“Follow in the Tigerman’s Footsteps”
My memoir is available at http://www.amazon.com/-/dp/1482854430 Reads more like an adventure book. It covers a wide range of experiences, some crazy, adventurous and a few life- threatening ones, mixed with a blend of humor. These I encountered during nineteen years of working as an expat in fifteen countries spread through the Middle, Far East, and North Africa. Readers will find there is much more to life than a boring 9-5 job. As a result of becoming an expat Colin Guest lived an incredible life, one that most only get to dream about.
Below is how I became an expat, and a sample of the life I led.
A Spoonful of Danger in Saudi Arabia
“Well Mr. Guest, tell me how you came to be here?”
It all started with my lying helpless on my back on a mattress in the lounge when there was a knock on the front door. My wife, who like me had been anxiously waiting for this, went and opened the door. The next minute she returned leading a man who we hoped would prove a solution to my dilemma. Since putting my back out a few months ago and losing my job, putting it mildly, it had left my family and me in a serious financial situation.
On entering the room, the man looked down smiling as he greeted me. After explaining how while at work I hurt my back, I had gone to see my doctor. I told him about my lying on the couch, and was about to tell him what the doctor did when he stopped me.
“Now I will tell you what he did.”
To my amazement, he then described exactly what the doctor had done. I felt immense relief when he went on to say that he thought he could cure me. Although neither my wife nor I knew anything about Chiropractic treatment, I was more than ready to try anything to get me back on my feet. We owed his visit to our local postmistress, who advised my wife about using a Chiropractor. As a result of his visit, to the annoyance of both my doctor and the surgeon who came to the house to examine me, within a month, I was cured.
Shortly before being signed off from being sick, I said to my wife, “I am going to try and obtain a job abroad, as I can earn far more money there than in England.
Although we both knew it would mean my being away from home and the girls for long periods of time, we agreed it was our best chance to get ourselves out of debt and back on our feet.
After sending my CV to a company that carried out overseas contracts, two weeks later I received a letter informing me I had an appointment to see the Overseas Managing Director. This was great news, with my excited to see the company required someone re a position in Saudi Arabia.
A few days later, my wife received a phone call from a man asking to speak to me. On explaining I would not be home until later, the man enquired. “Is that Jen?”
“Yes! it is.”
“Hi, Jen! It’s Arnie.”
My wife who knew Arnie from years ago when he and I worked for the same company asked.
“Oh, hi Arnie, how and where are you?”
“I am in Saudi Arabia.”
“No, tell me the truth Arnie, where are you?”
“Honestly Jen, I am in Saudi Arabia.”
“That’s a coincidence; Colin just received a letter re an interview about a job in Saudi.”
“Yes, I know, that’s why I’m calling. The person Colin will be seeing is my boss and I want to tell him what salary he should ask for when they meet.”
Later, I was amazed when he told me the figure. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I would be able to earn the kind of money he mentioned.
During an interview in London the following week, I met Ian, my future boss, who explained everything about the position, including salary, which was as Arnie had suggested. After a good discussion and a general chat, I accepted a one-year renewable contract as a Projects Supervisor based in Riyadh.
When Ian told me I would be working on a palace for the Royal Family, I felt delighted. I had never worked on one, so it was with much apprehension I later boarded a plane to Riyadh.
By going there, I would earn far more money than I had ever earned, enabling us to get back on a secure financial footing. However, on the downside, I would not see my family for six months, being when I would be due two weeks leave. Although not happy about this part of my contract, I had to grin and put up with it. In life you can never have all you want; sometimes there are sacrifices to be made along the way.
On my arrival at Riyadh airport, I found Arnie waiting to meet me. Although he looked the same as when I saw him some four years ago, instead of wearing trousers and an open-necked shirt, he wore a suit and tie. He gave me a firm handshake and a warm embrace. His brown eyes twinkled with delight when he said, “Hi Col, you’re looking good. It’s great to see you after all these years.”
“You to,” I exclaimed. “You’re looking extremely smart.”
Arnie laughed. “Yes, in my job I have to be.”
As we walked out to where he had parked his car, the heat hit me, and sweat immediately broke out on my back. I mentioned this to Arnie,
As he laughed saying, “You will soon get used to it,” he explained he had been in Saudi since leaving our old company four years ago.
“Had I known earlier you were here and I could have been earning a salary like I’m on now, I would have been out here like a shot.”
“Sorry Col, but after you left Benbows I never knew where you lived, so couldn’t contact you.”
Arnie’s car was a new-looking Toyota. As I climbed in I laughed. “Well, this is certainly better than the old Morris you used to drive in England.”
He laughed. “You will find everything here is better than in England.”
As he drove out from the car park, he explained I would be sharing an apartment with him and another couple of our guys.
On the ride into town, I noticed the roads were wide, well surfaced and lit up by modern buildings lining the streets. From first impressions, I thought Riyadh looked a prosperous city. For sure it was a big improvement on either Iran or Qatar. Thirty minutes later, Arnie turned off the road and parked in a large underground car park. We rode an elevator up to the company apartment, where Arnie knocked as he unlocked the door. Inside he introduced me to Mike and Mac, two colleagues I would be sharing the apartment with. Due to feeling tired from all my traveling, after a brief chat, I turned in for the night.
The next morning, a driver came to take me to the head office of our Saudi partner. Here I was introduced to everyone and made to feel welcome. However, I felt disappointed when Ian, my new boss, told me there had been a change of plans. The Palace had informed him that as they did not know me, they wanted Arnie (who they knew from previous projects) to be the Project Manager.
Instead, Ian said, I would be in-charge of re-fitting out works at the Hyatt Hotel in Riyadh. A short time later, Ian and Arnie took me to the hotel, where Ian introduced me to Sa-ard, our Thai supervisor in charge of our Thai and Filipino workers. I felt relieved, when Sa-ard speaking broken English, shook my hand and welcomed me to the site.
Ian then gave me a tour, explaining what works had to be carried in the various sections. One area, the main lobby had a high ceiling.
“Here,” Ian said, “Due to the hotel remaining open during our works, we need to install scaffolding so we can work overhead while the hotel guests walk safely underneath. I will arrange for a specialist scaffolding company to visit the site and discuss our requirements.”
A few days after doing so, they delivered and erected the scaffolding. They also provided enough scaffolding boards for our men to install, which I instructed Sa-ard to have taken up to deck out the scaffolding. However, when later checking, to my annoyance, I found only a few boards had been placed on top of the scaffolding. Even more astonishing, some of our Thais were walking around on them.
“What’s going on Sa-ard?” I said, pointing up at the scaffolding. “Why have you not done as I asked?”
His big round face lit up with a smile. “It’s OK, Mr. Colin. We are used to working on scaffolding like this.”
“You might be,” I replied with a grim smile. “However, I have to go up there as well, so get it fully decked out, as I won’t be going up there until it is.”
After laughing at my obvious discomfort, he gave orders for all the boards to be taken up and laid out.
As I had never worked with foreign workers before, I felt dubious as to their capabilities. However, to my surprise, I soon found they were capable of turning out high-quality work.
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