I lost track of how long I’ve been here. Almost a week, it seems. My trip was strangely smooth and easy: no delays, no lost bags, I even arrived an hour early. It was great, no, great to see Shon again and hard to stay decent in a public place after a month-long separation.
Now I am here, with and even the worst jet lag ever cannot stand in my way of enjoying it! My first impressions, like all first impressions, I believe, are mixed and a bit confused. Here we go:
1. It does not look like a desert.
I knew Al Ain was an oasis, but I still expected something like Arizona and was relieved to find it so different. Palm trees, some other trees that look like weeping willows, even grass sometimes. It’s not lush by any means, but it’s not all dry and brown. It really is beautiful in its own way.
2. The sky is not blue.
It’s hard to say where I got this notion, but I expected what Shon calls the American West sky here: big, blue, with scorching sun. The sun is scorching all right, but you don’t see it – or much else – because of the haze. Several people said it is caused by the wind above the desert. To give you an idea, Shon has been driving to school for a week now, and it was not until yesterday that he saw dunes nearby.
3. It’s a Noah’s Ark, a Tower of Babel.
The mix of languages, accents, and nationalities is phenomenal. I love it.
4. There is a mix of American, European, and local products/brands everywhere.
You go to a mall and see Bath and Body Works next to Marks and Spencer next to an abaya store. In the grocery stores, I see brands I’ve completely forgotten about since I left Russia. It makes sense, but I didn’t think about it before coming.
5. I like everyone we met so far.
In Cuthbert, it took us about a year to meet people of our age and make friends. Here, we already know several couples.
6. The mosques are so very beautiful.
I keep waiting for the weather to get just a little more tolerable and life a little more normal to start venturing out to take pictures. The call to prayer is beautiful, too, I think.
7. I haven’t seen any high-rises in Al Ain.
Most houses seem to have 2-3 floors, which means the city is spread out and feels open. I don’t really feel I live in a city until we go out and it doesn’t take an hour to get somewhere.
8. The British influence is very noticeable.
The first thing that comes to mind is “ground floor” instead of “first floor,” but there’s more than that.
9. Life is rather difficult without a stove and a blender.
But that will soon change.
This is all I have to say right now. My rather slow washing machine seems to be done. Housework awaits!