Tuesday, 20 September 2011

"Time is very slow for those who wait..."

I am definitely enduring a test of patience. My first instinct, as a lover of literature, and an English grad, is to turn to Shakespeare for sympathy. He says that:

"Time is very slow for those who wait
Very fast for those who are scared
Very long for those who lament
Very short for those who celebrate
But for those who love time is eternal"

Indeed, it is true. Time cannot seem to move any more slowly than it is while I am waiting for my visa. But the good news is I'm in love with my husband, and am trying to focus on the "eternal" nature of time and love! Our time together, whenever that finally arrives, will be lasting!

I have a couple of updates on my visa application process--finally! Good and bad at the same time... DH sent me my paperwork this weekend (Saturday) and I was finally able to actually go to Toronto and apply for my visa on Monday!!! YAY!!! My retired father was kind enough to drive me downtown and joined me in my frantic running around back and forth across the city.

So there is the good news. Bad news? Well, as of September 1, 2011 (and DH and I knew this in advance and were trying to expedite everything to beat the deadline...) visa processing times are between 30 to 45 days. This is a change from the former 5 day timeline! In any case, DH and I were hoping the embassy in Ottawa was just saying this, and not really putting the long wait into effect, but alas, my visa consultant said that I indeed should anticipate at least a month's wait for my passport to be returned with the visa. 
When DH sent my sponsorship papers from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, all seemed okay, except that my name was listed with my surname first and given name second. I figured this must be an Arabic thing, since the language reads from right to left. The only things in English on the document were my name and my husband's, so I figured I wasn't an authority to complain about the name thing looking off. Anyways, yesterday, my visa consultant, a Jordanian woman who reads Arabic, pointed out the "error" to me...and it turns out I'm right! *sigh* She said I can try to submit the visa application as it is and see what happens, but if something is wrong, the embassy will likely have me reapply from scratch and wait ANOTHER 30 to 45 days. So, poor DH got up at 5am today to have time before work to go to his workplace's passport office and rectify the papers. He waited 2 hours and the official never showed up in his office! I feel terrible, but neither of us wants to risk having to restart everything (not to mention all the expenses of beginning all my paperwork again!)

All this said, my visa application was submitted yesterday and should arrive in Ottawa today. So the countdown is now on, and I'm waiting for word that my visa has been approved. We're going to send the corrected sponsorship document along once I receive it from Saudi Arabia and try to just add it to my current application. *fingers crossed* it will all work out on the first try!
Of course there were other issues. First, the "travel itinerary" I submitted with my visa application (really, a formality; I'm not supposed to actually book a flight yet) was apparently unreasonable. I'd been instructed to submit an itinerary for a date earlier than 45 days in order to kind of hurry the embassy up...but my consultant said the embassy's been sending back applications requesting more realistic travel dates. So I rushed home from downtown Toronto to send my consultant an updated itinerary for November 6th. 45 days. For a visa. For real.  

Secondly, apparently some of my medical tests need explanation (to me--and my doctor--everything seems straightforward, but you can't reason with the embassy's craziness!) So, I rushed from sending in the new itinerary to the doctor's office where I'd been squeezed in. The doctor said he also saw no issue with my medical test results, but obliged me by writing a note to "clarify" the obvious. 

Anyways, that was my adventure yesterday. I've been reading another blog about the adventures of trying to get into KSA. An Australian woman who went to Riyadh as a scientist at a hospital. It took her 8 months from the time she signed her contract in March 2009 to get her papers, sponsorship and visa in order and actually arrive that November. I guess things are moving along "fast" for me in relative comparison. But really, how absurd is that?! Let me use this as a cautionary tale for any readers out there who would consider a move to KSA: count on the process taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r! If you have one, do not quit your job until you have your visa in hand. Otherwise, anticipate being like me, sitting around your parents' house playing oh so lovely the waiting game.

Monday, 12 September 2011


The waiting game...
I thought I'd be in Jeddah by now. Or at least have my flight booked. But those of you who have been following the whole convoluted process of my attempt to organize my papers to go know that as soon as the Saudis are involved, no matter how prepared and organized I am, it doesn't matter.

