Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting in the Routine and Homecoming

AbuDhabi  Playlist: Cielo E Terra – Nek, One More Day – Derek James, Carolina – Seu Jorge, Come on Eileen – Kevin Rowland, Cry Love – John Hiatt, Make You Crazy - Brett Dennen, (Play “Make you feel my love” by Adele If you’re feeling sappy)

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to wrap up this little trip and have it mean something. One Singular phrase, learned lesson that encompasses everything I’ve experienced being here. To get to that point, I’ll need to start from where I’ve left off.

Homecoming and High school Reunion

For me, my hometown is never very far away from my thoughts. I think my hometown will always be a place where things make the most sense and always contain the largest amount of people I love the most. However, no matter where you’ve been, if you’ve been away from home for an extended period of time returning back to where you grew up can be a bit of a surreal experience. You’ve missed big events in people’s lives. Some people
move away. Others make life changing choices. The roads are different. Your favorite places go out of business. You’re friends get married, have babies, get divorced. And you’ve missed it.

There are a lot of conversation that go like “Oh yeah I’ve been with (insert name of company/ boyfriend/ girlfriend here) for 2 years. You didn’t hear that? “I don’t know why the brain makes the assumption that the world stays as you left it. I will have to say one to the top surreal of all surreal experiences to have attending your 10 year high school reunion. My home leave happened to fall during the period of my reunion so I decided fairly last minute to go.

Minus a few awkward periods when I didn’t understand why drama geek with a lack of fashion awareness wasn’t getting asked out much, high school was a good experience. A lot of people stood out in my memory as being funny, smart, and good hearted. And although everything is now on Face book, I really wanted to see for myself.

Now I need to make a small confession. The thought did cross my mind on how I favored over the last decade in comparison to my class mates. I know… shallow. But let’s be honest, we all wonder and all secretly hope we exceeded expectations. The first few questions with everything are very standardized. Everyone wants to know you stats. By the end of the evening you get very efficient spurting them out.

“Last 3 year I’ve been playing in Raleigh. Played in college in Florida prior to that. Marriage/ Baby average 1/2. “

Like a cricket player at a baseball game, my stats required a little more clarification. “Abu wha? You’re where doing what exactly?” The Garfield reference seemed to work the best. “Remember the box label when Garfield sent Odie away. Abu Dhabi. That’s where I live. Yeah it’s a real place.” Fortunately I didn’t have to explain the Marriage/Baby stat after that too frequently. But if it came up a simple,” Oh yeah I was married, but I got that annulled in Vegas years ago” seemed to suffice.

Class of 2000 seemed to do well for itself. The best part was seeing those people who were still as great as they were back in high school. Those people plus copious amount of beer and wine made for an entertaining evening. I won’t reveal any gritty details. There were some bad decisions made by a few folks, some secrets revealed. “Are you in love with my husband?!” But all in good fun. To be honest I wish I had kept up with more people. The night ended with group deciding to head down the street to another dive and keep the party going.

The Confession

I have picked up a rather disgusting habit, monetarily speaking. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are havens for consumers of luxury items. You will never see as many Ferraris and Rolexs on a daily basis as you will here. That being said prior to being in the U.A.E. I used to have logic arguments on why one would spend thousands of dollars on something that cost no more than 20 dollars to make. And then I went to Rome with Jules. Brainwashing is an awful thing.

I have scavenged the outlets and strip mall on the outskirt of Dubai looking for deals on the major labels, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, and the Holy grail – Chanel. Why? Why would I spend my time and money and energy (and did I mention money) on something so insignificant as a purse? Why has the joy of buying a knock-off ended? I have absolutely no idea. But with every purchase, (yes there has been more than one), they desire for the next hit designer crack increases. Fortunately I am surrounded by crackheads who help me rationalize this bad habit. I will continue to swear this will end once I’m back in reality. If not for me, for my bank account’s sake.

