Category Archives: Triumphs

Quite an honor

Standard

TBG had an unusual invitation yesterday – he was invited to a fellow Emirati pilot’s promotion luncheon!  Now, to sort of put this into perspective, it’s really rare that expats are included in Emirati celebrations.   It’s simply a cultural issue that is a big divide to bridge.  But invited he was!  And he went.  Now for those of you that know TBG, he’s not a real big social creature.  He’ll generally go with me to some function, but it’s not his favorite thing to do.  But this?  This was different.  This was an honor.

He said “Yeah, we all sat on the floor, and ate some kind of interesting rice and goat meat dish.  Or maybe it was baby lamb.  Pretty tasty.  Had to eat it with my hands, though, and they had to show me how to do that.  I’ve never eaten rice with my fingers.  It was pretty cool.”

*Sigh*  Details, honey, I want details.  What did you talk about?  How did they ask you?  What did the food taste like?  Were there people serving you?  How was the meat seasoned?  How was it served?  What did you have to drink?  Was there entertainment?   What about the singing and dancing, was there singing and dancing?  Was there a big blanket, or did everyone sorta bring their own?  How do they sit on the floor without getting dirt stains on those blindingly-white kanduras that the UAE men wear?

Image

But nope.  That was all I was gonna get.  “It was pretty cool” was all he had to say.  I’m still in awe and pretty proud of TBG – this was quite an honor.  And grateful to his fellow pilot for trying to bridge that cultural gap just a bit.

EDITED TO ADD………….

Well, well, well…. It appears that TBG *does* read my blog!  He said “you never asked me all that stuff”.  Actually, I did – I think he has selective hearing…. <smile>  Anyhow, I have some additional details that I was interested in, so I’m assuming y’all are interested too!

He said there was some kind of cloth on the floor, he doesn’t know what….. and there was a man that was bringing big platters of food and placing them all around.  And, there was a bread, a giant flatbread “big as a garbage can lid”…. (*sigh*….. was that the ONLY comparision he could make??  Sheesh.)  Folks tore off pieces of it to eat as they liked.

One of the dishes he remembered was called a “biryani” which is a traditional rice dish, layered with meat and/or vegetables that have been simmered in a spicy and creamy sauce to flavor and tenderize them.  Then, they’re layered in a large dish and cooked over very low heat till the flavors are all blended, and the rice is perfect.  Now there are a ton of variations, different meats, vegetables, nuts, fruits, they can be really elaborate.  He said there were four different platters of foods.  And in order to help him eat the rice, they put a yogurt on it of some sort…. Made it sticky enough to eat.   Oh, and Seven Up or Sprite to drink.

There was conversation and laughter, but no singing or dancing….lots of congratulations and well wishes.   He said it was just a really nice meal with some interesting people, a good time, and he was glad he went.

 

Crocs to fit

Standard

We’ve always had a time trying to find shoes to fit TBG – he wears a size 15 in the US.  Here in the UAE, it’s like a size 50, I think.  When you go in the stores here and ask for mens shoes in a size 50, the clerk’s eyes IMMEDIATELY slide down to TBG’s feet…. and that likely means they don’t carry his size.

Well, we lucked up on a Crocs shoe store in one of the malls here…. and lo and behold they had Crocs in large sizes!!  Take a look!!

Image

So, I was processed

Standard

For a resident visa.  Without this, I can’t have a bank account, can’t get a cell phone in my own name, can’t receive my household goods that were shipped by slow freekin boat about a year ago, can’t get a liquor license,(to buy, not sell) there’s a bunch of stuff that you can’t do if you don’t have a resident visa.

First, you gotta have a guy.  Well, technically you don’t *have* to have a guy, but it seems to me that almost everyone I’ve spoken with has a guy.   The company TBG works for has a guy.  This guy is called a PRO, Public Relations Officer – and their job is to smooth the way through some pretty complicated procedures.  Apparently in NO FREEKIN WAY does it mean to rush, as the guy was 45 minutes late meeting us for our appointment, and wasn’t even in touch with us till WE called HIM about his lateness.  Grrrrrr.  Anyhow, to get this visa, there was paperwork, no surprise, my passport, 2 passport photos, and some money.   I’m not certain how much, things aren’t exactly as crystal-clear as I like them but I’m adapting and learning to appreciate the murkiness where it is.  OK, not appreciate, exactly, but at least recognize, OK?  I don’t put my fingers in my ears and sing “la-la-la-la-la” so that the murkiness doesn’t exist for me, I just grudgingly acknowledge that it’s out there, and will intersect with my life from time to time.  And we move on.

