28 October 2010

First Impressions...

We arrived safely in the city of Al Ain on the 14th, so we've been happily planted for two weeks now. Time enough to acclimate not only to the brutal heat (only 95F/35C today!), but to everything else, as well. Things like:
  • The maniacal roads. You have to have eyes on all sides of your head if you want to survive. Pay attention, or die driving.
  • Everything happens in its own time...Inshallah (God willing!). American expectations do not apply when it comes to bureacracy, paperwork, maintainence, etc. Patience is a virtue!
  • My brandnew 'SMART' washing machine won't run properly, because it's only hooked up to the hot water (cold water hose is just dangling there!), so I have to send it through a manual wash cycle twice with a manual spin! Takes the whole damn day to do the laundry! And now that ol' tune... 'Nobody knows the trouble I've seen!'
So all in all, it's been just fine. Yep! I'm lovin' it so far. The people are friendly and helpful, and I'm enjoying, with discerning eye, as all the Western myths fall by the wayside...
~ No alcohol outside of hotels. Bull Puckey! There's a liquor store right around the corner from us. Yeah, the windows are blacked out - looks like a Chicago Speakeasy - but it's there, all the same. Bottle of wine on my counter to prove it.
~It's mandatory for Emirati women to wear headscarves. Bull Puckey again! I've seen Emirati women in all states of dress, from relatively skimpy to full out burkhas! It's their choice, their freedom.
~Every Muslim must drop to their knees at the call to prayer. Bull Puckey on that one, too. No one did any such thing while we all shopped at LuLu Hypermarket during the 3:30 Muezzin's call over the grocery store loudspeaker.
~Public stonings on Wednesdays and Fridays. Big time Bull Puckey on that! No stonings here. Not ever! No matter what other ignorant fools might say.
I really do hope that with this blog I can inspire the destruction of outdated and useless stereotypes. If I end up helping only one other person to see that Muslims are not people to fear, and that FUNDAMENTALISM is the true evil on this planet, then I will be happy. But with that said, I don't plan on turning this blog into my own political forum. It's a travel blog, to share my journey with friends. Unfortunately, the political sometimes creeps in. And if my observations can change bad opinions, then so be it.
Well, it's time to get ready for a multi-national potluck get-together tonight with all my husband's coworkers: Spaniards, Kiwis, Russians, Americans, and Cypriots...I'm bringing chk & bf kebabs for all the meatheads, and salad for us veg-heads!
And here are a few pics of the Al Ain Palace Museum,
the first home of the late great Sheik Zayed -
philanthropist, conservationist, humanitarian,
beloved Father of his people.
May he rest in Peace!

24 October 2010

A Long Journey to Abu Dhabi

Thirteen hours just to get out of Texas. Can you believe it? Saturday, 7 a.m. by car from Goldsmith to Midland; puddle-jumper from Midland to Houston; Taxi from Hobby Airport to George Bush International; 747 London bound by 8 p.m.! With no sleep to follow, we were bleary-eyed and exhausted upon our next day arrival. Hell, not even the ubiquitous Starbucks could revive us, so by the time we reached Amsterdam’s Centraal Station at 11:30, Sunday night, we were all but dead.
Taxiing up in front of Hotel Pax, I gritted my teeth. I had a pretty good idea of what we were in for, since ‘I’ made the booking. HEY! It was the cheapest place that I could find centrally, and I’m a real cheapy when it comes to rooms. My favorite travel motto? Sleep cheap, eat well. And this is exactly where my mate and I part ways. So I mentally prepared myself for the loud parting, as we stepped into our US$117 per night shithole. “WTF?” my husband growled, throwing his carryon bag with a dull thud onto one of the three single, rock hard beds. “Isn’t this just lovely.” It was a statement, not a question. And I was just too tired to care.
“Sorry. It’s the best I could do. At least it’s quiet. At least it’s not one of the ‘party’ hotels.”
“I don’t know what I expected,” he mumbled, “but certainly not this.” And he proceeded to inspect, my sweet little bedbug detective, the pristine white sheets and fuzzy blue blankets, as I watched, unamused. He shrugged. “At least it seems clean.” Oh, yay! A reluctant seal of approval from my nitpicky mate. “Now if we can just get some sleep.” Eleven hours later we awoke to bright and crisp, Dutch October day.
Tulips and gabled buildings. Raw herring and Pommes Frites. Cannabis coffee shops and girls behind glass. Cheese broodjes and bicycles everywhere. Amster-be-damned. It is what it is. Love it or leave it. We thought it might be nice to have a little decadence before buckling down to the austerity of the Middle East, so we indulged…by having a little alcohol. Daring and adventurous, aren’t we? No wacky weed for us. I mean, wouldn’t that be lovely? My husband shows up for his first day on the job in the UAE, and they ask for a piss test? I don’t think so. So we kept our partying to a dull roar, and indulged only in dessert, drink, and food.

After two days of running about and with jet lag soaking in, we were haggard. Our flight to Abu Dhabi was tomorrow morning, Wednesday, 7:20 am, which meant that we had to be up at 3 am. Good God! What was I thinking when I planned this shindig? Apparently, I wasn’t thinking. Luckily, for me, everything went well. From the taxi pickup and flight back to London, to the flight to Abu Dhabi itself. Other than being totally exhausted, my mate had no logical reason to kill me. The only real stress remaining? How to make it through customs with a giant tool box and no work Visa in hand. It was still being processed, so we were entering as tourists. Hah! And boy, were we sweating bullets. As we stood there in line, we discussed what we would say, and watched, as the lines on both side of us shrunk, while ours stayed put. Of course we’d picked the line with the gruffest official, or so it seemed, as he took his time with each individual, perusing their documents with the sternest of demeanors. By the time our turn came, I think both my mate and I were ready to throw up. But it was all for naught, because the man went over our passports quickly, stamped them…thump thump…and simply waved us away. How easy and what a relief that was.
A nice Kerala man was waiting to pick us up, along with my husband’s new boss...with the required work visa in hand! Whoo hoo! We were duly whisked away to the Abu Dhabi ‘Holiday Inn’ for a sumptuous meal and the best night's sleep that we'd had in days in an amazing luxury room, just the kind of room I’m unaccustomed to.
Yep. I definitely think I could get used to 4 stars!
What we saw from the car window on the road the next morning to Al Ain...
The Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi! Gorgeous!