Spinning, Hashing, and Weekends in Dubai – Getting Used to the Routine in Dreamland

The last two months were the best bar none. I had made friends outside of work and my week was packed with activities to maintain my sanity with the hectic work schedule. I was starting to bump into people around town and not be complete dependent on my GPS.  The weeks were pretty standardized by October.
Sunday – Work till 7pm, catch the Spinning Class at the Shangri-la next door. Catch-up on Emails and a little work.
Mondays – Work till 6pm. Attend the Hash House Harrier event somewhere in the city. Run. Eat. Drink a little beer. Crack some jokes with the Hashers.  Pray I don’t get named by the Hasers that week.
Tuesday – Repeat Sunday’s Schedule.  Home cooked dinner with collegues after the gym
Wednesday – Work till 6pm followed by Arabic classes. Working Woman Wednesdays Happy Hour with the girls from Hash.
Thursday – Work much later than planned…then see where the evening takes us.  Maybe to the American embassy for a party, or pack everything in a rush and head to Dubai.

Weekends are spent catch-up on work and spending as much time as humanly possible outside. They end far to quickly and its back on the schedule.

So many elements don’t feel real or connected to reality. You’re not really required to park your car, clean your house, or pay for drinks (if you’re a girl). What you trade in is that connection and feeling that you are home. Of the expats I’ve met here, no one considers Abu Dhabi to be there permanent home.  I met on gentleman who had been in Abu Dhabi was a pit stop.

Smoking Sheesha

On the second to last night prior to my departure from the U.A.E, an Emirati colleague asked if I would like to join him for sheesha. (Just as a point of reference, sheesha is a mild tobacco traditionally smoked through a pipe. It’s a common place social activity all over the Middle East.) This was the first time I’d been invited out by a local so I thought it was important that I go, even if I was a little trepidatious about it. As an expat woman you hear many stories of ladies being too trusting of locals they meet and end up in precarious situations. These stories, compounded by the vast cultural differences can make it difficult to build relationships with locals.

Thinking it through, I had worked with him the past 6 months, he had been out on social outings with other colleagues, although they were men. But I rationalized meeting in a public place wouldn’t  be unreasonable and I always had the option to leave.  In addition, I also wanted to get to know this person  better. In the States, I probably would not think as much about going out socially with someone I work with. Even after six months, I still have a habit of being more cautious.

There were a few topics I broached that I had to quickly retreat from and change the subject. I asked if he had ever been out socially with any local women in the office. ( I knew the answer but was wondering why.) I asked about his family. When I received a vague answer on these topics I backed off in respect.

All in all it went as expected. My colleague was polite and complementary; we talked about work and the dynamics between the Emiratis and the Westerns Expats. We discussed the area in our work life that needed improvement. We talked about traveling. He had studied in the United States and had traveled more in the U.S. than I had. I even found out I was recommended for a position in the organization by an Emirati.  

Next Up: Returning home… New Job? New Home? We will see..

For Ashley: Camels in Drag...

1 comment:

  1. I suppose I had a bit of the opposite experience at our high school reunion. Many of the folks who helped put it together and were in attendance were my good friends in high school. I kept close tabs in college, and continue to be good friends with them now. But that's not why I attended; I could see many of them at Mitch's on a Friday night.

    Facebook aside, I went for the outliers, the science lab-partners, the co-bandmates from that year I did band, and even for the few that professed then and maybe now that they didn't like me back in high school. In truth, I don't think I liked much of myself in retrospect, but the reunion was a good dose of accountability to them and to myself - that I'm not completely awful, and I have matured. Call it self-serving (which it was in some parts), those elements were easily over-shadowed by the good connections and re-connections made.

    That and carrying a poor and passed-out Melissa Couchon to a safer stairwell and out of the post-reunion light.

    It was good to see you, besides; to see the henna tattoo, which added a stamp of true validity to your UAE life/lifestyle/blog persona. Good show for coming all the way back to catch up.