Greetings from Bahrain, where I arrived on Saturday 24 September.
This is my first proper blog post for over two years. OK, I did post briefly about the 50th IATEFL conference in April this year but have since deleted it. Since then I have taught Chinese students online, mostly IELTS speaking test preparation. This was an interesting experience but not one I wrote about on here. I can see myself teaching again online in the not to distant future. But I had the urge to go abroad again as I have not retired from being in the classroom or travelling to work.
So now I’m ready for my next adventure in ELT, at an esg vocational college in Al-Quaiwaiyyah, right in the centre of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I was interviewed for the position on 16 August and accepted an offer three days later. This relatively new college was built as part of the ‘colleges of excellence’ initiative in the Kingdom, and the parent company is Interserve, a large UK-based FTSE250 construction company, support services and facilities management provider. There is a large requirement for a rigorous, comprehensive set of ESL lesson plans and scheme of work, in collaboration with colleagues, with a western testing system (Cambridge) and inspection by Ofsted (or equivalent). The students are relatively low level. It will be a challenge for sure. I hope to post more about it when I get settled, subject to the terms of my contract.
I have been looking into a return to KSA since last December. I taught at King Saud University in Riyadh in 2010 and 2011. I was inspired by Kim Chibou and Luke Phillips, two great friends I first met at the Barron hotel in Riyadh and who returned to work in the country this year, both for around three months.
esg (Interserve) Al-Q is not the original position I was interviewed for at the Hilton, Park Lane, back in January and had a medical for in April. It took too long, however, for the University of Dammam to organise my mobilisation and I, therefore, sought alternative employment.
On Saturday, I felt jet lagged, not having slept at all on the overnight flight from Heathrow. I checked in to a hotel in Manama and later met up at Bahrain city centre mall with British Council Bahrain teacher, self-proclaimed ICT specialist and games-based learning enthusiast, David Dodgson. It was the first time we had met in the flesh after four years of online friendship. I left my passport at reception for collection the next day.
On Sunday, I met up with a guy who worked for Interserve for 21 years and was getting a visitor visa to work in Riyadh. I also thankfully met Andrew, a Glaswegian, who is the other new recruit for esg at Al-Quaiwaiyyah. He has been teaching most recently in Seville, and was only interviewed for the role on 5 September. He arrived in Bahrain one day later than me, via Glasgow and Dubai, so while I was experiencing jet lag on the Saturday, he was going through it on the day we visited the embassy to sort out documentation. We both had our stay in Bahrain extended to allow time for the visa agent to return our passports.
On Monday, I had a swim, went to the mall one last time for lunch and waited for my passport to be returned It finally came, via the agent, at 8pm local time, leaving me all clear to board a Saudia Airline direct flight to Riyadh the next day.