Saturday, 28 May 2011

Delays and other job offers

I ended my last entry by noting the inefficiencies of Saudi bureaucracy--the HR interviewer of a potential employer who didn't let me know he was rescheduling our Skype interview. Well, I ended up receiving an offer to teach English with that particular company (a private English school in Jeddah), but I think I'm going to wait and see if something more lucrative comes up. (Although I did negotiate the salary he was willing to offer and he bumped up his original offer quite substantially!) I have been a bit annoyed with the university that offered me a job: they won't process my application or make an "official" offer until I actually have my physical degree in hand...and that could be some time, even though I'll be finished my master's degree within a month. I'm trying to be positive about it though, and use this as a learning opportunity that will prepare me for the way Saudis run things. I will undoubtedly run more and more into this kind of bureaucratic red tape before arriving!

This morning, I had a phone call from another university in Riyadh (I'm intentionally leaving out potential employer names right now for anonymity). It was 8am (on a Saturday!), and the director apologized for the early call. Ends up he is from the US, which is really a positive. Westerners have a more familiar way of running things, and I would imagine this would tie into the way (and efficiency with which) my application is processed. I'm consciously trying not to say we have a *better* system because everything I read about effectively adjusting to a new culture emphasizes the importance of being *open* to change and differences. That said, I do think working for an American boss would make the transition to KSA smoother. 
Downtown Riyadh, KSA
The job sounds fantastic, the pay is more than excellent; in fact, we would save nearly twice as much as if we both worked at the university in Jeddah! But there's the catch: the job isn't in Jeddah and that is where my fiancé has settled in. . . and where I've been researching things to do, places to see, cultural traditions. I feel like I already know Jeddah. When my fiancé first moved to KSA and mentioned a possible transfer to Riyadh I was terrified of that possibility. At that point, I knew so little about KSA in general that the thought of him moving to the ultraconservative capital was more than I could handle! The more I learn and read about the country, though--and notably, all this reading is NOT from biased Western sources (more on that in another entry!)--the more open I begin feeling, and comfortable I slowly become with difference. That said, I'm not sure if I'm very informed about Riyadh culture in relation to Jeddah...and I have been looking forward to living in proximity to the Red Sea! 

Also, if we move to Riyadh, my fiancé would have to find a different job. He's already comfortable working at the university where he currently is, and I guess we'll have to have a lot of discussion about which place is the best for both of us. 
Eastern Saudi Arabia - close to fun gulf counties!
On a more positive note about Riyadh, it is super close to Kuwait, where my fiancé and I enjoyed some time this past February, and where a dear friend of mine and her husband will be (probably a 5 or 6 hour drive). It's also close to Bahrain, where many Westerners go for weekends where there is more freedom (there, women don't have to wear the abaya [the long black cloak we must wear in public in KSA], and there are movie theatres, and men and women can mix more freely). Also, Riyadh is closer to Dubai, where we'd love to visit!

I'm going to end for now with a bit of a Carrie Bradshaw-like musing (I can just hear her say this in Sex and the City lol): what is ultimately more important--money, or familiarity and comfort?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Jeddah on my mind...

Welcome to "Pink Jeddah Sunset!"
I'm writing this evening to give a bit of background on this blog, my reasons for writing, and some quick facts about where I'm moving with my husband-to-be this fall: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (KSA). I've decided to call the blog "Pink Jeddah Sunset" because I love pink (really, I LOVE it!) and, well, Jeddah is self-explanatory! One of the things I'm very much looking forward to about being there is being able to walk along the corniche by the Red Sea at sunset, so there you go! 
Jeddah Corniche
Why Jeddah?
As I mentioned in my previous post, my fiancé is currently working in Jeddah. Jeddah is a the second largest city in KSA and is located on the Red Sea. It's the most liberal cosmopolitan city in Saudi Arabia because of its ports, which seem to have opened it up more to the West than other more conservative cities. It's been called the "Vegas" of Saudi Arabia, but I am well aware that is a VERY relative thing!!! 
Map of Saudi Arabia * Jeddah
My soon to be husband has been in Jeddah since October 2009, and we've been engaged long distance since last February. He'll be back in Canada for the summer and we're getting married on July 22 before moving to Jeddah together at the beginning of September, Inshallah (Arabic for "God willing," as the Arabs say!) We're super excited to finally be together again (we dated in Toronto, Canada for a year and half before he moved abroad). This subject, our move to KSA, is the real subject of my blog and the reason I thought I would start one! Since I'll be on the other side of the world, I figured "Pink Jeddah Sunset" would be a nice way to share my / our experiences in the Middle East with friends and family back home in Canada. 

A bit of background on us and KSA
I am in the process of sorting out a job at a Jeddah university to teach English (and put my master's degree in English to some use). While my husband-to-be works in the men's branch of the same university, I would be teaching in the ladies' branch. You see, if you're not familiar with Saudi Arabia, this may be a surprise: everything is segregated--from high schools, universities, restaurants, coffee shops, etc, etc! There are religious police, called the "muttawa" who enforce the gender segregation. Jeddah, though, from what I hear and have so far learned, is more laid back. I'm not completely sure what to expect, but I'm not too concerned. As a married woman (wow, that feels so cool to say...since we'll be married when we go) my husband and I will be in the family section of restaurants and other places that enforce the gender division. For now, since he's there alone, when he goes out to a restaurant, he has to go into the single men's section. Apparently the mall security even monitors who can enter malls. The amazingly luxurious, spacious, theme-park shopping centres are one of the few places that single woman can roam free from single men. Married men, as long as they're with their wives, generally have no trouble getting into the malls though. So we should be doing lots of shopping! lol
McDonalds: family section; single men's section
At the moment, other than trying to finish my MA before our wedding, I'm working like crazy to make all the wedding plans perfect. I'm also about to start figuring out how to bring my cat, Oreo aka Ophelius, along to Jeddah. I can't bear to leave him here and not see him, and I'm anticipating a wild adjustment when we move. It would be nice to have Oreo with us for the time we're abroad. So, in addition to all the paperwork for my moving to KSA, Oreo will need what I'm sure will be lots of his own documents and health checks. *fingers crossed* that it will all work out... but in KSA, nothing goes smoothly. I even had an interview where the head of HR took a "day off" and didn't bother to let me know we'd have to reschedule the interview. My fiancé took that story as an opportunity to "welcome" me to Saudi Arabia: this is how things are done! 

Our Wedding Website

Well, this is my first post to the blog! How exciting! Somehow, I'm not surprised that I'm writing as a procrastination strategy from some research I'm supposed to be doing. I'm in the midst of writing a chapter on the Renaissance boy actor in productions of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Once I finish this in June I will be DONE my master's degree!

Back to the topic of this entry: my fiancé and I are getting married in 57 days! I'm posting the link to our wedding website <3 He's still in Jeddah finishing up his teaching term at the moment while I'm trying to motivate myself to finish my master's research project. He'll be home on July 1st--Canada Day--and I want to be finished my work by then!

Wish me luck! xo