Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 365: What we've learned

Today, Brian and I celebrate our one year anniversary in Abu Dhabi. In general, the time has flown and it's hard to believe a year has passed so quickly. Of course that might be because the weather is perfect right now - ask me in the middle of summer and I'll tell you it feels like we've spent a lifetime in a sweaty sand box. :) I thought it might be interesting to reflect on our year and make a few observations on what we've learned. Enjoy!

Roundabouts make sense: I know my WI friends still disagree as you run across more and more roundabouts in your areas, but over here, they really do make sense. The time we would spend waiting for traffic lights or trying to do a U-turn would be horrendous without the many roundabouts in the city. And, we're feeling pretty confident in our ability to navigate through them after a year on the roads ... if only all the other drivers were as clear on the rules.

Even though we all speak English, we don't all speak the same language: Having English as the common language in UAE is a blessing and makes life sooooo much easier, however, it's not that simple. Word choice, level of understanding, accents ... all make it challenging to communicate clearly. The good news is that I'm getting better at understanding the variety of accents and can even start to differentiate a few (although the other day I almost said someone from Scotland had the same accent as someone from Ireland, which would have gotten me in BIG TROUBLE). I've learned NEVER to guess an accent out loud, cuz I'm still wrong more than I'm right.

I'm not ready to retire: It took almost 9 months for me to land a job and it was a difficult and challenging 9 months for me. If I had known going in that I'd have a job (a great job) at the end of 9 months, that would have been different, but it was stressful not knowing if I would find something, anything, and that, plus too much free time, blistering heat and will-sucking humidity was not a great combination. The good part is that I learned a lot about the city, made some fantastic friends, had the best tan of my life (now gone, unfortunately) and really got a chance to 'settle' into Abu Dhabi before starting work, which I am very grateful for.

Patience, Patience and more Patience: Similar to our experience in Guinea, West Africa as part of the Peace Corps, we've learned again to be patient and not jump to conclusions or assumptions. Things just don't work here the way they do back in the US. It's not bad, just different ... okay, sometimes it is really walking that fine line towards bad, but usually, it's just different. We've had to adjust our attitudes around punctuality, customer service, acceptable dress, driving, and many many others. And that's exactly the reason we came - too see more of the world and realize (again) that the US isn't the center of the universe. My new motto is: There are hundreds of ways to do something 'right', which way will I choose today?

Don't believe everything you hear: Okay, yeah, we certainly knew this before we came, but it is even more clear as you realize how inaccurate some of the information published about this region back home is either inaccurate or incomplete. Women are not oppressed in this country - far from it, they are respected and have the same opportunities as men for the most part (separate blog coming with some statistics for you on this). Islam is not the 'evil cult' it is sometimes portrayed as in the media - at least not in UAE. It is a critical part of the culture and life in UAE, but there is also a tolerance of other beliefs that you wouldn't expect reading the news reports on this part of the world. And yes, there are other parts of the Arab world where this is not the case, but UAE is pretty amazing.

There are many more insights and understandings from the past year, but I'll leave it at that so as not to bore you. Suffice to say, we love it here and are really happy that we made the move - as difficult as it is to be away from family and friends (have I mentioned you are ALL welcome to come and visit?). As always, if you have specific questions, please let me know through a comment on the blog or a separate email.

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