So after I collected every single possible and impossible document in existence and delivered them to the training directorate, I was then informed that nothing was happening. I got irritated, and so called the big boss who had offered to help before and who had told me to talk to Folan. So I called him again and told him what was up. He told me to talk to Folan (again), give him all my papers and that he’ll take care of things. And that Folan was currently in the institute where I work because he has some proposal or something to take care of. I had Folan’s number and called him but he didn’t answer. So I left my office, went down the stairs, across the yard, into the next building, up the stairs, down the corridor looking into each room until I found him in a lecture hall on the top floor. I walked over to him and said hi, I had just called him and he hadn’t picked up.
‘Oh that was you?’
Ha ha, funny. I had no reason to believe he was ignoring me at this point, but anyway I told him what was going on and that the big boss had told me to tell him. He said he’ll look it up and that I should give him a few days. He works in the same place as those women do so it shouldn’t be a problem for him. I then told him that under no circumstances am I going back to the directorate and talking to those women again. So I gave him more than a few days, and then he called me and asked me about – guess what – the certificate of my last payment for the internship. Sigh. I told him the story (which I had already told him before), and told him about the certificate that had taken me more than 2 weeks to find. He wasn’t even listening to me and I could hear the women talking to him in the background. He then told me to get the certificate I had provided for the national service. I told him it was in my file, that was the first paper I put into it aslan. Well, I should bring it again and give it to him.
‘What? I just told you the paper is in the file in front of you. Don’t you have my file?’
‘Look, just get the certificate.’
‘Why should I come all the way down there (when I told you I am NOT going there again) to give you a paper you already have?’
It then occurred to me that he had no idea what was even in my file.
‘Where’s my file? Don’t you have it?’
‘I don’t know anything about your file. Just get me the paper yakh!’
‘Wait a minute. WHERE IS MY FILE.’
At this point I noticed that he was shouting at me on the phone. I was too shocked to shout back or tell him to stick it. There was no reason whatsoever for him to be shouting, and to be shouting at me in particular. In the end he said I should just scan the paper and send it to him wu khalas, and we hung up. I was livid, I couldn’t believe this was the same Folan who was always nice and smiling when we worked together. Anyway, I scanned the paper and sent it to him and heard nothing for the next 2 days, until he sent me an email and told me that this was not the paper he wanted. I needed to get this paper from the ministry itself (the same people I had unknowingly bypassed when first applying for my national service over a year ago). I told him this was the paper I had used to get my national service clearance (implicitly implying that if it was good enough for asyad almowdou3 it should be good enough for the directorate). He didn’t even answer back.
Obviously, I had had enough. It was just ridiculous, and it had already been almost 3 months and my salary should have been 4 times what I was getting (I was still getting paid the minimum national service wage). I talked the institute director and told her that the job thing wasn’t working and could we just forget about it, I could be attached to any ongoing project with a regular contract because I was sick and tired of it all. She reasoned with me that she could give me a contract but that the ministry’s policy of banning contracts meant that I wouldn’t have the job for long, and that this official ministry job was a great catch and would solve the employment problem once and for all. So she said she’ll look into it herself. I said fine.
I gave her a couple of weeks and then asked about it again, and she told me that she had talked to the big boss and he had told her that he had told me to follow up with Folan and then get back to him which I didn’t (yi6rishni). And that Folan (the same Folan) was handed back the task of ‘working it out’ and had taken my papers to the employment committee in Riyad and now we should just sit and wait. Fine then. I continued my work and my meetings and my running around and continued to receive the same minimum wage. I asked about the progress a couple of times again, and got the same answer. About a week ago I applied for a study break to focus on my final masters module, and while getting my papers signed asked about the job again, and told them that really, if it’s not working out can we PLEASE forget about it so that I can move on with my life already. I was told that things WERE moving forward. Sure enough, the next day I got a call from the administrative director at the directorate (not the big boss). I knew the guy; he used to work in the institute when I had first arrived, and I disliked him immensely. But he was very nice on the phone, even when he asked me about my certificate of last payment from the internship. He then asked me to please come to his office on Sunday morning to work things out. So Sunday morning I showed up at his office, ready for a fight. We went over my file (which had appeared out of nowhere and handed to him by the big boss himself) and counted the papers. As expected, the council’s decision was missing. I told him I had given it to ‘those women’ and they had thrown it into a drawer.
‘Those women, huh?’
Oops. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that but he didn’t look too annoyed. He probably hated them himself (who wouldn’t?) I tried to fix things by saying there was this one lady (the one who had a brain) who was managing things quite well but then she left and someone else was running things.
‘Yeah, Ustaza Khansa was moved somewhere else unfortunately, and now there are those 2 girls.’
I guess he did feel the same about them as I did. Anyway, he made a couple of phone calls then got up and we went downstairs and into the other building to see ‘those women’. They were sitting there all smug and comfortable, and actually dared to roll their eyes when they saw me. The guy sat down and brought out the file, and started telling the story.
‘3arfeeeen di Reem Osman Mahgoub Gaafar, wu 3indaha that job wu kalamnaha ino she needs to get the certificate of last payment, walmoshkila min nas al7isabat wu tani ma 3indaha 3indana 7aja.’
I admire myself immensely for my strength and ability to hold back and not punch that woman in the face and knock the other one over the table. The woman who was talking was going through the papers in my file and pointing out what was ‘wrong’ with them.
‘Wu zato akhir sarfiya di ma bikon shaklaha kida.’
