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Bureaucracy and the Immigrant (my Beauty and the Beast tale, um flipped?)

I’m flying back to the states for a week to take care of stuff, so I’ve begun the close down of my expat status here in the UAE, so that InshAllah when I return the rest of my closeout will go quickly.  Since, I’ll also be moving to another country in a few months (part of the stuff I have to take care of), I’m also researching expat life in the new country.

It seems running around to different offices, being told different things, and having to get lots and lots of official stamps on official papers is also part of that country’s way of doing things.  Woes me and my never-ending stamp/paper trail.  Too bad this doesn’t tone body parts!

My home country has its fair share of bureaucratic bullpoop (in the spirit of Ramadan I’m trying not to cuss), but me oh my do I miss the efficiency of things like —- gasp!—- American utilities and cable companies.  I know some of you are thinking I’ve lost my mind here, but trust me on this.

It took almost two weeks of running around to get electricity and water turned on in my apartment.  It took only two days to shut it off (I was hoping for more time, but oh well).  That said, I then have to wait two days before receiving a text, so that I can go to the utility office to collect my clearance letter, and, find out how much longer I’ll have to wait to get back my 1,000 dirham (around $227) deposit.  Inshallah maybe I’ll get it that day?

Clearance letter?  Yes, I need to bring my employer proof that my debts are paid, which is fair enough.  I get that.  Why I have to go wait in line to go get it is beyond me.  The bill gets texted each month, why not the letter?

Cable and Internet took 3 months to finally get working right in my apartment.  I kid you not it took less than an hour for them to cut that sucker off.  That said, I will have to wait around two to three days before going to the main office —- God help me! that’s a DMV-like experience —- to possibly collect my clearance letter.  I’m fully expecting several trips before I actually get that letter.

Same company also needs to switch my mobile from post to pre paid.  Now that doesn’t cut off so quickly.  I’ve been told it’ll take up to 72 hours, and in the meantime if I go over my remaining balance of 10 call minutes and under 1 gigabyte of data the switch will be cancelled.  So, for three days — at a time when I’m making calls and using data because my Internet is gone — pretty much don’t use my phone.  Then, I have to do the prepaid thing, then, you know, wait for my clearance letter.  If I weren’t in such a hurry to get these clearance letters before I fly out, I’d space it out better, but it is what it is.

I’m a little confused about the whole closing out my apartment thing, which I will finish when I return.  Apparently, I do something online to get a “your closing out housing has been approved” form, then my landlord needs to print and sign a letter, and then I bring it to my employer with everything else, and then, if I’m lucky, during my first visit, someone there signs and stamps, takes my passport for a few days to close out my work visa, and then I get to, hopefully, chill by the hotel pool paid for my employer while waiting on my passport return (2 or 3 days I’m told).  I’m holding on to the dream of pool time to help get me through this.

Now, let’s add the fact that I’m also in the process of being hired by a government entity for my country (oh the joy of more paperwork), getting my teaching license renewed (which should be easy) and then I have to, you know, go through the legalities of immigration and housing in my new home, with a language I do not yet know (okay I know like 4 words of it).

I’d say send in the booze, but it’s Ramadan, and I’m trying to be good.

I’m atoning for my disorganised, procrastination sins because this is a whole other circle of hell.  I’m not looking forward to all the wasted line time associated with it.  BUT, this is a convoluted Beauty (so much for me being a modest soul) and the Beast story.  Beyond the curse is the magical, almost happily ever after, overseas life.  This too is what I hold on to when being told “Madam, you must go to X, then come back with X.”  Or, being cussed out in a foreign language, while I sit there with my folder of papers, grinning like the mad hatter, hoping the raised voices are proclaiming progress is about to happen?

So yeah, there’s way more good than bad in this life, but do know if you’re planning on moving, working in another country, there is that never-ending cycle of lines you must stand, cry and sweat in.

it’s a Moon Rising…

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The super moon rising from behind the mountains that border Oman.

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Good Evening Al Ain!  The moon winking at us in all her glory.

Tonight was our turn to have fun greeting the moon, so here are some shots of what we howled to in Al Ain.

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Some non moon Al Ain pics…

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A view of the city with the moon behind me — still quite purty.

 

And last, but not least, the sunrises are pretty darn awesome too.

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Speaking of which I’ve get to get up for work tomorrow, so time for me to sign off. But yeah those reds I’ll get to see from my balcony while sipping some chai.

Hopefully, all of you got to enjoy the moon as well.  These are the gifts we have to hold on to.  Night everyone!

