Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Home. Sweet Home!

I am leaving The Sandbox. At three o'clock in the morning a driver is picking me up and taking me to Bahrain to the airport. I will then board a flight to Doha, Qatar. There, I will sit in the "lounge" and wait for four hours - sans black garbage bag - for a flight to Washington, D.C. I am NOT going to apologize for being "fussy" and "older" and refusing to fly in economy. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. Nope. Won't do it. Won't apologize, and won't fly in "economy." Did that for several years. Business Class is the ONLY way to travel. Probably First Class is better - but I am not quite there, yet. When we finally leave The Sandbox and return to the States, for good, I will book First Class Tickets. You think economy is expensive? Business Class is double - if not more - than economy - and First Class is out of our price range. A ticket from Bahrain to the States in economy is about $1,300.00; a ticket from Bahrain to the States in Business Class is $2,400.00; First Class is $7,000 or $9,000. It is NOT a "simple" flight. It is several flights from here to Home. Home. Sweet. Home.

I almost didn't make it! My passport has my visa in it that allows me to be in Saudi Arabia. Every year the visa has to be renewed. On June 8th of this year, my visa was renewed and the full-page "sticker" was put into my passport. It very, very, very clearly shows that I have a multiple entry and multiple exit visa - which means that I can come and go from Saudi Arabia at will. The other type of visa is a single entry - single exit. Which means that you can enter the country - Saudi - and you can exit the country. Once. My driver and I were in the car at Saudi customs on the Causeway and the Saudi customs official asked me for my iqama - my work papers - apparently I must look like a maid. However, I do not have an iqama - as I do not work [unless you count my job as a professional sunbather]. I told the customs guy that I didn't have an iqama and he told me that my visa was expired and that I could not leave. WTF?!? No. It is not. It is a brand new visa - it says "multiple" right on it - and customs refused to stamp my passport. The customs guy told me that I had to go in the office. Nope. Not doing it. It is 3:15 in the morning. And I do not have my black garbage bag with me - as I am going to Bahrain where it is not necessary or required - and I've got a short-sleeve t-shirt on with jeans. My arms are bare... Not getting out of the car in Saudi.

My driver - a man that I have had drive for me for several years now - pulled the car over and went into the office with my passport to show some other official that I clearly had a multiple entry and exit visa and that he was taking me to catch a plane. After some half and hour or forty minutes the driver came to the car to get my tickets. The Captain at Customs was NOT going to let me leave. It was not a comfortable situation. If I could scan my visa into this computer... No one in Saudi can admit to making a mistake. The visa clearly says one thing, but the computer says another. Human error? Hell no. I did get to leave. I am not sure at this point whether I will be able to return to Saudi. My DH is working with his boss to get the "glitch" worked out so that when I return to Saudi I can sail through customs on the Causeway and back into the country after they search my bags. I just barely made my flight.

The flight is a long one. Very, very, very long. From Bahrain to Doha, Qatar, the flight is about a half an hour. From Qatar to Washington, D.C., the flight is fourteen hours. Fourteen hours on the same plane. Cannot speak highly enough about Qatar Airlines. Will say, though, that the male flight attendants are much more on the ball than the female flight attendants. Why is this, I wonder? I arrived in Washington at 4:30P on Thursday. I tried to get an earlier flight from Washington, D.C. to Raleigh, N.C., and couldn't. Domestic flying is beyond pathetic. I look forward to the day where I never have to fly, again. As long as we continue to live in Saudi Arabia, not flying isn't an option. I need to come home a couple of times a year to see my Mom and my Son.

I have not read one Saudi paper since I arrived and may or may not... There was no computer at my Mom's when I got here - well there was a computer - but apparently one of my nephew's had been on it a week or so ago and opened some sight that infected it with some virus. It was a two day process to get it fixed. I didn't do it - fix it - and my Mom is even more "technically" challenged than I am. Both of us - Mom and me - are being very careful. We were told by the man who got the computer back up and running that until we had a professional do some work on it that he would recommend that neither of us try to access any bank information or order anything on-line with a credit card. WHAT?!? That's how I shop!!! But we are heeding the advice we've been given.

