Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh Abu Dhabi!

UAE Flags in Dubai

"Oh Abu Dhabi!" seems to be my new favorite expression.

I typically say it when little day to day experiences leave me in a head shaking, (almost) speechless state of mixed frustration, areyoukiddingme? disbelief, and helpless resignation. In this context, it reminds me that I just need to roll with the punches and be patient.

Today I'm saying it with a hint of endearment in my voice. Instead of "Happy Anniversary," "Oh Abu Dhabi!" is my celebratory expression to highlight a very special occasion: my 6th month mark! Yes, six months ago, I naively stepped out of an airplane and onto UAE soil for the first time. When I say "Oh Abu Dhabi!" today, it's a reminder to be thankful that I have survived . . . so far. ;-)

A few 'Abu Dhabi' things that no longer surprise me after 6 months:
  • jumpsuit brigades
  • constant construction
  • certain driving habits: people passing on the outside shoulder or tailgating with about 12 inches between cars or 2 vehicles in the same lane or the general lack of signaling, etc.
  • hearing the call to prayer 5 times a day
  • 5 year old students who bring their Louis Vuitton handbags to school (No knockoffs for these girls!)
  • seeing at least 1 car accident on the way to work e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e day
  • being clueless 95% of the time about the last minute changes made to the daily school schedule (Wait--we're combining both classes today? How come I didn't know we had an early release? A parent meeting? NOW? In the middle of class?)
  • young teenage boys drag racing in their expensive sports cars down busy city streets
  • men kneeling to pray on the shoulder of the highway; (They're just feet away from speeding cars!)
  • responses that are neither yes or no--instead, they're "Insh'Allah"
  • slow moving lines (or people who don't even queue up at all)
  • the fact that there is no such thing as "standardized procedures" or "standardized answers"
  • when a few 'simple' errands take hours to complete
  • the sincere respect the Emiratis have for the late Sheikh Zayed & their current leaders
  • Banker's Hours: 8 am to 1:30 pm Saturday to Wednesday; 8 am to 12 pm on Thursday; Closed Friday and every public holiday
  • going to 5 different grocery stores in order to find the ingredients needed to make 1 recipe
  • using street names instead of street numbers and landmarks instead of addresses

Kandoora Crossing

How many people plaster their windows with Sheikh decals? LOTS.

A few 'Abu Dhabi' things that I still don't get after 6 months:
  • What exactly is a bedspacer?
  • How do the shops and companies survive when there is always so much construction? Surely it must affect business in a big way?
  • Is it even possible for one to leave their downtown residence and somehow avoid walking through Mansville?
  • Why do the weekends feel so much shorter here than they did back home?
  • What do these people have against car seats? Why do they let their little kids hang out the window or stand up through the sun roof while they are driving?
  • Why does every single restaurant offer take out?
  • How do the women do it? I can't imagine trying to jog in an abaya!
  • Please, explain it to me again: Why is the internet so stinkin' slow?
  • Since it's not really my style at all, why do I find the combination of aviator glasses and kandooras to be so attractive?

One of the many "Bed Spacer" adverts around my place.

A few 'Abu Dhabi' things I still struggle with after 6 months:
  • the poor human rights policies
  • drinking Arabic coffee
  • being sick so frequently
  • the gross amount of waste
  • the high suicide rates in work camps
  • unclear expectations at work
  • living in a society that is strictly segregated
  • being served so often by other people
  • the constant sound of honking horns (If you're going to check out any of the links in this post, you should check out this one! It's a video of the intersection by my house. My friends & neighbors in the same apartment building, Skyler & Sarah, took it from their living room window.)
  • having only a handful of books to use for reading instruction
  • having to ignore the teeniest, tiniest stray kittens you've seen in your life; When they meow at you, they use this tone that just says, "Rescue me!".

A quick (and limited) list of the many 'Abu Dhabi' things I appreciate and enjoy after 6 months:

  • cheerful greetings from the staff at my front desk
  • bus rides for 1 dirham
  • hugs and kisses from my students
  • feeling very safe
  • loads of bottled water with bubbles
  • baby kandooras
  • kind and supportive friends I've met through work, my apartment building, and church; (Plus one who came from home!)
  • humorous signs and typos
  • the color of the sea
  • always having enough hot water when I take showers
  • camels
  • speaking pidgeon Arabic; learning new words from my students
  • seeing the Grand Mosque on my morning commute
  • jogging through busy city streets while listening to the Amelie soundtrack on my ipod
  • real French butter; so much better than the butter at home
  • the Thursday night yoga classes the first couple months I was here
  • living next to all of the important bus lines
  • the smell of oud (I hated it in the beginning, but now, in a weird way, I actually like it!)
  • the beautiful dunes in Liwa
  • delicious cucumbers
  • sunshine
  • the special section on the bus for women
  • they way almost all Emiratis wholeheartedly love their country
  • gorgeous sunrises & sunsets
  • affordable health care
  • the beach
  • air conditioning

A restaurant down the street with a rather interesting name. This might be a favorite example of the previously mentioned "humorous signs".

Baby Kandoora
This is Noora's little brother. Isn't he a cutie?


Sunset in the desert

6 months and counting!

P.S. Heading out on a camping trip this weekend. Probably won't post for a bit!


Kate said...


What is oud?

Great post, and I love the pictures!

Have a great camping trip! Love!

Wendy said...

Molly, some of those articles were very enlightening....and scary. Stay safe!