Nursing Chronicles..the Saudi Invasion!

” I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Oh Babe, I hate to go.”

Teary eyed, I went aboard the plane bound for Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. My luggage and my heart seemed so heavy. I had to sit with two total strangers on more than a 10 hours flight. The view from the window looked so gloomy. I heard a strange message in Arabic and before I even knew it, the plane started to run and  up away it went.

While the plane soared, my life  suddenly flashed in front of me. I recalled Daddy’s face that was so full of trust, he somehow knew my capacity to overcome obstacles. Recalled the numerous bouts of hypoglycemia that I had to deal with way back in college, all for the greater glory of getting my Bachelors Degree in Nursing. How could I ever forget the gut wrenching heartbreak I suffered just days before my graduation. Everything still felt surreal to me.

It sure felt good being called the patients’ favorite Nurse when I was assigned in the Male Ward. I was lucky to have met such good friends who had shared all the laughter and sleepy episodes with me  while trying to stay awake during endorsements. Had a lot of giggles giving Health Education and Bill of Rights to patients in the Out Patient Department while being observed by a Resident Physician. I thought that the fun part ended when I transferred to the Operating Room.

Where on earth would you see a Nurse doing “harlem” while being sterile? I guess, I was crazy enough to do it with another fellow nurse. Shaking our “booty” while being Scrub Nurse 1 on an ongoing operation. Crunchy laughters could be heard in the pantry or even while having surgery, nonstop teasing by our Resident Physician about my whereabouts or the drinks I had the night before was always the topic. The fun gets only better.

My Seniors are fond of teasing me. They often carry me like a “pork about to be roasted under the fire”. Wake me up during my deep slumber after all the work was done. One of my “Moms” in the Operating Room would call me to eat, she knows that I work as a writer after shifts. What’s more impressive? Everybody knows where to find me if I am off to dream world. Operating Room became my second home.

All my reminiscing came to a halt the very moment the airplane landed in Dammam. I was informed that the flight would resume after an hour. Had a taste of the Middle Eastern food, unfamiliar for my palate. Being my usual self, the food reminded me of Mongol pencil number 1. The kind of pencil where kids loved to bite just to push the eraser to come out from it tip. “So this is the food here, I’ll surely shed some weight because I will eat Mongol-like food”, I uttered in sheer misery.

I had to wait for the connecting flight in Jeddah. After 10 hours of sitting, my ass and my back hurt like hell. Since I am fresh from the Philippine Islands, I had no lesson in “Arabic 101 for Dummies”. The scrawls everywhere does not even look a bit like a letter to me. In my eyes, it is just a piece of drawing meant to wiggle under my very eyes. I felt like a total idiot trying to absorb the new environment.

Ten hours ago, I looked like an applicant bound to go to Japan. My newly rebonded hair was let loose freely. To top that, my bangs made me look absolutely ” kikay “. I wore a pair of dangling earrings to match the color coding scheme of pink, blue and white outfit. Then after 10 hours, I looked like the girl from the horror flick ” Shake Rattle and Roll XI ” all clad in black.

The only things left to show my colorful personality were my bags. I struggled to drag my pink luggage and manage my light blue and white shoulder bag. Hunger pangs started to make its presence felt, I was in no way to eat. Of all the right timing to arrive in the Middle East, I kind of fell into Ramadan. It practically means, I have to observe their culture and not eat in public.

“Lord ma shotay na ata akong beauty dire, wa jud parka lafang…tom jones nacho”, I muttered while talking to my fellow Bisaya. To avoid becoming a patient, I snuck in the ladies room to eat the bread I brought from Kopi Rotti. Secretly took pictures of myself just to have a souvenir of my hypoglycemia moments. “Hala! si manang naligo sa cr”, I told my friend. She just laughed at me and said, “amega ok ra na nasa Saudi baya ta, normal ra na sa ilaha”. At that instant, the words that automatically flashed in my head is ” culture shock”.

In the hostel where I was brought to, I met other Pinays like me who were also virgins when it comes to working overseas. Me and my fellow Bisaya were in one part of the room, and the others were Ilongga’s, Ilocana’s and Tagalog. We became busy talking using our own dialects. Its fairly easy to locate where majority of the noise and voracious laughter came from. Of course, I was included in a bunch of rambunctious fun loving Bisaya’s who simply wanted to pay our debts. Despite the differences, to us we were simply Pinays who were eager to start our dreams not only for us but for the people we left back home.

Everyday of training was synonymous to quirks and laughter. All we could mutter whenever we were asked was,” mafi malum arabic ana jaded..i don’t know arabic, i’m new” and then laughter precedes the sentence. We all have a sense of unity in pestering our Seniors to drop by our favorite store. Yes we all fell in love with our friendly neighborhood’s  fried chicken with fries. Hence, the ” broastfriends ” was initiated out of our love for “broast partnered with Almarai Chocolate Milk”.

We shared our experiences. The funny ones that we all loved to dwell in. We had nonstop bloopers and even became fond of wearing our clothes straight for two days because it was difficult having to compete with other eleven girls who wanted to use the washing machine and have the benefit to take a bath too. Those girls were my little piece of home here in “the land where camels reside”.

It sure felt sad to say goodbye to them. It’s funny how we all suffered separation anxiety when we were about to get transferred to our respective assignments. Reminds me of Psychiatric Nursing days where we had separation anxiety from our lovable patients. I wanted to make a joke and ask my friends to ” tell me more…tell me what you feel “It was tough to force myself not to cry when I saw my friends’ tears fell.