I have a list of things that I must accomplish here - and a shipment to get ready to have sent back to Saudi of all the things that I cannot buy there. The Honest Kitchen dog food, Tide liquid detergent, Secret deodorant, blah, blah, blah...

My appointment with the orthopedist, here, for my knee, was on Friday afternoon. It was a disaster - the entire appointment and three hours spent at the North Raleigh Orthopedic Clinic was a TACWOT [total and complete waste of time]! I have a much, much higher opinion and newfound respect for the medical facilities available to me in Saudi, right now, and even though I absolutely detest playing "the Clinic Game," there, Dr. M. - the Saudi orthopedist - has a whole lot more on the ball than the Physician's Assistant I saw, here. I had an appointment with a doctor - but for some reason he took Friday afternoon off - and no one bothered to share with me that I wasn't going to be seeing a doctor. I have much, much more to say about this, but I am still on a "funny" time zone - not sleeping normally - and just want to get this post up that I started right before I left and am finishing at 7:15 on Sunday morning in North Carolina as I sip on coffee and Bailey's! Yes. Bailey's for breakfast!!! Life is good.


  1. oo Irish coffee! Very good, and don't worry about it being early in the morning, really according to your body clock it's more like afternoon :)

    Enjoy your booze and bacon :D

  2. Am doing just that, L_O! And, you are so right - my body clock says that it is going on three in the afternoon... What's that saying when you start imbibing before noon? "It's five o'clock somewhere."

  3. Welcome Home! Enjoy your visit. Gee, you are only a few hours from me(I'm in Roanoke,Va.) Hope that you can get all accomplished.

  4. I hope you enjoy your visit long are you over for?

    Its funny, my neighbours are Indian and they say the medical system is so much better in India than here in Canada.......and you would have thought it would be the opposite way round.

    Have a Bailey's for me.......although I don't drink alcohol, I do on occasion have a drop of Baileys in my coffee,


  5. black garbage bag!! try to be more respectful you are an educated women I'm sure you know the cultural differences.
    also you are complaining about your visa situation i stayed in New York airport for 10 hours waiting for the customs guy to check my papers just because I'm Saudi.

  6. Enjoy your visit and shopping, Sabra. Eat lots of canned potatoes, velveeta and have a blast! :)

  7. Ahmed, it seems respect only goes one way with you lot.

    Sabra have a fantastic holiday and enoy those Bailey's!

  8. Kathleen - Thanks so much for ordering PERFECT weather for this part of the country. Am thoroughly enjoying it! Even the rain yesterday. Did it rain up your way?

    Gill - Not pleased at all with the way things went at the ortho. Honestly, Dr. M. has it going on. The medical system here - as good as it is - has its flaws. And I promise to put Bailey's in my coffee EVERY single morning...

    Ahmed - I shouldn't have to wear the black at all there being a Western woman. When you go to the States "we" allow you to do whatever you want. It is not reciprocal though, is it?!?

    L_Oman - Eating Velveeta and people around me are cringing! And have a case of canned potatoes to bring back, along with crab meat!!! [We are going out to dinner tonight so I can have lobster.]

    Rose - Well said. I am having a fantastic holiday and have perhaps - just perhaps - enjoyed a few too many Bailey's - but will walk them off when I return to the Sandbox. The stuff is just so incredibly delicious you can't have just one...

    Thanks, ALL!!!

  9. Sabra,
    Hope this reaches you before you head back. I had the same problem going out through the Causeway with my visa. It was the same full-page sticker. It only happened on my first exit though. Bad news is the way the customs guy took care of it: He lightly stamped my passport for exit but never entered my exit into the computer. So when I re-entered (through DMM), they had no record of me leaving. I turned out alright for me since I speak Arabic and was in no hurry. I rapped with the sergeant of the guard upstairs for about 15 minutes and he took care of it. If you run into the same problem coming back through, it might be a bit more difficult for you. Once the guys at the airport took care of making the appropriate entries in the computer for my visa, I never had another problem, either at the airport or the causeway.

  10. Leo - We are working on it from here - and hopeful that it will be all set in the computers for when I return. It would be nice if just once someone could say, "Oops. Mistake. Let me fix that for you." We shall see in a few weeks...


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