Saturday, November 10, 2012
Starting to Feel Like a New Normal
I am starting to incorporate the calls to prayer into my daily thinking patterns. I find myself thinking, "Man, that afternoon went by fast.. there's the call to prayer again". Or I will step outside to go run an errand late afternoon, hear the call echoing, and see all the white dishdash wearing men making their way to the mosque that sits two blocks down and think, "I'd better make this quick 'cause soon everyone will be on the roads and traffic is going to be crazy". Afternoons start around five p.m when everyone comes out, blinking, like half blinded moles venturing out after dusk. The desert climate controls the day-to-day activities of practically the entire country. Middle Eastern desert countries do not run on a Western time table. Late afternoon is when the temperatures cool down and going outside is at least tolerable, so activities shift from day to night. Even my students at school tell me that they don't eat dinner until around ten p.m and don't go to bed until midnight or later. It is almost mid November now and the day time temps are still ranging around 85 F . The nighttime temps are starting to dip into the 70's though.
I just took the trash out to the dumpster across the street and realized it was a little before four p.m and if I want to go anywhere or do anything and not have to wrestle with traffic, I'd better get going within the next thirty minutes or just give it up. I think I' ll just stay in and give it up.
Green trash dumpster across the street where I deposit my garbage
By the way, the best times to go shopping are daily between about one p.m and four p.m, Wednesdays two pm to six pm, or Fridays from eleven a.m to three p.m, Early Friday afternoons I sometimes have the roads and malls practically all to myself. Talk about heaven. Those are the brief times I don't have to fight other drivers on the roundabouts over lanes. I don't have to cuss like a Marine Corp drill instructor. I don't have to arrive home with my voice box gravelly from exertion. Honestly, I didn't know my cursing vocabulary was so extensive or that I could be so creative in stringing words like "shit" and "asshole" together into various run on sentences.
Tomorrow is a work day (our work week is Sunday through Thursday) and I have a cottage pie cooking in the toaster oven. I have met different people from different countries since I arrived, and the cottage pie recipe is compliments of an Irish friend who loves to cook. Not only did she give me the recipe, she came to my apartment and helped me prepare it step by step the first time. I feel like an old cottage pie pro now. And it smells so good filling the apartment with its bubbling richness. If I turn down the air conditioner low and snuggle up in the old sweater I brought with me from Georgia, I can almost pretend it is Fall back home.
mmmmmm.... good.with the mashed potatoes on top ready for oven:
I sure do miss the riotous leave color changes; the dogwoods shifting to red before erupting into oranges and yellows, the cherry blossom tree leaves kissing themselves into scarlet. The cool crisp smells of autumn. I have thirty five days until I go home for the holidays. I hope Georgia graces me with cold temps and that frost dances on the grass early mornings.
My apartment is starting to feel like mine. I don't go to sleep every night now with an overpowering sensation of being in the wrong place. I read in bed before I go to sleep, set my alarms (I always needed more than one), then cuddle down under my comforter. I get up in the mornings, eager to see my students (the highlights of my days), teach, make the forty-five minute drive back home, go grocery shopping, cook dinner, skype with my husband and mom, go to bed and then the next morning do it all over again.
One thing that has made my life easier is that I have resigned myself to the fact that nothing works here like it does in America. Seems like every week or so I have to battle the bank, ADEC, the internet company...and it's just the beginning. We were informed the day before yesterday that we have to go to the electric company "soon" and transfer the accounts into our names. Didn't give a date, just "soon". If we don't, then services will be disconnected. There isn't even a date on the letter. There is a date on the attached bill, however since the bill is all in Arabic I don't know if the date on the bill is the date payment is due, the date the meter was read, or what. So, this situation has the potential to turn into another goat rope or it might go smoothly. There is no in-between in this country. It's either FUBAR or it isn't, but now that I have accustomed myself to that fact and always expect the worse, I am better able to cope.
My new found attitude is what allowed me to not to completely lose my mind last week when the bank locked my account and I couldn't access my money. I found out the account was locked when I tried to use the card the previous night at a grocery store. From other experiences of this type in the UAE, I knew that phoning the bank would be a dead end street; I had to go to the bank in person. So, after a long day at work, I drove to the bank in Al Ain Mall, took a number and waited to talk to someone. Finally, I was next, and the bank rep insisted I hadn't brought in my passport and residency visa. I insisted I had: over two weeks ago. I was told to come back in thirty minutes and, "Inshallah, it will be straightened out today". I asked the lady waiting on me if she needed my passport and residency visa to make another copy and she said, "No, we have it". (WTF??). So I went and exchanged a shirt, window shopped, and went back to the bank thirty minutes later. They were closed for prayer. The bank reopened thirty minutes later, and after taking another number and waiting, I ended up sitting at another service rep's desk for two hours while he tried to get my account unblocked. Thank goodness I had brought a book. A very thick book. I refused to budge or go anywhere until I could access my money. Finally after the rep recopied my visa and residency visa, scanned them and faxed both to the main branch in Abu Dhabi, sent four emails to the main branch, and made numerous phone calls, my account was unlocked. I didn't blow up. I didn't get angry. I was persistent and calm. Admittedly when I walked out of the bank I blew my top and started cussing about the situation, but I didn't blow my cool inside the bank, which is a step in the right direction. And there were other teachers waiting in the bank going through the same thing. I wasn't the only one they had messed up. That kind of laid my persecution fears to rest a bit.
Most surreal thing I have done in the UAE? Walking through Global Village in Dubai and hearing the song Bohemian Rhapsody blasting over the loud speakers. But that wasn't the surreal part. My two friends and I started singing along loudly, playing air guitar while the locals stared at us as if we had lost the last vestiges of our minds.Think Garth...
CROSSED OFF MY BUCKET LIST: "Playing air guitar and singing to Bohemian Rhapsody in public in a Middle Eastern country". May Allah bless Freddy Mercury!
Posted by Liti