Ok, six weeks into relocation to the Middle East living a life punctuated only by school runs and trips to the mall, I feel the need to have a job. Let’s re-phase that, I feel the need to look for a job, having sought employment opportunities in Ireland for 18 months prior to emigrating and getting rejected, I was very scared of the possibility of actually getting gainful employment. I realised that I grown very used to being unemployed with even the most menial of tasks expanding grossly to fill my day. A trip to the post office, ordering books from Amazon, taxing the car, all duties that once took 5 minutes from my working day, now were the sum total of Tuesday’s events, they even earned a place in my expensive leather covered Filofax, along with notes on girl guides start dates and reminders to buy my children’s school-friend a birthday present. Shameful. Once my diary brimmed with appointments for high profile press conferences, life or death company deadlines and company acquisition meetings, now a shadow or it’s former self, the vellum pages hosted my shopping list from Carrefour.
Eager to rejuvenate my cutting edge in the workplace and my re-known ( certainly by family and close friends) problem solving expertise, I started to job hunt. Morning after morning I scanned web-pages and websites, looking for high profile and paying Public Relations position that required someone who was available during school hours, ( 7a.m. to 1a.m.), and term dates, (Sept to June), excluding mid-term breaks, the Middle Eastern Eid holidays and any visit from my side of the family. Just like Ireland, nothing. Then one morning, whilst dropping off at the school, opportunity knocked. The school principal casually inquired about my intentions regarding work. I confirmed that yes, I was fully intent on working, I failed to mention that this wasn’t something I wished to happen in the near future and was fast becoming more or an item on my to-do list, right up there with Route 66, the bulls of Pamplona and losing half a stone. Alas, I took the job, a school secretary, one of eight, in a private English school with a staff of 100 and student attendance record of 1000.
Having none of the anticipated glamour or status, I braced myself for my first day at work, the Sunday of the following week. Arriving on my first day, in a smart Monsoon Tunic and three quarter length trousers, I was coming around to the idea of my new found employment. I felt I had compromised quite a lot on wage expectation and status and expected in return that my new employer would recognize the X-factor in me quite soon.
It didn’t take long, I sat at my desk browsing through the office database and online filing system when one of the brass called me to his office. Smugly I sat into the comfortable leather chair opposite his and awaited his welcome speech and probably his expectations of my how my role could develop. My smug face sagged momentarily when he started with, “I know you haven’t been in Qatar long but you are required to wear trousers that cover your ankles at work”, totally taken aback on two levels, firstly I prided myself on being an astute and always suitable dresser and secondly I didn’t think I had bad ankles, could be a little less chunky perhaps, but certainly not anything that needed covering up and so promptly as the first morning The second announcement was definitely a defining moment. He produced my contract for employment, I scanned through the perk-free document and my attention was immediately brought to the signature section. Then the words that brought my slighted sagged smug smile to a full-on flattened frown, “You will need your husband to sign the contract, we do not need your signature, as you are here with your husband, you will not have any status of your own, I would appreciate if you could have it back tomorrow”.
Devastated, the penny finally dropped, this was not poor ould polite Ireland, that couldn’t even ask you your age or marital status in an interview, this was a strict Muslim country with unbending rules and a rigid policy control system.
Indignant, I thought, I have not travelled across the world to be treated like this, I do not have to adhere to these stringent rules and regulations, I’m from Ireland, we have our own system, a free country, where every man (woman) counts.
- Feeling completely deflated, I did what any other girl would do if she was in my current position,( my current position being a symptom of living many years a champagne lifestyle on lemonade money), I made my way back to my office, pulled out my chair, sat down and go on with the filing.