Inshallah, inshallah... (God-willing, God-willing...) My sponsorship papers still aren't ready, and my husband's university (my sponsor) doesn't seem to be in a rush to get them in order. So until they get with it, I can't apply for my visa.

The VISA process so far
So far, I've completed everything I need from my end to process the visa:
* Visa application form
* Taken extra passport photos
* Copy of my husband's residency card (called an "Iqama")
* Marriage documents showing my relationship to sponsor (getting these notarized, translated, legalized and stamped by the Saudi embassy in Ottawa was an adventure in itself!)
* Medical report / medical tests (and had these stamped by the Ontario College of Physicians, legalized and stamped by the Saudi embassy)
* Police clearance report (no, everyone, I do not have a criminal record; no scandals lurking here!)
* Copy of passport validity
* Copy of travel itinerary (expected date of departure: September 22...yah right!)
Paperwork ready to go...
All this work...and nothing! I haven't been blogging as much as I'd hoped I would be...but short of complaining about bureaucratic inefficiencies and crying about how much I miss my husband (again), I haven't much to say.

Oh, Oreo
One piece of bad news that worked to my advantage (kind of): my cat, Oreo, has all his paperwork prepared to come with me; however, his international health certificate is valid for only 30 days after it was prepared and stamped by the embassy. That gives me until September 19th...and there's no way I'll be taking off that soon considering all of the above. So...when my parents realized how much MORE money I'd be spending on having his documents redone, they finally caved in and offered to take him in for the year I'm abroad. I'll miss him, but this sure saves a LOT of stress, money and hassle!

(Slightly severe) Academic withdrawal
On another note, I'm in intense withdrawal from academia. I commented on facebook that this is my first time in 22 years not starting school in September. Yikes! This morning, I really began lamenting this, and started going through readings of courses that I'd be in IF I'd decided to accept admission into a PhD program rather than move abroad. *Sigh* Oh, to be in "Early Modern Households and the Professional Stage" right now. Among other pieces for tomorrow's class, I'd be reading

John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A godlie forme of householde gouernment (1612),
Henry Smith, A preparative to marriage,
William Whately, A bride bush,
and all my other lovely favourite early modern pieces in preparation for plays including Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, and Thomas Heywood's A Woman Killed With Kindness. I so want to be back in school!!! Inshallah (see? It's in my own vocabulary now...) I'll soon be teaching English. Inshallah, inshallah...

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Off to the airport...but not in the air

Airport Sorrows
Tonight I drove my husband to the airport. My visa is not ready because his employer's passport office has been closed over Ramadan. It reopens on September 4th. All this means is that I had to drive him to the airport...and then come back home again alone. And "home" is now back with my parents *sigh* while I wait a couple weeks (hopefully not much longer than that :s) for my paperwork. Then I'll be off to Jeddah...finally!!! For now, I'm without a cell phone (another sigh!) or a car.
On the road again...but not quite yet
It's weird being married and living with my parents again! Eek! Things seem more than a bit backwards and I'm anxious to get going, move to KSA, and start working. (Teaching was probably my favourite part of my master's degree--I was a teaching assistant for an undergrad English course and had the BEST students!). Anyways, all these things (moving, working...) will happen quickly, inshallah, but that's not the Saudi way. The "Saudi way" is slow, slower, and completely stagnant. Visas--until September 1st of this year--have been processed within 5 business days through the embassy in Ottawa, but my visa adviser said they're now warning that visas can take 30 to 45 days to come through. WHAT?!!!? So, needless to say, I'm getting agitated. My husband says the visa office usually exaggerates; after all, Oreo's paperwork was ready in 3 days...and we were told at least 9. So we'll see! Ironic how my cat is ready to go but I'm not.

Long distance love
So, the airport today was bittersweet. My husband will have things ready for me when I arrive and that will be nice...but for now we're apart. Again. After 2 years of being in a long distance relationship. Being together again will be all the sweeter when I make it to Jeddah though, right?   
**Feedback alert**
I will leave you all with a question with which I need HELP!! Any advice on packing within baggage limits?? I have WAY too many clothes and shoes...but don't want to encounter an excess baggage fee my husband just told me he got pegged with. Eek!!!
Packing predicament!