Tuesday, July 26, 2016

BREXIT: Brian & Renee's Exit . . . from Abu Dhabi

Sorry for the pun, but with so much drama over the Brexit vote, it seemed fitting. And of course happening just a week before our move had lots of friends and family asking how it would affect us. The truth is we don't know yet, but we're on our way and there's no stopping us!

Our departure was a bit complicated due to a number of factors. I left from Abu Dhabi on an Etihad ticket (and upgraded to business class!). This also allowed me 5 checked bags, which if you've flown lately, you know equates to a pretty large chunk of change. So off I went to Abu Dhabi to board my flight to London.
I was lucky it all fit on one luggage cart!

But of course a seat in business class made it all worth it! And this was on the A380 which I hadn't yet flown. A very fitting farewell journey for our sandbox adventure.

Brian, meanwhile, was departing from Dubai on Qantas. He didn't qualify for an Etihad ticket as my visa was never sponsored by them, so his company put him on Qantas from Dubai. He only had 2 bags, but did have to fly coach so he definitely had the harder journey.

And the cats? They flew kitty class on British Airways out of Dubai. We ended up flying them out of Dubai as our recommended shipper works primarily out of Dubai and the Dubai airport has a dedicated air conditioned pet waiting area (which is pretty important in July!) They, of course, hated the whole adventure and made sure we were well aware of that opinion. Poor little things.

Cats left at 1:30am, Brian left around 2am and I left around 3am. And, after all that, we did end up connecting again in London.

Departing Abu Dhabi, I had all kinds of emotions: excited for the next chapter, nostalgic for the past 5 1/2 years, grateful to be leaving the heat, and nervous about what we might find in the UK. A glass of champagne quickly took care of that and soon I was fully reclined and fast asleep!

And so ends our Abu Dhabi Adventures. I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who read the blog regularly, gave me feedback, asked questions, and prompted me when it had been too long between posts. It's been fun sharing our adventures with you.

And, for those of you who want to continue to follow our adventures, I've started a new blog, Tales from the Rain Puddle, which will share our stories from Bristol, UK.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Selling the Car Adventure

One of our last and most stressful adventures was to sell the BMW - a great car, but with high mileage for the area as I used it to commute to Abu Dhabi every day. And with BMWs coming out your ears in UAE, there is a lot of inventory to choose from.

We started with the community page, thinking those living in our area would understand the high mileage as they all commute as well. We also posted it on Dubizzle, which is a local version of Craigslist. A few nibbles and then one guy who offered 10,000 aed less (about $2700). Seemed like a real low ball to me, but Brian cautioned me to hold off as he wasn't sure we'd get many offers at all. So, we invited him to come look at the car, thinking Brian could use his past car sales experience to talk up the price.

Meanwhile, we have a drive train error pop up on the computer console. And not all the time, just every once in a while - the WORST kind of errors as they are almost impossible to diagnose. We took it to the mechanics, left it for 3 days, they replaced some gizmo and we thought all was well. This is now about 10 days prior to departure.

You know what happened, right? We got the error again! So, back to the shop and they think it has something to do with the 'dirty petrol' that UAE has suffered from over the past few months. ?? gums up the works apparently and can cause all kinds of weird issues. Bottom line: they can't find anything and without taking things apart and starting to replace random expensive pieces, there isn't much they can do. Not really an option 5 days prior to departure.

We decide to visit one of those "buy any car in 30 minutes" places to see what kind of a price they would give us. It's hassle free and we wouldn't feel bad about leaving them with a drive train issue. We pulled in - waited almost 2 hours (no truth in advertising) and they quoted a price 25,000 aed (about $6800) less than what we were asking! We still had 5 days - we weren't that desperate.

Brian provides full disclosure to our interested buyer (his low ball price looking pretty attractive now), and he agrees to take the risk at a further reduced price. Apparently, he works in a garage so feels like he can tinker if needed.

Great! 3 days to departure and things are looking up. Now we just have to transfer the title at the RTA (Transport Authority - think DMV) and collect the cash and finish packing.

Oh wait - he needs bank financing so a trip to an Abu Dhabi garage (in Mussaffah, which my UAE friends will understand!) is required to get the car inspected and provide a certification of some kind to the bank. The day before we're scheduled to leave and Brian has to drive to Abu Dhabi (we're now in temp housing in Dubai) while I take care of getting the cats ready for travel. While he's there, the guy explains that the bank could take a few days to approve the loan. WE DON'T HAVE A FEW DAYS! They agree to chat in the morning to see how long the bank needs for this.

