Sunday, 21 February 2016

Of Holidays Fragility and Visa Issues

Kia ora people and Welcome to the middle of February 2016.  Hasn't the New Year marched on already.  It's been a while since I posted, largely, I have to admit, because of a slump on my mojo.  That can happen to you here every now and then.  But a lengthy planned holiday home to New Zealand, where the Hubster came to understand my less than optimal, somewhat fragile mental state, and an unplanned stay in Dubai have perked me up somewhat.  So, I guess you can call this a long catch up post.  It's full of arguments, celebrations, family photos and drama!

So, here we go....

On December 16th 2015, I was out of here, and I was looking forward to it.  This was the first holiday that the entire family would be back in NZ at the same time.  The first stop once on home turf was our sons place to catch up with his growing and gorgeous flock....

In my mind I had planned taking the kids to parks, playgrounds, movies and maybe a couple of shopping trips to buy them a few 'spoilt by the grandparents' things and had been mentioning such for quite some time before our trip.  Hubby had different ideas.  In his mind we were going to renovate the house and he had been emailing such to builders and painters and our son and not mentioning these plans at all to me.  Needless to say quite early in our holiday we came to loggerheads on our different perceptions of what we would be doing during this trip home.  I'm not very good at loggerheads.  I cry and shout a lot.  I cried and shouted a lot during this 'discussion'.  What came out of it, in a nutshell, was this....I have issues.  Here, briefly, is a summary of my tiny expat wife meltdown early on our holiday.  (Feel free to add extra expletives where you think they fit nicely - lord knows I did!  There were quite a few in the original of this post, but I was asked to remove a few terms - specifically those that related to my view of absolutely anything to do with Hubsters work!)
Hubby thought that my living the past six years in Saudi was a testament to how fabulously I was coping with being away from family while he works constantly, all the time.   
The fact that he is working constantly all the time, even when on supposed holidays, even on this holiday,  means we don't talk much.  In fact, his daily routine in Riyadh of 'go to work, come home, eat, sit on computer working till all hours, go to bed, repeat', has meant that, for quite some time, I've been living with a sense of being, not exactly ignored but, pointless.   
What did you bring me to Saudi for, I wonder?  Am I just the tax break? (If you are a kiwi or ozzie planning to move here, check out how our tax laws will affect you).  Am I here just to make soup that you can eat at your computer?   (He eats at his computer).   
I have asked these questions before when being ignored gets on my goat.  I was asking similar questions again because I could see the holiday routine was going to be 'work at renovations all day, come home, eat, sit on computer working till all hours at night, go to bed, repeat'.   
It is a gripe of mine that all our holidays of late are simply a continuation of the pattern in Saudi and I can't say I particularly approve and tend to let Hubster know because, basically, I'm not very good at keeping quiet.
Of course, he thinks I'm over-reacting and that I'm being silly.  The next day any issues I may have are apparently forgiven and forgotten.  They aren't really.  They're just packed away under a face that says, 'Fine.  Whatever'.   
What I'd really appreciate is if he'd put down the f'n computer so we can talk to each other. We don't, I have concluded, talk much anymore.   
It irks me that he'll put down the computer when his work colleagues, who also live on the compound, drop by.  And they'll typically rabbit on about repetitive stuff like work. work, more work and more crappy work, and less than optimal support from head office, blah, blah blah... 
But he won't talk to me.  Nope . His head goes straight into the computer sending emails and doing whatever it is he does. 
Him grunting in response to my attempts at conversation is, quite frankly, annoying.  But if I push the 'why don't you talk to me' issue or if I suggest 'why don't log off your computer early cos I'm sure your clients don't have to hear from you at midnight' or, should I get really peed off and say something like, 'If you die tomorrow your clients wouldn't give a shit', I get, 'You don't understand my job', 'you don't understand the demands, the stress', you have no idea'...
Really?  Is that what you think?
I might actually have some idea.  I'm not exactly thick. I've got ears...I hear you talking with your mates about the same thing all the bloody time.   And I live in Riyadh too, you know!    
And maybe if you talked to me we could discuss how difficult your work life is.  (Or how difficult you like to make it which, I think, is part of his problem).
