At least once a day I have a moment of… lucidity, realism, awareness… where I focus on the fact that I have moved my family to the other side of the planet. There is plenty of home transplanted here but this is still the Middle East and a culture quite foreign to me. The weekends are not even the same. Sunday is truly the first day of the week here. My work week begins with Sunday and ends on Thursday. Friday is the sabbath and Saturday is the last day of a two day weekend.
The church here meets in a rented Villa. There are plenty of members (about 130-140). The majority of the church membership are from the Philippines. There are 3 LDS families living at AUS. It just so happens that our next door neighbour (we live in K33 and they live in K32) is the Stake President. On the Thursday night before our first Friday I took the kids to the pool at the faculty leisure centre. There was another family there and we got to talking. It wasn’t long before I discovered they were members too. Jeremy and Bridget Palmer and their two daughters (4 & 6) are from Idaho. What a blessing it was to run into them on the night before our first attempt to get to church. I hired a car to drive us to the church but of course the driver had poor command of English (and I no command of Arabic). Jeremy (who speaks fluent Arabic) rode along with us and directed the driver to the church. Clearly we are being watched over. My dad is convinced I carry around a bucket of lucky horseshoes. I know better.
Let me tell you a little about AUS. They do nothing small in the United Arab Emirates. All of the buildings on campus have enormous footprints with high ceilings and sculpted exteriors. AUS is one of several universities/colleges within University City. As such, it is a gated community within a gated community. To get on campus one must pass through guarded gates into University City and after passing by other institutions through another set of guarded gates. There is security everywhere. So far they seem to just stand around in the blistering heat a whole lot – though I was nearly tackled when I attempted to bring my lunch into the library. It took me a couple minutes to convince the guard that I was a librarian and was taking it to my office. From his expression you could tell he had a hard time believing I was a librarian and not a student.
We live about 500 meters from the library. I can make the walk to work in less than five minutes which means I can come home for lunch too. There is a free bus that makes scheduled stops all over campus. Though one could walk anywhere on campus the heat makes that nearly intolerable and probably dangerous. I have had heat stroke and never wish to get it again.
The sports centre is free to faculty and staff. It boasts an Olympic size swimming pool. I hope to make good use of it. To do so one needs to figure out the hours. Men and women do not share the pool at the same time. The leisure centre for faculty and staff is also free and includes a small outdoor pool, weight room, TV room, and gym. I have the kids signed up for swimming lessons. Jaron and Lilli are signed up for Soccer and Kirsten is going to learn to Hula. All of these activities are free. Lisa and I are going to take a spinning (cycling) class together.
Campus seems excellent for family life. There are playgrounds everywhere. We are told that within a month the temperature outside will be very tolerable. Apparently we are in for five months of fabulous weather. We hope the kids will make good use of all the facilities here and make some excellent friends.
I took a few pictures of campus to post here. Lisa really needs to be the one to take photos – I’m terrible at it. I’m sure we’ll soon have thousands of great photos to share. For now here is a small handful.