This blog recently auto-renewed itself. Had I been thinking ahead I might have returned the blog to a free state. Now I feel as though I need to make use of my inadvertent purchase. Like a new year’s resolution I move forward with naive determination. I’ve found myself ruminating on youthful experiences lately. The following is one of those. As I nag my children to get outside, to be adventurous, to put down their devices I’m drawn to my own childhood. Those were days of the Sega and Nintendo but we couldn’t download games from the cloud. We collected enough pop-bottles to cash in at the store for the deposit money. We walked clear across town to the video store and rented games that we played for as long as the rental allowed. I am left with a sense of nostalgia and longing for the 90s. Will my children tell stories like these?
I will miss so much more of the UAE than these 10 things.
#10 – Round-A-Bouts
At first round-a-bouts were a little intimidating to understand. I have a feeling there are quite a few people here trying to figure them out still. Once you get it, they are actually pretty awesome, but not in consistently high traffic areas. Traffic continues to flow, and if you’re not sure which way to go, just go around again. Rules to remember with round-a-bouts or ‘squares’ as I’ve heard them referred to, is that “whoever is in front, wins”. If you’re in front of the guy beside you, and you need to turn but he isn’t, you have right of way (don’t forget to use your blinker). Also, squares aren’t much different than intersections. If you want to take the 3rd exit, you get in the right lane to merge into the centre ring, and basically turn right. If there are 3 lanes going into a square, left lane turns left (and straight if there are 3 lanes coming out of the square), centre lane goes straight, right lane goes straight or right. When their are only 2 lanes going into a square, left lane goes left and straight, right lane goes straight and right. See. Simple.
#9 – Having a ‘Guy’
So this did make it on my list after all. You want a shelf hung, you call a ‘guy’ to hang the shelf. You need a light change, call a ‘guy’ to do it. Water my grass, the ‘guy’ comes by everything other day to turn the water on for 15 min, then turn it off again. Need your car washed in your parking spot, you can have a ‘guy’ do it at home, or while you’re at the mall shopping. Back broke off your chair, no problem, call the ‘guy’ to come and fix it. We’ve even had half a dozen mice, ant infestation, and a bed bug scare. We just called a ‘guy’ and the problem was solved. Think my ‘guy’ will move to Canada with me?
#8 – Full service…everything
Who wants to get out of their car…for anything. Gas, all full service, at every station except after 12:00am at some stations. Remember drive-in’s? You drove into the parking lot and honked, and someone would come out and take your order? I have never done this but I’ve seen it done and not only at fast food restaurants. I’ve seen people do this at grocery stores, hardware stores and other smaller places of business.
#7 – Spontaneous Holidays
The holidays on the calendar are tentative at best. Every once in a while an announcement is made that certain sectors will not be working on certain days. I’m sure it’s a rare thing. But we saw this happen twice within a week. This could also fall on my things I won’t miss about the UAE, as it makes planning difficult. But hey, a bonus day off is nothing to complain about.
#6 – Inexpensive Services
Our favourite service has been dry-cleaning. I get everything dry-cleaned. Quilts, pillows, James work shirts and pants, the girls dresses, carpets, sleeping bags. First of all my washing machine barely handles daily laundry for 5 let alone one quilt. Second, I don’t have to iron shirts when someone else does a better job for $1/shirt.
#5 – Security
We live in a large, gated community. There is a fence that runs around the entire University City. Inside that each separate University or College is surround by it’s own fence. Emirate police are posted at each gate entrance, randomly screening people who enter into the ‘city’. Faculty/Staff are separated from students by a fence as well. Guards are setup at A/C booths, or on patrol all day and night all over campus. It sounds like we’re really locked down, but for the most part you don’t ever see these guys though you know they’re there.
The community is also small enough that we look out for each other. My neighbours are familiar with my kids, as I am with theirs. When my kids go to the store, they know and talk to the people that work there. We’ve been surrounded by many friendly, caring people who watch out for each other.
#4 – Rain days
Rain days are another rarity, but a welcome one. It is quite the novelty when it rains here as the drainage system is poor to non-existent. Rain waters quickly pool in cul-de-sacs and round-a-bouts making instant swimming pools for puddle jumping. What’s more fun than swimming in dirty street water fully clothed?
#3 – 98% chance of good weather, every day
Planning a camping trip? Want to go to the beach or waterpark? No need to check the weather network to plan in advance. Even if it rains it’s going to be a good day for anything. Pick a day, and pack your stuff.
#2 – Camping when and wherever you like
No need to book ahead with the local government (unless you plan on camping in Dubai). If there isn’t enough space in your desired location just drive a little further and drop your tent. Don’t want to go too far off the road, no problem. I’ve seen tents set up just off the highway many times (not that I would want to camp there).
