Where did the rest of January go? How is it already February? Eeesh.
Let's see, last week's adventures... OK, here's a good one! Even though we had bloodwork done in College Station before we left, certifying we were negative for TB, Hepatitis C, and HIV... we had to do another medical exam for the Qatar government. It's part of the process to get our residency permits, and it's quite an experience. Fortunately, the university and Qatar Foundation helped us thru the process by scheduling the exams, and getting us there. The Supreme Council of Health governs this, and they give you less than 24 hours notice. Not a problem, we got an email telling us where to go and when to get on the bus. OK. On the bus, three other people, all nice, off we go to the Medical Commission. About a 20-minute drive, not bad for Doha traffic! I told my boss when I left that I wasn't sure how long it would take, and she laughed and said she didn't expect me back that afternoon. Oy.
So we get there and are met by a QF rep- for the men. Women have a separate facility, and men are not allowed- so we have to navigate this ourselves. Fortunately, there was another young woman there who had been thru the process previously, so she pointed me in the right direction. Once in, we took a number, and when called we got in line to check in and pay (if needed- apparently mine had been prepaid.) The receptionist took my paperwork, stamped it, and told me I needed a photo, it wasn't in the system, and to go upstairs. Upstairs where? Who do I see? I tried to ask, but this is a very busy place and she had no time for a dumb ginger with questions, next please! But the nice lady security guard overheard and pointed me where I needed to go, and so upstairs I went... to join the queue of about 50 men. And me. White girl. Stick out like a sore thumb? Maybe just a little bit.
Not long after I got in line, a man came out and started telling everyone to go back down, the servers were resetting and no more photos for a while. The men started leaving, and I was all, "What did he say?" I pretended I didn't understand, so I went to the door and asked him what I needed to do- and asked why the photo on my receipt and taped to my passport cover wouldn't work. As we were talking, I could see the computer screen behind him- he took my paper, scanned the barcode, and what pops up? My photo. He says, "Is OK now, you go back." OK, thanks, dude! Off I go, back in line, hand in paperwork again, stamp, proceed to next station. Whew.
First stop, blood draw. Check in, another stamp, receptionist verified name and country of origin- and I think my red hair made her smile, her eyes were crinkly and friendly under her burqa and she laughed as she pointed where I should go. The phlebotomist was a beautiful young woman in a really pretty hijab, and she was GOOD. Had no trouble finding my vein, quick stick, done. Best blood draw I've ever had- given that she probably does this 2-300 times a day, she's certainly practiced! Tiny bruise and a bandage, off to next step!
Which is the chest X-ray. Herded into a small hallway, told to grab a gown and change... fortunately, in the email about the medical exam, it had been suggested I wear a sports bra so I didn't have to completely strip. Gown on, hair up, jewelry removed, into line in the X-ray room, paper taken, scanned, stamped, X-ray, NEXT! Redress, out the door, ask doc there where to next? Apparently I was done. All of this was about 20-25 minutes.
The medical commission is an extremely busy place, people were swarming all over that building and parking lot. Every new entry to the country must have this done to be granted residency, and there are tons of workers coming in every day. However, while everyone I dealt with was... brusque... they weren't unkind or flat-out rude- just busy. And there were several who did answer my clueless questions, and a few smiles. Thomas finished his process on the men's side about the same time, and we met outside to get back on the bus.
Did I mention that the transport mode of choice for large groups of people here is the white (always white) minibus? 15-30 passengers or so, and there were, no joke, about 30 of them in the parking lot. Ummm... we just started wandering the lot, looking for ours. Thankfully, our driver recognized us and found us and guided us back. Everyone else was on the bus also, and the QF rep took our paperwork, checked it, and it must have been OK as he kept it to go on to the next step. Sent us on our merry way back to Education City. We were back by 3:00pm (again great for Doha traffic!) So, what we had been hearing about, and were kinda concerned about, was really relatively painless and fairly quick, all things considered. One more thing checked off the to-do list and one step closer to our residency permit.
Now for the weekend... more on that soon! We were introduced to Doha's version of Mexican food. For now, I leave you with this...