Waiting on dirham day…

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Luckily pay day is tomorrow because this lil traveler is down to her last fils.  It’s all good because being broke forced me to have a low key weekend, which worked out just fine for me.  Some friends came over Thursday night and we whooped it up with apps, bevies, gossip and games in my living room.  Doesn’t matter where in the world you are, time alone with the girls is always one of the best ways to recharge and love life.

Yesterday I never even left my apartment — um didn’t even bother to change pajamas.  I used the day to clean a little, grade a lot, and plot and plan my December break.  So far the only thing that’s official is Joe is going to Iceland.  His ticket (and some of our lodging) is booked; mine is not yet.  That’s because I’m trying to find the best deal for me without the hellish layovers (I really am over sleeping in airports!), and I’m trying to work out where I’m going before I meet up with Joe.  Long story short I’d like to fit in a quick visit to my family in Germany, but don’t think I can, and I’d also like to check out Finland and Sweden before meeting my man.  Sadly, he cannot spend all of my vacation time with me.  So yeah finding the right airline booking — and finishing my grading — is what stresses me out.

But it won’t for long because in a few hours I’ll be chilling at the pool with some friends.  I can’t spend another day without getting some sun and sand on my face.  And that’s pretty much life on my end right now.  Next weekend a few of us are sharing an apartment in Dubai to do some beach and shopping time (so I can be broke again).  I’m searching for waterproof hiking boots and snow pants — lol don’t think I’ll find those in Al Ain.  How cool is it that in the same weekend I’ll swim in the Arabian Gulf while also shopping for snow gear?

And, I’m really, really, really freaking excited about the Iceland trip!  We might even get the chance to hike into an ice cave.  Yeah, yeah I know it’s dark most of the time and it’ll be cold, but I live with hot and sun, so bring on Winter.

 

 

Marhaba Year Three…

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This is how my favorite salon serves me glass of water…they also gave me a super cool manicure that includes ‘mood’ polish, which changes color depending on my body heat.  I freaking love it.  Hot pink means I’m hot, which is most of the time.

I’ve only been back two weeks, but it feels longer because a lot has happened since I landed just two Fridays ago.

First off it does feel good to be back, which is always so weird because at the same time it’s so awful to leave my loved ones.  Socially I’ve not done much:  just eating, drinking and catching up with my friends who are still here (always a good thing).  Work wise it’s been busy, but I’m good.  I have three large sections of girls, but I like them all.  It’ll take me a while to get all of their names straight, but so far I’m happy with this year’s students. Plus, one of my students from last year is chatting with me online, so I’m still getting the scoop on last years girls as well.  How lucky am I to get glimpses of so many budding lives. On Facebook I saw that one of my students from way back just turned 29 — what in the world?!!!

I feel more comfortable and included at work this time around.  I’ve been pulled into meetings I’m normally not part of, but lol I still don’t get much of what is being said since it’s in Arabic. That said fellow local teachers do their best to translate what I need to know, and that is so appreciated.  I know this is not my forever home, but I truly do feel lucky to be where I am.  Despite all the craziness, the last-minute changes, and the chaos of working in another country, I was placed at the right school for me, and I will miss all of this (okay maybe not the chaos and last-minute changes so much) when I leave.  I’d like to think that I too will be missed.  But, we have a whole year ahead of us, so no one’s missing anyone just yet — we’ll save that for June or July of whatever year I leave.

Travelwise on my part things have been a little crazy.  First off we so lucked out this year.  We have ALL of next week off for Eid al-Adha — whoop whoop!  Basically, we come back, go to training for a week, teach for two weeks, and then whalla take another vacation.  Sweet, right?  Well you’d think that’d be the least stressful part of my being back.  Not so much.  First off Shannan and I were supposed to go visit a friend in Hong Kong.  I was really excited about this, but after trying to book tickets FOUR times and failing I gave up.  I took it as a sign that Hong Kong is not meant to happen this time around.  Plus it’s a long fight and not the cheapest trip, so then we said okay we’ll do Goa, India.  Short flight, cheap and beaches — woo hoo!  Jordan landed us an awesome flight and hotel deal, so yay.  The problem is landing an Indian tourist visa.  Holy hell … the online application is a pain.  The system kept crashing (could be my internet since I’ve been having trouble with it ever since I got back).  Long story short after several tries I submitted my online visa app only to have it rejected.  I took today off to go directly to embassy to get it worked out.  Luckily, I called first and was warned my visa might take 7 working days, which means I’d miss my flight (it’s on Saturday).  So, after several hours (I kid you not) of doing the online process thing again, I resubmitted my visa app.