#1 – All-Inclusive Campus life
We’ve certainly been spoiled here at the American University of Sharjah. From the on-call carpenters and fix-it guys, to the full free access to community events and amenities (gyms, indoor and outdoor pools, grocery store, pharmacy, hair saloons, soccer fields, baseball diamond, cricket pitch, tennis courts, basketball courts) all with in walking distance. You really can’t beat the package we got here. Friends were easily made as we’re all in the same boat of being expats away from our families. All this made our initial landing here easier to bear, and hard to leave. I hope we are able to come back some day.
Things got a little crazy at the end of packing, and the computer was wrapped in a box before I knew it. Here are some posts that I wrote before the move.
6 months ago this post would have been way easier to write. Now that we’re weeks away, I honestly can’t withhold my excitement. The more I try to think about what I haven’t missed, the more excited I get to go back blocking out all those negative thoughts.
#10 – Temperatures below 15C
The area we are from, this is the temperature the majority of the time. It’s cold. Sure after a winter of -30C anything above +10C is t-shirt weather, but come on.
#9 – Gas Prices
When I started driving in 1996 gas cost $.49/L. I would complain about dishing out $25 to fill up BOTH of the gas tanks in my pickup. Gas in the UAE currently costs $.50/L. It’s been like going back in time 20 years! Except instead of gradual, painful inflation over time, we get to have our organs torn from our body in rapid succession just so we can afford paying $1.72/L (or whatever ridiculous amount they are charging).
#8 – Taxes
It’s been a simple pleasure to go into a store, grab a few items, and know EXACTLY how much you would be forking over at the till. No guesses on what qualifies to be taxed and what doesn’t, and how much tax you will actually have to pay. I’m pretty sure Canada taxes you to breath their air.
#7 – Allergies
Over the first 10 years of my marriage my allergies were gradually getting worse. Before we left Canada in Sept. 2012 I was at the point where I had to take Benadryl daily from May to September just to function. My sinuses would clog, causing me to have headaches, and puffy eyes and itchy everything inside my face (nose, mouth, throat). While in the UAE, I still have mild allergy symptoms in the summer, but I don’t have to take Benadryl to get through the day.
#6 – Frizzy, Staticky Hair
My hair is almost as long as it was for my wedding day (mid-lower back), and I wear it down. Almost always (except lately with the humidity) I wear it down. In Canada, my hair would be so staticky, flying all over the place in my mouth and eyes that I would have it up in a braid, ponytail or hat constantly.
#5 – Wet Snow
I like snow. It’s pretty when everything looks white and clean. I also look forward to when the snow first starts to melt and you know summer is on it’s way. It’s the 6 inches of heavy, melting snow rivers I don’t miss. Especially on our street where they don’t clear the snow during the winter. They just let it build up, than drop some salt on it to get things melting. Thanks city of PG. I guess you know how much I hate dry socks.
#4 – Kids in Separate Schools
Here in the UAE, my 3 kids were all in the same school. Easy peasy! Heading back to Canada, we’re heading back to 3 different schools. One in a French track school, one in English track school, and one in high school. Let’s see how long we last without a car this winter shall we.
#3 – Paying for Amenities, and stuff
Like I mention in another post, we have access to everything we need here on AUS campus with in walking distance and free. Back home we’ll be able to walk to the grocery store, and walk to church…and really I guess it will only take me 30 minutes to walk to one gym, and an hour to walk to the other. Why am I talking about walking everywhere? Haven’t I mentioned we don’t insure our car 6 months out of the year to avoid the craziness of everything entailed with driving in the snow? On top of walking across town (or hoping I make the bus stop in time) we have to pay crazy amounts of money to have access to these facilities – yay. Let’s not forget all the bills we will have to start keeping track of again. It truly has been like a paid vacation here.
#2 – Prices
For the most part, big ticket items cost about the same here (even after currency conversation of $1 CA = 3.50 AED). There are items though, that are a quarter of the price than they are at home. For example, gas here is 1.72 AED/L in Canada it is currently $1.72/L.
#1 – Nursing School
When we left Canada I couldn’t talk about nursing school without breaking down into tears. I was that stressed out about it. My last semester of school (before we moved) I spontaneously broke into full body hives twice, and ended up in the hospital with a Morphine allergy after being treated for Kidney Stones. It’s only been in the last few months that I have been able to regain control of my emotions when talking about nursing school. I hope I can keep it together a few more years and complete the program. BTW congrats to the UNBC BCN grad class of 2014! Wish I could have been there with you guys!
I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile about things I am beginning to miss about Canada. Now that we’re heading back, I’ve also been thinking about what I’ll also miss about the UAE. So there will be a theme to my next few posts.
