Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two more things off the checklist

Last week was a pretty big week. First off, Miranda got her cast off which means her strut is starting to look a little more human and a little less like an orangutan (she is still swinging her arms wildly back and forth with every step--it's something we're working on). It also means that she gets to go in the water and that means that the rest of us can go in the water with significantly less guilt. Our experience at the hospital here was painless and positive and, building on the tremendous support we received at the IWK, we've got a daughter that's practically good as new.

The next big event of the week was finding a piano. It was a little discouraging last week when Julie and I hit the town in search of a piano that would meet her standards. We could only find two places in the entire city that sold pianos. One specialized in a Chinese brand we had never heard of called Pearl river, and the other place was a shop that specialized in all things Yamaha. Neither option was going to work. We had pretty much come to the conclusion that we'd have to go to Dubai to find what we were looking for and that wasn't going to happen until we procured a vehicle of some sort (something I'm trying to put off as long as I possibly can). Julie was disappointed, but to her credit not despondent. I made one last desperate search on-line and came up with a used Kawai that was only a couple of blocks away from us. There wasn't a picture with the listing, so we didn't get our hopes up, but we gave it a shot anyway. The piano ended up being more than we could have hoped for. There's a little bit of wear on the pedals and metal hinges, but, apart from that, it's in great condition, far better and far less than anything we saw while out on our search.

The instinct is to haggle over everything here. If you don't at least try, then you can't help feeling that you might have spent a little too much. When I asked Julie if I should offer a lower price, she wouldn't entertain the idea. It wasn't worth the risk.

The piano was delivered the next day and the day after that we had it tuned. We've still got to address the acoustics with a couple of rugs, but it sounds great and makes the apartment feel a little more like home. It was the piano more than any of the documentation that gave me a sense of security and comfort

Parting with our piano in Nova Scotia was one of the few possessions that was actually more difficult than it was freeing. When we had bought that piano, we were sure that it was going to be the piano we had for the rest of our lives, and believing that led us form a somewhat stronger than usual attachment to the instrument, so we're feeling pretty blessed to have music back in our home. Whether our neighbours are feeling the same level of gratitude or not is another question entirely.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Just thinking about thanks

Building on the last post, I just wanted to share this.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Battle on the Homefront

When we first announced our intention to move to sell most of our possessions and move to the Middle East, a lot of people reacted with awe and wonder. Comments like, "I could never do that." or "You guys are so brave." were fairly frequent. Hearing stuff like that made us feel special, like there was something about us that was different, more adventurous than typical folk. I don't know that that's exactly true. Sure, we were up for the change and willing to go, but so much of us being able to come out here has been made possible by an incredible support system that seems to spread throughout North America. I know that in trying to thank everyone I'm going to miss people, but it would be ungrateful of me to not try at least.

It's impossible to tie up all the loose ends before leaving a place. In fact the strands of our lives were so loose and tangled that the efforts to tie them up only made things worse. We left Nova Scotia without having sold our house and car, not an ideal situation, granted, but the fact that my father and step mother have been so willing to take care of that for us makes it so that the biggest concerns are the least worrisome. Of all of the anxiety I've experienced since coming over here, not once have I stressed out over the home or car. We're also grateful for the support the Kirchners and Pillings have offered by helping to finish little repairs and take care of the yard work.

Friends like the Glanfields and Pinsents were great supporters of our move even though they weren't particularly happy about us leaving. And each person who expressed disappointment at our departure helped us feel like we were known and loved. I think one of the worst feelings a person can have when leaving a place is to feel that they haven't made a difference. It was a real comfort to hear that we would be missed and to feel like we really mattered to people.

My mother and step father made room in their storage area which helped by not forcing us to get rid of everything, but what helped even more was their resolve to submit their mission papers without waiting for everything to be in order. We're grateful for their example.

