Jenia thinks I’m having all the fun while she’s stuck at home doing nothing.
She’s kind of right.
I’m counting my pennies. That keeps me in the hotel a bit more than I like. Abu Dhabi isn’t exactly a walker’s paradise–there’s so much construction around that many areas nearby the InterContinental don’t even have sidewalks. Counting my pennies (or fils, I guess, since dollars don’t work here) also means I try to dine modestly most of the time. Last night I ate a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my room. But I do usually manage to go out to eat one meal. Yesterday I accompanied two other teachers to a Mongolian Chinese joint where we ordered rice and a couple of main courses. Since I’m the vegetarian, I got bean curd. We all split the tab, spending a total of 60 dirhams (which is $16.35). The food was pretty good, so that was nice. Counting my fils also means that I try to ride with other people to spit cab fare. Today I finally made it to the Grand Mosque, only because I found someone else who hadn’t gone yet, and we shared the fare. It was 33 dirhams each way, and I only had to pay one way. Traveling with other people also means that you and the other people compromise sometimes on what your’e doing and where you’re going. It doesn’t make getting around easier. It does make me be a bit more social, though, and surely that’s a good thing. Except that most of the other teachers here are women, and my wife gets jealous (needlessly, of course). So it’s not always a good thing to be more social after all.
Pinching my fils meant that I went with a Nirvana tour group to Dubai on Monday. An 11-hour trip in all, most of which was spent in (yawn) the biggest mall in the world. So eight hours in Dubai…at a very busy shopping mall. Not my idea of the best trip in the world. But there were highlights, as I ventured out with new friends Shawn and Ryanne, and Susanne and Fadi and their child, to Dubai Creek (did you guess that we split cab fare? Yup!), into the silk souk and then across the Creek on a delightfully old-tech abra (that would be a 1-dirham water taxi) to the gold souk. The heat was oppressive, so oppressive, in fact that the (yawn) mall, with all its air conditioning, started to seem attractive. Pinching my fils meant that after splurging on some gelato and a coffee in the mall, I sat around on a bench and played on my iPhone. Pinching my fils meant that although I could ogle the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, I couldn’t spent the 100 dirhams to buy a ticket to the observation deck.
Tonight I’ll continue being a cheapskate and go to the Marina Mall, head to Carrefour, and purchase some food from the deli. It’ll be cheaper than it would be to purchase something of questionable nutritional value in the food court (I had some terrible Chinese there one night, and decent-but-not-very-cheap Sbarro pizza another evening).
What it comes down to is that while my wife does mundane day-to-day things in the USA, I’m doing (with a few notable highlights, obviously) pretty mundane day-to-day things in the UAE. It’s true that I’m meeting new people, but I’m mostly not building deep or lasting friendships. It’s true that I’m seeing new things, but not at the rate or depth that I’d like. It’s true that I’m the one who periodically gets scared by a crazy cab driver, and that I’m the one who’s experiencing the peculiarities of UAE society right now. But, to shift to addressing a specific person now, honey, I think you’ll get more than your share of these kinds of experiences when you arrive next month, and we’ll get to do things the right way–in more depth, and at our leisure together.
Enjoy your time on familiar shores, because it’s different here–and not always in a sensible, logical, or even good way. It is, however, exciting, and you can look forward to having your mind blown by both the similarities and differences when you get here. As for similarities and differences, I think I’ll make that the focus of my next post.