Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Saudi Odyssey

So it’s time to recollect the whole two year stay in Saudi Arabia. Felt like it wasn’t really two years but a week out of the Philippines. Or maybe I was just too busy to notice that my contract is almost over.

I reckon this is the best time for me to look back and be amazed with everything that happened. So I’ll be posting a series of entries which will discuss my experience as a Saudi OFW.

Let me begin this by opening my 2011 diary.

The Beginning of the Not So Long Journey

March 4, 2011 : Last day in StandbyEnglish

March 10, 2011 : Met my friend Dazzle in Manila. Visited the following places: Intramuros, Baywalk, and Nakpil Malate.

March 23, 2011 : Short trip in Bohol

March 26, 2011 : Short trip in Cebu

March 27, 2011 : Short trip in Legazpi

April 12, 2011 : PDOS

April 25, 2011 : Signed contract in Gulf Agency

April 26, 2011 : Packed luggage

April 27, 2011 : (3am) Parents picked me up from apartment; (7am) Waited in the airport and bid my family goodbye; (12:30-2:40pm) Manila to HongKong; (16:05-22:35pm) HongKong to Riyadh

April 28, 2011 : We were held at KSA Immigration for 9 hours. We arrived at 10:35pm but were able to come out at 6am. I was even singled out due to some problem with my passport. Surmised that it was due to my name and religion. I prepared myself to come back to the Philippines while waiting at the immigration. Told myself that no matter what happens will be okay. After an hour, I was finally released. When I came out of the immigration, I thought my colleagues already left so I was ready to take a taxi. But I found them sitting there at the lounge. The morning sun was already so  high. And I breathed deeply. This is it, I told myself. The start of the two years.

April 28, 2011 : We rode this white van without aircon. I was at the middle seat beside the window, looking at the new landscape (both literal and figurative). So this is Saudi Arabia I told myself. Mostly sand and dessert. We were following the highway road.

April 28, 2011 : We entered a compound with all its tight security. We were ushered in Room 8 where we ate our first meal of the day- “ginataang talangka” with rice. Later I found that food is highly saved by Pinoys here in Saudi. They try to save as much as they can. The biggest reality that hit me on the face is the accommodation. I just didn’t expect that rooms will be as dingy as they are, toilets barely had the semblance of sanitation, and most of all- the sink where you wash your plates is in the same room with the toilet bowl. But this did not deterred me. I am resolute to finish the two years and work hard.

April 28, 2011 : After the lunch, we were ushered to the office. Despite the fact that I haven’t slept at all during the whole night, I had to pretend that I am okay. First impression lasts so I kept my composure and my corporate aura. Worked pretty well I guess. After the office, we walked back to the accommodation. Bryan was drinking a bottle of beer-looking stuff. I will later figure that it was “Holsten”- non alcoholic drink.

April 29, 2011 : It was a Friday. Weekend in Saudi. I woke up early and jogged at 5am. Met somebody at the court who said he’s been in Saudi for 10 years. I was astounded to hear about someone staying that long in Saudi.

April 30, 2011 : Woke up so early. Turned on the lights and ate my breakfast. Later this day, some of my roommates complained that I was up so early that they couldn’t sleep anymore. Some of them commented “Malayo pa ang biyahe?”

May 2, 2011 : Medical test. Had to get tool sample all over again. My colleague couldn’t take a shit so he asked for some sample from another colleague.

May 7, 2011 : Met Kuya Jay-R; Reviewed Arabic at the kitchen and somebody asked me, “May exam?”

May 13, 2011 : Met Umer, Pakistani admin. assistant in a nearby office. Became a good friend and table tennis buddy.

May 15, 2011 : Learned a few Arabic words such as- mushkila (problem), mafi malum (do not know), kalas (finished), kabsa (rice), kubos (bread), mafi muk (moron), kaliwali (forget about it), kabir (big), mudir (boss), karban (crazy). Other words I would later learn are- katir (many), inta (you), ana (I, me), aiwa (okay), shukul (money), alatool (always), akil (eat), kalam (speak), sadik (friend), habibi (dear)

May 28, 2011 : Won Seder’s amateur singing contest- Champion.

July 16, 2011 : Received Lee Child from Ma’am Lynn (which I was not able to read all).

July 29, 2011 : Went out to eat McDonalds with Umer. But he didn’t like it.

November 11, 2011 : Thanksgiving party at Lynn’s house.

December 1, 2011 : Christmas Party at Lynn’s house.

November 25, 2011 : Bought my first Samsung S2. But sold it after a month.

February 6, 2011 : David Babb’s birthday.

February 20, 2011 : Lynn Babb’s birthday.

March 12, 2012 : Was designated to work on the company’s database creation; Organizational Chart.

April 19, 2012 : Was designated to work on company contracts.

April 22, 2012 : Was designated to work on company manual.

April 27, 2012 : First year anniversary in KSA.

May 17, 2012 : Lynn Babb and David Babb left for US.

October 11, 2012 : My brother Leo arrived in KSA.

Post It Notes: My Reminders

The brilliance of these post it notes helped me survive the stressful world of an OFW situated inside the office. They served as keys to completion of my tasks and to some extent- keeping my sanity.

Some of the notes I was able to find are detailed below:

1. Rule : Finish first what is being done. Do not stall.
2. Move fast.
3. Rule : Get details accurately and write legibly.
4. If you want something then you need to find a way to get it.
5. Don’t say “try”. Say “will”
6. Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for achieving goals.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Epilogue : The Man and the Alter Ego


They say that the ones with the biggest smile, the loudest laughter and brightest eyes- are the ones with the saddest hearts. I know this for a fact because it is who I am. Always putting up a show so no one could ever see the man in the shadows. For years I've kept that man hidden so that no one will hurt him. That man has been there, concealed and frightened of the world. The world is a mean place. And although that man has the purest heart, he chose to live away from this harsh world. He let his alter ego stand on the front line. The alter ego is more fierce, ruthless and cunning. He knows that to survive, one needs to outwit the other. That is the principle of survival. That is the dog eat dog world. 

The alter ego is not totally evil, quite the contrary in fact. He just learned early in his life that do-gooders don't last long. And he loved the man in the shadows too much. He wanted to protect him from the fangs of the enemies. So he had to become stronger. Not for himself alone, but for the man in the shadows. He knows that their survival depends on him. He stares at the man in the shadows. The man was also staring at him. The alter ego knew exactly what the man was thinking. But the alter ego won't let the man destroy his defenses. He's had years to be who he is, so the alter ego turned its back on the man.

Not today. Not ever. This will always be the principle of the alter ego. The man has to be kept inside. Locked inside. Because kindness is not the way of the world. 

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