Monday, November 3, 2008

All in all it's just another brick in the wall...

To mitigate any chance this blog entry mught be construed as negative overall, I have interspersed it with photos of gorgeous flora from a little walk around our neighborhood Thomas and I took yesterday.

In the last post I mentioned my pity, perhaps even with a whiff of superiority, for the expats who don't enjoy their time here because they're bogged down by anger and even disgust at the seemingly unfathomable behavior and customs of another group of people.

Here, however, I must confess. I too have fallen prey to wishing to throttle a group of individuals, a group that frankly I cannot imagine could be more infuriating. A group of people unlike any others (and thank God for that!) that sadly, my social group is in unanimous and verbose agreement against:

The HR department at Mike's work. Troglodytes.

You may remember the trouble we had back in July coming out here, not knowing when we would leave, not knowing if we would be able to stay?

Would you believe it's still going on?

I am reticent to even write this, but the kids and I are, unless I am greatly mistaken, illegal aliens in this country. Now, we shouldn't be. We have done everything we were supposed to. More than, actually.

Unfortunately those HR um, persons (teeth gritting here) can't seem to get their act together for anyone in the company. I have yet to hear anything positive about their performance. That can't be good. In our case, they delayed and delayed (despite Mike emailing them daily) filing the paperwork so the kids and I could become residents. Then they had to pay fines because we're not residents, and to get the money to pay the fines they had to submit forms and then get the money which took time away from actually filing the paperwork, resulting got it....more fines. And more delays.

Now, even thousands of miles away, I can hear you making assumptions about the cultural background of these persons (now I am grinding my teeth to prevent using less-than-family-friendly language). Let me just flat-out tell you, to save you embarassing speculation: they are, for the most part, Canadian.

Being practically Canadian myself (what is Seattle if not Vancouver BC South, and what is Vancouver if not Seattle, North Branch?), I can say that the Canadian factor has little or nothing to do with the complete and utter incompetance. (Though they are Quebec Canadians, which, as I understand it, is another country entirely.) I am starting to believe, as have many before me, if one reads Dilbert on even a sporatic basis, that this is an HR thing.

It really worries me that these people have (and have had for months!) our passports.

One of the things you have to do to become a resident here is to get a Residence Health Exam. When the HR representative perkily anounced to Mike that my Residence was nearly completeted since I'd had the Health Exam, he realised afresh the lack of mental comprehension we're dealing with here, since it hadn't even been scheduled yet.

The HR rep looked confused and tried to argue the point, so Mike took it upon himself to get the thing scheduled and arranged for John (of the H3)'s wife Shuko to go at the same time. A company driver, Mustafa (some days it seems as if everyone here is either Mohammad, Mustafa, or Ali---makes it easy) would come to pick us up and escort us to Abu Dhabi.

On the scheduled morning, back in mid-October, a taxi pulled up in front of our house just as Shuko was getting out of her (what else?) Hummer and a Muslim woman and her small son got out of the taxi and said hello to us. We said hello back, and went into the house.

Watching for our driver, I saw that the woman and her little boy were waiting outside on the sidewalk. Figuring that she was there to view the villa for lease immediately next door, I didn't worry about it much, but when I looked out later she was still there. So I went outside and invited her and her little son to come inside to wait since they would be much more comfortable there in the air conditioning.

She agreed, and followed me inside as I explained that a driver was coming for us, but that she was welcome to stay until then. I offered them water, and asked them to sit down with Shuko, then went upstairs to finish packing Thomas' diaper bag, who was going to stay with Rani for the day. Coming back down I heard Shuko exclaim with her wonderful Japanese accent "Oh, so you are coming with us then?"

Unbeknownst to either of us or our husbands, a third SNC wife had been instructed (by who else? The HR Department of course!) to ride with Shuko and me to Abu Dhabi, and here I had left her waiting outside. I was mortified, and apologized profusely for not knowing; she graciously observed that I was very kind to those I thought were strangers.

Our driver showed up eventually (the Springs can be very confusing, as the numbers are in no particular order). Poor man, I sat in the front seat and kept asking him questions, most of which he didn't understand, until finally I took pity on him and left him to drive in peace.

At the hospital, nearly 2 hours away, after hopscotching through the weaving traffic and blasting horns of the parking lot we were met by a vibrant young man with a clipboard and already filled out paperwork. All we had to do was to follow him, sit where instructed (in the ladies waiting area, of course) and sign on the dotted line. This guy was provided by the company as well, but he was quite good at his job.

Besides the particularly creative and exciting driving and parking techniques of Abu Dhabi drivers, the lively population of cockroaches scuttling across the hospital's walls and floors, and the equally lively shouting match our company male escort/way smoother had with a male patient who cut in line in front of us, the visit was quick, merely a blood draw for HIV and a chest X-ray. I noted that the very thorough results for my chest X-ray had already been documented and signed by a doctor before the Xray was taken, quite expediting the process, I am sure.

I was interested in how the technicians worked, since that's what I do in the USA. For the chest posterior-anterior view X-ray there was no gowning up, measuring, lead aprons or even a deep breath. For the blood draw the RN didn't wash her hands between patients, but she did change her gloves, and the actual stick was well done.

We were rather happy to go back out on the street away from the spectacle of the other patients who passed the time by smooshing the cockroaches with hand and foot. Our escort had done everything administratively for us, and apologized for the man who tried to get in front of us, though we had certainly cut in front of him, and everybody else, for that matter. he showed us how, moments before he had met with us, he had typed "1030" across our paperwork as the time for our exams, and indeed had shoved that paper with the time in the other patient's face to get him to back down.

Paperwork in general has been rather an adventure all in itself. I am making sure to vote in the US Presidential election, of course, and this requires faxes sent back and forth between here, the Snohomish County Auditor, and the Federal Government. I can vote for my candidate as late as November 24th, I believe it is, but that really wouldn't be any fun, now, would it?

Documents here are written in Arabic, and then in English. I am told that sometimes there are...problems in translation. Fortunately for us, we're just a step above tourists, so that doesn't cause us undue concern. Mike's work visa says that he's an Archives Clerk (well, I suppose that's kind of close to Chemical and Mechanical Engineer) and that's he's unmarried with no children. (Not exactly close). Mine states without hesitation that I'm a housewife. Damn, I was hoping to be an astronaut or something.

My favorite document thus far has been the one we had to get from the States when Bethy's birth certificate, which she needed to be registered for school. among other things, was misplaced by (who else?) the company's HR department in the USA, just days before we were supposed to fly out. So, to fix this little error, we received a fax with, first, a copy if the original birth certificate from and signed by the Seatttle-King County Department of Health Director Alonzo L Plough.

Then an affidavit from the Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, avowing that Alonzo L Plough is the Director of the Seattle-King County Department of Health, and then, to round it out, a third signed affidavit, this one signed and sealed by our good pal Condoleezza Rice, as well as the US Department of State Assistant Authentication Officer. (Yo Condi! What up, girlfren? How's Dubyah doin?) that all the documents are authentic and "entitled to full faith and credit".

Lastly, this whole slew was stamped and certified by the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in the Washington Consular Section. Pretty sure they're in the capitol, not the state.

Now, is that cool documentation or what? We feel so official!

One last word: please, please folks, vote Tuesday.

The world is watching.


Julia said...

It's about time someone talked about illegal immigrants from the immigrant's point of view! Bravo to you Nat!

Natalie said...

NPR has done a great job with their documentaries and interviews with illegal immigrants in the USA. I am just getting the tiniest, tiniest taste of what they must go through every day.

All I can say about that is, thank God I'm not the one who has to figure out immigration policies and laws.

Thanks Sis!