Saturday, December 10, 2011

Landing a job in Jeddah 2!

During my interview (with the Superintendant) for a Kindergarten teacher job, I was verbally offered the "Director of Curriculum" job! With this job, I would train teachers and also teach Kindergarten students as well. The company wants to fly me (all expense paid!) to Denver to train me in the curriculum. I will be with a worldwide franchise type school. It would be the first of its kind in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, though. There are some locations in  New York, India and Japan. It is a Kindergarten campus with an 8:1 student to teacher ratio. There would be one international and one Saudi teacher per classroom.The curriculum is brain-based and tailored for our little ones minds. What is really amazing is that there is an interactive whiteboard in the classrooms. Also, the curriculum includes Music, Art, Economics, Phonics, and Science experiments.  Ok, I am getting a little excited because I have seen the positive effects of learning when young children are in an environment that facilitates early learning. The really good news is that they provide Visa's for me and my kids! This is the hardest thing to get because most schools will provide a Visa just for the teacher and not the children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tea time all the time in Saudi!

Tea time all the time
You can call it hospitality or pure enjoyment. Over the past few weeks I have been busy meeting new vendors to make our services more attractive and up to par with international standards. Yesterday I met with a total of 7 vendors and I visited two other personal in our company. For each visitor it is customary to order tea or Arabian coffee. Even though there is no rule book on this but what I have noticed the other person will not leave till both parties are done.

So you can imagine with 9 visits and 9 cups of tea or coffee there is a coffee break every few minutes.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Road trip to Taif.

This weekend with family and a few friends I visited Taif. Matter of fact the we went to Al-Shafa 20 Km. east of Taif and on the top of the mountain. It was 9 degrees Celsius (48 F), however at the height and with the moisture level I must say the feel like temps were in the lower 40s or upper 30s. I was happy to bring out my jacket and put it on. It was a fun experience, which reminded me of the drive from Raton, NM to Colorado Spring, CO but without greenery. Unfortunately ill prepared I left my camera in camera bag in the trunk of the car. However a photo capture on the way out this morning shows the beauty of fog covering the peak.

Here is a video of us coming down from the mountain. I want everyone to notice one small thing in the video, due to the atmospheric condition usually in the evening and night time Saudi government installed street lights even though there are no cities or towns on the steep drive down the mountain.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Comparing Life in the USA to Life in Saudi Arabia

I thank Mike a geat photographer for this amazing photo. Find him on Flickr @Inbet_1979

Perhaps the title is a little deceiving, but one of the main cultural differences is how time is valued. Most if not all successful countries and their cultures show a great level of respect to time and timelines. In America we know our paychecks will be in the account on or before the payday. When our neighbor and friends ask us to help them with something we complete the tasks on or before that day. In our culture we always say I will be there on or before time. When we purchase our furniture we expect it to show up on time if not a little before.
In Kingdom of Saudi Arabia time is like oil. There is plenty of it to waste, which people do all the time. In comparison to U.S. in Saudi Arabia everything is after this or that time. For example most organizations will inform their employees their pay will be disbursed after a certain date. If you insist on knowing a date they will simply say you will get paid after the 2nd. It can be a day or weeks after that day. You can expect the same behavior from almost all the service providers. After purchasing office furniture I was told my furniture will arrive after the noon prayers. Not used to Kingdom’s customs I was ready at 12:30. I failed to realize, when I was told after the noon prayers it meant anytime after that and before sunrise the next day. The next day I was told they delivered the furniture around 8:00 Pm.
Maybe one day the market will change, perhaps the younger generation can learn from the foreign cultures and embrace all the good. But till that day Saudi Arabia will always be considered as country of  Bedouins. No skyscraper or modern infrastructure built by expatriates can help a nation become successful, unless they start respecting time amongst other things.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

Look what I found at local super market. BUTTERBALL Turkey, I guess Saudis are getting ready for Thanksgiving as well. This will be my first Thanksgiving away from home, I am not sure if I should try to recreate some of the traditional Thanksgiving items. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why the Head Covering?

