|The Mosque in Abu Dhabi|
So, its been a while. I had a very interesting summer spanning several places all over the world.
Brussels, where I was very generously hosted by Bhutan's ambassador and his Aum and made very welcome by members of the Embassy team, Ugen Chozom and Sangye Chewang. My good friend Karma Pem and her husband drove all the way from the Netherlands to come and visit and once again I was reminded of how special it means to be a Bhutanese. The feeling of belonging to one big extended family ;) Then onto Paris and Bordeaux, Delhi, Bhutan and finally back in Abu Dhabi where I am to start my new life.
This is my second week here and it is hot, hot, hot! We are told that September is the month when the winds pick up and it starts cooling down. So looking forward to that.
Seems like coming to live here I will be trying do/get used to things that I am not used to/habituated to/ prone to doing. For instance -
* Starting the week on a Sunday and ending it on Thursday. In other words it's Thank God Its Thursday for us, not Friday. Friday is a Saturday and Saturday is our Sunday. So on Sunday everyone goes back to work/school etc.
* Getting used to AC 24/7. I hate Air conditioning. In NY I would try and minimize it's use and not have it on unless it got really hot, otherwise I liked opening my windows and feeling the air. In AD, there is no way I am going to open windows because it's just letting in nothing but hot air, and while I was prepared to brave the heat outside, I find we rarely spend anytime outdoors (because it is soo hot) We spend all out time indoors where they blast the AC's making me realize that all the warm clothes that I had left in NY would have me to good use here. I am making use of the few shawls and sweaters I had packed for Bhutan. And because it is so cold indoors you want to go out, and the instant you step out (if you wear glasses like I do) it instantly fogs up and you can't see anything for the first few seconds. At first it feels so good to be out of the AC and in the warmth, but very quickly you feel like you are in an oven and want to run back in.
* I am a believer in Global Warming/Climate Change and every day there was an extreme spike in temperature in NY or T/phu, it reminded me of it. Hence I try in my own little way to go green every way I can. I stopped eating beef for that reason/became anal about recycling and tried to live by the mantra that "Less is More." But being here I feel like I am reminded of Global Warming everyday - even though this is how it is! Also I have believed in conserving fuel by condemning and not wanting to live in the suburbs which would maximize the use of a car. But gas here is so cheap and given we may be living away from the main island, it looks like I may wind up with 2 cars! Well why not.
* Used to the 4 seasons, rain, monsoons etc. After the first week I got really tired of waking up to a clear, spotless sky everyday and knowing that the sun outside was already blazing/ scorching what it touched. I wanted to see clouds and see rain. Now that will be something I can very well dream off because the last rainfall I am told was last year! The UAE consumption of water is apparently the highest in the world. I am told that they use ocean water that gets treated through this very expensive desalination process which removes the salt for consumption. Oil here is like water, but sadly water here is like oil. You will see signs at the airport asking you to conserve water and be conscious of its use (which is great. Think Bhutan needs to do that too, because while we have rivers aplenty we have more water shortage there than they do here in Abu Dhabi. Which really says for how efficient we are in distributing that basic need.)
* A good thing is, I can work on that beer belly. An expat needs to get a license to be able to buy alcohol from duty free and we don't have one yet. There is no alcohol available in the market or in restaurants except hotels and hotel restaurants. Even after a glass of wine/beer, you cannot drive. No fooling around. You would think there would be less car accidents then - but alcohol or not, there are some crazy drivers out there. I have already started driving but very nervously. You can be the best/careful driver, but there are other obstacles that make me nervous. A tourist was recently deported for giving the middle finger after he got into an altercation with a local while driving. In some ways this will curb my wild side ;) and make me a pretty disciplined person by the time I leave this country - I guess/we'll wait and see ;)
Other than that, the one thing that I have been interested in learning about is the freedom of expression and civil liberties. And from reading the papers here and observing people, it is not as bad as many make it out to be. Because of our lack of knowing the region and with even the media (international) painting the region with one brush stroke, people tend to look at the middle-east as extremely conservative. While the locals still follow their traditions, immigrants and expats pretty much dress the way they want and do their own thing. The papers/ media (The Gulf and The National) seem to cover many issues that we wouldn't think they would. If you google the two papers you will see they are pretty comprehensive in their coverage of many issues concerning the middle east, including domestic violence and women's issues, as well as immigrant worker's rights/conditions.
There have been stories of people being deported and thrown out, but then again, this is a society that is still opening up and I think people need to give them time and appreciate the efforts they are making. But these are just my first impressions. I have a long way to go....
On other updates, I met 2 Bhutanese girls who are working at a grocery in the mall which is in the same building I am staying at temporarily. They were surprised and happy to see me and tell me that there is a 3rd girl from Bhutan who works there. I hope to run into them again once I have settled in.
More on life here later .....