And maybe, just maybe, I'd like to tell you how being eye raped while doing something normal like walking to the shop is disturbing, how being dismissed from a major telecom retail shop with the wave of the hand and shouted 'No Woman' is flaming irritating, how getting into a taxi and have the driver lock the doors brought out the nasty in me.  Maybe I'd like to exchange my everyday shitty news with you.  Or maybe I'd like to talk about the photo's I take in the morning when I go out on my bike rides, alone, without you.  Or pass on news from our daughter who called.   
Maybe, no definitely, I'd like you to close the computer because your work gets to have you since 8.30am every morning.... at 10 pm at night, I'd like a little us time.
It is one thing to feel like a second class citizen due to local attitudes, it is another to feel irrelevant to your spouse because that's how his current work demands and his own insistence on being so damn good at what he does, make me feel.  Why can't you be like the locals and chill, relax, cruise, don't give a hoot....?
Although I have met some lovely ladies in Riyadh who have become good friends, they are not the best friend I married but who seems to have wandered off into 'Home But Never Here Land' in the short space of time we have been in Saudi.  And I am extremely upset that on this holiday, this return home holiday, you are going to continue to put me on the back burner because you have decided you have more important things to think about.  I am important!  And I refuse to be brushed off by you any more!
It turns out that he thinks that working all the time while in Saudi is what I expect from him so we can pay off our mortgage and go home.  He also insists that we both agreed to renovating this house ourselves.  
He has this habit of having imaginary conversations with me in his head.  He does it all the time.  It pisses me off because he'll come out with these grand statements of 'we talked about this' when we didn't.  I know we didn't.  That, after all, would require a conversation.  (In fact, one night in Saudi at the coffee shop with friends I asked everybody's orders and duly went to place the order.  When the drinks came he says "Where's my diet coke".  "You didn't order anything, I say."  "Yes I did", he insists.  "I'm sorry habibtii", says our friend who is sitting at the table with us, "you might have imagined ordering, but you didn't actually say anything."  "Thank, thank you, thank you", I said, because that, right there, is what he does all the time.)
And why he thinks I like him working constantly is a joke.  Many is the time I've begged with him to stop working!!!  I actually intensely dislike him working all the time. Totally, intensely, can't stand it!
In fact, I wish that once out of the office, and especially on weekends, he would stuff work and tell his overly demanding clients to go to hell.  It's the weekend.  Rack off!  Your work is not 'Urgent, Urgent', but he answers the emails anyway.
And I couldn't give a rats arse if we sold the bloody house if we had to. (In case you hadn't noticed, as well as crying, I swear a lot in loggerhead type interactions). 
As emotional, potty-mouthed female meltdowns do little more than distract him temporarily from his work,  I do try not to have them all the time (though sometimes they can't be helped) and, while in Saudi I have worked out a strategy for coping with his hours of head down bum up, give everything to the office, work ethic.  I surf the internet.   
It's purely a distraction strategy and not the least bit fulfilling, though I'm sure he tends to think I'm having a blast, mainly, presumably, because I'm quiet and not interrupting him. 
Admittedly internet surfing does provide the opportunity to  learn lots of unnecessary stuff  like 'What are vulture funds?', recipes for Paleo bread or avocado chocolate mousse, 'The complexities of bank lending and Corporate Social Responsibility',' how to take apart your vacuum cleaner, how to cope with a workaholic husband (completely useless strategies I have to say) and who won the latest BGT or X-factor.   What surfing the internet cannot do is take away the feeling of loneliness.  And that, it turns out after all the frustrated crying in the converted shed behind our sons house, is what I really feel. 
And fragile. 
I don't know how much longer I can go on in this unreal life in Saudi with its ridiculous demands on both of us. 
I miss talking with him about life, living, kids, home, family, future plans, sport teams, motorbikes, planning our weekend bike rides, playing cards, playing scrabble, watching movies together, learning Spanish and figuring out how to raise bees and grow vanilla beans.  I'm tired of having to cajole him out of the house to do things together.
I might have coffee mornings I can go to every day of the week, but they do not fill the void of loneliness.  He might be right there in the house with his computer, but I miss my man. 
And he had no idea.
He thought I had simply adjusted fabulously to life in Saudi.  I think he was trying to talk himself into believing that because how can you think such a thing after one of my expat wife meltdowns?
This little discussion did clear the air of a lot of my built up issues.
He has attempted to be more present lately and actually closes his computer.
I agreed we could spend the first week doing up the house.

