Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A year ago today...

Today marks the first anniversary of my move to the UAE.  It feels very odd that a year has gone past already!  To say that time has flown is a massive understatement.

I left Sydney on the 9th and arrived on the 10th and started work on the 11th... straight into it with barely anytime to get over the jet lag.  My desk wasnt ready, I didnt have a phone either and I didnt have a mobile.  The project / company was much different then and I had no idea where anything was.  I was living in a hotel which I initially thought was great but soon came to detest.

From there, I bought a phone, got my residency and visa sorted out... then came a car (leased) and I was mobile.  Looking for a house, I moved from the Abu Dhabi hotel into a villa in the Green Community Dubai.  I had a piece of foam to sleep on and a towel, a few plates, glasses and cutlery.  I borrowed a pair of bar stools to sit on and also bought a camp chair.

That was the time when it really got a bit heavy and the "newness" wore off and I was really missing Niki and the girls. 

I bought a TV and a DVD but couldnt watch TV until the pay TV network came out to install it... same with Internet and I spent some very lonely days in my massive villa with no furniture.

Slowly things progressed and I remember the day the Internet was finally connected... many tears over the Skype that day!

All of the above was the first 2 months... I would remain alone in Dubai for a further two months and in that time I got curtains, furniture, landscaping etc.  In addition, I was keeping abreast of the dismantling of the household in Sydney as Niki sent all our furniture and clothes on a Chinese shipping container.  They were very emotional times.

By June, Niki and the girls arrived to 45 degree temps that would soon soar to 55 in their first month.  A quick trip to London was a great highlight and an effective way to escape the heat.

Then it was waiting for the shipping container and it wasnt until July I suppose that we could finally consider ourselves "moved in".

Then the social things... Niki met the neighbours (as I really was too busy working and shopping on weekends) and the kids met the neighbourhood kids.  School was on the horizon for September and we went shopping for uniforms and stuff... we were also doing tourist things and got to know where the malls and attractions were.  By the time school started, we were ready but the kids had had alot of time off and were basically living like it was a holiday camp.

So homework was the painful item in September but the kids found the school to be really enjoyable and their social circles expanded as did ours.  We became good friends with a number of families here and started holidaying and day-tripping together.  Ramadan also came and we learnt to become squirrels with our food...

October saw our first visitors from home and we were able to entertain Niki's parents and our nephew Scotty from London.  It was good for everyone to have that family contact and we were very proud in showing off our new place and what lifestyle we had put together.  Work was busy, but was now manageable... family life was a greater focus and we were enjoying being together on weekends and having real family meals at night.

As the weather started to cool, BBQ's became the norm and each weekend became a party... Xmas gatherings and birthdays for our friends became important and by the time we came back to Sydney at Xmas time we felt like we were on a family holiday rather than "coming home".

Since then of course, life continues and we really do feel settled.  Just this week, we got a second TV connection for the upstairs lounge and I am in the process of renewing our lease on the villa.  Plans for a European Holiday are being discussed - need to book that! - and my first years performance review, salary review and bonus are being discussed.

And when you read all that back, it makes me realise how far we have come since I left Sydney this time last year.  It was a big decision and one filled with a number of unknowns.  We have had surprises and some unexpected twists and turns but they have been for the better and we can truly say that the decision to take the job and the associated lifestyle upheaval has been the right one.

The Emirates is a developing country.  Yes Dubai has alot of glitz and glamour attached to it, but to live here everyday is not what you would expect by watching the travel shows.  The country is ambitious and proud of its heritage but the people are very generous and welcoming.  The Middle East is a place of contrasts with extravagant architecture such as the Burj Khalifa down to the fact that some of the labourers live in pipes on the side of the road.  For every famous Porsche Cayenne driving Emirati there is a beat up old car being driven by a Pakistani as a taxi.  But there is also a great respect for religious differences and culture.  We have attended a Catholic wedding and have visited the grandest mosque in the entire Middle East.  Every day has been an adventure.

So tomorrow is Day 1 of Year 2 and I am very happy.

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