To the group, I was this ” kikay Bisaya from Davao”. How I love to pester Ate Tina and call her ” Mother Superior”. Stephanie was a big girl like me who looks like a doctor whenever she puts on her uniform. Then I started to call her “Doc”, a shortened term for doctor. Rona was like my younger sister, she’s the official ” taga kilay of the group”, thanks to her expertise. my eyebrows did not look like ” jungle book “. We had a clown too, Iren looked so funny with all her sleeping paraphernalia’s. I had the time of my life taking pictures of her sleeping while Honey and I are laughing our heads off.

We all had the time to tease each other. Since Julz’s paper was left in the Philippines, we all bullied her that she’ll be alone when we get posted. Liezel was one of the serious and sober type. I talk to her and Shayne in Ilonggo at times. It was one of the happiest days of my life here. I miss my girls, yes I still do. The farther the car went to my assigned area, the longer my heart thrashed with pain because I will not be able to see those girls on a daily basis.

I arrived in Gerd with a heavy heart. The previous Nurse that I swapped with was nasty. She did not want to let me sleep in her room. Where on earth should I supposed to sleep? Good thing a fellow Nurse was able to find a way for me to put all my luggage. My life in Gerd officially started.

I found myself wearing a long sleeved white uniform with tarha. “ Mura jud kog maw tan won ( i look stupid in this outfit )”, felt weird using my official attire for the whole year round. If my friends would see me, they would absolutely find it very wholesome. Its as if I turned into a monk having to cover majority of skin. Even Yaya said, ” madre na pall si Mila”. It’s funny how I was mistaken for a Nun, when all I do is laugh hard and try to make things light.

Woke up everyday with the objective of trying to adapt to the system. After a few months, I was able to speak a little Arabic like a child trying to learn how to speak for the first time. Met several nice patients who recalls my name fast, since my name is Arabic in origin. I got used to the pace of work and how to deal with the people. Never dreamed being a Community Nurse but I have learned to love it.

Life in Saudi Arabia is never easy for foreigners like me. I had to adapt the culture. Forget that I once drooled for even a bite of that crunchy lechon that is normally enjoyed over a few bottles of Coke while talking to everyone. Learn how to drastically change my ” party lover lifestyle” into a ” homebody”. I had to deal with how to tame my fun loving nature.

I have endured so much. Made sacrifices of leaving all the people who matters to me. It is all for the sake of my profession…my calling in life. I became a Nurse not by accident because I am destined to be one. The road now might look so dreary and painful but I made a choice to follow the path where I am supposed to be. I have made friends and even learned to love the place. Somewhere out there, hopefully is a silver lining meant for me.

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  • av2003

    Good for you you landed a job in KSA better pay in the Phil. Good luck Inday ! Just be your best as a nurse and nde pasaway like the others.

  • NzRn

    What a stupid post..before I was accepted here in NZ, I enured 3 years working in KSA. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it the most, but I can definitely say its not that bad as what others would claim. In the first place what were you thinking when you accepted the job?didn’t you know that KSA is a muslim country?no one forced you to work there so don’t complain. Thats the problem with most of the nurses back home, all they think about was the money without taking in consideration if they will ne happy with their descision. I can proudly say that i patiently waited for my opportunity to land a job here in NZ but it wouldn’t also be bad if I wasn’t accepted here and i continued working in KSA. Instead of whining about the hardships of working in a job that no one forced me into, I would just consider it as a blessing for me and my family that I am earning 3x of what I would be earning in the PI.

    • BJRN

      What’s stupid about the post? She’s just expressing her feelings. I can tell you felt the same when you FIRST leave Philippines.

    • Allan

      This was the author’s way of expressing her experiences while working in KSA. If you don’t agree with it then make a constructive criticism instead of whining about the blog. You are complaining about the authors’ “whining” and yet you are also whining.

      Are you on drugs?


    • akopoito

      I don’t think there is even a whisk of stupidity here.. probably you have difficulty deciphering the THOUGHT that the author wanted to convey… And oopps, she was not even whining..she’s stating a fact and expressing her feelings.

      SUGGESTION: please re-read the article so you’ll be able to understand it fully.

  • ladyrona

    applauded much! <3
    ayeeeehhhhhh kasali ako oh hehe.

  • Allan

    Welcome to the land of Oil, Camels & Sands ( with matching storm ). I’ve been here in Jeddah, KSA for almost 7yrs and never thought of enduring the homesickness for that long and for how long? Only God knows.

  • zhelle

    the hardest part of being a nurse is to work in a place away from your family. ganyan na ganyan din feeling ko nung umalis ako to work here in KSA. i was crying went we reached jeddah airport, realizing im now too far from my family. pero ganun talaga. all good things comes over a great sacrifice. someday we will all going home and serve our countrymen.

  • Lina

    I enjoyed reading the article. I had the same anxiety when I left the Philippines in 1971 to come to the US but thank God everything worked out alright. I am still here.
    The name Stephanie sounds familiar. She is probably my niece who went to KSA about the same time you did.
    Good luck to you and hope all will be well.

  • akopoito

    Lisod dyud magtrabaho dire sa Saudi…particularly the language!I can somehow tolerate the “mongol” tasting food pero until now I still cannot skillfully communicate using their native tongue. Lisod dyud lalo na nga sa area kung asa ko na assign ENGLISH is the means of communicating.

    Yes, it’s true that we were informed of what to expect: CULTURE, FOOD, ETC. but everything will remain part of our imagination until we personally experience them. Well, there is always what we call a first time and as nurses we do not settle ourselves to stagnate to where we are at the moment. Yan ang kagandahan ng ating pagiging nurse sanay tayo sa lahat ng klaseng pagsubok. In the first place, we were stringently trained to do so.

    Kudos to all nurses!

  • tony acuna

    culture shock,language barrier,you name it,you will have it specially for the newcomers.we all felt the same regardless of our gender and profession