(And what better way to do it than as a family working bee!)

It is safe to say that the rest of our time was spent happily, together, at (or near) a beach surrounded by the whanau.

Over the next few days the rest of the family arrived from distant shores (namely Ozzie and the UK) and it was so nice to have everyone in the same place for Christmas and New Year.  A good reason to be dancing I reckon.  (This is the kids latest cool song - Note the adults quite liked it too)

Naturally, being Christmas, the kids scored big time at each of the whanau gatherings for feasting and present giving.  First up was Christmas Eve morning at home.  I love watching kids reactions to getting long awaited for, hoped for, fingers crossed for, and just glad to get, gifts.

Then we headed down to my brothers place at the beach near the Coromandel for Christmas Day.  The pile of presents placed under the tree grew and grew after the kids went to bed, ready for them to receive the next morning...

There were gifts for the young and the slightly more mature.  There were fun gifts, homemade gifts and special gifts.

Everyone seemed quite happy with the gifts that they got.

The whole morning was a bit much for the old boy who needed a nap midway through proceedings.

And there was the food.  Loads and loads of food.  And laughs.  And general good times.

As all the family were together it seemed a good idea to take a few family group photo's with my parents as the center pieces.

There was the grandchildren photo...

... the great-grandchildren photo...

...and the all in photo.

We even attempted a recreation photo.  From this over twenty years ago...

To this...

Christmas Day was a great day, and so were the days that followed.  The beach was spectacular and we enjoyed it, even on the days it rained.

We eventually left the coast and headed up North, to visit the farm.  The kids got to run around the bush and paddocks, to visit the old homestead where their great-grandfather grew up, (now in need of major TLC), and to swim in the river.

Our next stop was the Manukau Heads, just outside of Auckland, to a beach house with its glorious views over the bay from a deck perfect for a New Years Eve party.

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games at the house.  The gardens needed a trim and the deck needed a spot of paint.  (The husband actually discussed both of these in real time, out loud).

But really, mostly, it was time to chill'ax.
We went to the beach every day.  Hubby took the truck over the hill and we walked around the point. The kids dressed in rubbish bags the day we went over to the coast to go sliding down sand dunes. We basically had a great family time.

Then it was time to say our farewells and head back to Saudi.  We landed in Riyadh and said hello to the nice bloke at the customs counter.  He said hello back and then said to me, 'You can go'.  But to Hubster he said, 'Your visa expired.'

Your visa expired
It can't be.
It expired.
How?  It should be the same as my wife's!
(Shrug). (Tense silence)
What do I do now?, Hubster said.
Go to office.
What do I do now?, I said.
You can go in, [to baggage collection] your husband go to office.
How long will this take?, Hubster said.
Maybe one hour.

So it was decided I would pick up the suitcases and wait in the taxi.  What happens next is how Hubster described it to me later...

...Hubster went to the office where the men were drinking qahwa.  After an introduction and description of the issue, they offered him qahwah and then one of the blokes went to check the visa on the computer.  Expired by 15 days it said which is not what was printed on the piece of paper in Hubsters hand.