As an American, I have been guilty of thinking about the purpose and reason behind head coverings in Saudi Arabia. Then, I realized that head coverings are not just practiced in Saudi Arabia. In fact, I started wondering when head coverings came into existence. As a lover of the Google search engine, I discovered some wonderful articles. Here is a link that has pictures of head coverings all over the world and over the span of many centuries: I discovered that there is a verse in 1 Corinthians 11:5 that says- Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. Covering the head was an early Christian practice just like the Amish practice today. Also, nuns cover their heads. I say this as me and my children are watching "Madeline" which is set in Paris, France. In this movie, little orphan girls are taken care of by a nun. As she wakes in the middle of the night to see why one is crying, she puts her head covering back on. In the same way, when my daughter Rayesa went to play at a friends house, her mother answered the door with her head covering. However, when I came to pick Rayesa back up, her head covering was not on. We then left and she came back outside to hand us a toy that Rayesa had forgotten-and she had her head covering back on. I just recently read the book "Plain Truth" by Jodi Picoult. This was a story about an American lawyer who lived among the Amish. What seemed to strange to her (and to me as I read) was how simple they dressed and how they always wore a "capp" on top of their head. It was simply a way of life that went along with their religion. Today, Muslim women wear head coverings. In Saudi Arabia, the religious police ensure that religious laws are not broken. However, in many photo's and video's from Saudi Arabia in the past several years, some foreign women are not wearing a head covering. I think that I will be on the safe side and respectfully wear a head covering while in Saudi Arabia. I no longer think it is strange to wear a head covering. I just think it is not practiced in my society or by the majority of the women who I live around. Just think, though, no one ever criticized Mother Teresa for covering her head. Many women do amazing things and many of these women are Amish, Muslim, Christian, English, etc.....

The Floating Mosque.

This is technically my first photo on the ground of Saudi Arabia. I am gathering courage to capture a few more pictures each and every day. Stay logged on my friends.

The Floating Mosque and The Sun Set

Singles Not Allowed

Today on the second day of Eid, I decided to take my brother to Chili's for dinner. In Saudi Arabia the restaurants are partitioned for singles (Males) and Families. First of all there is no women only section, if they are there they must be with their family. That is a topic for another day.

Upon our arrival we were told, due to Eid we are only serving families we have to come another day. I was a little furious but again what can I do. So we decided to go somewhere else.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

KAUST in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia - A Little Piece of America!

I do have my Master's degree. Possibly working at a University is an option. I have always wanted to eventually teach at the college level, however, I truly enjoy teaching my Kindergarteners! I came across the King Abdullah Univeristy, which is near to Jeddah. After reading the article below, it seems like the most "western" part of Saudi Arabia. Here is that article:

These are some of the perks of working at KAUST
1. All 3 children tuition for schooling will be paid
2. All housing will be paid, and is a stand alone family sized house (so beautiful!)
3. Women can drive inside the gates of the University
4. A Lab school exists on the campus, which houses Early Childhood and Kindergarten classes (I could possibly teach Kindergarten here!)
5. KAUST pays for all the Visa process for the family
6. Airfare is paid for the family
7. Huge parks and family events happen often on campus

Here is a video of the housing:

Here are some other nice blogs from internationals living in Saudi Arabia

*update* I had an interview with this school but was not offered a job. The reason: I was not familiar with and had not taught in the EYP or IB before. Oh, well......

Friday, October 14, 2011

Useful Jeddah websites and blogs

I have come across some amazing websites which have great pictures and information concerning life in Saudi Arabia. This is a comment made about Jeddah, "it is the most liberal and friendly of all Saudi cities." This is good news, right? I think so!

"Welcome to Paris of Arabia. Jeddah is one of the most ancient cities in Arabia going back as far as Adam & Eve. Jeddah is the second largest city of Saudi Arabia."  This is nice to hear because it is probably as close to Paris as I will get!

Virtual Tourist is the website where I found the above information:

Internations is another website that I discovered. It is like a little community. Job postings, furniture sells, housing reviews and local events are posted on this site.

