I was just eight months in training as a staff nurse in a small hospital in our province. I really was not expecting any letter that time since I was just starting my shall I say, nursing career for that matter. I was not really expecting any letter from any agency that time because the application that I passed to the Philippine Overseas Recruitment Agency regarding my hospital experience was not enough, but anyways they accepted my papers because according to them some countries were so in need of nurses that they're not so particular with the experience.
And I was lucky, Saudi Arabia was in dire need of nurses at that time and there were only a few nursing graduates since it was a recession in America when I was in college, most of my classmates also shifted to another course. Physical therapy was in demand that time so most of them shifted to the said course. Going back to the paper that I received, it was stated there that I should go to Manila for the test then if I pass the test, the interview will follow then the physical exam.
I was scared that time, there was a lot of questions that enter my mind, how will I tell my seniors that I will go to Manila for an interview? And would they allow me? Where will I stay in Manila, and for how long ? Where will I get the money to pay for the physical exam? If I could pass the exam? So I prayed, Lord God please help me, I know that you're the only one who knows what's best for me so pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeee take care of me, Lord. Then, good thing my mother called me up, I told her about the letter for an interview which will be held in Manila. She told me not to worry about a thing she will send me the money for all the expenses, and she will also contact her uncle who lives in Manila where I will stay for maybe a couple of weeks or more. My mother was presently working in Saudi that time, and when she goes home for her yearly vacation which lasted only for 45 days she would tell us all about the things that happened to her in Saudi, the customs and traditions and some of their languages too, like Alham Dullilah which means thanks God, Ah salam Ahlaikum meaning Good day, Mafe malum means I don't know, mafe mok, brainless, EnsshaLlah which means in God's will. But, of all the words what l like most was Alham Dullilah! And so after talking to my mom, I made an excuse letter to my superior stating that I will be off for a week or two for an interview in Manila and then the following day I talked to them and showed them my letter which they agreed with no question asked, thank God Alham Dulillah!
While in the province instead of worrying myself to death, I reviewed my notes read my textbooks for four hours every day, that's how scared I imagined that. I would also write notes and memorize and would always pray for God's guidance. Then when I arrived in Manila the uncle of my mother fetch me at the domestic airport. My brother was in Manila that time but he was very far from Makati where I took the test so the uncle of my mother which is my grandfather for short, was informed by my mother to accompany me for the processing of my papers.
The day that I took the test, I was well-rested and very much prepared and I passed the exam including the interview. I was the highest among the 50 nurses who took the exam and it was posted in the bulletin board of the agency and the POEA, actually my grandfather was the one who informed me coz he was the one who's checking everything and he was so proud when he told me," nene" that's my nickname, "you're the highest among the nurses who took the test, congratulations!" Everyone looked at us, I was quite shy that time coz, I did not expect him to shout with too much excitement. Added to this there were many people that time and it is POEA, many applicants and personnel were there. Furthermore, after all the exams, including physical exams for that matter and interviews, we were set to depart from Manila, if I remembered right at around 8 or nine a.m. We're the two nurses who are assigned in the same province in Saudi Arabia, others, there were ten or more who were posted in the same place. But, before the designation of the area, I informed them that if possible they would place me in the same area of that of my mother so that somehow we would be together, but to no avail, because there was no vacancy. So I thought I was really intended to that place and indeed I was. Moreover, when my fellow nurse, I'll just name her Faz and I arrived in Saudi international airport she was so scared with the women there coz they wore this so-called "abaya", black clothing that covered their whole body except for their eyes. While me, on the other hand, was not that shocked since my mother told me already about those things. Added to this the males they wore this sort of " habit" that our priest wore here in the Philippines. Thus, it's really important that you searched through the internet or browse from a book about the customs and traditions of the country that you will be working, so to minimize "culture shock". So what I did to somehow alleviate her fear was, that I told her about my mother's hilarious experiences in Saudi and somehow she was comforted. After that, we were instructed to board another plane since our assignment was a province. Then at long last, we reached our final destination and it was already dawn. The place was the same as I imagined it to be, not so many plants and the landform that you would see was a pure desert. At long last, I was able to see the country where my mother works as a nurse, which when I was small, told her to pack me in a suitcase so that I can go with her and that we would not be separated anymore.
Furthermore, the next day both of us were assigned to the emergency department. There were many Filipino nurses and a few Filipino doctors there. We were also able to work with Indian, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, Palestinian, Lebanese, Koreans and Chinese and of course Saudi nationality. And it's indeed a different experience when you're able to work with them, it's a wonderful transcultural experience since you'll be able also to know their beliefs, their customs, and traditions, etc.
For our first day of duty, our task was to assist the doctors in their respective clinics. I was assigned to an Egyptian doctor. He was nice and helpful to me, alleviating my anxiety to my first day of duty. He taught me a few Arabic words like mafe which means none, eg. mafe pulos no money, while he is the opposite of "mafe. A few weeks passed and our vocabulary in Arabic increased a little. But what was the most exciting part was that there was a young and single Filipino doctor whom I did not know had a huge crush on me. That's why he was always helping me and Faz, he even gave us an Arabic translation that helped us a lot with our day to day duty, since he was three months ahead of us in that place, somehow he was quite well-versed with the spoken language there. Moreover, he would request from our head nurse that I would be the nurse assigned to him, and since they were close my superior would gladly agree to the arrangement which I would also enjoy coz I have a crush on him too. That set-up lasted for a few months only coz, he was transferred to other provinces that were 14 hours by bus. By the way courtship in Saudi, even both of you is single is not allowed and when you are husband and wife you should always bring your documents wherever you go especially outside the hospital compound signifying that you're married to each other. Because if not and you're caught by their "mutawa" both of you will be put to jail and send home. So what he did before he transferred to the other place, he gave me a marriage contract that I filled up also coz deep in my heart I really do love the person and I don't want to lose him. He gave some of his belongings to me coz he'll be the one to pay if he has excess baggage which he does not want to happen. Then when he was already there he telephoned me immediately to inform that he was safe. He would always send me letters and cards almost weekly that somehow lessen my loneliness. I, on the other hand, would write to him short letter coz I'm not that talented in writing as compared to him. He would also call me three times a week without a single missed. And this continued for eight months, then when the day of our contract almost finished, he was the one who booked for our ticket and we went home together riding the same plane. We were sitting together, hugging each other," no mutawas can stop us now", he said. Then we informed all our relatives regarding our plans to tie the knot and we were formally married in our country of origin, the Philippines after a few months of preparation. After marriage, I continued my nursing career while he pursued his passion for cosmetic surgery. Now, we're also blessed with two beautiful and gifted children, ages 5 and 2 years old respectively. And for my friend and companion Faz, she's presently working in Dubai. And I always pray for her safety anywhere she goes. We're still writing each other and sharing pictures through the internet.