Sorry, they said.
The computer says expired.  It's expired.
What now?, says husband.
Where you come from?, they said.
You go back Dubai.
What if I don't want to go back to Dubai?, he asks.
The blokes looked rather perplexed at that statement and said, 'Why not?'
Hubster was thinking he might do a stint in the airport cells.  (When he told me this my first thought was, what awesome blog fodder.  Bad wifey, I know).
You have credit card?, they ask
You go Dubai.

Given that he not only had a credit card but also cash and his computer, all of which he thought may go missing while he was in the cells, he opted for a return trip to Dubai.

So he calls me and says he's being put back on the plane.
OK, I say, how long will this take.
Hopefully a day or so he says.
So I go home.  He goes to Dubai.

Apparently he was considered a deportee so had to be escorted to the plane and handed over to the flight staff.  Once in Dubai he had to wait to alight until someone from Foreign Affairs came to collect him. He wasn't allowed to simply walk out through Dubai customs because there is quite a bit of process and paperwork that goes with being deported.  The Foreign Affairs Ministry (FAM) needs forms filled and the Dubai CID (aka Police) need to give him clearance.  The FAM guy told him it is up to the discretion of the CID whether or not they would let him leave.  Not to mention he had to pay for his return ticket to Dubai.  Once the fare had been paid, the forms filled and the CID were happy his deportation was for fairly innocent reasons, he was escorted to the CID passport area and released.

All quite painless really, though time consuming, and the everyone he dealt with was very pleasant.

This all happened on a Saturday.
On Tuesday we decided that if he didn't have his visa in the next couple of days I would go over to Dubai for the weekend and to take him some clothes - (Remember I had all the suitcases, he had his computer bag.  He needed a change of clothes).

I got to spend 10 days in Dubai before he got his visa extension.
He wasn't particularly happy with this delay as he had to cancel meetings.
Personally, I thought the extra holiday was ace.

In order to get his visa his office had to write a letter to the Saudi Ministry of Interior explaining the situation and asking for a visa.  The MOI, after getting the office to send a few extra bits and pieces to prove they are a properly registered company, then sent a form back to the office that had to go to the Saudi Consulate in Dubai.  Once Hubby had that form he had to engage an agent to liaise with the consulate.  (You can't just rock up at the consulate with your form - something he discovered after he rocked up).  It took a while to get the visa to the consulate because the systems were down, but once the visa extension was issued, it was only valid for seven days.  Given we were told late on a Thursday that it was ready, and the agency is shut on weekends, by the time we got it three days had already expired.

So we had to head back to Riyadh.  However, once back at Riyadh customs we find that a visa extension requires a different type of processing.  So, once again, I was told I could go through while Hubby was directed toward the office to get his visa photocopied.  Then he had to wait for the only guy who could process his visa to come back from lunch.  Once said man was back at his desk I could see he and the Hubster both through the perspex class having a good old laugh.  Obviously now that the whole process was coming to an end Hubster appeared quite relaxed.

And that folks, was my holiday and eventual return to Riyadh.
Stunning stuff, don't you think?

I'm just hoping his new found ability to close his laptop at night doesn't hit a rocky patch.

Ka Kite,


  1. Hi Gaelene, great post! As an accompanying spouse in Riyadh, I feel your meltdown. Also, thanks for story about your Visa incident. I've always wondered what happens in that situation. Good to know!

  2. Thank you Tasha. I've met a few people who think life is all rosy as an expat in Saudi. My life isn't a bad one at all, but it does throw up with a few thorns now and then :). Thanks for reading.

  3. Charlotte KelleherMarch 02, 2016 1:35 am

    Hi Gaelene - I think you might live in the same compound as my hubby - Jazeera? His name is Matt Kelleher and I'm sure you are the lady he described! If so, I'm moving over in a fortnight, would be great to catch up. I've enjoyed your blog and will definitely need advice when I hit the ground! Especially on sewing and art supplies - I'm halfway through my World of Wearable art entry and will need to hit the ground running to meet the deadline. I actually found your blog searching for a sewing machine and found your hilarious post about genies coming out them or something...really hope I can find one!

  4. haha...Yes, I'm still looking for a genie. Will see you soon :)


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