There’s no telling if I’ll actually get approved this time around, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Looking at the pic of my passport I uploaded the first time around I see that it’s blurry, so that might have had something to do with rejection (and I can’t seem to get through to anyone who knows why it was rejected).  We shall see.  I’m either headed to Goa on Saturday, or drowning in my tears here in Al Ain.  I’ll let you know how it all ended up.  Lesson learned:  don’t apply for this visa within the same week of flying out; make sure you have ample time to work out any kinks!

While all this is going on Joe and I are also planning our Christmas trip.  Looks like we’ll end up somewhere in Scandinavia, but who knows that could change as well.  We’ve some ideas, but it’ll all depend on what flights we can nab.  South Africa is on the table as well, but so far that’s a really expensive flight for Joe.  Either way I’m seeing my man in December!

Back in the U.S.part of my life, Joe and Kaylene are working on getting the house ready to sell. So much is going on at the same time … may it all work itself out to a debt-free, stress-free future for Joe and me — 2017 is the year we’ll both end up full time on the same continent together. woo hoo!  Until then, let’s make these last four 2016 months count.

And that’s about it on my end for now.  Next time I’ll post it’ll either be about Goa or me possibly goin insane — or both.

Hellos and Goodbyes!

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Photo taken and edited by Andrew Cole … thanks Andy!  I’ll share more of your goodies later.

The past few days have been all about having fun with friends and saying good bye.  Too many farewell parties this time around, but I’m happy for my friends moving on to new experiences.  I’m sad for my future here without them, but I’m sure some of us will most certainly drink and eat together again.  And, I’m grateful that a few of my friends will also be returning in August.

Some of our good byes.  Wish I had more pics to show, but we were too busy having fun to snap it all.

There are only three main to-dos for me today:  finish packing, clean up my mess of an apartment and land my tuckus on the window seat that leads to the flight that will get me back home.  I’ve accomplished two, and in about an hour I’ll be on my way to the airport.  (time IS dragging a bit right now)

I cannot wait to see everyone!  And then six weeks later I’m back to saying goodbyes.  It’s my ever-revolving circle of tears and laughter.

And, that’s about all I’ve got to share for now … more posts will be in the making shortly!  Have a great summer everyone.!

 

 

Uncertainty

If you assess my life based solely on my blog posts, you might assume I live in some happy-happy, joy-joy bubble.  My life IS pretty darn sweet, but a bubble it is not.  I am fully aware of all the nastiness going on in the world, and have met people directly affected by some of it.

Eventually though, flare ups in our world affect us all, whether it’s divisive politics, war, famine, climate change, you name it —- the big bad things have a ripple effect.

There are too many uncertainties right now, and that’s got to be on the top of leaders minds (regardless of whether or not for personal reasons, better planning for all involved, or a combination of both).  In the wake of economic uncertainty, planners here are incorporating cut backs.  That means jobs and benefits are changing.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that whenever this type of change takes place it’s painful, especially when it’s in an environment that communicates differently from what many of us are accustomed to, or define as fair.  Then again when things like this happen at home, it rarely feels fair, regardless of how well (or poorly) communicated it was.

This year I’m saying good bye to more friends than expected.  Some resigned for their own reasons, some were asked to go.  It hurts and it’s stressful.  We’re all forced to contemplate whether or not we’re next, which again isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does suck in the short term. Now is a good time to remember my own financial goals and long-term planning:  the weekend trips and brunches may need to take a back seat to paying off my credit card balance (and then yay! they can resume again).

This year is ending on a much sadder note than last year.  I’ll come back in August to more unknowns, but I will figure them out one step at a time, just like my friends who are leaving are currently doing.  I’m amazed at how quickly they’ve gone from shock and despair to better horizons.  I will miss them all, but I also look forward to what they will do next in their lives.

I guess if there’s one thing for me to learn from this it is that as shitty as this whole “uncertainty” thing is it can push us to something better.  So, when I’m home this summer and people bring up politics (please don’t —- seriously I can’t cope with all the petty back biting on any side), terrorism, unpredictable weather, etc. I can remind myself that, yes, we can get past all of this —— just take it one step at a time.  Of course we have to first learn how to weigh all that’s happening, quit bitching/moaning/blaming others for it, and come up with a plan.  But, hey, one step at a time.  May we all heal and move on as quickly as my friends seem to be doing.

