Sunday, April 1, 2012

Life in the UAE

Part One: A Typical Weekday -- the normal part

Our living room is cozy now, with plants and paintings.
Our living room is cozy now with plants
and paintings, but we still need a rug.

Mark and I have never had the typical lifestyle, living and working. Usually, he was working out of town or at home full time between jobs. So, not only did we have to adjust to being expats. We had to adjust to living together!

The work week in the Arab world begins on Sunday and goes through Thursday. Mark gets up when an electronic voice says, “It’s time to get up. The time is five-twenty.”

If it’s nice weather and the sliding door is open, I might listen to the ethereal, melodious singing that is the Muslim call to prayer. It happens every morning just before sunup, and again after dawn. This morning the first one was at 4:51 and the second was at 6:11. These two bracket the time when Muslims must get up and perform their first prayer to start the day.

Mark is out the door by 6:20. He starts work at 7:00 and is finished at 2:30 most days, so he’s home at about 3:20. Wednesday is the “long” day. On Wednesday they work till 3:30, but take an hour for lunch so in reality it’s the same.

Mark and Dana drive to work together; that leaves a car here for Deb and me to share. Deb, Lucy and I all have our UAE driver's licenses now. We’re lucky to have a car to use. Tom takes his and Lucy’s car every day. Many wives don’t have access to a car most days unless they drive their husband to work.
Bateen Beach 027
I havent painted yet, but we just got a printer
so now I can get started painting from photos.
First up is a portrait of Saeed's father and his camels.

I’m enjoying spending time at home in our apartment more and more. This is a good thing because it’s getting hotter and, I am told, this heat ain’t nothing yet. A typical at-home day for me is spent editing photos, writing and posting a story on Wildcardtravels if I'm lucky enough to get one finished, doing research and reading on the computer, or reading a book.

I especially enjoyed reading Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days, which I downloaded free onto my iPad from The Gutenberg Project, and James Michener’s Caravans.

Kai 6th Bday
My darlin' Kailyn turns 6 later this month.
Disneyland is on the schedule for sumer.

I’m on Facebook a lot; it’s amazing how connected it makes me feel to our friends and family in the U.S. I see the latest photos of my granddaughter Kailyn, and my daughter Nicole’s doggies Kira and Reed, the yellow lab puppy. And I keep up with who’s catching fish, getting their computer stolen, and what races everyone is sailing.
Speaking of back home, Mark and I are always thinking about our families in California and Michigan. Here’s a typical coded conversation between us:

“What time is it?”
“It’s midnight. Daylight saving time.”
“Ok. I’ll call in the morning. Tonight. Or I could call tomorrow night. Before work. I’ll get up a little early.”

Skype is fantastic. I love being able to see Kailyn and my dad when we talk. Deb, Lucy and I use Skype when we call each other as well; that way we don’t use up our mobile minutes.
This morning I got an SMS from Peter Cameron on Skype, asking for Mark’s mobile phone number so Peter could surprise call Mark at work using Skype. They had a nice chat. How cool is that!

I prefer the pool to the workout room.
I swim in the pool as often as possible. On a good day I can do up to 20 laps. I gave up working out on the gym equipment. It takes too long, and I don’t really enjoy it. Maybe when the weather gets hot I’ll go back to it. Meanwhile, we go to Train Yas, where we can walk or bicycle on the Formula 1 track. Mark has been riding his bike around the neighborhood. I don’t have a bike right now; I’ll write a separate story about how that happened. Mark and I are both losing some of our extra baggage. We are using the Wii Fit to weigh ourselves and keep track of progress.


Akbar is The Greatest, and he knows it.
Photo: Deb Loson

Sometimes I do something with Lucy or Deb, but we don’t talk every day like we did at first. Deb and I often do our household shopping together. Other times Deb is with girlfriends Charlie and Sylvia, who are marathon shoppers. Deb and Dana both like staying home and spending time with their rescue cat Akbar, who is “The Greatest.”

Other days I spend time with Lucy and a few others. A favorite thing for me to do with Lucy is hang out at her pool, where they have comfy cushions on the lounge chairs, unlike here at Al Seef, where we have teak with no pads.

Dubai Abra - Terry Mercer
Me, Linda, and Lucy on an abra
water taxi in Dubai Creek.
Photo: Terry Mercer
We have a little core group that includes Terry and Linda. We go places and sometimes have lunch together. There’s a larger group that plays cards, which started small but somehow got really big. We’re trying to set a schedule to play Canasta, but it’s hard. You meet people here that you really like, but they drop in and out of town a lot. Everybody is this weird combination of looking for friends, finding them, and then being too busy to see them.
I’ve started substitute teaching at the American Community School. You can read more about that in the “School is Cool” story.

The balconies are too small for a person, but perfect for tomatoes.
I can use what I'm learning about container
gardening when I get back home to Nevada.
I have a little container garden out on the balconies. The most interesting plants are the beefsteak tomatoes grown from seed. They have little green tomatoes now, and lots of blossoms. Now that it's getting really warm they need about a gallon of water each day so I moved them from the front room to the bedroom balcony, where they’re in shade during the afternoon heat. I hope to harvest big, juicy homegrown tomatoes before the end of July when Ramadan rolls around and it's time to get out of town!

Bateen Beach 026
Our kitchen is small, dark, and
 what appliances we do have are electric.
Poor baby, right?

I’m doing our house cleaning now, too, chasing the layer of fine sand that accumulates. A clean freak would go crazy here. It's best to walk around the house in little footie socks; they pick up dust and keep your feet clean. Also, we have no dishwasher. I’d forgotten how much time it takes to wash a sink full of dishes.

Bateen Beach 023
I check the weather back home a lot.
It's gonna snow!

We have no cable TV. Instead, we watch podcasts. Favorites are news channels and PBS. We watch 60 minutes on Mondays. Sometimes we get movies from other people. What a treat! I don’t miss the reality TV.
Mark listens to a lot of his regular diet of talk radio on his Sony notebook. I read news on my iPad. And, I’m not gonna lie, I play video poker, Angry Birds, Solitaire, and so on.

These are the mundane details, and wherever you go, there they are: dirt, dust, and dirty clothes and dishes. That’s why most expats and Emiratis have a housemaid. Right now we don’t. Maybe we’ll get someone to clean and iron.

OK, what Mark does at work is kind of classified.
But I can tell you what he does when he gets home.
Just one year ago, we got the first hint of this opportunity to live and work in the UAE; now we’ve been here for six months. It’s taken some time for us to settle in, and in some ways we are still adjusting. It’s a different culture, and I don’t necessarily mean just the Emiratis. Sometimes expats behave differently than people who are working in the U.S. would. We’re not making any assumptions about how long we’ll be here. We’ve learned that in the UAE, anything can happen.

Oh, and what’s a typical day at work like for Mark? Well, I guess you’ll just have to talk to him in order to find that out.

Thanks for reading. Next up: some of the wacky ways life here is not like back home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i impressed by your article ,you are doing a very nice job. I really appreciate your work.
Arun Panchariya in Dubai