Anyhow, money, paperwork, passport, photos, and the guy.  We followed him on a weird route to this obscure government “health assurance” building….. pretty non-descript for the kind of place that issues resident visas, I thought…. And talk about a melting pot – about the only people that had business there were expats like us, so there were few natives.  Inside, there was a male waiting area, and a female waiting area.  This “separate-ness” used to cause me to bristle…. Wanting to puff out my chest and announce that we were all equal now, that we could even vote and everything….. then, I remember that I am no longer in the US, and can just leave those feelings behind, and appreciate that I get to wait in a MUCH nicer, quieter, better-smelling area than TBG.  <smile>

The guy does something PRO-like I’m sure, he’s definitely not the most communicative human I’ve encountered….. and within just a few minutes, I am called to a desk WAY in front of the probably 75 other people seated in the waiting room(s).  I go to the little counter, sit at the desk sideways, the processing man is on his cell phone, and shortly I hear “look to cameurrah”….. and I stopped.  “Cameurrah”??  WTH is that?  I am certain I appeared to have that deer-in-headlights look, not having a clue what the “cameurrah” was – because he gestured to the side of the divider directly opposite me with a photo of a camera on it, and there was a hole cut in the part where the lens was….. the cameurrah was gonna take my photo.  I got this now.

Image

Photo taken, the PRO guy comes along, hands the processing guy some money, change is made, “Inshallah”  is exchanged, they shake hands, and my guy motions me to come along for the medical check evaluation.

Examination?  All I want is a resident visa, not a health check.  *shrug*  apparently you won’t get a visa without the medical check.  Again, the separate waiting areas, the female physician (I assume) questioning my health and meds….. stamped the papers, and sent me for my blood test and chest x-ray.

Apparently, the medical check is a blood test and chest X-ray for HIV, Hepatitis B & C, tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilis. If results come back positive for any of those conditions, the person is deported, except for syphilis which is treated. TB cases are quarantined first then deported.   Hepatitis B and/or C cases are definitely deported, might be deported, might not be deported.  The rules are a bit fuzzy.

Yikes.  OK, so, all that is finished now, just waiting for the visa to be issued.  And, as if by magic, a few days later, this is what you get!!

Image

Leaving Mama’s

Standard

Wow….lots harder than I’d imagined.  I mean, I’ve left her house to move to different places we’ve lived a LOT before – GA, TX, AL, AK, IN, all sorts of places….. just never to the other side of the planet.  But we’d figured out how to Skype from her house, and how to email and use facebook’s messenger service, so she was feeling pretty dang connected, I think.  I was still really disappointed that I didn’t get to see my sisters before I left, but they have fairly young families, I guess, and were very busy.  Perhaps next time.

The morning was cold, there had been snow flurries the night before, and I was hoping for a clear travel day since my snow-driving skills were rusty.  Pretty lucky, just a smattering of snow was left on the windshield of the rental beast.

Image

Robert drug all the luggage to the end of the new sidewalk so we could stash it in the trunk – man, this sure looks like an awful lot of stuff to be taking, right?  And, a part of me was thinking…. “what if there are NO PORTERS at the smallish Dayton Airport??  How will I manage all this?” – no worries – I had bungee cords – and a plan to lash them all together in two groups and pull them along behind me.

Image

What a mess of luggage. And, it’s COLD!!

We did get to have a great visit, though, even longer than anticipated, and that turned out to be a good thing.  My Mama can pack #10 of mud into a #5 bag, so she was totally invaluable in making all the stuff fit in my luggage.  We got to eat at some of my favorite places, and some of my favorite things……

Image

Mama snitching some of my fried cornmeal mush from Perkin’s.

 

Image

OOhh…,. Skyline. Home of my favorite 4-way bean!

 

Image

Frisch’s Big Boy – Daddy once sat next to Dave Frisch at a counter in a Frisch’s.