*update* Since being in Jeddah, this is the website I use the most:

Is there a Wal-Mart there? Stores in Jeddah

These are some of the stores in Jeddah, that I could be shopping at. They look so big
This is Hyper-Panda. Another westernerner,
Susie of Arabia blogs from Jeddah and took
this nice picture. She says that this store is fun
to shop in.

This is the inside of the store. It looks big in here
too! I am looking forward to shopping here! It
reminds me of Wal-Mart, kind of.

The Journal of Getting a Teaching Job in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

October 12 - I sent an e-mail to Carly, letting her know my concerns about the Visa. She contacted Samia at the school and here is her response via e-mail:
"Dear Carly,
Regarding Andrea's visa issue,the rules in Saudi Arabia are:
  1. In general,the wife and children can benefit from the husband's working visa if the husband has a Master degree and above or if he is a medical doctor.But I'm not sure in case the wife has the degree.
  2. Teaching working visa granted by the Saudi Ministry of Education:If the candidate has BA or BS degree ,he or she would come alone at the beginning and after the arrival of the candidate and getting a resident permit(this should take 8-12 weeks),he /she can apply for a visa for the spouse or children to be under the candidate sponsorship and not the school.
  3. If Andrea is interested to work with us,we need to ask the Ministry of education to grant us a working visa for American candidate.This is a long process for the following reasons:
  • The ministry of education had already granted us our need for this Academic year. Unfortunately,America is not one of them as we did not have American candidate at the time we applied for the working visas.
  • We still did not use all the working visas we were granted(Ireland,Newzeland and Australia),so we are not entitle for a new application til the next academic year ,and before applying for new working visas,we have to completely use what all we were granted for this year.
I hope I explained to you the complete situation thoroughly.
Best regards,
Samia "
Yes- I am a bit nervous now. I have looked at other schools online and am making contacts on international community websites and also by contacting teachers at several schools. I also asked Carly if she thinks she will be able to assist me in my efforts or if I need to find help elsewhere. Sohail is worried that I am bothering Carly!
October 9 - E-mail from Carly: "Dear Andrea, Samia has said that they can offer you a total package of $48,000 USD including housing allowance. There will be a % discount on the children’s fee’s (between 10-15%) They can only do this in 2012 (for Visa reasons)."

This is the starting salary-wow-pretty good, I think. My dad thinks I should ask for more. Being that this a country that negotiates salary, I would probably ask for more. However, the issue now is that Sohail's company cannot provide a family Visa. I will need a Visa (usually given by the school) to enter the country. The children would also need a Visa to enter. Many schools just give a Visa to the teacher they are hiring. So, now our first "bump in the road" is here. Can we get a family Visa? Can we join Sohail there? Now I am getting nervous!

September 14 - Sohail had his interview. For about a week, he negotiated his salary, benefits and housing allowance. He was offered the job! So two weeks later, he returned back to Houston, with his job offer in hand! His pay was more than expected-yeah!

September 7 - I had my first Skype interview. I sat in my bedroom with my laptop, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and no makeup. For 40 minutes, I video-conferenced with a lovely HR Representative for "My Little House" School. So, one week before Sohail flew to Jeddah for his interview, I had my interview.

September 6 - These are the 2 e-mail's that I received today. Are things really happening this fast?

Email 1 - "Just wondering if things have changed over the past few weeks as I now have an urgent opening in Saudi and a school requesting to interview you? -Carly"

E-mail 2 - "Dear Andrea,Carly from Synarbor Education send me your CV.We have an immediate opening in both primary and early years .I would like to conduct an interview either by telephone or preferably via skype if available, to go through some of the relevant information mentioned in your CV.Could you please assign a date and time that suit you to do so. Looking forward to hearing from you. - Samia"

August 18 - Carly sent my CV's (a fancy resume used in many places, but not in the US, usually) to some schools.

August 15 - I was using LinkedIn and noticed that jobs in other countries were opening up. I contacted one such recruiter, just to ask, if she placed teachers in Saudi Arabia. I mentioned that my husband, Sohail, would be working in Jeddah soon. Several days later, the recruiter contacted me back and said there was a school interested in interviewing me for a teaching position. I was thinking "But, I am not ready to move, or even think about an interview. I just started the school year, here in Houston. How can a think about another job? I am so happy where I teach now!"

