When last I checked, I am not cattle

I don’t know if you know this about me, but, I’m not cattle. Despite the obviousness of that statement, it doesn’t appear that the government here gets that. Allow me to explain.

I suppose it all started because fraud was sort of running rampant here in Qatar. It was pretty easy to get a loan and once people had them, they’d take the money, just walk off their jobs and leave the country. There was nothing that could really be done about it. People would go buy a Ferrari for the week or weekend and abandon it at the airport. To fix that, they started requiring Exit Permits before someone could leave the country. The employer has to give the okay which is usually a guarantee that someone is coming back. (This only applies to someone who is working here and sponsored by a company. I will be able to come and go as I please.)

Also, per the rules, expats who come work here are entitled to accommodations or accommodation pay. It’s part of the contract. People who get married get a bump in compensation to cover the cost of housing the spouse and the same thing happens when kids come into the picture.

So we can see how this might cause a problem. “Oh yeah, I got married. More money, please!” Uh, not so fast.

Our certified marriage certificate from Florida wasn’t enough. It had to get certified by someone in the central state government, the Secretary of State, and then someone in the Qatari embassy in the US. That took… a while.

Not only that, Mr. Lyndsy had to send his DIPLOMAS through the same process. What that has to do with us getting married, I have no idea.  It also took a while. We also sent in birth certificates and something else.

That only got us so far. I had to have blood drawn to test for HIV/AIDS and to get it typed (the blood type goes on your national ID card, still haven’t figured that out), and I have to have a chest x-ray to make sure I don’t have tuberculosis. Because they make everyone do this, they have the process down somewhat efficiently. Except that you get processed a bit like cattle.

You go in, get a number and wait to get called to the registration desk. They sent me to “Room 7” where a woman scanned my barcode into the computer, wrote “OK” on it, and rudely sent me out of the room, without actually telling me where to go next. It probably doesn’t help that her English seemed to be limited to “Okay, go.”

Then I had to go back to the registration window to show that the paper said “OK.” They charged me $28 and told me, in very limited English, to follow the arrows on the floor. I looked at the paper I was holding – Laboratory and x-ray. I asked somewhere where to go and they told me again to follow the arrows. The red arrows indicated the Laboratory so that’s where I went.

I had to check in with someone else who put me in another line. I waited behind a few other women (because well, there are only women in this facility – like in a lot of the medical places, only women are allowed in certain parts, and only men in others), until a scary woman stabbed my arm for blood. She told me to “Go” when she was done. I walked back to the waiting area I’d just come from and asked where to go next. They indicated that I should follow the yellow areas to the x-ray.

In this waiting area they just tell you to sit down, in order, in a row of chairs. We got there early so I was in the front row. By now, even though I was in fleece pants, I was freezing. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so damn hot outside most of the time or what, but a lot of the buildings in here have the AC cranked so low that if you don’t think about it, you’d think it was winter outside. I didn’t have to wait long, and they called all of us into the row into a room. There were about 7 dressing rooms and they had us all take off  our tops so that we could get the chest x-rays. There were a lot of Muslim women in line with me and older Indian women and it was pretty obvious that even though it was just women, they were really uncomfortable.

As we all got into the gowns, they had us line up to wait to go into the x-ray room. Again, we stood in a line as they took x-ray after x-ray. Forget any kind of privacy about this. I got a look at at least 4 sets of x-rays. It was also a problem because the vast majority of the women in line don’t speak Arabic, and the techs don’t really speak anything else. Fortunately, there were some women in line who spoke Hindi (I think), and could help some of the older women who didn’t understand what they were being told to do.

I was thrilled to finally escape into the blazing heat. Poor Mr. Lyndsy had been standing outside waiting for me (since they wouldn’t let him in) and he was melting. We had to drive to a separate facility 15 minutes away to get my blood typing done. Big shocker, I’m still O-.

What’s crazy is that they got my results already and unsurprisingly, I’m totally clear! Now to wait for the fingerprinting. Not sure why they do that since it’s not like they’re going to do a background check on me…

I’d read about other women’s experiences with this and I was like, “Oh come on, it can’t be that bad.” But no, it really is. They do treat you like cattle. I won’t complain too much though since it’s been the smoothest part of this process so far.