You can read about our trip across the US in earlier posts. So much of that trip was preparatory for this experience. On that trek we learned how to live with less, deal with one another in confined spaces and navigate new environments on a daily basis. That trip also helped give us the emotional resolve to take the leap by allowing us to visit with friends and family that we hadn't seen in much too long. We didn't get to see everyone we wanted, but the visits were what we needed.

From a logistical standpoint, friends like Michael Armour and Shawn Rider really helped navigate some of the finer points of bureaucracy. My brother was able to provide sound counsel on travel and my sister has volunteered to act as a shipping point for unattainable necessities. And then there are the prayers we know and can feel that are being offered on our behalf. Those prayers are being answered daily in very real and tangible ways. No doubt, I've missed people, but that doesn't lessen our gratitude or our love.

And because I'm a total geek, and in keeping with the whole "it takes a village" vibe of this post, I have to end with one of the coolest propaganda posters I've seen in a long time.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's not the price, but that cost that's difficult

A couple of weeks ago, while we were doing our laundry at the Crandalls, Jake said to as, “Did you hear that they’re opening a Costco in Abu Dhabi?” There was a beat long enough for our hopes to rise just a bit, before his wife said, “Don’t listen to my husband. He tries that joke on all the newbies.” The joke was more cruel than it should have been. There are lots of people we miss, but one of the few things we’re having a bit of a hard time doing without is Costco and the Minivan that allowed us to exploit the power of bulk buying to its fullest extent. The presence of an Ikea only five minutes away offsets the loss we feel a little bit, but minimalist Swedish do-it-yourself furniture can only fill so big of a hole.

We’re starting to fall into a routine, unfortunately that routine seems to include almost daily grocery shopping. The massive jugs of water are heavy and, in the midst of the urban desert, it does not last long. We’re still stocking our cupboards and kitchen drawers with essentials. It seems that every day Julie’s reaching for something that isn’t there. Yesterday, it was curry, which was kind of funny because one of the things that this country does not lack with its Indian population is the availability of curry. It just didn’t make one of the many shopping lists we’ve jotted down since arriving.

This how everyone looked on the way to the mall. You should have seen them on the way home. Not pretty.

Each trip to the store I’m calculating not how much it’s going to cost, but rather how much it’s all going to weigh and if I can get the groceries from the cab to my building’s elevator in one trip. The five am call to prayer I’m starting to get used to, but these constant mini-trips to get groceries, that’s going to take some time.

We're around the last "t" on Sh. Zayed 1st Street.

There's nothing like clean underwear and a home cooked meal to help you feel settled in

There is the beauty of a sunset over the city, but the first thing to really take my breath away since we arrived in Abu Dhabi was...

Isn't she a beaut?

The new washing machine finally arrived a week ago Monday. Let me tell you that it's the little things like doing laundry that you miss when you can't do it. We had purchased a washing machine with the lot of furnishings we shipped down, and like the rest of the experience, things did not work out quite as we had planned. It took me a couple of days to find the adapter I needed to hook up our washer (the concept of regular business hours for some of the smaller shops is quite fluid during Ramadan). And once it was all hooked up, the basin spewed chunks of foam lining and refused to drain. After a couple of tries, we surrendered and ended up buying a washer at the closest shop we could find on the day before Eid which meant the earliest it could be delivered was three days later. A family from church invited us overa couple of Fridays ago to feed us and let us use their washer. We might have overstayed our welcome by a few hours which only put us that much more in their debt. The new washer arrived on Monday and, part from the faces of my family, may just be the single most beautiful thing I've laid my eyes on since arriving here. I had never heard of Haier, but the salesman assured me in his best English that it was much better than the LG I was looking at. He didn't tell me which of the two paid the higher commission, but I have my suspicions.

Tuesday was the first home cooked meal we had since we've arrived. I guess technically the ramen we had a couple of nights in a row was cooked at home, but it didn't offer the same level of comfort that Julie's fresh baked bread and quinoa chilli had. She even baked a couple of batches of cookies. It was the first time she had baked with a gas oven, and apart from the extra crispiness of the first batch of cookies, everything turned out perfectly. To make the meal even more fulfilling, we invited our neighbour Rudi from across the hall. He also teaches at the college and has been an invaluable resource whenever we've needed any help or advice.

