Friday, June 26, 2009

My Arabian adventure: first report

June 26, 2009

Getting the job teaching English in Riyadh was easy enough -- I'm qualified, have no specific ties here other than a mortgage, love to travel, have no particular religious prejudices and I already live in 110-degree heat.

Getting the visa completed is a nightmare though.

Here's where I stand at the moment:

1. Passport - renewed and ready to go (it was set to expire in June so I needed it anyway). Cost: about $25 (need to check this)

2. Travel arrangements - my flight is booked (though I won't get the actual ticket until the visa is approved. Cost: free

3. Police report - in progress. Just took a trip to the Phoenix municipal office, fingerprinting, a small fee and they'll mail it to me in about a week (the city even pays for postage, though their published requirements say to bring a stamped, self-addressed envelope). Cost: $28

4. Medical report - incredibly expensive! I'm currently figuring it will come to more than $800 with all the lab tests, including a couple that neither my doctor's office or the lab recognize. The actual physical part is pretty easy though.

5. Immunizations - I'm holding off a bit. Technically no immunizations are required by S.A., but the US recommends Hep and Tet. This is going to be another $300 if I just get the minimum shots.

6. University degree authentication - another paperwork nightmare. It's not enough to just send authorized transcripts from Gannon University (M.A.) and University of Dayton (B.A.). No, they need:

  • my name and SS #
  • name of employer
  • name of "courier agent" (whatever that means)
  • letter stating reason for requiring authorization
  • copy of employment contract
  • copy of passport
  • certified copy of university degree (whatever that means)
  • updated official transcript in a sealed envelope (how is that different from the "degree"?)
  • name of university and telephone # of the registrar (wouldn't that be on the official transcript?)
  • verification letter from the registrar's office including SS#, school ID and telephone # of contact person in registrar's office
  • written consent to allow the Saudi Cultural Mission to verify the degrees

Other matters:

7. House - I'll need to start posting ads and spreading the word very soon to rent my house for a year. I've only told my plans to a very few people since a whole lot of things could happen to foil the adventure and I don't want to set up a lot of expectations and/or gnashing of teeth (or worse, choruses of hallelujahs).

8. Packing - nada

9. Laptop - acquired a new, working unit just for this. I figured it's a good investment anyway. Cost: $400

10. Skype - could be my smartest investment (free)...though I did shell out $20 for a microphone/headphone and $25 for a webcam (though it turns out my laptop comes equipped with webcam. Skype has already proved invaluable for getting in touch with my sister in Kentucky, my neice in Afghanistan, a friend living in Cairo, and my sponsor in Riyadh. Since the IPA e-mail system doesn't seem to work very well with AOL, we've used a bunch of workarounds like Skype and my Arizona State University e-mail to stay in touch. Cost: Skype is free, other items, about $50