Thursday, April 30, 2009

Logic Free Zone

I have heard many people describe the UAE as a “logic free zone”. Although this is an over exaggeration, there are times when it holds true. Here are a few examples:
Return policies are almost non-existent here. A friend of mine recently bought a baby monitor at a well known store; similar to a Wal-Mart. They took their new purchase home only to find out it did not work. When they took the item back to the store to ask for a refund they were forced to wait for an hour before they received help. The store officials finally agreed to grant the refund under two stipulations: the item could be exchanged for store credit only and the store credit had to be used that day. Why, you ask……I don’t know and neither do the store officials.
Secondly, there are times when we can frantically be searching for a parking spot only to drive past multiple cars that are parked sideways, taking up 3 parking spots. This is actually a common occurrence because no one matters but you!
Next, I just heard a report that someone was assassinated with a gold plated gun. That’s when you know you have more money than you know what to do with!
Another surprise about the UAE is that commonly your car will be washed while it sits in the car park and it’s totally free for you. This great service is a result of the fact that you can actually be ticketed if you have a dirty car. At one point there was actually talk of a law banning all cars more than 5 years old from the roadways. Luckily, they decided to scrap that idea due to the fact that it is simply ridiculous!
One final example took place just the other day when I visited a local hair salon. For a few weeks I had been asking around for a hairstylist. Finally I got a lead on a local hairstylist that did not charge outrageous prices (at least not for here). An acquaintance told me she got her hair cut and colored for only 550 dirham. This is roughly $150.00. Now keep in mind that not only was this quite cheaper than the 700 to 800 dirham I had been quoted at other salons, but the acquaintance had 2 to 3 times more hair than I do. Therefore, I thought my visit would be a bit cheaper. Additionally the hairstylist came highly recommended.
When I arrived at the salon I was not greeted with a warm welcome. I was stared at as if I was out of place. When I finally asked someone to help me they said someone would be right with me so I had a seat. When the stylist finally summoned me over to the chair she began to add color to my hair. Of course she could not do this without the help of her grossly underpaid Filipina assistant. Throughout the process the stylist continually degraded the quality of my previous cut and color.
Once the color was added and my hair was washed, she began to blow dry my hair. Then she asked me, “Blow dry and that is it?” At this point I was quite confused. Not only had I made an appointment for a cut and color but I had specifically made the appointment with Refi whom I assumed was a male. I did not think the stylist doing my hair was Refi, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. After all, maybe I had just made an assumption that Refi was a man.
I then asked her politely to please cut my hair as well. When it was all over she presented me with the bill. She said, “My name is Luna. Here's my number if you want to call me. It will be 500 for the color and 150 ($177.00) for the cut. The blow dry is free.” As I attempted to suppress my shock, I responded, “Thank you, how very generous of you,” and walked out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Life's UPs and downs

Family Update

This week has been rough. Pete and I could not be more excited about the fact that our villa will soon be ready. We were recently made aware of the miscommunications that can arise when living with people who do not have children. A few nights ago our roommate became quite irate over a simple misunderstanding. During this incident, I felt an increasing reassurance in our belief in Jesus Christ. As Christians one of the lessons we are taught is to forgive one another. Our roommate could not seem to grasp this concept. She refused to drop the “issue” until she was positive I had delivered a sincere apology. Finally, after about 20 minutes of unnecessary insults (on her behalf), she agreed to end the conversation and move on. Needless to say, things in the house are feeling a bit awkward today.
All of this took place after we arrived home from an amazing night of food and fellowship at the house of a friend from church. Last week we decided to sign up for an event called Adventures in Fellowship. This is an event in which a person or family of a specific nationality hosts a dinner at their house with the goal of introducing others to their culture. We were invited to the house of a British woman. Joining us were a Nigerian family and a woman from Belorussia. Although a few of us had seen each other at church, we had not yet had the opportunity to really get to know one another. Pete and I were so inspired to hear about each person’s walk with the Lord. They were all amazing people and it was such an honor to be in their presence!
So, with that all said…with every good thing bad also follows. However; we feel so encouraged by the plans God is carrying out on our behalf. We could never have imagined that such a wonderful church family would exist in a predominately Muslim country. Thank you for all your support and prayers. XOXOXO

