These past few weeks have been quite busy so there are a few updates, including understanding what the 4 week countdown is.
DRIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA
The last blog update ended with me about to get my drivers license. The next week I decided that I should rent a car. The first 2 places wouldn't rent to me since I didn't have my Saudi drivers license, but the 3rd didn't care so I rented the only vehicle they had left - a Hyundai Accent.
Yes, aren't I smart! Crazy drivers everywhere and I venture out in the smallest car I could find. And it had bald tires. One thing about renting vehicles here - they don't come filled up with gas or any kind of fluids.
Anyways, I took it safely and managed OK with the baby car.
I now have my Saudi license and since I'm driving 50km to work, I upgraded and now have a 2015 Honda Accord which gives me a much bigger level of comfort when driving.
These drivers are insane. At any given time, you'll find someone going 180km per hour+ and also see a 3 lane highway turned into 5...just because they want to drive aggressively.
FYI - I'm waiting until July 10th, which is my 3 months here and the bank will give an interest free loan of up to 1,000,000 Saudi Riyals, which is about $350K Canadian. Then I'll scoop up an SUV for us. Looking at either a Jeep Grand Cherokee or the Range Rover Evoque that I've drooled over since I first saw it.
OK, so the 4 week update? Lisa will be here on June 27th!!!
Her mom is visiting right now and has been super helpful with the home preparation and buying some stuff for us to bring over. Shane, Dennis, Rob, and Peter are coming to get stuff this weekend. The movers pack everything June 6th into 2 shipments - 1 comes by air in 2-3 weeks and 1 comes by sea in 4-5 months (must be doing a few laps around the world!). Lisa is officially out of the house on June 10th. Our great friends Avi & Michele have offered up a room in their home for Lisa to stay (on top of lending us their car now for the past few months). Lisa and Charlie will fly from Calgary to Amsterdam on June 26th and arrive here on the 27th. I am taking the 28th off to show her around.
Here's what had to be done to get Lisa over...crazy story!
I needed to fill in 8 or 9 documents and also get my university degree and our marriage license translated into Arabic. It takes about 3-4 weeks then to get a 'yellow slip' needed for Lisa's visa.
When I asked if there was any way to get it sooner, he said I could take it to the visa office myself. I drove in last week (Sunday AM) and filled the printout of google maps that had the red arrow to go to and no address. I didn't even know the name of the building I was looking for. After parking at the red arrow, I asked a Saudi guy and he pointed me in the right direction. I went in and found out that the appointment was made for the wrong reason and was told to go home and make a new appointment. I begged and pleaded that I couldn't and needed their help. He told me go into the next room and speak with the guy behind the glass wall. He told me to go home and set up an appointment for 1:30 that afternoon. Again, I begged and pleaded and he told me to sit down. 45 minutes later 2 security guards came and took me upstairs, one on either side. We went down a dark hallway and I thought "this is either going to end well or maybe not so much!". I went into the room and a very friendly guy signed my papers and send me downstairs to the guy behind the glass. Here is Lisa's visa that allows her to enter Saudi Arabia. Yes - once again, the hardest country in the world to get into!!
My supervisor came in and told me I hadn't booked any vacations for this year. To be honest, I didn't think I qualified for any since I was new. I guess I get some vacations that are pro-rated since I'm here for 75% of the year.
I quickly called Lisa and booked up the following:
June 28 - hang out with Lisa day
July 5-9 - not sure we can go anywhere for this one since Ramadan is still on and Lisa will need to get her Iqama and entry/exit visa before she can leave the country.
Sept.9-17 - Italy maybe?
Oct 17-24 - Island of Crete in Greece maybe?
Nov 21-26 - might go to one of 2 islands off of Africa (Maldives or Seychelles)?
We'll plan our strategy when Lisa gets here, as she will be the official travel researcher.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are options too.
That means that 15 days carry over into 2017 as well.
2 trips for sure that we'll do:
1. T&A 2017 - will discuss with the executive team this July and determine timing and location...Stay Tuned!! It should be Feb or March and either Dominican or Jamaica.