 

Plus, it was pretty cool seeing all the renovations they’d made to the house, it’s a 1921 Sears  Catalog house – yup, the original owners looked at a Sears Catalog and said “That’s the house for us” and placed their order.  It arrived on flatbed railcars to the nearest railhead….. all the pieces were numbered by hand on the back with a grease pencil…… and the name of the original owners.  Imagine getting a book of instructions and a #600 keg of nails to put your house together??  Amazing. 

Image

Image

Anyhow, I digress *again*….. I think it’s because it was so dang hard to drive off on that cold morning to the airport in Dayton….. but I know I’ll be back again soon.  Probably will end up seeing Mama more often than when I lived in Alabama!

Drove off, waved goodbye to Mama, blew kisses, and started crying. 

Image

Stopped at the nearest gas station to wipe the tears and program the GPS in my cell phone to get me to the airport.  Which wouldn’t work.  Made me mad and cried again.  And TBG was messaging me, asking how things were going, I was frustrated and mad and sad and couldn’t figure out what was happening with the GPS, and there, on the other side of the text messages was my voice of reason, TheBigGuy.  “Well, don’t you have old-fashioned paper maps??”

*sigh*….. of course I did.  The rental company gave me one.  I oriented myself,  planned a route, wiped the tears one last time and put that puppy in Drive.

The packing at Mama’s

Standard

I’d mailed a bunch of boxes to myself at my Mama’s address…… stuff that I wanted to take to Dubai with me but that I didn’t want to pay excess baggage charges for in the US – they don’t have the “first bag flies free” deal here,,,,,,,  so I mailed them to myself.  Cheaper, right?  I thought I was being pretty dang smart…… oh, and I’d bought this really cool thing called a ScottEvest – holy COW do travelers need this puppy!  Go to their website, http://www.scottevest.com/ and take a look – I had read about them on another travel blogger’s website, forget which one, sorry.  But they came very highly recommended, for sure.  So, I hunted down the discount codes (surely you didn’t think I was gonna pay full price, now did you??) and ordered one for me and TheBigGuy.  Sucker is awesome – holds my ipad, iphone, headphones, wallet, camera, bottle of water, keys, passport, id, lip balm, eyedrops, just about anything you can imagine, and it does it really comfortably and without feeling like a packhorse.  Just get one, I had my friend Donna try mine on fully loaded, and she said “Heck people would be taking this to the ball fields, shopping on BlackFriday, everything!”  With coupons, it was about $75, and easily carried enough stuff to fill a carryon bag.  OK, not *fill* but allow you room for other stuff, plus, your stuff was on you, easily accessible.  Plus, you just take it off, lay it on the bucket deal going through security, and you’re done.  Fabulous, and worth every penny.

Image

The boxes I’d mailed myself finally started trickling in after about 10 days (!) most ended up arriving looking like this……

Image

Thanks, US Postal Service!!!

When ALL of the parcels that I’d mailed to myself from Dothan, Alabama finally arrived at Mama’s house, (total of 17 DAYS transit time!!) we busted out the brand-spanking new luggage I’d bought at Sam’s Club.  Big, cavernous Samsonite futuristic-looking stuff, all shiny and smooth composite looking.  I’d measured it beforehand to make certain that they were within the major airlines’ size limitations.

Packing stuff was weird – I was trying to distribute things between cases weight-wise, but also in case that one was lost, not all my clothes were in it, nor all of TBG’s – I was trying to spread around the potential grief…. so giant Ziploc bags to the rescue.  Plus, it makes it easier for TSA to view what’s in there, without actually pawing through all my panties, you see?

Image

About this time, Mama was starting to come to terms with the fact that this was really happening, that I was really moving to the other side of the planet.  This was not easy for either of us, but I think she’s finally come to terms with it in some way.  But there were still tears and a bunch of sadness, for sure.

I had read that shipping a #50 case was $100, but #51 – 70 went up DRAMATICALLY.  So we did the “stand on the scale without the suitcase, then pick it up and weigh again” trick on Mama’s bathroom scales.  Multiple times.  I was nervous about this since one leg of the trip wouldn’t accept luggage over #50 at all.  Fabulous, we were #10 under on one case, #2 on the other two – excellent!

OK, we’re all ready.  All packed, weighed, I’ve gone over the list of what I can and can’t take into the UAE to make sure I’m not  taking any contraband in – I THINK I’m ready.