Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Monday, March 8, 2010

OUR FIRST-EVER EXPAT ADVENTURE BEGINS IN DUBAI

Our “Arabian Adventure” begins . . . never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays Roger and I discussed what lifestyle we wanted for the next part of our life. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for some exotic location. As usual, my handsome Prince came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The hardest part for both of us was leaving our family. One father, 2 sisters, 4 brothers, 7 in-laws, tons of nieces, nephews and favorite cousins, 6 children and 7 absolutely precious and perfect grandchildren!! While there was trepidation on the part of some of these loving relatives, the greater majority cheered us on and wished us well . . . some may even work up the courage and bankroll to visit!


The actual decision to move to the Middle East was quite sudden. Roger received a call on New Year’s Day to come right away for an interview in Dubai. They hired him on the spot and he never came home. This left me to take care of all our personal matters in the USA. As “un-gallant” as that appears, and my Roger is anything but “un-gallant,” it simplified a very large process as there was only one decision-maker on the ground!

We listed the house and began deciding what to do with the contents - which items to take to Dubai, which to store stateside and which to loan or give to the children. We decided that anything that we didn’t absolutely love was “history!” What a liberating experience!! Released from being shackled to “stuff” lightens the load on not only your physical presence but, more importantly, on your mind. I highly recommend this "cleansing" even if you aren’t moving half way around the world. It is a good exercise no matter what your life-stage.

The most heart-breaking decision for Roger was selling the cars. His first love is his cars – yes I do admit I may be second! We recently bought Roger a "Silver Surfer" Corvette and have such great memories of our “road-trips” trekking across Florida. As painful as parting with the Corvette was, parting with the red and black 1984 Pontiac TransAm was proving to be traumatic – this is the first brand-new car Roger bought with his own money. To put this attachment in perspective, after 5 years of marriage I have only been granted one ride. And lastly, there is the “energizer bunny,” a 2002 Ford Explorer that just “keeps going and going!!” The pain was acerbated when we finally accepted the reality that all three cars would be sold for much less than we thought they were worth.
Happy Russell and TransAm in Colorado

Just for fun I looked into shipping the cars to Dubai. To my surprise it is more affordable than you would think. The costs for Corvette and the Explorer were equal to the loss we would take. Then factor in the pain and cost of buying new cars in Dubai and it became a no-brainer! But, what to do with the TransAM – a treasured member of the family. Roger just could not sell it off. To our surprise, Russell, our son in Denver, volunteered to hold it for his Dad until we returned. Russell took this assignment “full throttle” by immediately joining the TransAM Club in Denver and even cleaning out his garage to make room for his “brother.”


It was a very exciting day when the TransAM was loaded on a car trailer bound for Denver, and the Corvette and Explorer were loaded on a car trailer to begin their journey half way around the world in a container. Granddaughter Lindsey was there for the send off. Can’t tell you how many nightmares I had of that container rolling off the boat with Roger’s precious Corvette sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, or whatever body of water they were travelling through.


As my departure date neared it became clear that the house was not going to sell before I left. We had to decide whether to sell at a much reduced price or just hold onto it. For a number of reasons we decided not to have a “fire-sale” and told our realtor the absolute bottom selling price. So the house would show well, we left the contents intact and I created a very large excel sheet of the contents noting where and to whom items were to go when the house sold. I had this fantasy that the contents could be dispersed to the various children and put in stateside storage without my coming home again to supervise.


The hard decision for me was leaving Broward Partnership for the Homeless (BPHI). As the Chief Development & Communication Officer for the last 5.5 years, I came to love the residents, the staff, the Board of Directors and our very generous donors. The mission of this organization energized my soul each day and it was painful to put an end to this fulfilling relationship. I do take satisfaction in knowing that BPHI's private fundraising efforts were left in excellent shape with more than $1.2 million in annual contributions and that an awesome development staff of very dedicated and talented professionals was in place to carry-on the work. 


My friends and family made certain I had a great send-off. There were multiple lunches with co-workers, dinners with dear friends and girl friends’ lunches, brunches and dinners with marvelous Cosmos all along the way! I do simply have the very best network of friends. I know they will never ever be duplicated anywhere. In fact, there were so many parties that it became embarrassing as I kept getting the message from Roger “do not buy that plane ticket yet” because there were difficulties with his UAE work visa.


Among all these wonderful going-away parties was a surprise party thrown by my family which was remarkable mainly because I was so completely taken by surprise. Thinking I was going on a dinner boat trip with my sister Paty and my two brothers, Tom and Mike, I arrive at Mike’s house to find cars everywhere. I figured that my nephew Ryan, party animal that he is, was having a party. When Mike and Drew answered the door they sure were awfully dressed up for a boat trip! When I came into the house almost my entire family was there. .. and then some. Anne and George Platt and Susan and Bill Telli – who are all regarded as family – raised a glass of wine in salute. I was very touched that Anne and George came decked out in the proper Arab attire.

The party came complete with Arab music, a cake decorated as an UAE flag and a belly dancer. Of course, you know who they made get up and dance with the belly dancer. It was OK because I was joined by granddaughters Riley and Maxx, daughter Charlene and crazy friend Susan. The hit of the evening was the “Ohmygodie Millionaire” game that involved me answering questions about the UAE submitted by members of the family. Nephew Andrew, became the expert source of information as last semester he had studied the region. Of course the questions he submitted were terribly hard and I missed ALL of them. The most notable questions were submitted by my cousins Mary and Walt. A sampling . . . “Why do they drive on the left side of the road in Dubai?” a) they don’t, b) to avoid camels, c) too much traffic on the right side and e) they don’t drive in Dubai they get driven. . . . “What is Gafaaz?” a) an appetizer – stuffed camel, b) an Arabic expressions when someone sneezes, c) a ladies glove, d) someone who steps in camel poop? I think you can get an idea about the way evening’s game went. I just wanted to know who had the million dollars if I won. This was family – no one offered!


As I mentioned, my departure date kept getting rolled back because there were problems with Roger’s work visa. It appears that the UAE does not traditionally issue work visas to people over the age of 60. This posed a bit of a problem since Roger’s wealth of experience building airports across the USA spans over 34 years. That definitely puts him over the age limit. The process to get him his work visa took twice as long as normal – two agonizing months – but finally it was completed and he was comfortable giving me the green light. Needless to say I immediately was on a flight to Dubai!


Post Scripts:

Corvette and Ford   . . . both cars arrive safely and it only took me 3 days to get them through customs, inspected and licensed! Roger is a happy camper and is the newest member of the Arabian Corvette Club.

TransAM  . . . also arrived safe and Russell is enjoying taking it for an occasional spin in beautiful Denver.

House sold  . . . Believe it or not our house sold and I made a quick trip home in June to handle details. And yes, had another round of wonderful Cosmo filled good-bye parties! We now honestly call Dubai home!

3 comments:

  1. Sounds awesome Katie! You two are truely inspiring! Now I wanna see more pics!

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  2. Thank you for the compliment but it is the country that is inspiring! Keep reading we have only scratched the surface of the UAE. Falcons in the desert and sailing in the Gulf of Oman coming up!

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