside of the office and take advantage of the roof top pool terrace on a toasty warm evening. I can also confirm the swimming pool is still warm at 3am. And I got presents! Perfume, smellies, lots of cards and a voucher for a Thai spa.

So, the day after the BBQ myself and my flatmate dragged ourselves off for lunch and a spa treatment. I have only ever had a facial at a Bannantynes Spa so forgive my ignorance but I was not expecting what I got. After robing up I was taken in to a darkened room and told to sit on a chair and place my feet in a bucket of water. The Therapist then proceeded to wash my feet. You may not think this odd but I cannot stand people touching my toes so as she grabbed my piggies and scrubbed between them with a flannel I nearly shot through the ornately carved ceiling screaming the place down. The ordeal over with I was told to de-robe and get on the bed. The facial then went as expected, until my legs got involved. I expected the Therapist to stay the head end of the table, it being a facial after all, but she moved down the other end. My feet were moved to the outer corners of the bed making me feel slightly like a starfish and she proceeded to climb on the bed between my feet, spread my legs and push in to my knees. I’m sure I heard one click. She continued to pound my legs for a little bit, then press down on my stomache. It was a relief when she finally jumped off the bed and returned to my face. After the many lotions, potions and creams had been rubbed in to my face she asked me to sit up. She was back up on the table again slapping my back, wrenching at my shoulders and fluffing up my hair. My head was then thrust towards my knees and I fully expected her to climb on for a piggy back. Then I was told to get dressed. I was slightly bewildered but very relaxed and my skin felt amazing. I was lead to another darkened room, trussed up like a roast chicken with blankets and hot pads around my shoulders and across my lower back and left with tea and slightly salty apple slices. My flatmate was cocooned next to me and we got the giggles. When we couldn’t take it any longer we escaped to get dressed and erupted in to laughter, but agreeing it was a relaxing hour away from the craziness of Kuwait. I think I might go back soon. If that’s what a 60 minute facial gets you I want to see if they’ll tap dance on my back during a 90 minute massage!

Medicals Kuwait Style

The final leg of my residency process was to get checked out medically to ensure I don’t start spreading diseases. I managed to bypass this bit in the UK thankfully as it would have cost me a day on Harley Street and set me back a few hundred quid. Turns out though that even if you DO spend the cash having a nice clean private clinic do it you’ll still have to go through one Kuwaiti style just to be sure!

So one afternoon it was all aboard the fun bus from work. Bigger than a mini bus, smaller then a coach, no air con and curtains closed. I was one of only four women out of 40 and the men folk kept joking that we were off to be sold in to slavery. As we couldn’t see the route but appeared to be heading towards the port I was more worried about bring secretly deported. We arrive to a large shack-like tin building full of ordered chaos. It looked like half the population had been sat there hours and their despondent looks didn’t fill us with much faith. The ‘PR Agent’ that had been sent with us handed us each a numbered ticket and made us sit in number order at the far side of a large hall. This was starting to feel like the school trip from hell. Thankfully the Wasta our Agent had meant our numbers were called quite quickly and in turns we handed our papers over to a bored looking Kuwaiti behind a glass screen. A lot of typing, stamping and what looked like a sticker being placed in our passports and a quick photo via a web cam on the desk and we were one by one pointed towards a door at the end of the room. A man shouted ‘room 21’ at me and I set off down a corridor of unnumbered doors. When I turned a corner I found a queue of my colleagues at a door with a hand written 21 sign on it. They told me that so far any females got to queue jump. Fantastic. So I went through the door to what looked like a very old classroom. A man made me stand against the wall. On the far side a man and a women were taking blood. When the woman became free I was pushed over to her. I smiled and said hello and she didn’t even look up, just grabbed at my papers. After some huffing she looked up:
‘Where is your agent? No blood. Get your agent’
And she signalled for the next person. I walked back past my colleagues slightly panicked and had them all worried and went in search of our Agent. I finally found him still directing the school trip in the hall and explained that the nurse wouldn’t take my blood. So we traipse back down and the nurse explains something to him in Arabic. He says ‘come’ at me and we set off back to the hall. I ask what’s wrong and he shrugs, ‘they wrote your passport number wrong’. Great, so that’s all it was. I was starting to think my visa was up or something and I wasn’t going to be processed!

So clerical error sorted and I’m back in the room. I watched the nurse change her needle (the place was filthy so it was worth checking) and she attempts to find a vein. This is not easy on me. I’m not sure if it’s down to the many blood tests in my adult life or the fact my veins spot a needle and hide but after slapping me about on both arms she finds one. I expect this to be painful as it can be after a struggle to find one. Not so much as a scratch and I see a vial fill up with blood. She applies cotton wool and a plaster to my arm and the agent shouts ‘bus’ at me. Back on the bus then please?

All back on the bus and my arm still bleeding (you may struggle to get blood but when you do I tend to bleed a while) it’s off to the chest X-ray clinic. Or a large sandy coloured building that looked like it barely survived the invasion.

More queues but us four girls were pushed to the front by our Agent. More paperwork scrutiny and computer typing and we’re sent down a corridor to a changing room and handed gowns that were a cross between a full length shirt and a Guantanamo Bay uniform. A woman gestures around her neck and mimes taking off her clothes. My colleagues look confused. I don’t. You see, I had a summer job once working at Heathrow in the TB screening clinic. Believe it or not the UK used to screen immigrants for TB. That was until the last Government decided TB wasn’t worth the money and cut the funding. But politics aside, I know the score.
‘Undress to the waist including your bra, necklaces off, gown on, hair up’ I inform my colleagues. Woman handing out the gowns smiles and nods emphatically. Shoved in to an X-ray machine and told to breath deep and I’m done.
One more stop for the fun bus.

After a tin hut and a stone pre-war ‘clinic’ I was expecting nothing. Our next stop is 20 minutes drive away and sees us pushed in to a lift in groups of 10. As the lift opens we see a modern, clean, bright white reception. One by one we’re taken in to a room, sat on a dentists chair and have our finger pricked. Blood type established and we’re told we are free to go.

But we have no idea where in the country we are. Some choose to get the bus back but myself, a Scottish girl and a Greek man take our chances on a cab. First driver says he won’t go to our district, making us wonder how far out we are. We find another and are all taken safely home in half an hour. It took four hours but medicals done. Now I just have to hope I’m disease free and they’ll let me stay!!

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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