So there I was, almost three hours since my feet had touched Saudi soil, with no sleep and no shower, at my new place of employment. It had been barely a ten minute drive from my new apartment to the office so I hadn’t had chance to recover much from my rushed preparations before the driver was leading me up a set of shimmering marble steps into a lobby better suited to a 5* hotel than a corporate head office.
Floors, surfaces, walls, all were carved, decorative marble adorned with art work, ornate sofas, glass doors and even some miniatures of different building projects. Overhead glittering chandeliers watched over me as I tried to keep pace with my guide whilst drink in the overwhelming surroundings. Given how tired I was I was half inclined to believe I’d fallen asleep instead of dashing into the waiting car and was now dreaming.
Two overly decorated flights of stairs and one access card protected entrance later and I was shanking hand with Nadia. Next to a the organised force of nature that was my only friend so far in this strange place, in her smart suit and clipped demeanour, I felt more than a little shabby in my jeans, wrap and sandals. If Nadia had any reservations about me based on the get up she didn’t show it.
Before I knew what was happening she’d shown me the second floor that would become my base of operation, where the Media Department and the Finance Department comfortably rubbed along pretending not to see each other. Thankfully, in among the tirade of introductions and chitchat, there was a blessed cup of tea and assurances that I would by no means have to remember everyone’s name.
It didn’t take long before I was beginning to flag, but that was thought of too and without quite knowing from whence it came there was a pizza all for me whilst Nadia took care of some of her regular work. However, the respite was short lived. No sooner had the last slice disappeared Nadia was ready to set me to another task – it was time for the medical. Yes, another one. Just on the off chance I’d picked up tuberculosis between my Harley Street visit and now.
Back into the car I got and battled (not too successfully) to stay awake on the way to the hospital that was owned by the company I was in the process of been inducted into. Clutching my paperwork I staggered into another atrium of marble, oversized chandeliers and even an aquarium full of vibrant fish. This was a hospital? I tumbled out of the elevator at the wrong floor twice, confused by sleep and the desire for the day to be done, before I found the right place to be and barely noticed as they sucked out blood samples and exposed me to x-rays.
Somehow I was back before Nadia’s oversized (marble, of course) desk. How had I gotten back here? Was I supposed to be there? It was 5.30pm, Nadia told me, almost the end of the day. Unbidden, an image materialized of the untouched queen sized bed waiting back in the apartment baring witness to my hurried unpacking. Could I really be curled up in there soon?
No, I couldn’t. Nadia switched from work mode to ‘I’m a mom mode’ and insisted I shouldn’t spend my first night in a strange country alone, we would swing by my place and grab a change of clothes and then I’d spend the weekend with her and her family. Too tired to care I accepted the offer. As it happens, I was really glad she offered.
Image from: http://www.lukeyishandsome.com/2011_07_01_archive.html