2. Repatriation trip - they pay for our flights and spending money back home - probably July ... Maybe a Whitefish reunion??
The weather is getting warmer, averaging around 40-42 Celcius this week.
Apparently, Lisa will be arriving right when it gets crazy hot (50 degrees+) and humid.
WHAT ELSE HAS BEEN HAPPENING?
I spent the last couple weeks getting some basics for our new place. You'll see some pics and videos of the new place below, as well as a few random pics...
Not sure what is up with the yellow cupboards...but they sure do brighten up the kitchen - maybe a new trend???
How about the storage space in the bedrooms? Wow! A hoarder's dream!
Hope you like the sunglasses welcome mat outside the door - T&A Sunglasses Club, baby!!!
Here's the walkway up to our place...not what you'd expect for Saudi Arabia
Here's a walk through of the new pad
Video of the main pool with outdoor cooking area
Work has been going great! Amazing team and culture. I and now fully certified on my first course, which is a 3 day course called Needs-Based Conversations put out by a company called Achieve Global. We are modifying it into a 2 day course and tweaking the name to Motivating Employees and I will be the first one doing that class.
During Ramadan, I'll be attending a Ken Blanchard course called Situational Leadership and will be certified to teach it.
In August and September, I'll be getting certified in a couple Covey courses.
Speaking of Covey, a very cool story...
I'm sure you've heard of the late Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Well, his son (Stephen M.R. Covey) wrote a book called "Speed of Trust" and runs the company now. He came to visit our Leadership Center and spoke on his book for an hour and a half. Then I sat at a table with him for lunch and heard some great stories. That afternoon, he sat with our team for about an hour and then signed his book. Pretty amazing, as he and his dad are legendary in the leadership development world!
TIME TO GO...
OK, I'm going to head back to the house to get the router and computer set up. Tomorrow's the 3rd day of our long weekend and I suppose I better see how the pool is feeling.
Hope everyone's doing well.
It's been almost 2 weeks since the last update and I've received many questions wondering where the updates are. Here you go.
Before I jump in, I just want to share my wishes and thoughts for all of the people from Fort McMurray who have had such a devastating week. Makes me feel VERY proud to be a Canadian to see the way everyone has rallied around them to show support.
Also makes you feel very lucky and privileged to have the life you have. Respect.
MORE NICE PEOPLE
Remember Darien, the Canadian expat I met at the golf course in week 1? Well, she tracked me down at the Leadership Center where I work. She said they were going to the US for 2 weeks for her son's graduation from Duke University. She wanted to know if I wanted to stay at their beachfront home for 2 weeks while they were gone. Unbelievable!
Many of you may have seen a post the other day on Facebook about the cat feeder. Thought I'd share it again in case you hadn't seen it.
I'm walking to work between 5:30 and 6 the other day and a red truck pulls up. A Saudi guy hops out, shakes his Rubbermaid container and 3 cats come running to him. He leaves 3 piles of cat food for them and says he does it every day, hoping "to make their day". Good work!!
UPDATES ON OUR MOVE
A few things have been going on with our move process:
- Lisa flew to Houston for here medical, as that needs to be done prior to coming. Now I need to figure out what else has to be done to get Lisa here. Saudi really is the hardest country in the world to get into.
- we landed on the Zamil Village compound and will move in June 1st. Pretty solid deal - company pays for the place, as well as water, electrical, cable, and Internet. Here are the pics again
I should have my drivers license this week - pretty funny story about the eye test at the hospital - they were closing at 4PM and it was about 3:58 ... Checked my left eye - all good. Kept rushing and said cover your left eye - tested my right eye with the biggest letter and they said, "OK, all good" and stamped the form. Nice!
Next step will be to get a vehicle. Then the adventure begins. I've seen crazy drivers and for those of you who've see Dominican drivers, these guys are waaaaaay worse! Not sure if I've shared this but Saudi averages 20 traffic fatalities a day. And that's people dying at the scene. It's over 40 if you count people that die after the accident. Jesus! Going to buy a solid SUV!