*update* I did not take the above job because they want me sooner than I could come, in the middle of the school year!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Places to Eat in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

So, I have lived a short time in Taipei, Taiwan and also Almaty, Kazakhstan. When I was in Taipei, it was KFC, Domino's and Subway that were my comfort foods. I would travel 3o minutes on the subway to find American food. In Kazakhstan, it was McDonald's that made me happy when I missed home. It looks like in Saudi Arabia, I will have many more choices.

This is the Jeddah Mall McDonald's

Pizza Hut TGI Friday's

Baskin Robbins Fudrucker's

Chili's Hardee's

KFC Drive thru at Burger King

Papa John's Pizza

OMG- Starbuck's.....I am so excited! The building above is right across from Sohail's office building.

Ok-I just asked Sohail, "What is a Singles Section?" This is very interesting. Every restaurant has a singles section and a families section. So instead of being asked "Do you want smoking or non-smoking, you will choose either singles or family section. Why? This is to prevent the mingling of women and men. "So, how do unmarried people meet?" I just asked Sohail. He said, "They really don't. It's arranged through the parents." I guess this will make it more "safe" for me and the kids to go to Starbuck's. I will not have to be worried about another man hitting on me or asking me out. That's good for a married woman.

Where in the World is Saudi Arabia?

Some of you may be wondering- "Where is Saudi Arabia?" Here is a map of the world, with Saudi Arabia shaded green. Jeddah is the city where our family will be moving to.

To the west of Saudi Arabia is the Red Sea. Jeddah is on the coast line of the Red Sea, and that is where we will be moving to. Look how close Egypt is-possibly we will be able to visit the pyramids for a family vacation. I hope so! Well, as you can see, Iraq is to the North, Sudan and Egypt are to the west, Yemen is to the south, Kuwait is northeast along the Persian Gulf and Qatar and Dubai is on the eastern side of Saudi Arabia.

Here is a closer look at Saudi Arabia:

Ok-I am really getting excited about vacation opportunities now: Germany, Italy, Egypt, oh my!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Being a Woman in Saudi Arabia will be different


This is an amazing article, posted on another blog, that shows the top ten reasons why it is ok to be a woman living in Saudi Arabia.

Three of my favorite things from this article are:

1. If a company employs more than 100 women, then a childcare center must be provided for their children. If less than 100 work there, then a child care stipend or caretaker must be provided. Ok-I don't know of anywhere in the U.S. that offers this perk!

2. Pregnant women have paid maternity leave, beginning 4 weeks before the baby is born. 6 weeks of pay is also provided after labor & delivery.

3. Women have chauffers as personal drivers. Any time a woman needs to go somewhere, she simply calls her driver. I honestly have no problem with this, because I will not have any desire to drive in the motor speedway city of Jeddah. It took me 2 years of living in Houston, before I braved it and started driving here-and I am a white American!

All in all, life will be very different for me, in Saudi Arabia. I am learning that every society will have pro's and con's, but may be completely opposite based on the culture.

Women Rights in Saudi Arabia

This is a great interview between Piers Morgan of CNN and Princess Ameerah. It discusses the issue of women driving cars in Saudi Arabia. Her husband, the prince was born into the royal family. He supports her speaking out to support women's rights. Isn't she so pretty? Her voice is so sweet and sincere.

Saudi Arabian Princess on the TODAY show

This is a great interview with one of the princesses in Saudi Arabia. She discusses the veil, the headdress and clothing worn by some of the women there.

A Lady Searches for a Teaching Job in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

I already had an interview, via Skype, several weeks ago. I sat on my bed in a t-shirt and jeans, with no makeup on, and had an interview. What an experience. It felt like a live interview, except for the fact that the kids, all popped up in the video to say "hi" to the HR person that I was speaking with. She said that her children do the same thing! I am glad that it was no big deal!

