Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rice and Beans

Last week was a bit of a down week for me. They told us in our general orientation that we would experience exactly that, right around this time, after the initial excitement and chaos of arrival started to subside. Of course, this statement was promptly pooh-poohed by yours truly. Homesickness is for the weak. Well, I was certainly forced to eat those words last week. Unfortunately, they were vomited back up into the porcelain bowl in the unit bathroom my first day of work.

***Saudi Lesson Learned # 1129: “Fresh” fish in Saudi is dependent on your frame of reference. When you walk into the “fresh” fish section at the grocery store and it smells the trash bin behind Save-On Meats on a hot summer day, the fish is probably not that fresh. Attempts to use this fish to satiate a craving for your Uncle’s famous West Coast BBQ wild salmon is like mixing
up a cup of instant coffee when you are craving JJ Bean…wait a sec…oh right. I do that as well.***

Yes, I certainly know how to make a fantastic first impression. Following a night spent with alternating orfices acquainting themselves with the toilet bowl, I woke up at 6am, peeled myself off the bathroom floor, rubbed the tile imprints off the side of my face, and applied a dab of concealer to the bags under my eyes. Sick days are for the weak. I fumbled into my crisp new white uniform, and queasily shuffled the 15 min walk in the 40C morning heat to start my first official day at work.

I met my preceptor (who is an absolutely lovely Finnish woman), and we promptly set off down the hall to the first room. Just as I was being introduced to the patient as the “new” nurse, my saliva glands started seeping, and the flickering fluorescent “fresh fish” sign from the grocery store invasively emblazoned itself in my mind. My gurgling stomach bile screamed “THIS FISH AIN’T FRESH”. I dropped my papers, stumbled out of the room and ran down the hall to the loo. I emerged several minutes later, face the colour of a stick of chewed spearmint gum. As we had not yet gotten to that part of the orientation, I first had to explain to my head nurse who I was, and then that I had to go home. Yep, great first impression I left that day.

The next afternoon, following the sub-death coma sleep I had sunken into for the previous 24hrs, the next day I decided that I should probably do a bit of grocery shopping (this time strictly adhering to Saudi Lesson Learned #1129). I moseyed around for a bit, filling my cart with rice and beans (safe for my stomach, but unfortunate for those around me afterwards). I was waiting in line for the checkout when all of a sudden, I felt something catch my heel. I turned around and came face to face with an irate one-shoed old man yelling at the top of his lungs in Arabic at me. Apparently my total moo-moo abaya wasn’t hiding enough of my “femaleness” and the distraction had caused him to trip over me and lose his sandal. Though I have no idea what he was saying (probably just as well), it was CLEARLY my fault. Sorry, sir – pardon my XX chromosome. He walked off in a huff, and I went home feeling more homesick than ever…

Anyhow, this week I am feeling much better, but I want to say that I really do miss everyone back in Canada. Being in the Middle East is super awesome, and I am so so happy I decided to come here, but it has also made me realize and fully appreciate (because of course I already knew this!) how super amazingly lucky I am to have all of you in my life. Miss you and love you all

Mafe al kher (goodnight)



Jamie Sparling said...

oh double snap! ! I wonder if your head nurse was thinking that there was something fishy about your first impression...

I hope you are well and keep it real!

Tracey said...


My are absolutely hilarious....I would pay you to go there just to hear these stories.....I love you....