Our Calgary lawyer emailed me the home sale papers so I could get them signed by a notary public. This was quite a gong show. Cabbed to the lawyer here and showed up about 8:30. They said the notary wasn't here until 10. OK, what do we do ... One guys says he will sign the witness part. Another guy shows up with a fancy looking box and they stamp the papers. Then the 2nd guy takes my papers and leaves. Shows up 2-3 minutes later and they are miraculously signed. OK, pay the $250US and don't ask any questions. Papers are now en route to Canada via the courier. Saudi law!
Work has been absolutely amazing. Working with a bunch of professionals and developing future leaders here is exactly what I love doing. Had my first work test this week, doing "C1" or "Certification 1". Prepped hard and nailed it so I'm on to my 2nd certification this week. I should be fully certified for course 1 of 7 within 3 weeks, right before Ramadan, which is when everything kind of grinds to a halt here...more on that in a future update
I took a walk into the neighbouring town Rahima the other night. Had some killer chicken shawarma and wandered around. Quite a mix of Saudi, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Philipino there. Interesting thing - there is 'man street' and 'woman street'. You can go onto either one but man street is all men's clothing, hardware, and electronics. Woman street is ladies clothing, perfumes, and jewelry. No stereotyping there. Wonder where the 'in betweens' go? Here are some pics of Rahima...not the prettiest place I've seen. Many areas look like scenes from Hollywood movies like American Sniper.
CINCO DE MAYO PARTY
Last Thursday, one of my co-workers invited me to a Mexican party for the May 5th Cinco de Mayo party.
This was incredible. There's a family on the compound (he's German, she's Mexican) who has a Mexican party EVERY Thursday. We get there and they have pop and monitor mix, fresh tortillas, pick, salsa, guacamole. Then you order chicken or beef fajitas and sit outside.
There is a microphone stand and a guitar - people come and sit around, playing music. It was a very cool experience. Remind me to tell you about 'sid' or 'sidiqui' when I see you - this is not the place to discuss it. Here are some pics...
WHY IS BAHRAIN INSANE?
I received my Iquama 2 weeks ago and then applied for my multiple entry Visa, which means I can leave and return to Saudi...which means I can venture over the 25km causeway (bridge) to Bahrain.
I didn't know what to expect except that many people (including Saudis) go over there on weekends to do B&B. BOOZE & BACON.
Pork and Alcohol are allowed there. So are many others things!
It is a beautiful island with unbelievable architecture, as seen in pics below.
The malls are amazing and they have movie theatres (which are banned in Saudi). In fact, many people go to Bahrain for a day for a beer, to get pork, and then to watch a movie and come home.
I went not Bahrain last weekend for the day - a day bus was $10US return. It was so good, I went back this weekend and stayed overnight. On the way in, I saw a camel farm right in the city - pretty cool.
Bahrain is supposed to have the highest concentration of prostitutes in the world, making Bangkok and Amserdam look like nothing. Many massage parlours. I ran into an Irish guy in JJ's Irish Bar and he said it's for 2 reasons...there's MANY Saudi's who come over for the adventure and also there's a US Naval Base in Bahrain.
But the craziest thing I have seen here is pretty cool and I can't wait to go to one when Lisa gets here - it's a Friday Brunch.
Yes, we have brunch in Canada, but this is different...
Every hotel puts on "Friday Brunch" from `` or noon Friday until 4 or 5. They're brunches are unreal - you name the food...every dessert imaginable, stir fry, pasta, every type of meat and seafood....it truly is crazy. They charge anywhere from $30-75 each. But the kicker is that they include alcohol. All you want!!
They all have DJ's or bands playing music. People go around and bring you any booze you want.
Yesterday, there were people dancing on tables, dancing by the pool. It truly was a sight to see!!
Anyways, here are some pics of Bahrain...
OK, I'm back in Saudi now. At the mall for some shopping before I head back to the compound.
Until next time, stay safe and keep in touch!
All posts are updated by Jeff & Lisa