Sunday, June 15, 2008

Progress and Pressures

There is yet more progress, Wednesday of last week saw the Gnomad, accompanied by one of the Government Relations staff successfully make the application for the police report. This only took about 3 and a half hours, practically greased lightning for the Magic Kingdom.

Not that it went completely smoothly of course, there were a number of hurdles on the way. The first was actually our very own government relations bod, lets call him Al. The Gnomad dutifully turned up at the GR office at the appointed time and Al arrived only five minutes later. Al's boss and Al's bosses boss reminded Al what it was he had to do, paper work was collected and we set off in Al's car. Not before Gnomad had asked Al "Do you have all the necessary papers" at least three times and reassuring Al that the Gnomad has his ID just as often.

Security in Saudi is such that any Western compound or place of work is surrounded by armed security. Private contractors, usually in blue, and National Guard in Desert DPMs all armed, with pistols, assault rifles, and crew-served machine guns in evidence. Being right next to the American Consulate there are also grey clad armed security that belongs to the US and when things are a little tense there are even US Marines*. Vehicles are checked in and out including interior searches and underneath inspections. All this takes more than a few minutes. In these minutes the Gnomad decided to make one last check
"You have got all the papers Al?"
"Yes Mr Gnomad"
"Have you got my passport?"
"No Mr Gnomad, don't you have that?"
"No Al, I have my ID, you at GR have my passport"
So back we go through security to the car park and Al calls on his mobile for someone from GR to bring the Gnomad's passport down from the GR office.

Now dear reader, you will remember that the whole point of the GR bod going with the Gnomad is because the Gnomad, being an ex-pat, is not allowed to hold both his Passport and his Magic ID at the same time, on pain of a 10,000 USD fine.

so now Al actually does have all the papers Al and the Gnomad set off (again) to the Police Station.

At the Police station the letter from the embassy is not acceptable.

It must also, apparently, be stamped by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)**

The Gnomad and Al the go off to the MFAI, just less than an hours drive away. At the MFAI there is almost no Queue***! Alhamdul'Allah! This is almost unheard of! The Gnomad only has to wait half an hour! The Highly Trained and Efficient Civil Servant looked at the paper for about two nano-seconds, stuck a postage stamp on it, cancelled the postage stamp with a rubber stamp and handed it back, with a curt "Halas" ("Finished").

Al then drove the Gnomad back to the police station where the document, having now quite obviously been approved by the MFAI after exhaustive security and authenticity checks, was immediately accepted.

Twenty minutes later the Gnomad was on his way back to work, slightly inky from having given fingerprints, but satisfied that the process was now under way.

When could the Gnomad expect to receive the report? "Two to four weeks, Insh'Allah" which actually means one or two months. "Why does it take so long?" the Gnomad asked Al. Al explained that the Magic Police are not actually 100% computerised yet****, so the report request must be taken around the different police regions and checked against paper records.

A letter has duly been left with GR asking them if they would be ever so kind and forward the report, with an Enlgish translation, should the Gnomads have left the Magic Kingdom before it arrives, which is an entirely likely circumstance.

As a side note, GR has not yet started processing the Gnomads' Final Exit Visas, we are all waiting on confirmation of the change of ownership of the Gnomadmobile, which so far has taken 4 days longer than stated. No surprise there.

The Gnomad has a tendency to be hypertensive, and so keeps an eye on his blood pressure. As you might imagine, trying to get a Final Exit Visa does not help this one little bit. Being prudent, the Gnomad booked in to see the cardiologist to get a check up before departing the Kingdom.

On arrival at the hospital the Gnomad was informed that his appointment was actually tomorrow, not today. The Gnomad was less than courteous to the reception staff as this is the third time this particular hospital has done this. On the first occasion Gnomad allowed the hospital to convince him that he, the Gnomad, had got it wrong. The Gnomad is not one to be caught out twice and has been very careful since. On the second occasion Gnomad lodged a formal complaint and pursued the same until it resulted in the admission that the particular specialist concerned (not, on that occasion, the cardiologist) had only a few appointments that day and so had cancelled the clinic and put the appointments over to the next day. "Did the hospital tell anyone"? the Gnomad had asked the rather besieged customer relations chap who was the recipient of the Gnomads ire. No they hadn't, he finally admitted, but they would be sure to do so in future if it such a cancellation were to happen again, which of course it wouldn't, the Gnomad was assured.

No, they didn't tell anyone, and yes it did happen again.

The Gnomad could see from the appointments screen on the computer at reception that the entire clinic had been cancelled.

Perhaps this is a sideways kind of way of drumming up more business for brother cardiologists. The doctor cancelling appointments without telling any of the clients is really not going to help anyone's blood pressure, and even though it has lost this individual cardiologist one source of revenue, the Gnomad is definitely going to see his cardiologist in the Philippines, who is professional, courteous, knowledgeable and always in his office when he says he will be.

The Gnomad suspects that departing the magic Kingdom will do more to steady his blood pressure than any amount of meds ever will.

*Usually, though, if things are tense enough that the Marines are in evidence theGnomad and his colleagues stay at home in their fortified and equally guarded compound.

** the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is often referred to by ex-pats as the Ministry of Mucking About the Infidel (MFAI), or something very, very similar to that.

*** relatively speaking of course, "almost no queue" in the Magic Kingdom means less than ten people falling in line at each teller.

**** in fact about 20% computerised, as far as the Gnomad could tell.


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