MY JOURNEY: MANILA TO RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA

I’ve heard a lot about Saudi Arabia and some were not so pleasing for a freedom loving woman like me, so when my guy asked me to live with him since his job is based here, I was hesitant but what can i do? He misses me (twinkling eyes). When I finally decided, I had to fix everything like my visa, my resignation from my awesome job, the disposal of my stuff, etc.. I’ve lived in Manila for a couple of years. I’ve accumulated a few things like appliances and maybe trash. And since my leaving is   permanent, i had to let them go. I sold some to my friend, donated a few to my housemates and to my uncle’s place in Manila, and sent most to my parents in the province.

this is Coopy. my RC car. he's 10:00 in scale. I took packed him with me

This is my RC car, Coopy. He’s 10:00 in scale.I packed him with me

this is my favorite racket, Babolat's aeroprodrive which model is also used by my favorite tennis player, Rafael Nadal. so much for being the biggest fan

This is my favorite racket, Babolat’s aeroprodrive which Rafael Nadal uses too. So much for being a big fan ha

The one thing that saddened me about leaving were my friends. No more videoke/karaoke to our throats’ content, no more basketball, no more chitchatting at Starbucks, no more food tripping at buffet restaurants, no more loitering at the Mall of Asia until midnight — or sometimes until wee hours — with them. When I told one of my best friends about it, she threw me a mini farewell. We hanged out at a game arcade and unleashed our childish kraken. We grooved to ‘dance revo’ like we don’t care that we already have everyone’s attention.

It was March 2015 when i flew to Saudi. All the apprehensions about the place were intact. I have an abaya which my guy brought me when he came to the Philippines summer of 2014. It’s a loose black robe worn by conservative Muslim women which is also a requisite for all the women in Saudi, Muslim or not. Mine was a bit oversized that when I look at myself in the mirror, i look like i belong to Hogwarts. Nonetheless, I packed it carefully in my carry-on luggage. As instructed by my guy, I should wear it once we have landed, but the plane was freezing and my fats were not adequate so I was forced to slip it on halfway through the flight. That’s the first time I was grateful for my abaya.

sample of abaya

sample of abaya

I was awake the entire flight. I tried to catch some sleep but I’m a lame sleeper, how much more when in a sitting position. It was already 10pm and still an hour or 2 left to reach Riyadh and to amuse myself, I peeked through the window and gazed at the darkness, then I looked down and guess what, we were already in the Middle Eastern sky coz I saw the Palm Jumeirah! Yes, i knew for sure it was the Palm Jumeirah of Dubai judging from its lights pattern. I couldn’t be mistaken. I wasn’t drunk.

Finally we landed in Riyadh at around 12am.

the beautiful city of Riyadh which i was lucky to capture with good timing. too bad i wasn't able to capture the Palm Beach in Dubai.

the beautiful city of Riyadh which i was lucky to capture with good timing. Too bad i wasn’t able to capture the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.

About to get off the plane, I checked my face in the mirror and whoah! I looked like a zombie in The Walking Dead! My eye bags were now eye luggages!

This is much like me when i lack sleep

This is much like me when i lack sleep

I’ve been using Globe as my telco service provider for years. Confident with their service, I knew I could easily reach my guy once we arrive in Riyadh, but to my disappointment, the roaming service didn’t work! I was panicky. We were already queuing at the immigration but I still had no signal.  Some crazy thoughts were running in my head like what if I’d be kidnapped by some hideous looking guy and be taken to the ISIS or be sold to some rich family to be a slave! I can’t even clean my own room regularly nor wash my clothes manually! My lack of sleep made me incapable of having better judgment.

As what I’ve heard that long time ago when internet was a “scarce commodity” and going abroad was not a common option in getting a job, when Filipinos meet in other countries they become instant friends, but nowadays, for some reason, Filipinos have become less accommodating to other Filipinos. And at that moment, despite my ordeal, I was hesitant to approach my Filipino co-passengers to use their mobile phone coz they might only turn me down and I have a terrible fear of rejection. (You can call me a pessimist. Go on.)

While waiting for my turn, I was uneasy but hopeful that maybe my guy was there outside patiently waiting. But what if I won’t be able to find him or he won’t be able find me? I had no idea how big the airport was.

sample of men wearing traditional clothing

sample of men wearing traditional clothing

The immigration men, wearing their traditional clothing — the thawb and kufiya, were organizing the lines, giving directions, trying their best to hasten the process. But, I’ve been standing in my queue in like forever! In my thoughts, is this a Big Brother audition?! I was hungry, and sleepy, and panicky and all I wanted that moment was to get out of that place and find my guy outside. After a turtle paced progress, finally it was my turn. The man in-charged checked my passport then input some details in the computer. While observing him, I got reminded of my first typing lesson back in high school when I couldn’t locate the letters in the keyboard easily, and writing a sentence is like writing a paragraph. Something like,

Name: N………………………I……………………..C……………………………..O………..(where is the letter L, ah there.) …………………L……………..E

In between strokes he would chitchat with his colleagues. I was tempted to say, “Sir, wake me up when December ends.”

this is the world famous Omar Borkan Al Gala in his fashionable traditional wear.

this is the world famous Omar Borkan Al Gala in his fashionable traditional wear.

After my “mugshot” was taken and had my finger prints done, Alhamdullilah! My passport got stamped. I moved on to get my luggages. Some passengers have already left. Only few bags were left in the luggage train. I could easily spot mine coz I tied it with red ribbon but, where the heck are my luggages?! They weren’t in the luggage train! Gosh, it caused me another panic. I couldn’t call my guy and now my luggages were missing. I couldn’t lose them. My toy cars and tennis rackets were there. I called someone for help, a Pakistani guy wearing a baggage-boy ID. I described my luggage, black ones with red ribbon, I said. With his best english, he repeated what I said (he sounded like my conscience) and pointed me to a corner where some luggages were stacked. Ha! My hopes were high this time. He rummaged through it and to my relief, he found them. Oh, my precious! (in the voice of Gollum)

It’s time for the customs to x-ray my stuffs. I carefully placed all my belongings through the x-ray machine, but I noticed that guy wasn’t really paying attention on the x-ray monitor! Well, it’s either he trusted that I didn’t have anything illegal or he was simply bored coz his eyes were on his mobile.

It’s time to look for my guy. I followed the baggage boy as we walked along the small hallway cum waiting area where I saw some sleepy faces. Some looked very serious (like wrong move and i will stab you), and most were wearing traditional clothing. Some were obviously rich, fetching their imported helps from other countries. But where’s my guy? I felt like a camel trying to reach the farthest branch. I checked each face, hoping that maybe one of them was him. It’s been months that I haven’t seen him. How is he now? (Did he grow wings?)

I was already approaching the end of the waiting area and finally, there he was. With a smile on his face, he was calmly standing on the side. He never looked tired. He was wearing a black buttoned-up shirt, dark blue jeans, shaven, and handsome. My panic turned into excitement. I wasn’t supposed to show affection towards him in public coz we might draw attention (coz some people here don’t watch romantic films), but that moment I never cared. I semi threw myself at him. What a relief! I was never going to be kidnapped after all. Finally we are together! I hugged him tight, the most patient and loving man on earth. Then we got in his car and drove off to our home here in Riyadh. 😉 😉 😉

(I’ll post the rest of my stories/experiences in the coming days….when it snows.)

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