I cannot believe that I am in the Middle East now. It was a long but exciting 10-hour trip from Manila to Qatar because I was taking everything in; it was my first time to live and work abroad. I also got to sample Qatar Airways five-star service, watched about three films on board and listened to their eclectic music collection on the way to Doha. The e-ticket stated that we would be arriving in Qatar around 9:00 PM. We left the Philippines at 4:00 in the afternoon, so at first, I thought it would just take five hours to get to our destination. I totally forgot that we crossed about five time zones to get to Qatar. My biological clock was going ballistic that I was awake for 24 hours thanks to this incident, which I will elaborate later. From Doha, we then waited for our flight bound for Dammam, Saudi Arabia. It will be in Dammam where my two-year stay and adventure in the Middle East begins.
Day One – March 17, 2009
We arrived at King Fahad International Airport, Dammam around 2:00 A.M. We did not get to see how Saudi Arabia was like in the air because of the time we got there. Aboard the plane, there weren’t too many passengers for reasons unbeknownst to me (you could count the people with your fingers), unlike with Qatar Airways going to Doha where it seemed like the flight was made especially for Filipinos; almost two-thirds of the passengers were our kababayans. Disembarking the plane, we then went to Saudi Immigration to have our pictures and fingerprints taken. It was here that I was left all alone to tend for myself.
I left the Philippines with six other people, another PT and five nurses. The PT is Harold, a guy I’ve known and befriended while we were preparing our documents and other requirements that the agency asked of us back in the Philippines. All the while we thought we would be working in the same hospital, a branch of Mouwasat Medical Services in Dammam. We preferred it there because it is internationally recognized in the healthcare strata of things. It was only later, during the pre-departure briefing that we had in Manila, that we would know we could be assigned in any of the four hospitals of Mouwasat, wherever the staffing needs arise. Back at Immigration and being the last from our group to meet an immigration officer after close to an hour waiting in line, I went downstairs to find Harold and the rest of our group. The anxiety was beyond relief when I could not find any single one of them. It was only after another hour that I learned they left me, alone, in the airport.