Izzy Update

Izzy had her 4 month check-up on April 22nd. She weighed 15.2 lbs which is 6.9 kgs. During this appointment she received 2 shots and an oral vaccine. Unfortunately she screamed and screamed after the shots. Finally the Dr. said, "Give her to her father; he will clam her down." Sure enough, it worked! Soon after that she was all smiles again.
The Dr. was great. She was very competent and encouraged me to call her with any questions or concerns. She also suggested I try giving Izzy some pure rice cereal before bed to help her sleep more soundly. I struggled with the idea but soon decided to try it as I'm desperate for sleep. Izzy loved the cereal but it did not help her her sleep better at all. Nevertheless, I will continue to give it to her once a day. Of course she loves her mealtimes but she especially seems to love the novelty of eating with a spoon. She loves to get messy. I will post pics soon.
She is also being transitioned to her own room and cradle. We found a baby monitor that works well through these cement walls and she is doing much better on her own. Last night she only woke up 2 times!
Her personality is starting to develop so much more. She has started to really giggle. It is the cutest thing. Today she was smitten over the fact that I was singing her "Father Abraham" (the old Sunday school tune). She is so cute.

Keep in touch. Much love.

The St. Germains

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Huge giant leaps

Izzy has began doing everything more. She eats more, sleeps more, talks more, cries more, moves more, is teething more, and drooling more. She is developing quite quickly. A few days ago Pete bought her a walker and she loves it. She has now inherited the nickname "Scooter". It is so fun to watch her scoot around. She can nearly stand on her own with little support. An added benefit is that she picks up dust from the floor with her feet. We will soon be seeking a patent for 'baby swiffer booties' ™. Well, hope you enjoy the pictures and video. Much love!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Our life continues

I would love to be able to tell you all that my life is glamorous and filled with new adventures. However, that would be a lie. Now that our new move has happened and we are beginning to settle in, our life has become quite mundane. Although I love our new life, the UAE lacks a certain mystery I have experienced in other foriegn countries. Perhaps this is due to the westernization of the UAE. Part of me loves the fact that I can visit a Baskin Robbins or a Starbucks whenever I desire, while another part of me wishes we were deeply immersed in a new culture. However, the avaliablility of so many of the modern conveniences of home have helped to make the transition much smoother.
I had reported in a previous post that we found the perfect villa. Since then I decided that that particular villa would not work for us. Since making that decision we had been on a frantic hunt for the perfect place. During that process our highly recommended realtor became quite frustrated with our needs and decided she could not help us anymore. We asked around, drove around looking for signs, and searched the web and finally our prayers were answered. Some new friends from church happened to send us an email with the name of a realtor for a villa that was way out of our price range. When I actually contacted the realtor he had many availabilities and led us to the perfect place. Our new place is 3 bd, 4 bath plus a maids room (not that we intend on getting a maid but all the places have one), has a large garden (not yet landscaped), and is situated in a complex which includes a fitness center, pool, cafe, and many parks. It also allows for easy freeway access for Pete's commute to work.
Our realtor has so graciously negotiated the installation of all the light fixtures before we move in. It is not uncommon to move into a place and be expected to buy all your own appliances (stove, refrigerator, dishwasher), complete any landscaping yourself, and install all the light fixtures. I don't think they understand the term rent (we don't own it, you do!). It is also expected that the tennant pay 1 year of rent at the time of the lease signing. I can imagine that this is not an easy task for the common person. On average monthly rent ranges from $7,000-$10,000 US dollars/month in Abu Dhabi. Anyways, I will stop complaining and move on to bigger and better things.
We have been blessed with the best church community here. Although we have only been to church 3 Fridays so far, we have met so many wonderful people. The other day Pete watched Izzy while I went to lunch with a few of the women from church. We had a great time of fellowship and it was so nice to get a break. It was also great for Pete and Izzy to have some father-daughter time. He took her to the park and I think they even found a few geocaches.
I have also started going to the mommy's group. I have met so many wonderful women who allow me to pick their brains for information about life in Abu Dhabi. God has been so good to us during our transition.
We have also welcomed a new addition to our family. Lucy was abandoned in front of our current residence. Our roomate rescued her and the rest is history. I have been training her with some help from our roomate who is a well known dog trainer in Abu Dhabi. Lucy is a good girl but she's still a puppy and is very playful.
Well, I hope this finds you all well. Keep in touch. XOXOXOXO

