So life is humming along now, and I find I have little news to share. It's really not that different living and working here than in Texas. Okay, there are some differences, which tend to be a major topic of conversation among expats. I thought I'd share some of them.
Recreation in Abu Dhabi tends to happen at night. We went to a park called Children's Park one afternoon and had the whole place to ourselves. It was a big place, with play equipment, a picnic pavilion, and automated rides, but it was deserted. Like something out of a horror movie- you know, the swings blowing in the wind with the chains creaking. We walked past another, similar park the other night after eating out, must have been around 8:30 PM, and you could barely see the play equipment for the number of little kids swarming all over it. On a school night. I realize it's a reaction to the heat most of the year, but it does result in a number of kids falling asleep in class on a regular basis!
I could probably write a whole post just on the topic of bathrooms. One thing I've learned is to carry my own toilet paper. It's not seen as necessary here. Instead, there are spray hoses in every stall. I suppose they're fairly sanitary, but without paper for toweling off... well, I guess things dry quickly here in the desert. In public places, you'll often enter a restroom and find it near flooded. Someone got a little overzealous with the spray hose? There are workers employed to remain in every restroom in the mall, just to squeegee the floor and wipe down the commode after every use. I can't help but feel horrible for a person who has nothing to do all day but look at the loo.
Speaking of workers, there are hundreds of thousands of non-nationals employed to do every little thing. They are nannies, delivery motorcyclists, food service workers, janitors, shop clerks, construction workers, security guards, hotel employees, and so on. Each company has accommodation provided for its workers and operates transport buses to and from work. Most of the traffic you see is little white buses carrying people all wearing the same uniform. Some apartment buildings are labelled with the name of the employer. One near our block says "Hilton Workers Residence". I guess it's not that different for our apartment. Nearly everyone here works for ADEC.
Food is another major topic. There's a huge variety of food available: Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, American, etc., but it seems that vegetables are in short supply. Except for potatoes. French fries seem to be offered with every meal. Mark and I cooked last night, chicken with a tomato sauce that would have gone well with rice or pasta, but we couldn't face more starch. I miss my bi-weekly box of organic veggies! Sometimes I crave a salad, but I'm usually disappointed. Some of the salads here are pretty short on the lettuce, and when you get lettuce, it's almost always romaine instead of something more green. The caesar salad is out because the caesar dressing has tasted unpleasantly of fish every time I've tried it. One vegetable that is available is corn- kernel corn is sold here as a snack food. A cup of corn with a spoon. From a cart at the mall. Haven't felt the need to try that yet.
An interesting difference is the perks for the ladies. On the public buses, the front half is reserved for women. Many times we'll ride the bus somewhere, Abby and I comfortably sitting up front, while Mark is squished like a sardine in the back where there is standing-room-only for the men. There are ladies-only lines at the bank and the supermarket, and they always go quickly. I haven't yet ridden in a ladies' taxi, but I've seen them, with pink flowers painted on the side and a pink taxi light on the roof. It's easy to feel a bit spoiled!
We attended the street party celebrating the 39th year of unity for the UAE last weekend. It was mostly a parade of decorated cars on the Corniche, the road fronting the beach downtown. There were people hanging out of the car windows, out of the sunroofs, spraying silly string and canned snow all over each other and the other cars and the spectators. They were stopping their cars, getting out and dancing or spraying each other, then jumping back in and zooming on a few meters. The men in their khandouras were wearing red, black, white, and green wigs, or face paint. The women were sparkly in the same colors on their abayas. It was just sweet, clean fun. Mark, Abby and I felt safe amid the wild exuberance, because no one was drunk or menacing in any way. Abby and I came home with silly string in our hair.
So the only news this week is my dad is coming to visit! This is the last week of the first trimester of school. We have a two-week break until January 2. He will be here for a week, then we are all going to Egypt and Jordan for a week. After that, my dad is returning to Texas for Christmas, and Mark, Abby, and I will go to a resort on the Red Sea for a week. Mark plans to do some diving and Abby will snorkel. I'll enjoy relaxing on the beach. I may not get to update before the holidays, so I'll go ahead and wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year!