Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Packing on two continents

Unemployment has been good so far (well, except for that no income bit). I stopped working on the 2nd of June and got on a plane for the US on the 8th. I'm here for 3 weeks sorting out all the stuff we left behind when we moved to Abu Dhabi for "2 years". Now that we're continuing the adventure in  UK, it's time to sort through properly and decide what we'll ship to UK and what we'll get rid of.

We had a 3 bedroom house in Wisconsin and put most of it in storage when we moved to Abu Dhabi thinking we'd be back in a couple of years and pick up where we left off. Little did we know we'd catch the expat bug so completely and decide to stay in the sandbox for 5 1/2 years and then decide to continue our adventures in the UK.

As a result, I'm faced with a storage locker worth of stuff to organize, which has been some work and a fun trip down memory lane. The first order of business was to get rid of all the electronics - nothing will work in UK due to the different voltage. Some has gone to family, some is posted on Craigslist and some to St. Vincent de Paul. And a lot of it I would have loved to take with me, but I learned that hard lesson after burning out a boombox and a hairdryer in my first month in Abu Dhabi.

Next up is the furniture. The challenge here is that we don't yet know where we'll live so have only a vague idea of how much space we'll have. In general, I've been informed that UK room sizes are smaller than US so I've been trying to keep that in mind. We'll see.

And then there are all the boxes of misc. stuff - kitchen stuff, decorations, clothes. I'm sure I've sent away stuff I will regret, but something had to give. And I'm now down to a manageable amount to ship across the pond.

Shipping company comparison was another fun adventure and at one point you have to just take the leap of faith and sign with someone. They come on Friday and we'll see if I made a good choice - too late now to change the plan.

Our shipment will take 45-60 days to reach UK by boat and I'm hoping by then we'll have a house sorted and can move things right into our new place. If not, we'll put it in storage there and have to move everything twice - not ideal.

Despite the work and the expense, I'm excited to have some of our familiar things in UK - should make things feel like home a lot faster.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I'm famous!

Okay not really, but probably as close as I'll ever get. I got an email today that Abu Dhabi Adventures has been selected for Abu Dhabi's list of best bloggers in Abu Dhabi to read. You can find the list here. And just in time for me to pack up and leave the sandbox. Oh well.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ramadan Kareem - 2016

It's our 6th Ramadan in the sandbox - wow! Well, actually, I'll be in the US for most of it, but I still think it counts as number 6. For those who don't know, Ramadan is a special month of the Islamic calendar and the month where all Muslims are required to fast (no eating, drinking or smoking) from sunrise to sunset. It's a very holy time where many try to read the Quaran (holy book) from beginning to end and work to keep their thoughts positive and calm. It's a time of family gatherings, generosity, reflection and prayer. Today marks the first day of Ramadan and the traditional greeting for this is Ramadan Kareem.

For us non-Muslims living in the region, it means all the restaurants are closed during the day and we also cannot eat, drink or smoke in public. Each year, they publish a list of places that serve breakfast and lunch for non-Muslims. They are usually in hotels or tucked away places and always curtained off or with frosted windows. At work, the 12th floor cafeteria is open with frosted windows and door and that's the only place you can eat or drink during the day. No coffee or water at your desk, which always takes a few days to get used to.

At the end of the day, the fast is broken with an Iftar, which starts with a few dates and some milk or juice to break the fast, then evening prayer and then a feast. The hotels go wild with their Iftars and they end up as lavish as the brunches, but without the booze!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Unemployed - Day one

So I showered today. And brushed my teeth. Now, it wasn't until 3:30 in the afternoon, but hey, I think that's pretty good for my first day of unemployment. Thursday was my last day at work so I'm now a deadbeat until we move to Bristol and someone gives me a job. It's a nice feeling for now, but I know I'll be stir crazy within the month.

I'm currently keeping busy getting things organized for our move. To do lists are everywhere as are boxes. We're trying to minimize what we ship from Abu Dhabi to Bristol as we want to also ship some things from the US. We've had a storage locker there for over 5 years now and it's time to move some of that stuff with us.

And that means I'm listing a bunch of misc stuff on our community For Sale Facebook page. Now in so many ways, this little page is a godsend because we live in the middle of the desert so no one from Dubai or Abu Dhabi is going to drive out here for some used furniture and kitchen items. In other ways, it's a total pain in the ... Here's a typical exchange:

Them: Hi, is it still available?
Me: Yes (I just posted it two seconds ago - of course it's still available)
Them: How much?
Me: 100 dirhams (just like it says in the posting)
Them: Can you hold it for me until tomorrow? I would like to look and then maybe I'll take it.
Me: I can't hold it, but if it's still available tomorrow, you're welcome to look. 

(radio silence for 3 days)

Them: Hi, is it still available?
Me: Yes
Them: How much?
Me: 100 dirhams (just like the last time you asked)
Them: Okay
(Me: Okay? What does that mean? You want it, you don't want it? Ugh)

And it goes on and on like this. I've had people stand me up for specific times after I'd changed my plans to accommodate them. I've had people low-ball the price so badly, that I've wanted to ignore them completely and I've had people walk in and then practically snoop around on their own asking if I have anything else for sale. One woman asked if I had any other items for 5 dirhams. It's been an interesting cultural experiment. Indian and Arab cultures definitely haggle and haggle hard (but of course so do I). Asian and Western cultures tend to take the price as is, assuming that I've already listed things pretty low. And the Eastern Europeans seem to be the worst for promising to come and then not showing up. Of course, my sample size isn't large enough to validate any of this, but it is pretty funny to see some of the stereotypes play out.

So despite my first world problem, it is a lot easier than having to move the stuff ourselves or get pennies for it from a second-hand furniture place so I'll just think of it as an adventure and carry on.