I can remember as if it was yesterday. Day one as Overseas Filipino Worker.

I arrived at the Dammam Airport. I saw different people from different countries. All are hopefuls of taking a bite of this huge cake of opportunity called “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

After several months it hit me. Life here is not a piece of cake.

As many had experienced, I lose count of how many times I thought of quitting. I doubted myself. I regret coming here.

I ask myself some questions. Can I really survive working here? For the money, was it all worth it?

I saw with my own eyes, how people get crazy out of extreme depression. I saw how people forgot their reason for working abroad — to support his family, not to make another one.

I hear a lot of not-so-good personal stories.

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The Value of Our Spare Time

Last week, I published a blog post about why someone should not work here. Anyone can work in this country, but not everyone lasts their signed contracts. From my two years experience, I realized how tough is work here. It is even tougher than I expected.

Every country has their own rules and cultures. This Arab place is far too different compared to Western nations.

The Islamic Sharia Law sometimes seems too strict for me. I read more foreigners experienced beheading compared to native Saudi Nationals each year. Clearly, this is a place we should not mess with.

This is the reality here. You either endure it or escape (not recommended, better to not work here in the first place) it. There’s another thing that you can do — enjoy this reality. You read it right.

When we are young, we don’t like when our mothers pushing us to study or to take a nap in the afternoon. They would repeatedly nag us to go back home before dinner. (Today, mother nag their kids to go out). They always scold us. It seems they’re limiting our nuclear reactor of youthful energies.

Later on, we realized those imposed disciplines are for our own good. We grow in character. We attained good attitudes.

Here, I don’t have my family to tell me the dos and don’ts.  All I have here are the shoulds and shouldn’t’s.

Maybe it’s just me. As I had experienced, the routine life here is quite brutal. Wake-up. Work. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Daily, I worked not less than ten hours. Not to mention the other activities besides work. Preparing for work in the morning. Travel time from my accommodation to the construction site. Lunch breaks. This would take roughly fourteen hours already. I still make sure that I sleep at least seven (for now, it is only six as I wake up an hour earlier to practice writing daily) hours a day.

If I’m not mistaken, my remaining time every day is three hours. Whew! Then in those three hours, I have to spend eating dinner. Also washing and ironing clothes in some days. In my previous projects, I even cook my own food. My only salvation is the rest day, which only happens every Friday.

If you already hate nine-to-five jobs, working here may not please you.

Some people ask me why I almost don’t take overtime. They’re puzzled. These people are either in dire needs of income for their family or their just not aware of how much time they already spent at work.

Another possible reason is they just don’t know what to do with this itsy-bitsy time for themselves. And it’s reasonable when you’re away from home. Especially in this conservative culture. The lifestyle here is not far from someone in prison. There are few things to do here besides watching movies, internet browsing, and online chatting. Yes, it is still possible to appreciate your stay here.

Legally. Of course. 🙂

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Some Things to Do With the Itsy-Bitsy Spare Time for Yourself

  1. Learn New Skills Through Podcast and Online Courses. If you’re a kind of person who has a lot of routines and almost no time to learn other things. Then you can try to listen to a podcast. You can use iTunes for Apple users or Stitcher for Android users. I listen to them while doing the laundry, jogging or when I’m just plain bored. Another thing to do is to take online courses, there are plenty of free and paid courses to choose now. At this time of digital age, it is vital to update our skills. Changes are always happening at an amazing speed. The industry I’m in now might not exist in the future.
  2. Write a Blog. As I already said, I don’t watch the news, but still obsessed with scrolling the Facebook newsfeeds. Old habits hard to die. Perhaps, old excuses easy to justify. The good news is blogging compete with my Facebook addiction. The reason why it doesn’t matter how many or few reads my blog (as least for now) is blogging itself is already rewarding. I warned you though to take seriously your words choice.
  3. Write a Journal for Daily Reflection. I used Diaro app to write my thoughts and lessons for the day every night. A notebook and a pen will still do.Without journaling, I don’t know how can I reflect on my daily activities here. I gained a lot of perspective in life through journaling.
  4. Reading Books. It can be either physical or digital. But, nothing beats the classic physical book. I can even sniff it. Yeah, I’m weird.
  5. Jogging or Any Kind of Physical Activity Besides Work. In my nature of work, it is possible that I have already walk more than a thousand miles going back-and-forth to the office and construction site. Still, I jog after work as much as I can. About three to five times a week for about fifteen to thirty minutes. During rest day, I can see Filipinos play basketball. Pakistanis and Indians play cricket. Some play volleyball. Some play soccer.

I learned here how to accept obstacle as a challenge. Or even as an advantage.

If you’re currently working here or worked here before or knew someone, I’ll appreciate if you can give more idea. Go put your words in the comments box.

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The Freedom of Limitations

“When we are no longer able to change a situation — we are challenged to change ourselves.” ~Viktor E. Frankl

So what’s the freedom of limitations? It is the extension of our consciousness and our own self-imposed limitations. When our only option is to do something we have not yet done before. It increases our ability to grow. Yet, it keeps us humble.

As life in itself is limited, we learn to appreciate it more.  As we grew older, we realized how stupid it is to waste time on superficial things. Sometimes, I still do waste my time in anxiety and superficiality. I’d improved, but still more room for improvement.

Make the most of what we have while working here. There are always hope and freedom. Even in the most strictest places on the planet.

Each day counts. Make the most for each of them.

Today is your day.Enjoy it while it last. 🙂