This was the paper I had gotten from my institute and used to get the national service clearance. Apparently it should be this long list of months and money and ma 3arif shino. Ya3ni ana 3amaltaha barai fi betna masalan? The guy was getting irritated and so called someone, and the someone whoever it was told him that I had to be ‘re-employed’. Re-employed keif ya3ni when she didn’t even get the job to start with? He listened for a while then asked me if I had ever gone to the employment committee in Riyad before I had left to Oman. I told him I had. He rubbed his face and by the look of glee and shamata on the women’s faces I knew the joke was on me. He hung up and told me that, actually, since I had already been to the committee and received a job number all those years ago, I had already been employed by the ministry of health.
‘She was probably sacked because she hadn’t shown up for her internship and just LEFT the country.’
I couldn’t believe my ears. The joke really was on me. I ignored the satisfied looks on the women’s faces and asked the guy what the solution to this predicament would be. He said we should ask Wada7, so we walked out of the office, into the yard, turned around the building and entered by another door and into the same cubicle that the confident lady was sitting in 3 months ago. Thankfully she wasn’t there. There were 2 guys, one young and one old. The old one was Wada7. The guy told him my story and without a pause he offered us a solution.
‘Why doesn’t she just apply for a new job?’
‘What do you mean just apply for a new job.’
‘Just write a letter to the director (the big boss) asking for a new job. He can sign it and then you can take it to the employment committee in Riyad, but apply for the 8th grade instead of the 9th. For the 8th grade, you don’t need proof of your internship. Bas.’
Bas? Well then, perhaps there are still people out there other than the lady who still have a brain. We skipped out of the building and into the other building. I sat down at the desk, wrote a letter to the director asking for the job with attached certificates. I then handed it to the director’s secretary. She told me to write down my number and she’ll call me when my paper is read. The guy was already in his office less than a meter from where I was standing and we both knew that. I hadn’t come all this way for some Farmville-playing sifinja-wearing secretary to stop me. I told her as nicely as I could that she could just give him the paper now and I’ll wait for as long as it takes. And then I sat down in front of her face, until she finally got up and took the paper inside, and came out less than 30 seconds later with it signed and stamped. I took it (without a thank you :D ) and met the director, we went back downstairs to Wada7 who took the letter and told me to wait outside. I sat outside, looking at people coming and going, at the fashion crimes and the horrendous effects of marriage and childbirth on women’s shapes and attire, and admired the fact that despite the hell I was going through, I couldn’t remember once coming to any of these offices (or any other governmental facility actually) and finding people ‘out for breakfast’. It’s a well known joke in Sudan about how governmental employees are never in their offices, always taking long breaks to eat or pray or just go home early, and they’re always irritated and unhelpful. I remember a few months ago when I went to get a yellow fever vaccine that the staff in one of the offices where complaining about the new regulations that it was now unallowed for any staff to leave their office to eat. They had to bring a sandwich or whatever and stay put. And that someone had been found out of their office ‘filfa6our’ and had been fired on the spot. I don’t know if that was the case or not, but I can’t help but admit that whatever incompetence is obvious in the governmental sector, it’s not because of people leaving their desks for hours for a break.
After almost half an hour I poked my head into Wada7’s office and asked if he was done. Sure enough, he was sitting at the computer typing in a request for my job. He printed it out, stamped it and gave it to me to take to Riyadh. He then told me that I better take ‘someone’ with me because if I didn’t, it would take a ‘long time’. I thanked him and went back to the other guy’s office, and he told me to leave all my papers with him and he would take them himself. I didn’t trust him and said I’d do it myself, if he could just give me the name of someone to meet there to help me out.
‘3ala keifik. Lakin if you go yourself your papers will be stuck there for up to 3 years.’
Aji yakhwani? I actually knew this story to be true, because some guy at work who had been promoted 3 years ago was just getting his paper work in place. I thought it over (very quickly), then told him I’d just have to photocopy a couple of papers and then I’d give him my file with everything in it. Sure enough, I left the building and walked down the street to a store in the corner where I had bought that same file 4 months ago. There were a couple of girls and an old guy sitting in a chair. The girl had just gotten her picture taken by the other girl and the guy was her father. He then told her to go sit in the car so that no one would take it. After she left he wondered if someone might take the car anyway with her in it, but apparently that thought didn’t bother him much because he stayed where he was. As the other girl cut the pictures, he asked me where the high school certificate place was. I gave him directions and told him he’d find a crowd of kids near the place anyway so he wouldn’t miss it. He thanked me, then asked if they needed pictures for the high school certificate. I laughed.
‘I can’t remember, really. It’s been a while.’
A while? It’s been more than a DECADE. Yeesh, how I hate growing old L. I then looked up and saw the most appropriate sign to fit into the situation I was in hanging over the photocopying machine.
It was so funny I couldn't help but take a picture. Then some kid came in acting all crazy and asking for a pair of pants (which he was already wearing).
'Dayir ban6alon, ban6alon ma 3indi.'
This girl at the counter told him hiya ma 3indaha ban6alon either.
'6ayeb adeni alfi jineh ashtari ley Birinji.'
Birinji is our local brand of cigarettes. I wanted to tell him inta ma 3indak ban6alon zato dayir tishtari sijarat Birinji? But he was gone and I wasn't really interesting in picking a fight with a psycho, so I collected my papers, walked back to the directorate, handed everything over to the guy and left. That was 2 days ago and I don’t expect to hear anything from him soon. As I was leaving the building I ran into one of the women I had grown to hate over the past few months. She asked me if I had worked out the problem.
‘So they solved the internship problem?’
‘Nope. We simply moved over it to a higher post. I don’t need the internship certificate anymore.’
‘Oh really, that’s such good news, good luck with everything!’
I didn’t even bother to pretend to either smile at her or give her a dirty look, and simply walked out the door. So we’ll just have to wait for part 4 then.