So finally I got to Jeddah after 14 hours of flight from Tan Son Nhat International Airport to King Abdulaziz International Airport. I had to transit twice in Hongkong airport and Dubai International Airport.
On my plane to Hongkong, I met three Vietnamese people, an old woman who’s flying to Vancouver to visit her dad, an old man who was also going back to Vancouver after his first trip to Vietnam since 1978 and a “tom-boy” who’s returning to USA. We sat together in a group of four, me and the man were in the row behind that of the woman and the tom-boy. I had a nice chat with the man and the woman. We separated at Hongkong airport and wished each other having a nice trip. We also hoped to meet again coincidentally. It was just a nice flight.
After waiting for nearly three hours at Hongkong airport, I took my flight to Jeddah. When I bought my ticket, I didn’t know that I had to transit in Dubai. However, it only took me one hour waiting on board for the airline to change the crew and clean the plane. It was about ten hour flight from Hongkong to Dubai. I felt tired and sleepy but I couldn’t sleep well on plane.
I finally got to Jeddah and I started to feel terrible at the passport checkpoint. People were rude, they didn’t respect of waiting in line, especially the women wearing black from top to bottom. At the beginning, there were about 15 people in front of me but people who came later just cut in my line. It was very bad impression at the port of the country. I didn’t say a word to them even in English because I didn’t want to hear them to explain in Arabic. I only shook my head and sighed. Children were also annoying. After three hours, I got to see the officer, it took me only three minutes or so to get my my passport stamped.
After getting my luggage, I was hold by the officer of Ministry of Culture and Informatics. I was really scared because I brought an external hard drive which has some porno in it. Luckily, I formatted it for Mac users only therefor my hard drive contents didn’t appear on his Windows system. The officer asked me whether there are porno, I said no, there are only some music, photos of friends and family and some documents for my job. He asked me about my job as a veterinarian. I tried to say some fish names in English but he didn’t know any, even catfish or tilapia. He asked me their Arabic names. I said I don’t know a word. He returned me the hard drive. And here it comes, he asked me about my religion view. I prepared myself for that situation but I couldn’t escape his blah blah blah, blah blah blah. Lucky for me that he couldn’t speak English well. He admitted that he only knows English for his job, not for religion discourses. (Okay, I appreciate that). My courage got so high that I asked him to help me to make a phone call for the one who’s waiting to pick me up. OMG! he was so nice and so helpful to give me his mobile. He also called that person again to explain my situation. I asked for his number and wished to see him again. He gave me the name and the number of a school and encouraged me to go there if I want to know more about Muslim. He also walked me out his office to the exit and continuously talked about the goodness of the religion. It was so relieved to see the banner with my name waiting outside. Phew!
The one who picked me up at the airport is the manager of the laboratory. It was 1:30pm local time when I saw him. He said that he had to wait for me two hours. I explained him the rudeness at the passport checkpoint and the holding in the office. He understood and sympathized about all that. He’s from Tunisia, the former French colony like Vietnam. He’s white. Not all Africans is black eh? He knows a little bit of French just like me. He drove me directly from the airport to the Fisheries Research Center. He introduced me to the director and I was introduced to my workmates and toured around the center. It was a warm welcoming though. It’s so difficult to catch their English. They speak fast and enthusiastically about everything. They seem happy to see a new face.
After working hour, he drove me to the dormitory and picked up some food for me on the way. He explained that it’s near the praising time so we couldn’t stay in the restaurant. I had some roasted chicken and Indian rice for dinner. He ordered too much rice, I could only have one fifth of the portion. I have to stay in a sharing room with a workmate. He said that he’s going to give me his two room house in some days because the company relocates him to the capital city, Riyadh.
The condition at the dorm isn’t good enough as I expected. It’s okay though. My workmates are also my roommates. I’m staying with a group of Indian men. They are also Muslim. They are so friendly and so helpful. The one who is my lab assistant took me to local shops to buy a new SIM card for my phone. I felt connected to the world again.
Although I didn’t sleep very well in the first night, I felt strong enough to start my first day at work which was the next day.