Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back to School....

Abu Dhabi Playlist: Matt and Kim - Daylight (Troublemaker feat. De La Soul), Sheryl Crow - Run,Baby,Run, Lebanese Pop in various Taxi rides.

It’s been over three weeks since my last post. What has thus far happened has been expected. I've gotten wrapped up in the people, work, and distractions that come with moving across the world. A few subtle changes have occurred.

Getting a residence visa, UAE drivers license, learning about my co-workers, starting new projects at work, exploring the area, taking Arabic classes, finding my new routine, and FINALLY getting a car (my discount BMW) , are just some of the things that have occupied my time. This post is about catching up on what going on with my life now.

I've spent a lot of time pointing out the differences I've noticed between life in the states and life in the UAE. (My hair is darker. I feel naked without eyeliner. I've turned my patented extra-freckle tan. I never leave home with my silver necklace with my name written in Arabic.) The truth is, in many ways this experience has paralleled other times in my life. While the culture and values are vastly different to the "Hard work and American pie" culture I came from, the day-to-day has almost been a flashback to the good ole college days.

Ah yes... After surpassing several adult milestones I've reverted back to my college life style. Who knew that my experiences as a college freshman would come back to haunt me? Nevertheless, here are a few things about my life now that many of us have experienced...

1. You all live on the same floor.
While life might sounds glamorous in the "Bubble bar" hotel, more days than not it feels like we are living in an overpriced dorm. Most of my co-workers live on the same floor. We all see each other come and go and there in minimal privacy. Sometimes I find myself sneaking out the back exit just so I don't have to bump into people I work with. Don't get me wrong, I like who I work with. But does everyone really need to know where I'm going?

2. People hang out in the common area.
The Bubble bar lounge is the watering hole for the NV team. We all log our time here reading the newspaper or having an afternoon cigarette. Unlike the dorm, our lounge come equipped with a bar. Needless to say this area gets used plenty.

3. There is an "RA".
Arnold, the floor manager and head consieger keeps track of all of us. “Heading to work, Ms. Hensley?" “Little too much sun today, Ms. Hensley?" "Did you enjoy your shopping trip at Carrefour, Ms. Hensley?"

Don't be fooled by the friendly demeanor. While customer service is key to his daily function, so is keeping order. If guests misbehave, he will intervene.

4. You all go to the “Caf” together for meals.
Because our rooms lack kitchen facilities, we all have to have our meals elsewhere. Typically, my dinner consists of complimentary heavy hor'dovres offered at the lounge. Sometime we venture to one of the restaurants in the hotel. All we need is a meal plan.

5. You have to get a Medical Exam when you get started.
This I didn't expect. When I arrived, I was informed that in order to receive my UAE resident visa I would need pass a required medical exam. The company driver escorted to the facility. The place was packed with foreigners all queued. The layout was a cross between a hospital and a DMV office. I was asked if I'd like the VIP service. (They have VIP for EVERYTHING here.) Skipping the line I was led upstairs to the VIP lounge. Five hundred dirham and 45 minutes later I had completed the exam, which included blood being drawn, an interview of my medical history, and a chest x-ray. At each station I was asked if I was married. You'd think they would have written it on my chart by the second of third station. I think this was the politically correct way to ask if I could be pregnant. (Being pregnant and not married is illegal in the UAE.) After the exams, I took my card to the veiled lady at the counter, paid my fee and left. The rumor I’ve heard is they check you for turbercious and HIV.

6. You have homework
One disadvantage of being separated from your friends and family is most people assume you don't have any responsibilities outside work. There is no separation between work and home. Homework is very common. Much like study hall, co-workers meet in the common area to have teleconferences with the States and prepare for the next day's presentation.

7. There are cliques and "dorm drama".
No matter the age, it seems that people never outgrow clich├ęs. Many of my co-workers cling together and exclude others. I think the drama extends from spending a little too much time with your co-workers. Personalities have more oppurtunities to clash. People rub each other the wrong way. I've never been much for cliques so this isn't one of my favorite elements.

8. There is always booze available.
This can be both a blessing and a curse. Fortunately for us, gone are the days of wine coolers, cheap bear, and trash can punch. Still, freshman has the hardest time holding their liquor.

9. There is the "freshman 15."
No kitchen + only takeout + easy access to drinks = easy weight gain. Sad but true.

10. People get away with things they can’t do at home.
The first time you see one of your colleagues, sometimes married, sometimes older than your grandparents, hit on an unsuspecting coed at a hotel bar, if you’re like me your eyes widen a bit. The quietest people you'd never suspect change their behavior when they leave home. And the rule still stands true. The more restrictive their home life is the crazier they get when they leave. What happens in Abu Dhabi stays in Abu Dhabi.

11. When people get in trouble, they get kicked out.
When I first arrived, I heard a story of a consultant who was having a little too much fun while out on the company’s dime. I won't get into the gritty details. He wasn't breaking any of the companies written rules, just the unwritten ones. When you work in the UAE, you're personal life does have an effect on professional life. You are not allowed to flash bad behavior. And if the right locals hear about it, you’ll be gone. They don’t need due process in HR. For the most part, if you don't act like a college freshman with no classes before 10am, you'll be fine.

12. No one is permanent. Eventually, everyone leaves.
Living in a transient community adds an interesting dynamic. The UAE has a large expat community and most people are here temporarily. Like college student, unless you plan on being a professor, it’s very likely you will leave campus.

Abu Dhabi Stats:

Places Visited:
Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, Dubai
Boudoir in the Dubai Marine Beach Resort, Dubai
Fish Market and the Yacht Club in the Intercontential Hotel, Abu Dhabi
Sax in Le Royal Meriden, Abu Dhabi

What I've been reading:

Note written on my welcome card from the hotel:
"Gorgeous Lady Kate welcome home."

Best Advice I've recently received:
While attempting to conquer one intimating round-a-bout on my way to work one morning, a co-worker gently reminded me, "Remember, you are water. You just flow through."

Shock of the Weak:
The friendly HR assistance was processing my request to visit one of our parent company's facilities. I noticed a flashy Ferrari watch on his wrist which sparked my curiosity. Later while at the mall I checked out to see if they had the watch. They had it alright. 300,000 AED (That's about $80,000 folks.)

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