March 8, 2011

Something to Read

I just added a new blog to my blog roll -- A Canadian in Abu Dhabi. It's written by a colleague and she has some interesting viewpoints about life here in the desert.

And her "Overheard in the Newsroom" quotes are always funny. I regret (am proud?) to say that occasionally some of them are mine.

Oh, and if you haven't checked out A Road Well-Traveled, you should. That's written by a friend and former colleague who is now based in Kabul. Her perspectives are always fascinating.



Everyone says I don't blog enough and I always say it's because I don't do anything blog worthy. The truth is, on my day off I usually go to the grocery store and occasionally will go out. End of story.

But from time to time, I get ambitious. This isn't really blogworthy, either, but hey, you asked for it.

My day was planned out: Benjamin, my taxi driver, would pick me up at 11, I would go to get my driver's license, I would head out to the mall because the mobile mammogram people were there (yes, TMI but it's relevant), I would get new glasses because I can't read the tiny print anymore and I'd be back in time for a dinner date with Paul. Perfect.

Then the kinks came into play. Benjamin, who can usually wait for me, had to be somewhere so he just dropped me off. It turns out I didn't have all the documents for my driver's license (see previous post) and so I had to go out in the street to find a cab, which took a while, then go to my office to get the papers and go back to the license office. That killed a good hour.

Got the license (And you may be wondering why I have a driver's license when I have no intention of driving. It's because in my ever-optimistic fantasy life I have great hopes that I will someday live in France again and they have a reciprocal agreement with the UAE to exchange licenses; California does not. I am totally serious about this).

Then went out to find a cab, again, to take me to the mall. I'd been meaning to get the mammogram taken care of -- as with all things -- and since it's International Women's Day, there was a special mobile mammogram truck at the mall offering free mammograms to women over 40. Sadly, I qualified.

When I get there, though, I find out they aren't open until 3pm. I'm not sure if they were open and I didn't get there in time, because of all the screw-ups of the morning, or if they were only open from 3 pm onward. It doesn't matter, though, because it's 12:45.

I'm trying to figure out how I can kill two plus hours. It's not a very good mall. I decide I'll get an eye test -- which I'd been meaning to do (do you sense a pattern here?) and get new glasses. They have three optical stores there and they all suck. Designer names are important here, so most of the stores carry designer frames. But those are all really expensive -- like $270 -- and I'm used to Costco prices. My insurance will only cover $136 of anything I decide to do, including the exam and/or the lenses. It would be different if I had found anything I liked, but I didn't. What appears to be in style are frame-less glasses. With my prescription that doesn't usually work so well. And have I mentioned it's hard to see how your glasses look when you aren't wearing your glasses? Exactly.

So I give up this pursuit and decide to go home. Thwarted in all my good intentions. I call Paul and he suggests a movie. I hadn't thought of that. Turns out a movie I'm actually interested in seeing starts in 20 minutes, and I figure I can wait that long.

It turned out to be a great idea. I love going to the movies when the theaters are empty. There were 141 seats in this theater and three people. It's just quiet and relaxing and you get caught up in the film and the darkness ... It was just really good for me. Totally calmed me down.

Afterward, the mobile mammogram thing was open, got that done and voila -- some things actually done and accomplished on a day off.

Next: Getting glasses.

Getting Legal

Last week I got my alcohol license renewed. Like most things around here, the actual doing is easy, it's the prepping that takes some work.

Today, I got my driver's license. The Abu Dhabi police run a super-efficient "DMV" type place. You make one stop, they take your papers, you get a number, they call you, bam -- license done.

But again, it's all in the prepping. To get a license, you need a copy of your passport (easy) and residence visa (easy). These are required for just about everything, so I have copies around. You need you Emirates ID or proof that you applied. You need a letter from your employer saying they do not object to your having a driver's license. You need a mug shot. Got one. So far, these are the same things I needed for the liquor license.

But you need a copy of your US license translated into Arabic. That's what the ubiquitous typing shops around town do. They translate documents from whatever language into Arabic for various legal documents.

See, you knew there was a catch.

That is usually not a big deal. There are three across the road from my office. Only one was willing to do the translation. I have no idea why. It usually takes a couple of hours, and this took a couple of days because of the Prophet's birthday and some other inexplicable (as in not explained to me) reason. So, finally got that.

Now, it was a matter of taking the time to go. The "DMV" is nearby, unlike the alcohol license center at a police station halfway to the airport. They're open from 7 am to 9 pm. I decided to just do it today, since I had a rare weekday off.

I gathered all my documents. I had been keeping them in one place so I wouldn't forget anything. I got there, a woman asked me for a few things that Paul hadn't mentioned, like a mug shot. Then she sent me to wait for an eye exam. (Which the doctor fudged -- I didn't pass it) He never mentioned that, either. I thought it was a bit odd, but if nothing else, bureaucracy here is never consistent.

After the eye exam I got sent to the license window, they called my number right away and I was on my way.

Except I forgot the translation of my license. The one key piece of information I had to have. The woman at the front desk assumed I was renewing an existing license, since I didn't have that paper, and so never said anything.

But where were the documents? They should have been with the others. I called Paul, he looked in the only two places I would put them and they weren't there. Which means I had left them at work. I called a colleague, she looked in my desk and of course, that's where they were. I had picked them up during a shift, stuck them there without thinking and promptly forgot about them.

So, I went back outside to find a taxi that took me to the office to get the paperwork and then take me back to the license place. The woman at the reception sort of smirked at me when I came back, this time waving the translation. She gave me a number, it was immediately called, I paid my fees (which, by the way, are less than the fee for the alcohol license, which is good for just one year), and I had my license in hand within five minutes. It's good for 10 years, so I won't be doing that ever again.

See, just like I said -- easy as pie.