Getting scrubbed and spiffy…

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So I had my first hammam (also known as a Turkish or Moroccan bath) today, and while you might think it’d be awkward paying someone to bathe you, turns out I’m totally cool with it.  Only time I felt funny was when I stood up so the attendant could dry me and, well, her face came up to my bosom.  Nothing says Hello There!  more than good ole eye to nipple contact.

A hammam is an Arabian treat, where you sit in a steam room and have an attendant deep scrub all sorts of grime from your pores.   I had mine done at the beautiful Turkish spa down the road from my apartment.  Sadly, my camera phone pics will not do this place justice.  I got the package that included a hair and face mask and a massage after the bath.

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The first thing I got to do was put on these lil black disposable panties and bra — my rebellious goods busted out the minute I slipped them on, so basically I had remnants of modesty clinging to bits that demanded to be seen anyway.  Oh well, the attendant pretended not to notice; she was way more professional and mature about the whole thing than my giggling, jiggling self.

Then I was asked to lie down on a marble slab in the middle of this luxurious steam room with a copper sink and bowls.  The lights were dimmed, and I was left alone for a few minutes to steam it up before the attendant returned to pour warm water over my hair.  She washed my hair, and then gently washed my face, before moving on to the rest of me.  I’ve been binge watching Six Feet Under (I know it’s crazy that I didn’t watch it when it was on t.v.), and at first all I could think of was that holy formaldehyde I’m like the recently deceased getting prepped for burial.  Except I’m not and I guarantee it smelled so much prettier where I was.

Just about every inch (not all — thankfully some is left alone) of me was gently scrubbed while more bowls of warm water were poured over me.  When that was done she poured a bunch of suds on me and massaged them in while a mask worked its goodness on my hair and face, and then I had to stand to get a lot more water doused on me, which is when I first realized just how much bigger I was than the poor woman bathing me.  After I’m toweled off,  I’m asked to replace my torn disposables for another pair, so that I could lie face down on a massage chair and have that tiny girl show me whose boss while she kneaded out the kinks in my doughy back and thighs.  I wasn’t too sure I’d be able to walk after that, but my body feels great.

Several hours later, and I keep caressing my hair and skin.  They’re both so soft and shiny. Too bad I can’t magically keep it this way for when I land in Arizona — two weeks from now.  BUT, I’ve discovered I’m a fan of the hammam and look forward to my next experience (InshAllah) when I return in August (adding another much-needed InshAllah) .

 

 

Skydiving, yachting, graduating and brunching

 

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There’s a whole lot of inging going on over here.  Last Thursday I went to Dubai to watch some of my friends sky dive over the palm (notice how I said watch, not partake), the next day I was swimming in its waters thanks to another friend’s bachelorette party on a yacht. Day after that I was practically mugging the frozen drink guy thanks to me melting on Jumeira beach.  The heat is definitely back!

On Sunday I watched my girls transform into Cinderellas and then glide across the stage to nab their diplomas.  Oh how I wish I could show you how mature and beautiful they were.  I am so very proud of each and every one of them, and I can’t wait to see what they do after they graduate from university.

This weekend I joined friends in Abu Dhabi for brunch at the Intercontinental — we have a soft spot for that place since it was our first UAE home.  For those of you back home brunch isn’t your typical Mother’s Day affair.  Um, in 4 hours I was able to destroy what good a month’s worth of dieting and exercising has done for my body.  Back to the drawing board, although we have another brunch next weekend.  It’s a never ending battle — the living here sometimes is just too good for my own good.

Thanks Ashley for taking and sending brunch pics.

Ramadan begins again in a week, so we’ll calm down on the splurging and get ourselves ready for all of our trips home to loved ones this summer.  Just a few more weeks, and year two is already khallas.  Where does the time go?

Girls Just Wanna have fun…

The yacht party was so much fun.  I totally plan on attending more of these next year.

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The view from our Dubai apartment.  We found this great place near Jumeirah beach, which will just happen to be our new digs every time we go.

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And now I get to chill.  Some girls are coming over to watch last week’s episode of Game of Thrones, so we’ll inhale some Indian food and OMG at whatever surprises HBO throws at us tonight and then again on Monday.

Hopefully, everyone back home is enjoying their Memorial Day weekend.  I’ll see you all soon.

Teach UAE articles

It’s been an easy work week.  Caps and gowns are in, so my girls are really excited about their upcoming graduation.  We’re just finishing off some  last-minute review and then khallas it’s exam and ceremony time, and then they’re on to university.  Inshallah and a big ole humduallah!

