Leaving Kuwait

Saturday 16th June 2007

Hello there all,
Well, leaving Kuwait has been a hell of a drama, as predicted, but thankfully it’s almost over now!

I was due to receive my summer pay and gratuity, which amounts to three half month’s pay altogether – a fairly hefty chunk of money, and I had been nervous for a while that the school were somehow going to screw me over.
Last year there were some members of staff who didn’t get paid at all, and it was all very stressful and difficult.

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been gearing up to leave, but also getting increasingly paranoid that something would go horribly wrong.
And then it did.

Mishra, our school administrator (and our boss’s son) told us that we would need to have our civil ID cancelled, and to do this we need to go to the Ministry of Education and sign a document to receive our gratuity cheques.

He insisted that the document (written in arabic) was only to say that we had received the correct amount of gratuity, but almost everyone else we spoke to told us we were signing that we had received all pay due to us from the school.

Now, obviously we weren’t going to sign this piece of paper before we received our pay, as it would effectively waive our legal rights to our money, and getting the school to pay us after signing it might result in hiring a lawyer. Every member of staff leaving had agreed not to sign the paper until we had been paid.

So on Saturday (the beginning of the week for us), Mishari tells us we are going to be paid on Sunday and we’ll go to the Ministry on Tuesday.

Betty, Bryn and I went to see Mishra and explained that because we were with a different bank, it would take an extra day or so to clear into our accounts (just like every pay day), so he will need to pay us early enough for it to go through before we can go to the

No problem, he tells us.

On Sunday, no-one has been paid.  Tomorrow, tomorrow, says Mishra, no problem. On Monday, no-one has been paid. By the end of today it will go through, Mishra assures us.

On Tuesday morning, no-one has been paid.  11am, says Mishra.
Nothing happens, although all of the staff are frantically checking their bank balances every ten minutes!

Mishra tells us we’ll go to the Ministry on Wednesday, which is the last day of term.
By 2.30pm, everyone’s money suddenly goes through.

Except for me, Betty and Bryn. (of course)

So the next morning, all the staff members gather to go to the Ministry, except for us, and Mishra hasn’t come in to work so we can’t ask him what to do.
Thursday and Friday is the weekend, and the Ministry won’t be open again until Saturday. However I’m supposed to be on a plane on Friday night.

We waited around for 2 hours outside Mishra’s office, and eventually tried to talk to him about our situation. Betty and Bryn had booked their flight for Saturday anyway, but I would have to change mine. We arranged to go on Saturday morning, but then realised
that banks here are all closed on Saturdays, and we couldn’t cash our cheques anywhere. Mishra was insistent that we had to receive cheques, not cash, and was really unhelpful – he seemed to imply that this mess was somehow our fault for being with the wrong bank, rather than his own incompetence!

We had to go to Madame (our boss) a very scary french lady who’s close to seventy and had so much plastic surgery her face is pulled back tight in a constant manic grin. She came down and started yelling at screaming at us for not trusting her and the school to pay us and asking why didn’t we go with the others etc.
We tried to explain that it wasn’t personal, and we did trust them (not!) but we simply couldn’t sign a legal document in a language we don’t understand regarding pay that we haven’t yet received.  Madame was unimpressed, and getting yelled at didn’t help matters at all.

(It was particularly unfortunate that on our way out, Bryn accidentally kicked her on the foot too!)

Eventually we worked out a compromise, and Mishra promised to let us exchange our cheques for cash back at school, and later that night our summer pay went through to our banks.

I managed to successfully change my flight without too much aggro, and things were looking up.
On Thursday Betty and Bryn went to collect their flight allowance along with everyone else and discovered that their names were not on the list. Poor Betty broke down at that point, and was pretty much inconsolable. She was convinced that it was deliberate and very personal, although Bryn maintains that it’s pure incompetence once again.
Eventually they got their flight money, although Betty was in tears most of the day poor thing. (I came on the group flight so the school bought my ticket for me).

So, Friday was a bit miserable, because I was supposed to be going home but was stuck in crappy Hawally, so we all decided to go to the Hilton and spend the day in the Spa, which was lovely.

This morning we got our cheques, changed them for cash and for once things went smoothly.

I am now at the airport waiting to check-in (my flight doesn’t leave for 6 hours, but I couldn’t bear sitting in my flat doing nothing, so figured I’d come here and wait instead).

It has been an incredibly stressful week, as I predicted it would be, and it’s such a shame to end on such a miserable note, but then, I’ve known the school were like that for a while, so it’s not too much of a surprise sadly.

Anyway, that’s about it really, I should be back in lovely England on Sunday morning, and will be found sitting in the garden, rain or shine, with a large glass of wine, should anyone wish to contact me!

hope you’re all well and looking forward to seeing you

tons of love

down-with-incompetent-fuckwits-(and scary french people)-Maya



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