Next morning, we find a different "buy your car quick" place and hope for the best - we need a back up plan if this guy's financing doesn't come through on time. This time, we had a much better experience and agreed on a price that was only $200 less than the guy who needs the financing approval. Great - done. 1:00 on departure day - cutting things a bit close, don't ya think? :)

And now we can relax . . . wait, no we can't, now we need to transport 9 suitcases and 2 cats on 3 different airlines from 2 different cities and hope we all end up in London!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Packing on two continents - deja vu

A few weeks ago, I posted about the experience of packing things up in the US for shipping. I'm happy to report that the US shipment has arrived in Bristol and is in storage (until we find a place to live). The shipment came A LOT faster than expected!

Once I returned to Abu Dhabi, it was time to do the whole thing over again, but even worse, as it wasn't all in a storage locker, but scattered around our 3 bedroom villa. Man, the stuff you accumulate! And I really thought we had done pretty well. When you're an expat on a 'short term' assignment, you often say to yourself "I don't need that, I won't be here that long." or "Is this something I want to keep forever?" Still, we end up with a villa full of stuff.

So, the same process of packing, sorting, selling and shipping started in earnest on this side of the world. One nice thing is that the For Sale/ To Buy page here was for the community and I wasn't working, so people could pop over any time to look at things and pick them up.

I again worked with a shipping company for some items to go from UAE to Bristol. This shipment was a lot smaller than the US one so in some ways easier to manage. The local guys showed up at 9am (an hour earlier than they said they would come!) and got to work immediately.

And did these guys work! It was one of the hottest days of summer in Abu Dhabi - 110 degrees F and 92% humidity . . . no, that's not a typo, it was beastly hot and humid. I seriously don't think I've ever sweat so much in my entire life.

Despite the heat, they finished in about 4 hours - almost the same time it took in the US, because they needed to box up everything as we weren't in our own shipping container, but were going to share it with others. Everything was boxed and carefully labeled - it was quite the impressive process.

The cats clearly were not impressed as evidenced here by Petra. :)
Our stuff is now waiting to ship out on the 25th (and yes, probably melting!) and should arrive here about a month later. It'll be like Christmas as I'm not sure I could tell you what I packed!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Adventure in Seattle: Pike Place Market

Our final Seattle adventure was the Pike Place Market - I know, tourist haven, but it had to be done. The market is remarkably similar to our visit 23 years ago, although I'll admit that we went early Monday evening so the place wasn't really hopping. In fact, the famous fish throwers were already cleaned up so we only got to see them throw garbage cans - not quite the same experience.

Great view of the sound from the market windows.

The first Starbucks. Line was too long to venture in - even on a Monday evening, but had to snap the photo.
The gum wall - yes, you read that right, GUM. Ewwwww. It was as disgusting as it sounds. And no, we did not contribute to it - I couldn't get any closer than taking the picture. Gross.

We finished the evening with some salmon cakes and fish and chips dinner a the Steelhead diner. Yum!

And that was that. A huge thanks to Andrea & Dan for hosting me - it was the perfect getaway from the packing and sorting and shipping chaos of our move to Bristol.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Adventure in Seattle: Chihuly Glass Garden

I only had a few days in Seattle so had to be pretty selective when it came to sightseeing. The Chihuly Glass Garden was at the top of my list and didn't disappoint. For those not familiar, Chihuly is a glass artist. He started blowing glass himself and then lost an eye so now paints the creations for his staff to carry out. He's had works all over the world and as you see the photos, you may recognize the style and remember seeing something like it somewhere yourself.

The museum and garden is parked at the bottom of the Seattle Space Needle, which provided some interesting photos. It was another gorgeous June day. Enjoy!

The Seattle icon itself - and such a clear day.

Amazing piece combining the glass sculptures with neon lighting.

The underwater room (or under sea room?) Doesn't this piece remind you of Ursula from the little mermaid?
The detail on these pieces was just amazing - we wanted to reach out and touch them. (not allowed of course!!)
The indoor garden - a whole room full of pieces that mimic a garden. Then you contrast this with the garden and sculptures outside - pretty incredible.

Chandeliers - you'd need some strong support beams for these babies - they're huge!

My favorite shot from the atrium with the space needle in the background.
The outdoor gardens were amazing, but unfortunately, the photos just don't do it justice. This is my best one. So creative.