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Open Mind

I realized that my last blog did not explain much about the culture here in the UAE so this blog is intended to do just that. As many of you know, the UAE is a rich country. It has made its wealth through oil. With that has come a segment of the population that is very privileged. And like many countries there is a large gap between the rich and the poor. There is really no middle class to speak of.Many of the rich do not need to work so they hire others to do it for them. The UAE has become the temporary home to many foreign national workers from all over the world, particularly the poorer nations. These people work for pennies on the dollar. Now, for some people this is the land of opportunity; while for others, it is the land of discrimination, segregation, and racism. It is not uncommon for a rich Emirati to go off on a foreign national because they attempted to put the "cheap" gas in their Bentley (a scene I witnessed just the other day) or for a foreign national to be stopped by an Emirati in a fit of road rage (another scene I have witnessed).Although these scenarios are frustrating, there are many things I appreciate about the UAE and it's people. For example, they are very prudent about demonstrating any type of physical violence in public or through the media. This country also has a very low incidence of crime. There are few problems with firearms or theft. I can go walking at 10:00 pm and feel safe. I can also leave my car running in front of a store without fear that it will be stolen or broken into. Women here are also allowed more freedoms than those in most other Arab nations. They are able to hold positions of power, work, drive, and decide their own choice of dress. These are all freedoms we take for granted. The other day I was informed that my husband will have to write a letter of permission in order for me to get my driver's license here. This was and still is irritating to me.Additionally, women wear the traditional dress and face coverings only if they choose to. Emirati's are also very family oriented. They pride themselves on participating in recreational activities. The city contains many well-kept parks and beach facilities and encourages people to use them.Many of us can also learn a lesson from the dedication they possess in practicing their religion. They pray 5 times each day. Each time the call to prayer is broadcast throughout the city as a reminder. Although I continue to be surprised by the daily events I witness here, I am maintaining an open mind. It is easy for any of us to judge something if it is different from what we are accustomed to. I am thankful that our daughter will spend the first few years of her life in a safe environment, however I know there will be many things I will have to explain to her. Despite the fact that she is a woman, she is still entitled to the same privileges men are. Although she is not a rich Emirati, she does not deserve to be looked down upon or talked down to.
I can only imagine what could be accomplished here with an anti-biased curriculum. Children should be taught from a young age that there is value in everyone. So, teacher any of you want to come start an anti-biased education movement in the UAE????

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Reunited again

So, many of you might be wondering, "What happened to the St. Germains?" Fortunately we are doing great. We have been forced to take an internet hiatus due to the fact that we do not yet have internet access in our temporary home. A friend has graciously loaned me their computer for the afternoon in order to tell you all how we are adjusting to life in the UAE.
On March 31st after a frustrating few days, our family was reunited once again in Abu Dhabi, UAE. For those of you who were not informed, our flight was cancelled out of North Carolina due to severe weather. This event caused us to miss our connecting flight in New York to Abu Dhabi. Luckily we were able to stay one more night in Charlotte, NC before heading out the next day.
The flight was wonderful. Izzy slept almost the whole time (13 hours) and when she was awake she was all smiles. I was very anxious so I did not get much sleep. The flight crew was wonderful and took very good care of us the whole way. If you ever decide to come this way I highly recommend Etihad Airways.
Our past week here has gone very smoothly. The country is very westernized and there are many expatriates from all over the world. After we stepped off the airplane and made our way through customs I was greeted by a wonderful sight...Starbucks (that's right Rick, you would not be deprived of your daily cup over here!).
Our main adjustment has been the sleep cycle. Izzy is doing quite well other than her teething pain which sometimes keeps her up at night. However, I have not quite established my sleeping schedule yet. Pete works nights which has made it hard for all of us to adjust.
There is plenty to do here during the day. The community we are living in has a pool, beach access, and a workout club. Although I enjoy where we are living now, it is only temporary. We spent two days with a realtor in search of the perfect place and found it today. It is a small gated community of only 10 villas but it is quiet and very safe. It even has a backyard for Kyp! We plan on bringing him over as soon as we are established.
We also found a great group of people at church. We went to church on Friday (friday is their sunday) and met from all over the world. After the service we went to lunch with 6 other couples. We plan on attending whenever we can. I also plan on joining the mom's group which meets every Monday.
Well, ,life here is great. Things are slowly coming together. We purchased our first set of furniture and will slowly be buying things to furnish our new home. I look forward to hearing from all of you soon. Keep in touch and bye for now.