October 17, 2009

The Long and Winding Road

And so the adventure begins.

We arrived after 24 hours of traveling and the first thing we did was go out for a drink. About par for the course, I'd say. A friend picked us up at the airport, and we met up with another soon after. Look at us: Brand new country and already we're social butterflies.

I like to think I'm already acclimated: went to sleep after midnight, stayed asleep for seven-plus hours. Got up and started to do things. The truth is, I'm utterly discombobulated. I know we are 11 hours ahead of California, but frankly we were traveling so long and through so much weird times (leave the house at 6 a.m., arrive in NYC after dark, at 5:30 p.m. local time. Get on the red eye to Abu Dhabi, fly all night, arrive the next night at 8 p.m. ....) So I'm pretending that all is fine and I'm on schedule. I'm also pretending that I wouldn't give anything for a nap right about now (it's 2 p.m.)

We start work tomorrow, Sunday, and meanwhile we have a host of errands to run. First on the list: get an internet hookup. We are staying in a hotel for the next two months, and while the accommodations are not luxurious they are more than comfortable. But we have to get online. The hotel has given us an official document that says we have permission to have Internet installed in our room. I still have to figure out where to go to get the ball rolling.

Right now both Paul and I are sitting in the downstairs internet cafe typing away. We've become so accustomed to our laptops -- with all its secret documents and passwords attached -- that it's quite foreign to be on another machine for personal use.

We managed to hit the bank and the grocery store this morning ... stocking up on bread and cereal and milk and yogurt. It wasn't a big store and the kinds of things they had were varied. If I knew how to cook Indian food, I'd be in pretty good shape. I didn't find any sandwich meat, but I did see Pakistani mutton. Grocery prices seem pretty reasonable.

It's hot outside, in a humid hazy sort of way. Not utterly uncomfortable, but not pretty. I have no clear sense of direction yet, and would love to see the ocean, but don't know where it is. I'm trying to decide what to make of things here, and I've decided it's much too early to tell. There is a lot of traffic, crossing the street is hazardous, buildings are unremarkable. It feels like a third-world country with some money, but there is little coherence.

It feels less crowded than Hong Kong, and much less convenient. I haven't seen the ubiquitous food stands and store-front laundries. It might be a factor of my location, but I just don't know.

There are lots of men wandering/loitering outside. Perhaps it's cooler outside than wherever they live. There are no bars to congregate at; maybe it's a way of hanging out without spending money. We haven't yet seen a lot of women. The Emirati men are notable by their traditional dress: White gowns with red checked head coverings. It is quite obvious that men are the majority population here. Also, that foreigners are a majority as well.

Now, mind you, I haven't been here even a full day yet and first impressions are often deceiving. I guess I'll give it a few more days :) ...

Next up, we get cell phone numbers and internet access -- check out the mall and get ready for a full day of work -- the first in many months for me.

Tonight we'll study our style guide, finish reading the day's newspaper (it's very nicely designed, and has a great Saturday magazine), and get used to the idea of a daily routine.

I can't wait!