Relocation is a daunting task in any given circumstance. We all know that even if you are moving down the street, something is bound to go wrong. When you move to another country, in some ways you are tempting the gods of fate. There are too many elements in flux to not go wrong. My move to Abu Dhabi was no exception. I should point out at this point that there are many things in my favor. My lease ended at the end of May. I have no husband or children to manage. I relatively have a small amount to move. Even my friend has given me space in her basement to store my stuff. My mother flew up to help my pack, clean and store. Most things were going in my favor. And then the move happened. My experience is an example of how planning can only get you so far. Let’s start from the beginning…
1. The Hair color – I was trying to tie up loose ends before I left the States. I had the brilliant idea that I should get my hair dyed back to my originally color just in case I have trouble finding suitable hair stylist in the UAE. I wasn’t too specific with the hair stylist about what exactly my natural hair color was. Now it is jet black. (Insert Adam’s family theme song here.)
2. The Couch – The plan was to move my things into a room in my friend’s basement. When I checked it out earlier the room seemed more than adequate to fit my things. The problem ended up not being the room, but the hall way. Now my couch is temporarily staying in my very patience friend’s dinning room.
3. The Luggage – Due to some hasty packing, my luggage was overweight for the UAE airline. Seventy pounds was the max and my huge suitcase surpassed 80 lbs. Some last minute rearranging of clothes was required.
4. The Flight - I boarded the 10:50pm Eithad flight at JFK with hopes for the future. The flight was oversold and I was quickly upgraded to first class. This first class was like no first class I’d been in. Large screen TVs, massaging leather seats, free pajamas, sliding cabin doors make your area feel private and intimate. My seat on this plane was larger than my room freshman year of college. About my second glass of champagne I was ready to move into the plane. Everyone was friendly and chatting with each other. The cordial flight attendant asked me what I was doing in Abu Dhabi. After he found out I was a newbie to the area, he made sure I had plenty of literature on the area to get acquainted. Delays on flights at JFK are customary, so I didn’t think twice about pilot’s apologies while dozing off to my flight. One hour turned into four hours. The pilot finally announced that he would have to cancel the flight due to engine issues. We would have to de-board, collect our baggage, and report to officials downstairs for further instructions. It was about 3:30am at this point and the first class buzz had worn off.
5. The Luggage (again) - Baggage claim was a mad house. Exhausted passengers were mobbing the officials, yelling, crying, and trying to get answers. I stood on the other end waiting patience for my luggage to appear. Needless to say my baggage did not arrive. I wouldn’t see my baggage for another four days.
6. The Clothes – The airline carted us off to a hotel at 4am. The hotel was very nice, but I was too tired appreciate it. I got to wear my clothes for another two days. When I spilled my coffee on my pants after lunch and had to wash and dry them with hotel shampoo and a hair dryer, I thought it might be a good idea to pack a change of clothes in my carry-on next go around.
7. Arrival and Immigration – After a 13 hour flight, I arrived only two hours late to Abu Dhabi. The trip continued to be an experiment in the unexpected. When I arrived in Abu Dhabi, I was directed to the immigration. Immediately the differences are noticeable. There were men in white robes and red and white head dresses with black band on the top. The landscape of people became much darker. Arabs, Indians, and Philippines replaced all the white faces left in JFK. It was obvious many people were coming here to work. The visa line were split between men and women. When I arrived the at the immigration station the emirate officer asked if this was my first time in Abu Dhabi. I said yes it was in which he gave me a confused look. “You’ve been to Dubai’” He said. I retorted I had not. Then he asked if I was going to work here which I said I intended too. “Original Visa.” I was directed to the visa office where sat outside while the immigration officials continued to call extraneous people trying to find my visa. This lasted for hours. Sitting on the side I watched countless droves of people from Indian, Pakistan, and the Philippines getting their correct paperwork processed. The immigration attendant finally came out and asked if I had any more numbers of contacts in Abu Dhabi. When told him no he gave me a concerned look. “I will keep trying,” he said. “Then I will ask the officers. They make decision. I hope they happy today.” I started to contemplate what it would be like to be deported. Although I did interrupt his coffee hour, lucky for me the bearded robe clad gentleman was in a good mood.
Next up on the blog, first impressions. Stay tuned.