Friday, August 26, 2011

When the bloom is off the rose

The master bedroom
(all the bedrooms have the exact same bed)
I've heard a lot about culture shock in the lead up and introduction to this adventure. It was addressed in the two pre-departure webinars, and again at orientation.  The stages (for those of you who missed out on all the presentations) develop over time... we start out positive (in the euphoric/adventure/honeymoon phase), then dip into anxiety (where we feel anxiety, uncertainty, confused), drop further into rejection (loss of enthusiasm/homesickness), and then move back up with adjustment (recognize & accept the differences - adapt & adopt the local culture).
Belle's freshly cleaned bathroom

This last week, I've definitely progressed into the second stage.  I'm moving out of my hotel accommodations into my apartment, which is exciting but also very stressful.  My hotel is over a 2 hour bus ride from my apartment or a 230 Dhs cab ride.  That can make it taxing when you need to go to the apartment every day during a week but it isn't yet livable.  On Sunday and Monday, I ordered the furniture and appliances that our apartment needed and then I went to the apartment on Tuesday to make sure I could get in (the first time we visited the exterior door was locked) and check the condition. We (the other residents) were told it would be cleaned prior to us moving in. Sadly, this did not happen, so on Tuesday, I spent several hours procuring cleaning supplies and began cleaning.

The view from our living room
at sunset
On Wednesday, I spent several hours at the apartment cleaning and waiting for the beds and mattresses to arrive (the first scheduled delivery).  After their arrival, I headed back to the hotel for a late dinner and to pick up more cleaning supplies for Thursday (the apartment is brand new, but it had lots of construction debris, dust, and markings on the walls).  Thursday was a miserable day. For those of you who know me well, you know that I loathe house cleaning and this was my third straight day of it (did I mention that I am excited to hire a maid as soon as I begin my regular pay?).  This was not the worst part though.  In the US, when you order from one store, the deliveries usually come together. I learned yesterday that in the UAE, the deliveries come by the distributor/manufacturer (meaning I am getting THREE different deliveries).  The first delivery came around 4 (I had been told all the deliveries would arrive between 11 and 7).  After two calls to the store call center, I was asked to please wait until 8:30 for the second delivery to arrive. Did you notice the present tense earlier? I'm now supposed to receive our stove, refrigerator and washing machine on Saturday (the day I am moving into the apartment for good).  The living room furniture is scheduled for delivery on Monday.

After dune bashing & camel riding...
before sand boarding.
Today, I am off to get the soft goods to finish preparing the essentials - pillows, sheets, dishes, etc. and tomorrow, I move. All of this preparing has made me miss my family more and recognize how much I depend on Rob to steady my nerves, be the voice of reason, and his overall know-how, Mr. Fix-it fabulousness.

In a few weeks, probably even in a few days, this will not seem like such a big deal. I'm going to be happy to present my family with our functional new home, and they will be able to help me finish preparing and personalizing.  It will be good.

Friday, August 19, 2011

When the tub doubles as your washing machine...

The Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi
I haven't stayed in many five star hotels in my life, and never for as long as I've been at the Yas.  For the first week, you walk around with a glazed look in your eyes and in awe that this is the place you call home.  After that, reality trickles in and you discover that even residing in a five star hotel has its challenges.  The first thing you realize is that it could break the bank to eat at one of the hotel's fabulous restaurants each night and that room service will add up quickly. This problem is easily solved by filling the minibar (that you had requested be emptied) with food purchased from local grocery stores, that are longish taxi rides away.  Now, you can feed yourself in your room for some of those meals.
One of two rooftop pools

BUT, the biggest problem you will encounter has nothing to do with diet, or the location of your hotel being as far away as possible from anything you will actually need, it has to do with clothing.  I am staying in one of the world's most renowned shopping areas, so it is not a problem to purchase clothing - there are over five malls within 20 kilometers and more are being constructed as I write this.  Shopping is, in fact, one of the biggest local past-times. The question is raised by the end of the first week: where are you going to do your laundry?

My make-shift washing machine
The hotel's laundry service is discounted, but even then, one smallish load will cost approximately $26 US.  There are no laundromats. There are only laundry services (and being unfamiliar with the area) with unknown reputations that charge by the item. Plus, this is an area where the water never gets really cold, testing color-fastness. So, upon listening to previous and current travelers, you learn to wash your clothes in the tub, create make-shift clotheslines in your room and finally, buy a drying rack that you will have to add to all the luggage and shopping bags you will cart to your final destination. 

What makes this visit to historical laundry methods bearable*? Being a resident at a five star hotel.

*But it also makes you eager to move into your own dwelling, too.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Can't talk about the weather...