My ultimate items are friends and family so I’m not going to include them on any of these lists. I just can’t rank how much I love those people! So here we go.
#10 – Slurpees
Who doesn’t want a huge glass of flavoured slushy ice on a hot day? Why hasn’t this become popular here?? I’ve definitely been craving slurpees since the day we left. Watch out Mr. G’s and 7-11, we’re coming for you.
#9 – Grocery shopping
Ever wondered what it would be like to go into a grocery store and find them out of stock of milk. Or cheese. Or ranch dressing. Or even that one kind of popular cereal you usually get. That’s what it’s like to shop here. It’s not even obscure speciality items, it’s hit and miss with the regular items you would expect to be in stock… always. I am looking forward to going to the grocery store and knowing I can get what I went in looking for. How easy was that to take for granted.
#8 – Polite drivers
Maybe I’ve been out of touch too long. I know there are still lots of crazy impatient people on the road, even in Canada. Generally though it has been my experience that when you put your blinker on in Canada to merge into a lane, folks either move over or slow to give you space. They DON’T typically speed up and swerve around you. Isn’t that a novel idea.
#7 – Falling snow
Not even at Ski Dubai can you experience falling snow. As a sci-fy geek and long time trekkie, driving through falling snow at night is the best experience (as long as I’m not the one doing the driving).
#6 – Left-hand turns
I completely understand why this isn’t possible in most areas here in the UAE. It’s the way people behave on the roads here. I’m certain car accident deaths due to left handed turns must have been substantial to make them nearly non-existent here now. Especially with all the issues we face with distracted drivers, I guarantee I feel more confident making a left turn in Canada than I do here.
#5 – Properly labeled and positioned road signs
Driving still feels like a fairly new thing for a lot of people here, including the local transit authority. They seem to be getting better though, or we’ve just gotten used to the way they post signage here. When we first moved here, I could not figure out where we were on a map to save my life. Lack of street names in English or altogether is part of the problem. The other issue with signage here is that sometimes there are just so many converging roadways in one spot that it’s difficult to get the signage placed in such a way that gives drivers enough time to determine which route will take them to their destination. This is frustrating in a country that forces you to drive 10 km’s out of your way to turn around if you make a mistake like that. So, good on you BC. At least you got that one figured out.
#4 – Screwing in my own lightbulb
It’s been handy having someone on call, at any time, to take care of whatever needed taking care of in our villa. I don’t mean like in Canada when you call the mechanic in a rental and they give you some lame time between 8am and 6pm 3 days from now. I send an email, or give a call and they are there in an hour, fixing my table, hanging my pictures, changing my lightbulbs. It’s amazing, I don’t know why I think I’m not going to miss this. At the same time, I like to exercise my independence while I’m still capable of doing that. I also think this mentality really feeds into the entitlement issues here. There are a lot of people here who could not function without service like this. They demand and expect this type of service. These people would not survive for very long outside of this bubble of the UAE.
#3 – Paddling a canoe
I’m sure I could have got myself over to the boat club and gone for a paddle up the beach on whatever I wanted to pay for, but it’s not the same. There’s a great atmosphere when you’re sitting on a lake, surrounded by woods, paddling a canoe. It’s peaceful, serene. Don’t think there are many places like that I could have found here.
#2 – Consignment Stores
Clothes are relatively cheap here, depending on what stores you’re shopping in. I couldn’t ever get into the groove of shopping in many of the stores here. The one consignment store I did manage to find was a factory filled with dumped goods. You really have to have vision to see the potential of items in this place. The clothing section, on an upper floor, was literally a pile of clothes that you climbed through. Value Village I missed your multitude of selection in brands, styles, genders. You are my one stop shop, where I don’t have to worry about how fast the kids will outgrow or ruin the clothes. Where I don’t get those feelings of buyer’s remorse. I can’t wait to replenshish my wardrobe.
#1 – Changing Seasons
Who knew living in a perpetual summer could be a bit of a downer. I found myself getting a bit teary eyed and homesick several months ago when I came across some beautiful scenic fall landscape photographs. Leaves fall all year round here, but the trees don’t change colours like they do back home. The trees here stay green, and the old leaves just turn brown and fall off. Raking leaves all year round really isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.
Bonus – Light switches
The light switch in our bedroom drives me nuts. Maybe it’s just one of the many quirks of the poor layout of our villa, because it just doesn’t make sense. We have to open our door completely and walk into the room before turning on the light. Light switches for washrooms are typically located outside of the washroom here. So our toilet light switch is located on the wall, next to the door to our bedroom, right where I have instinctively, for 2 years, reached to turn on the light to our room. For the most part. Light switches at our house in BC are right where they should be. Yay for good planning!