I realized the other day that I hit my 16 month anniversary here in the land of sun and fun. I was going to take a picture, it was a pretty good day, I was in a suit, my hair had recently been cut and my beard was trimmed. However, towards the end of the day I just got busy and lost interest. I had other things on my mind.
There is a sickness here in Saudi. Its grounded in greed and pride. Hire the right people to do something and replace them with cheap people when its done. Maintenance, in any form, is not a concept in this society Explaining my situation to other expats brought up many stories of similar experiences that either they or people they know have had. Their advice was pretty much the same across the board. Smile, pack up and say goodbye. Since I've been silent on this topic in the past, let me back-up and explain a bit.
I was brought here with 3 others to help stand this program up. I was brought to advise, support and work tirelessly to build a real Paramedic program. I was told during my interview that I would be here for a year if the program failed, 3-5 years if it succeeded. I was told that I would support all of the campuses. I was told that I should be training these students to pass US standard testing and we should be working towards CoAEMSP accreditation, and that while the vast majority of our students would never go to the US, those that did should be indistinguishable from their American paramedic brethren. Most of that, never happened. Instead, power struggles and poor attitudes ended up leaving us in a much more hands on teaching role. We simply became instructors. I was sent to the Damamm campus to take over the training role, and help the struggling campus. I did exactly that. 15 months later, I'm the only American left, all the rest have given up and quit. Here in Damamm we have a new department, a department that I had an integral role in creating. The bleak walls are now covered with medical information, classes start on time and end on time, tests are administered appropriately. Students don't cheat as much, students wear uniforms and take pride in what they've done and what they're doing. They train hard and for the most part do well. These things are not solely because of my presence, but to believe I didn't have a large role in the transition is naive.
Naivety is rampant though. It seems someone I've never met in Administration has taken a look at the numbers and decided he could replace me with 3 Filipino's (their words, not mine). I thought this was just a segue into negotiations, but apparently not. Apparently, I'm being replaced with nurses from the Philippines.
The program is good, the students are already in, who needs the expensive Amriki right? Well, my students for one. Apparently, a few of my students have come up with an idea to go to Riyadh and tell them just how much I do here, and how hard I've been working. I don't say it enough, so let me say it now. I am amazed by what these students can do. I am humbled by the way they treat me and speechless that they think this highly of me.
I'll say more about it in the coming weeks, no matter what happens. But I'm not ready to go just yet-for a lot of reasons. The program isn't ready yet, there is still a lot to do, and I'm a part of that. Maybe the most important reason I'm still needed is that I don't lie like other expats do. When someone gives me a stupid idea, I let them know its stupid. When I'm asked my opinion, I give it. In the case of some of my wonderful co-workers, they give the answer that is asked for-it's complicated, but it boils down to a sense of what we are doing here. I came to build something, they came to work. We both get paid and money is important, but my primary mission is to build what I was told to build, they're primary mission is to work.
Whatever happens, I have a couple of months till I'm headed home. Maybe for good, maybe just for vacation. If I leave, it means the last person who has ever worked on an ambulance, will have left the college and the education of Paramedics will be trusted to those whose experience and expertise is limited to the hospital. With no disrespect meant to my co-workers, who are all great...No more paramedics, sucks for my students and myself alike.