It’s getting hot here, as it tends to do.  Today it’s 108 F, and it will only get hotter.  Thank God we have our chilled pools and air-conditioned everything.  This weekend I’m pretty much cooling off at the pool or reading on my chaise.  I’m saving money because next weekend I’m off to Dubai to see some friends sky dive (um that’s a big hell no on my end) and celebrate Jordan’s and my birthday, so a weekend home is a good way to give my wallet and body a healthy break — before I do more damage to both.

Since I don’t have much new to report right now, here’s the latest edition of Teach UAE.  A letter from me to new hires is on page 18, and my buddy Suzanne has a piece on repatriation (so very sad she’s leaving) on page 39.  There’s a whole bunch of other goodies in between, so give it a read when you have time.

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Babes in Beirutland

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Thanks to the Islamic holiday Isra and Mi’raj we had a long weekend, so Haneefa and I decided to fly off to Beirut instead of hanging out on the couch Netflix binging.    I’m so glad we did.  Oh my goodness I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful, even though friends who have been have bragged about it.

Other than news of the civil war and current security warnings, I really didn’t know much about Lebanon — except that I have yet to meet a Lebanese I don’t like.    Everyone we met was friendly and curious about us.  It’s nice to have strangers greet you with “Welcome!  Welcome very much.”  Heck, we even got a few marriage proposals, and one man stopped traffic just so we could cross the street — can’t beat that.

While there is definitely a military presence, and it might be a little jarring at first, you eventually forget they’re there — and, quite frankly, I’d rather have too much protection than not enough.  It’s a shame this country’s uglies take center stage because it’s an amazing place to visit and it deserves — needs — our tourism dollars.  But, of course, until terrorism simmers the eff out it’s a vacation many will put on hold, and while I would totally go back, I can’t blame anyone for heeding security warnings.

This is the second country I’ve visited that borders Syria, and it saddens me even more to think what those people are going through.  In this area there is so much beauty, history, ruins from the dawn of time, culture, layers of life, and to think of it being raped and dismembered by ignorance and hatred is an unimaginable miscarriage of humanity — not only to Syrians, but to all of us.  This is where much of what we know as civilization was born.  Visiting Lebanon — Beirut in particular — you see remnants of life long before now, life now, and the scars of violence.  On the bright side, it seems brutality has not yet broken the people’s zest for life. I hope it is the same for Syrians, or that one day soon it will be.

But enough of my thoughts on something I know so little about.  On to the best part of this post … the pictures.  Oh how I wish they could do the trip justice, but they give you an idea of why the locals manage to stay so darned spirited.

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Love this picture.  That flag may be wet and tattered thanks to the ocean’s constant battering, but it’s still proud and it’s still snapping back.

Beirut’s corniche is 10 kilometers of a walker’s (or runner’s) paradise.

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We pretty much just enjoyed the corniche and our hotel pool the first night.

I mean who wouldn’t enjoy that?!  Lots of Roman influence here, and, well, it’s also close to Cyprus.

Second day we hired a driver who took us to Jeita Grotto, Our Lady of Lebanon and Byblos.

These pictures were taken off of the Internet since we couldn’t take our cameras inside.  We rode a gondola to the upper cave to walk through its massive interior, and then we were treated to a boat ride in its lower cave.

My pics of Jeita Grotto’s exterior

It was pouring down rain when we got there, but when it was our turn to stroll through the little park area it was beautiful weather.  It’s like the Gods wanted us to enjoy this.

 

Next up was a ride on the telepherique — thanks to Haneefa I can’t type this without humming it to the tune of super freak — up to the Lady of Lebanon.   This is something that is not to be missed.

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At the tippy top you get to meet the gracious Lady of Lebanon.  Muslims and Christians alike visit here, and regardless of what you believe it’s a good place to remind you that there is still holiness in our world.

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Before I move on to our next stop, let’s just take a moment to appreciate this view.  Awesomeness, yes!

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And last, but OMG not least, was our trip to Byblos, which is a thriving city next to the ruins of an ancient Phoenician city, which also holds gifts from many other civilizations. It’s named after the bible because bible means book of Papyrus, and this place just so happens to be directly linked to the Phoenician alphabet — pretty nifty stuff for someone who loves words to see.

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And some random shots for you

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Of course there’s so much more I could share, but this post is long enough.  I’m so thankful I got visit this boisterous beauty, and I hope some of you will one day do the same.

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Beirut in the distance as seen from the ruins of ancient Byblos.  I kind of like that the present looks ghostly from the past’s perspective.

p.s. Selfie shots are thanks to Haneefa.

 

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