The name of the school that my interview was with is "My Little House School." Sounds sweet, doesn't it. You can view pictures of it by clicking on this link: It reminds me of Blues Clues for some reason-very colorful and inviting! I think I like it! The website has just a little information on it because website surfing is not the ultimate mode of sharing information, in Saudi Arabia. Word of mouth is more relied upon. Even hearing back from the lady who interviewed me, was not very swift. It was over a few weeks.

I used a service called Synarbor and a rep named Carly Liddel. It was an overseas teaching job placement company, which I was very impressed with. Carly helped me get my answers about price more quickly.

*update* I did not take this job. The school wanted me sooner than I could arrive.

Quick Videos from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - Streets, Schools and Shopping

I found this cute little video of a school program. It is from Talal International School in Jeddah,Saudi Arabia. I can imagine Rayesa dancing like this. Oh, how she loves to be on stage performing!

Here is a video that someone took while driving through the university (King Abdul Aziz University). The orange colored buildings is the housing for the teachers there. Hmmmm.....maybe in the future I could be a professor here?

Here is a short video about shopping.

This is Tahlia Street, a fancy shopping area in Jeddah. It has many high end shopping stores such as Burberry, Pierre Cardin and more. The Saudi City Compound is on this street. There are also some schools close to this streeet. It is known as a "posh" area of town. I think I like it! The palm trees will make me feel like I am vacationing in Florida!

This is a supermarket. This one is the Saudi City Compound. A compound is like a gated neighborhood. You can only go there if you live there or are invited.

*update* Now that we are in Jeddah, I have not visited any of the places above! However, I have shopped and rode on Thalia Street. It is very nice, as pictured in the photo's! I went to the GAP, though!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shopping for a Home - Villa? Compound? Apartment?

These are some of the choices we will have as we decide the type of home we will live in. Compound life can be compared to living on a military base, with guarded and gated entries and a wall around it. A compound is like a small city. Most have swimming pools, recreation centers, a restaraunt, a mini-mart and a playground. Some even have a golf course, bowling alley, bus services, salon and more. Within the compound, women follow the laws of their own country. There is no need to wear the head covering, which is sometimes worn outside, but not required. I am sure that I will write another post about the topic of the head covering. That will come later. Now these are some of the non-perks of compound life: visitors must be screened and approved in order to enter your home on the compound. The compounds that are within our price range-have  smaller bedrooms and less square footage as a whole (when compared to a villa). Compound life for a family of 5 is would be from $35,000-40,000 a year.

This is one view of  "Compound Life," created and posted by another international.

Here is another option-the Villa in Saudi Arabia. After searching online at various postings from internationals, and from my husband's point of view, a villa is three times cheaper than a compound. The square footage of a villa will be double the size of a compound home. Most villa's are more private and some have a pool in the backyard along with a patio. By paying less to live in a villa, we would be able to afford a driver and a maid (how exciting!) Having a driver would keep us from having to pay and ride public transportation to and from school and anywhere else we would go. Here are a few villa video's.

Another villa video...

So, what do you think? What would you choose. It's hard for us to decide also!

*update* Sohail visited MANY apartments and villas. Most of the stand alone villa's were HUGE and way above our price range. The apartments were in various price ranges and were based on the area of town.

We ended up moving in to a quaint apartment in the Rawdah area!

Job Searching in Saudi Arabia - The land of Sand and Money!

Just three weeks ago, Sohail was flown to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to interview with his prospective employer. He returned back on September 29 after being there for three weeks.He entered the door with a job offer!  I am so happy to have him home for two weeks, as me and the kids were not sure that he would use his return ticket to come back. 

He has been out of work and job searching for seven months, in Houston, TX. We depleted our savings and tax return in July and our financial need for him to work became a matter of "work here" or "work where there is work!" I have no doubt that this is what was supposed to happen in our lives. Especially, since me and our three children, have not yet met our relatives in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, even after ten years of marriage. We are all overjoyed!

Now he will await his work visa and iqama so that he can begin working. Now I have began job searching as well. When all the necessary documents have been processed, we plan to move our family to Jeddah! What an adventure we will have. I have created this blog to document it all! Come and join us!

*update* We have been in Jeddah for almost 4 months now! It is different-yet great at the same time! The paperwork is very time consuming and not done as swiftly as in the US.