We arrive in a limo jet with the clothes on our back. Oh, my, God, this place is hot! we say through perspiration. We heat ramen noodles in the hotel sink while we adjust to the noise, and the smells, and the scene. “Why did you bring me here!” we shout to our spouse. I need something familiar, I need my good friends, and I need my mother! We rush to organize paperwork we don’t understand. You need what?!? I just gave you that now you need it again? I need to talk to what man? I can’t understand him. This is not how we do it in my country. We form lines and queues. Why did you butt ahead of me? Come on, I need this paperwork by next week or the school is going to kick my kid onto the street!
We are still waiting on paperwork and heating ramen noodles in the hotel sink. Yes, our lives look fabulous as we lay by the pool but what else is there to do when we don’t have a clue? We are completely lost in a land we don’t understand. So don’t hate us as we hang out in a grand hotel and gather our brains that have turned to complete mush, while we fight to pull it all together in a system we do not trust. This is complete idiocracy we silently scream as we shake our fist to the man behind the counter. Will I ever have my identity back? My passport, my visa, my license too? We are down to a plea as we cry to the man. The kids are tugging our legs as they cry too. Please have some sympathy for us this place feels like a zoo.
Ahhh, we have chosen a villa and our shipment will come soon. You have 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms and maid’s room? You think we live grand but our neighbors are junk collectors who slaughter goats in their garden as our kids peer from their bedroom window crying out to stop them. We did not sign up for this. This is not the suburbs. People do not own peacocks, and 10 puppies, and erect large privacy screens 30 feet high, so we cannot accidentally catch a glimpse of their wives thigh. We lived in neighborhoods, and threw block parties, and mowed our grass. We shared power tools and shared gossip about what was going on about town, so please forgive us if we seem a little shocked, because this is not how its done where we are from and we need a little time to adjust to the goat slaughtering, the smell of curry and the ungodly heat of the sun.
Vroom vroom! This town is going crazy because the F1 is coming soon. People are talking, the place is buzzing, and we starting to get used to it now. We have our visas, our villas, our license, and our Emirates ID too. We feel like a person again and we are ready to have some fun too. The concerts are the hot topic; who is coming, who is going and how do we get the tickets. Our kids have friends and we have made some lovely parents from school. We are no longer crying for our mothers or our friends from back home, we are organizing Harvest Festivals, searching for canned pumpkin and making plans for Thanksgiving. We took a deep breath and started to get in the swing, we now have internet, TV and our preferred mobile phone. We are starting to like it here and not missing home.
What the heck just happened? They are erecting Christmas lights! It looks really festive, this is really weird. Why would a Muslim country erect Christmas lights and sell Christmas trees? This is not what I learned from TV. Ahh, it’s not Christmas lights its the UAE National Day. This place will get crazy just like Mardi Gras; except it is all about the UAE and the celebration of its founding. We dress in crazy clothes, we eat traditional food, and we pet camels. There is a huge parade and the cars are decorated. It’s all about the UAE and how far it has come, while still hanging onto tradition and just having fun. We start to feel like we are apart of something different and that’s okay. We are beginning to feel like an expat in a good way. People are talking about holiday break and where they will go. The newbies will race home to celebrate Christmas with family, while the seasoned expats take off to Rome, or to some other far away place on the globe; and send their family a note to meet us over here instead of grabbing a plane to go home.
Whew! We all return from holiday vacation and we are recharged to tackle this country with new gusto. The weather is fabulous and now we are hooked. We can finally see it’s a wonderful life if we can overlook the disorganization, the drivers, and the kooky stuff. We’ve decided we like this place and the people as well. Being an expat is kind of neat. The people are inviting, and our kids love it here too. Living on the beach is fantastic and trying new food is easy when you live in a country so culturally diverse. January is the month to just kick back and relax and take in all the beauty this life offers us up. We swap stories of the countries we’ve visited and the people we’ve met and how to squeeze out every last drop of our newfound adventure and our new attitude.
We continue to bask in the beauty of it all and talk about far away places as we hang out on the beach sipping cocktails and listening to jazz, wishing we could share it with the people back home, if they’d just climb on a plane come visit us here. There’s nothing to fear it’s a safe place we say to them. Turn off your TV and listen to me. They have no idea how big this world is and the enormous beauty we see, as we try to wrap our arms around it all. It’s hard to explain to the people who can’t see it and we would love to share just one day with them. Please get on a plane before the weather gets hot. We beg for them to visit but many do not.
The weather is still beautiful and we are enjoying this magical place. Someone is playing bagpipes on the beach. How awesome can that be? We take seaplane tours, we take desert safari trips, we take the kids to the sand dunes. We drive to Dubai, we go to Oman, we talk about the camel beauty contest and the camel races, we eat, we dance and we meet new people too. We join sewing classes, we taking cooking lessons on the beach. We drink gold cappuccino and take Mosque tours, we take helicopter rides and go to the zoo. We absorb everything this country offers and more as we count down the days that weather allows us to play.
April is all about spring break. Where are you going? We organize with our friends. I think we’ll go to Thailand. I’m sorry but we’ve already been. Have you been to the Seychelles? We ask our friends. What side of the island has the strongest currents, should we stay in a resort or rent a villa? What country has the best food? Korea or Bali is what I have heard. We may go to Australia someone else said. No, you must go to Singapore if you haven’t already been. I know we seem like a bunch of spoiled children but what would you do if you were in our shoes? Wouldn’t you jump on a plane and go visit all these places if they were right there at your finger tips too?
Here comes the heat. We are limited now. We are beginning to wander back to the malls to catch a movie or an indoor ski slope, next door to Cheesecake Factory and the place that sells fizzy soap. We head to Adventure Headquarters and jump on the trampoline or just take a stroll, through the manmade entertainment that the UAE offers, to amuse us while the sun heats up to unbearable temps. The Emirates Palace, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab are just a few of the places we visit we it’s hot to keep us busy during the indoor season.
We feel our lives winding down as we begin to finalize plans for the summer. Where we are going and who will see. How many cities will we visit and how long will it be? Who can fit us into their homes for more than a week? We are very excited to see our families and tell them about our lives in the UAE. It feels like an eternity since we moved across the globe and away from our homelands. How much we have changed and how small the world has become. We may sound like blue bloods as we tell our stories of things that many will never see, but to be honest, nothing feels as good as being home with our families.
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4 thoughts on “The Expat Calendar”
Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your first year in AD. Means so much for our family as we think about the possibility of beginning a similar journey from Coastal Georgia.
Hi Chip, Thanks for reading! We very much enjoy our life here. There are always pros and cons but if you have a sense of adventure and a willingness to go along with some of the hassles of living life as a foreigner; then you should be good!
Enjoyed reading this and others, we are Expats in Sri Lanka.
Hi Eric, Thanks for reading! I cannot wait to visit Sri Lanka. It is just a short flight for me. Best to you!