And, yes that is home baked bread!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

If it's Latin, it must be true!

Before we came we had made arrangements to purchase our furnishings from a family who were on their way out. We saw a few photos and the price seemed right. We were told it wouldn't cost much to move things from where they were and that it would make the entire process of setting in much smoother and easier. Alas, this was not so. Caveat Emptor is the Latin phrase, and because it's in Latin, it means that someone learned this lesson many hundreds of years ago. I need to put more trust in dead languages. If something seems like it's too good to be true, it probably is.

I don't want to give the impression that we were ripped off or taken to the cleaners. The stuff we got is probably worth what we paid for it (whether it was worth what we paid to move it is another question entirely). However, had we been given our choice of furnishings or appliances, we probably would have gone a much different route and saved ourselves a few headaches.

When we arranged to move the stuff from a faraway town, we were unable to supervise the sorting and loading of the stuff onto the trucks. Simply put, in the rush to load and move the trucks, the filtering process was completely omitted. It took us the better part of a week to sift the possessions we bought from the lives of their previous owners. Journals, photographs, receipts and manual for phantom appliances filled boxes and drawers. Filtering our own possessions before leaving Nova Scotia was a relief. Going through this stuff was simply work without thecatharthis. Not fun.

The worn and threadbare furniture wouldn't fit down the hallway to the bedrooms, so it's the nicer stuff that's out of sight. The fridge overwhelms our kitchen and the washing machine had more than a small leak.

I need to close the book on this. My constant venting doesn't seem to relieve the stress building inside me, so I have to let go and move on, and if there's was lesson this adventure can teach me it's to let go of that which I can't control.

This is what I mean by lack of filters. Yes, those are trophies that were moved, and that is indeed a slab of concrete that was very carefully wrapped and boxed for us.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's the familiar that's most unnerving

It's all about the context. There is so much here that is familiar to us--the McDonalds, Krispy Kreme Donuts, the Chili's and KFCs--but it's because we don't expect to see it that it's so jarring. Coming off the plane, the first thing we saw at the airport was a Starbuck's coffee shop. At the time I thought it was a little ironic, but now, after ten days here, I'm finding that the biggest adjustments I'm having to make are regarding the things we didn't leave behind. It's not that it's not a little comforting to be able to have a Whopper every now and again. It is nice to have that option, but it's that Whopper, more than anything else, that reminds me of how far from home I am.

One view from our apartment around 11:30 PM.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

One Week In and We're all Still here...

After nearly twenty hours of flight, we arrived in Abu Dhabi a day and a half after we left. The entire process was beyond smooth. It was our first time on an airplane in over five years (except for Julie who had her little trip a couple of weeks before). Julie did an amazing job packing all of the sixteen bags (twelve check on and six carry ons) and not one bag was dinged for being over weight. It was nothing short of a miracle.

This is what we saw of Germany.
In Abu Dhabi we were greet by a guest service and ushered through customs like we were VIPs. When we finally left the airport, the heat and humidity hit us like a wall. Miranda described it perfectly when she said, "I feel like a sucked on pretzel."

Then straight on to the hotel in the heart of Abu Dhabi. You couldn't have prepared me for room they put us in. Were I easily influenced by flattery, the amenities would have completely won me over.

I thought that the extremely comfortable bed and lack of any sleep over the previous thirty would have guaranteed a perfect night's sleep. No such luck. It took at least three days to get my clock adjusted to the time difference.

This is how Miranda enjoyed the pool.

The next day I got to see the campus where it turns out I will not be working, very impressive all the same. That afternoon we spent a little bit of time in the hotel's roof top swimming pool while poor cast-laden Miranda watched on from the shade.