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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

SETTLING INTO DUBAI - A 2-WEEK UPDATE

We have been in Dubai for 2 weeks and 4 days and life is a total adventure. Every step right now is a challenge and a learning experience . . . new food, new stores, new products, new language - forget learning Arabic we need to learn "Indian/Pakistani  English” because all of the service people are either Indian or Pakistani and each speak their own dialect of English.

Roger is enjoying his new assignment. The commute to Abu Dhabi is tough but I send him off each morning with coffee and a snack and he keeps returning to me every night! I will let him tell you all about the project(s) he is working on – massive, exciting – Abu Dhabi will certainly have a one-of-a-kind airport.


The apartment Roger found for us is perfect. I had requested a water view and he gave me two! We have a view of the Dubai Marina from our balcony and a view of the Arabian Gulf from two bedrooms. Our first purchase is a patio table and 2 chairs so we can have a glass of wine on the patio at the end of the day. Oops! Forgot you must obtain a liquor license in order to purchase alcohol in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). For the time being we make do with iced tea.


The apartment has a very nice kitchen that I know I will enjoy. When I arrived, my darling Roger presented me with an Arabian cookbook. He is so thoughtful – he knows I will enjoy experimenting with the new cuisine. Dubai was once the center of the pearl industry, and as he is the most wonderful husband ever, he also gave me a beautiful pearl necklace and earrings to wear while I cook. What a guy!


The master bedroom is quite spacious and the apartment has three bathrooms, two with “soaking tubs” which are proving delicious after a hot and frustrating day of trying to get things done. All the bedrooms have built in closets and drawers and, with an on-site gym and luscious pool area, who could ask for anything more. We are taking reservations for guests now and welcome all who can come our way. 


I spend all my time struggling to get our apartment functional. Life's little frustrations include putting together a house from scratch . . . every time I go to cook I get the in the middle of the meal and realize I am missing a key ingredient or piece of equipment (like cooking over-easy eggs and not having butter or a spatula). By tomorrow we will have the basic furniture in place. We received delivery of our sofa this week and tomorrow our desk table, chairs and bar stools are arriving. We are still sleeping on our mattress on the floor because we haven't found a bed we like yet. The remainder of our furniture right now is made of up taped together packing boxes. We feel rather like college kids starting up their first apartment. I am hoping the balance of the furniture can be very "unique" pieces that we pick up on our travels and bring home when we return.


We have managed to get lost at every possible opportunity . . . which doesn’t say much for me since I am the designated navigator. Roger refers to our wrong turns as “Loops of Shame!” As I mentioned before, there are NO street signs and all directions are given in “landmarks.” The maps don’t always have street names so all you can do is approximate where you are and how to reach your destination. In Dubai, if you make a wrong turn or take the wrong exit, the city is totally unforgiving. It can take 30 minutes or more to get going the right direction again. I am NOT kidding!


In a desperate quest for furniture, we go to Sharjah, the next Emirate (state), looking for “Pinky’s” and “Lucky’s” – I am told this is a sister/brother act in which each have multiple warehouses of antique and imported furniture at great prices. Needless to say finding the warehouse district was tricky and, while we did stumble on another furniture outlet and bought a few pieces, “Lucky’s” and “Pinky’s” eluded us . . . after 3 hours in utter frustration we finally gave up and as we headed home I spotted the sign “Industrial Area #10,”the area in which the two shops are located. Roger strongly declined my suggestion we try one more time to find them – but he gave me a “blank check” to go shopping on my own – if I can find it! I am definitely up to that challenge.


Going to Mass is an adventure unto itself. The “obligatory” Mass is on Friday to correspond with the Muslim holy day. We attended our first Mass at St. Mary’s – the first Catholic Church in the UAE which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. It is located in old Dubai in the Oud Metha area - a very complicated area to navigate. Yep, you guessed it, we got lost and it took us 1 ½ hours to find the church (untold number of “Loops of Shame”). We missed the English Mass (Mass is said in quite a variety of languages) Not to worry I tell Roger, we can go to Mass in any language!


We enter the church and take our seats about 1/3 of the way down from the altar. Soon a very nice lady comes to tell us we must move further back because these seats are reserved. I look up on the video screen and realize we are about to be part of a Confirmation ceremony. How lovely . . . 350 people are each individually confirmed by the Bishop! A 2 ½ hour Mass . . . we considered it Roger’s penance for not going to Mass since he has been here!


The entire congregation is Indian and the 1000 seat church is packed. The women are beautiful in their Saris (I must get one). During Mass, when we come to the “Sign of Peace,” Roger and I do our usual little kiss. We we go to offer a handsake to those around us we realize that everyone is simply folding their hands and bowing to each other. Did you read about the couple who got arrested in UAE for kissing in public?  YIKES! TWANIKA, (Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore!). . .No more kissing in Church for us!



Thanks to some of our new friends we are directed to St. Francis Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali, a small village that is about 15 minutes from home. So our second Sunday - no make that Friday – in Dubai, we go to Mass there. Yes, once again we make a few “Loops of Shame” but continue to keep our sense of humor and are only 45 minutes late. Not to worry I tell Roger, we will just catch what we can - I know God will understand.

As we are escorted to our seats in the side auxiliary chapel (Church was packed), I notice a large group of young adults in the front rows wearing Red scarves . . . oh yes, another Confirmation Mass. The good news is that we are so late the Bishop has completed the Confirmation ceremony. At the “Sign of Peace,” Roger once again puckers up but I catch him in time and we shake hands!

The congregation is a mixture of different nationalities and it is quite interesting. We are looking forward to next Sunday’s Mass knowing there can’t possibly be any more people in the UAE to confirm!

Postscript

Lucky’s and Pinky’s . . . have since found out that they are not a brother-sister act but competitors. I also "cashed" the blank check from Roger and have succesfully put Mohammed's first child through college. . read about my “Lucky Adventure” to find out more.

St. Francis Assisi . . . we have settled into St. Francis parish and thoroughly enjoy Masses celebrated with Father Eugene Mattioli a 79 year-old French priest who gives passionate homilies and welcomes each new parishioner with enormous hugs . . . multiple times.




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