Our goal to post once a week was easily broken. That probably has a good deal to do with the fact that it was really my goal and I sorta just imposed it on the family… , in a loving and kind way of course. I’ve managed to post once a week. I’ll be long-suffering and keep encouraging the kids to write. In the end I hope they’ll thank me.
We’ve had a fairly good week. We went to the Arabian Wildlife Park on the weekend. It is an excellent facility with a huge variety of animals, birds, lizards, rodents and spiders. The entire thing is indoors so you can enjoy the air conditioning. When it comes to the large animals: cheetahs, hyenas, antelopes and more you view them through giant windows looking out to a large walled enclosure. The various pens are separated by large pits. Of course my favourite part was the extremely cheap admission. The kids were all free and adults are only 15 dirham each. The park also includes a petting zoo and a natural history museum. We didn’t have the energy to take in the natural history museum but I have plans to go back. I hope one of the kids will write about the Wildlife Park in more detail in a future post.
My second interview for this job included all of the librarians. None of them are originally from the UAE. They come from Canada, Australia and naturally the USA.
There is one outlier who originally hails from Lebanon (I believe) but if you ask her she calls Canada home. I asked them at the end of my interview what they found to be the biggest adjustment moving to the Middle East. Their unanimous answer was the time difference between the UAE and “back home.” Now that I’ve been here a month I have to concur. We are 11 hours ahead of Canada’s west coast. This causes a few inconveniences with work. Most of the software and database vendors we work with are out of the United States so getting in touch with a help desk can be annoying. Though, I haven’t had much call for help desks yet – I’m just that awesome. When it came to watching General Conference (broadcast out of Salt Lake City) just last week it was darn near impossible to watch live. I’m a huge fan of General Conference but I also enjoy my sleep. Thankfully, they record it and make it available online. (Yes, that was a shameless plug :)).
Stranger than the time difference though is the difference in the weekends. The weekend here is Friday and Saturday. Fridays are the sabbath. Going to church on the first day of the weekend is lame. It really means that you don’t get a late night on the weekend. Thursday night you don’t want to be out late because you have to get up for church on Friday and then Saturday night you have to work the next day. The weekend used to be Thursday and Friday until 2006. Apparently, as the economy took off it was just too inconvenient to have completely opposing weekends to the western world. So this masochistic weekend ritual was born.
Almost as difficult to get used to is the electrical system. Lisa completely destroyed her sewing machine. For some things you really do need a power converter not just an adapter. Every plug also seems to have a switch on it. It just isn’t enough to plug something in you’ve also got to remember to flip the wall switch. In some ways I like this feature quite a bit. Not only does it conserve power, I suspect it is much safer too.
Major appliances get their own wall switch too. This is good for the reasons above but really annoying when you put a pot of water on the stove or dish in the oven and come back later to find that everything is still cold because the appliance is off all together.
Speaking of appliances, ours suck. I’ve been to the local stores here and seen good appliances so I know it is not a function of being in the Middle East. I can’t figure out how to use the oven. There is an instruction manual and there is a section in English but either my English skills really are bad or the manual lies. Of course, it could just be broken. Lisa has managed to cook a cake in the oven. The bottom of the cake was burnt but all in all it was still pretty good.
The washing/drying machine is equally as bad. There are about 20 washing options nicely labelled… in Italian. I guess the folks here on this side of the world have really dirty clothes because a load (and these loads are about a tenth of the size of a standard washing machine back home) takes about 2 hours to complete. Thankfully there is a “rapido” cycle that one only takes about 40 minutes. this unit is a washer dryer combo. Though I don’t recommend drying your clothes in it. It really just bakes them. If it wasn’t for the spinning we’d probably get better results putting our cakes in it.
Every room with water running to it seems to have its own water heater. Of course, these water heaters have their own switches too. Again a great feature but not all that great when someone switches the water heater off to your bathroom. Unfortunately,
the switch to the water heater in our bathroom has the light indicator burnt out. It took me a couple weeks to figure out how to get hot water. It wasn’t just the switch mind you – the water tap is backwards; the hot-water is on the right and the cold on the left. I’m pretty sure that isn’t normal… even here in the UAE. So the first two weeks of showers were cold ones but truly I didn’t really mind. It is stupid hot here.
My favourite part about the bathrooms has to be the hand bidet. I will definitely be installing one of these in my bathroom if I ever make it back to Canada. There ought to be some kind of revolution to have these installed in every public washroom in Canada. I can picture the propaganda already. The commercials could mimic those deodorant commercials – you know the “sure, unsure” commercials. We have a full bidet in the ensuite too but I don’t quite get it and I’m not about to take the time to figure that one out; hand-bidet convert though.
These little quirks, time, appliances, electrical systems and plumbing are interesting but there are a few things that really remind me that I’m in a foreign land every day. The different languages spoken all around me might unsettle some but I find it fascinating. I like to walk through campus and listen to the conversations happening all around me. I can’t understand anything they say but I do like the sound. Clearly they are not all speaking Arabic, there must be Hindi and other Asian languages and dialects. I begin my Arabic language course on Monday.
I really enjoy listening to the call for prayer too. I know Lisa has a post waiting in the wings all about it so I won’t say too much. Only that it is a daily reminder of where I am. Each time I hear the call to prayer I think of all the good things in my life and I can’t help but be grateful. I haven’t had the chance to visit a mosque yet but it is at the top of my list. I’d really like to make an Emirati friend who would take me to the one on campus.
Finally, the weather and the wildlife combine to convince me that I’m not in Canada anymore. It does feel like it has cooled off since early September but it is still hot and muggy. We had an unreal fog the other morning. Walking to work in the fog was like walking through a stale steam room fully clothed. The visibility was maybe 20 feet. I’m told the fog is common at the change of the seasons.
Lilli wrote a great post about the birds here. They are forever “singing.” One in particular sounds like what you might imagine a monkey to sound like. There is a flock of parrots that hang out by the library that I enjoy watching. I caught this grainy picture of one earlier today. I may need a cooler camera. I could spend hours watching the birds here. Of course there are also lizards and insects too. I haven’t seen a single spider yet – except at the wildlife park.
There are also a ton of cats on campus. I’m told that dogs are unclean in muslim culture and so cats are the favoured pet. I rescued a kitten from a murder of crows on my morning run a couple weeks ago. I was tempted to bring the poor thing home. It was maybe 6 weeks old and while I spared its life for a few more hours or possibly days I think its chances of still being alive are very slim. That makes me sad for some strange reason.
I love these little differences. They do not just remind me that I am in a strange place but how blessed I am to be here. It was Thanksgiving in Canada last weekend. Lisa and the kids joined some Canadian friends for a turkey dinner. I had some sort of stomach bug and missed it – but they brought me leftovers. Life isn’t perfect here thank goodness, that would be boring.