Holding a falcon
I'm from New England, and we have a saying that if you don't like the weather, to wait a minute. As such, I grew up watching the weather reports and planning my days around the description. I had clothes for warm summer days, warm rainy days, cold rainy days, cold fall days, warm fall days, and the freezing cold of winter.  Since I have been in Abu Dhabi, I no longer need a weather report. Every day is hot and humid.  Just plan on it. Winter will also be warm - 60s and 70s.  Mind you, I am not complaining - especially when friends and family back home will be dealing with the joys of a nor'easter or the bitter February chill. I didn't even bring a rain coat. 

Mallory & I at the Mosque
One thing that is taking some adjustment to is time. First it was recovering from jet lag - which was a doozy.  Now, it is adapting to Abu Dhabi time.... I've always joked that my husband had two speeds (like a John Deere tractor), but most of the time he spent in turtle.  I would work myself up into a full blown anxiety ridden freak out about being late, and he would calmly keep going.  He's going to fit in perfectly over here.  After our orientation night, we were separated into groups to complete our medical checks and our police checks. I was in Group 2 so I needed to leave at 7am for our med check.  We left around 7:15 (despite a stern admonishment to be on time or the bus would leave without us) and proceeded into the city.  We were required to sit on the bus for about 15 minutes after arrival at the center, and then were assigned numbers and sent to a variety of different rooms to be checked.... This 15 minute process took almost 4 hours.  The second event, the police check did not go much better - we were scheduled to leave at 9pm and did not leave until 9:40. We were returned to the hotel after 1am. Yawn. 
My birthday cake

But then I had plenty of time to explore the city. We went to the Falcon Hospital which was incredible. We were able to hold a real falcon, watch a falcon endoscopy, and visit the boarding aviary. My fabulous new friends surprised me with a birthday cake on the evening of my birthday and then the following day, I visited the Grand Mosque. On my birthday, I was able to visit the apartment that my family will live in for the next year (we can change housing after a year - which I think might be likely).  It has been a busy week, but I miss Rob & Belle and can't wait for them to join me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome to Abu Dhabi

The start of the odyssey
Have you ever had a newborn who reverse cycled (slept all day, stayed up all night eating)? That's exactly how I felt upon arrival: tired, hot (she was a June baby after all), and desperately in need of a shower.  The first plane ride was fairly uneventful and quite short, compared to the almost 13 hour flight that followed. On the long flight, I was given a fabulous, emergency exit seat.  This meant tons of room, the bathroom was conveniently located, and did I mention the leg room?  I think I will request seating in that section every time I fly.  There were tons of movies, tv shows, games, etc. to choose from, but after eating dinner (at almost midnight), all I wanted to do was sleep, which I did for about 4 hours off and on.

Arrival at the small mall
We arrived in Abu Dhabi after another short flight and were greeted by people holding signs up and directing us to a gathering place. There our names were shouted out and we were each handed our pink visa and a lanyard with an ADEC Teacher card in the id slot.  Once we had visas, we were hustled to the immigration department, where eyes were scanned (you must remove your contacts for this), the visa was stamped, and then we stood in line to have the visa stamped again.  YOU SHOULD MAKE COPIES (AT LEAST 4) of this PINK paper as soon as you can (this is the sheet you will need to get your phone, utilities, etc.) because it will be taken the first night of orientation along with your passport (and 2 copies of each).

The Yas Hotel is next to and actually has the
Yas Marina Circuit Formula One Race
Track go under part of the hotel.
Then, we had some downtime to get over jetlag, use the hotel facilities (AMAZING - two rooftop pools!!!), and visit the local malls & IKEA.  There are a lot of products and brands that we use in the US, which was a delightful surprise since we had heard otherwise. Along with many new things to try out or observe.  The malls were very familiar feeling, with the exception of the lack of music playing in stores, prayer rooms, and no food or drink available during daylight hours due to Ramadan. That has been very hard to get used to and I think we all are a bit dehydrated despite refreshment rooms at the hotel pools.  Even chewing gum is prohibited during the day.

How to fit five people in a normal sized cab...
Rose was in the front seat.
Last night, we had our first orientation meeting and learned lots of useful stuff (when family might be able to come, a schedule for the week, ALL housing will be unfurnished, received our banking stuff & filled out related paperwork, medical card dates, and when we might learn our placements).  Today, we had our medical checks where everyone was tested for hepatitis, syphilis, HIV, leprosy, tuberculosis, and weighed, measured, and blood pressure was taken.  I was in Group 2 which meant we left at 7 AM. Tomorrow, I am off to the police station for finger printing. We depart at 10 PM from the hotel.  We were told we may get an advance on our 1st check and our furniture allowance soon. 
After tomorrow, I have the rest of the week to wait to hear on housing and miss my family & friends.