A lot of my FB friends have been asking what it’s like here, and I always have a hard time coming up with a good answer – thus this month’s Abu Dhabi blog theme. However, today’s shipment of an incredible FOUR packages from the USA made me think a lot about what I’m missing about my homeland.
- I miss my old bookshelves full of books. I still don’t have a bookshelf here, but I sent out a missive to my list of FB friends and assorted family asking for books. I have eight more books today than I did yesterday, and now can go back to IKEA and buy a shelf for them.
- I miss knowing how to get things done. Like – at the post office, for example. They don’t sell stamps in Abu Dhabi. When you’re trying to mail 160 letters to 5 countries, they will say things to you in Arabic that you really hope aren’t rude, and then go get a manager who will bring you around to the back room behind the counter, through a hallway, past the loading docks, and into a cubicle that looks like it should be air conditioned but isn’t because the loading dock doors are open. He will then do something on a computer that looks very similar to what the person at the desk was doing and charge you 860 Dirhams to send your letters. He will then let you know that they only accept cash.
- I miss being able to have a beer with dinner and be trusted by local law enforcement to drive myself home. Because of the progressive attitude of the Sheiks here in Abu Dhabi, alcohol is available in the UAE at limited outlets (hotel restaurants, private clubs, and restricted sales liquor stores) but only with the possession of an alcohol permit – which basically states that the holder is a non-Muslim and understands that the UAE has a zero tolerance policy for driving after the consumption of ANY amount of alcohol. People who disregard this law end up either in jail or facing huge fines and possibly losing their residency visa. Good thing taxis are abundant and inexpensive.
- I miss my friends. Big time. I’ve had the amazing fortune to connect with a lot of compassionate, intelligent, and interesting people in Minneapolis and elsewhere: actors, writers, teachers, nurses, business people and God knows what all else. Each of the friends in my community added something to my life and I can only hope I did the same. I suspect I was on the receiving end more often than giving, and I’m grateful for their indulgences. Having only the first seeds of community here is encouraging, but challenging.
- I miss my students at SHS. They were funny, independent, vigorous group of heterogenous learners who always challenged my teaching skills and perceptions of the world. I enjoy my students here as well, but they are much more alike to each other than they are different. Maybe I say that now because I don’t know them well enough yet.
- I miss my massage therapist, my acupuncturist, and my support group meetings. Self-care in Abu Dhabi requires an incredible amount of self-advocacy. I’m used to finding immediate assistance if I need to process something or don’t feel well – haven’t worked out how to access that here yet.
- Nothing is easy in Abu Dhabi. An errand I think should take 15 minutes takes an hour. A drive across town could be 15 minutes one day and take an hour the next. Finding a store that’s “right across from the Abu Dhabi Mall” but on a different block than you were directed to could take four hours and two runs across town in different directions. I’ve learned to never get into the car hungry or without an extra bottle of water.
- I miss American accents. Most of my colleagues are British and Canadian. They talk funny. That’s code for they don’t get my sense of humor, my enthusiasm, my openness to talk about anything, my colloquialisms, or my understanding of the world. There’s also the words that come out of their mouths that I really don’t get. We’re working it out.
That’s about it for tonight. I could think of more, but I’m getting a little sad and don’t want to be a whiner. It is what it is. You take the good, you take the bad…