Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Have a Looksie

Our trip to Dubai was more business than pleasure.  We were on what is called a "Look~See" in the expat world.  Translation:  Bring wifey to foreign country;  Look & See if she is willing to make this home for the next 2-3 years.   (My hat goes off to the brave women i've met who moved sight unseen.)   We were given a tour guide per se to take us around the city, show us homes, schools, grocery stores and acquaint us with the general area and some of its culture.  Our intent was to secure a home and enroll kids in a possible school.  Both of which are apparently very difficult tasks in Dubai.  Thankfully, our guide had the loveliest of British accents.  For some reason even blows of the worst news can be softened with a British delivery. 

"Yes, prah-pah-ty is incredibly difficult to secure here in Dubai.  I will show you some brilliant prah-pah-ty but you will not be able to guarantee it for your move in January.  Ah yes, and there are currently no schools that have openings for both of your children, I am sorry to say." 

Our days felt exhausting at times.  We viewed so many rentals we had to take pictures of each place just to keep things straight in our jet lagged minds.  

Prime location, small spaces....

Looking for a good deal?  Follow the unfinished buildings and abandoned cranes for sweet savings!

Even the smallest front yards will have grass once they are completed.

Can you read Chris' face?  He had an opinion before he entered the front gate.

Then there were the schools.  So many choices!  Were we looking for an American, International or a British curriculum? An International Baccalaureate Program straight away or starting in high school?  There was new lingo we had to wade through; grades KG1 and KG2, 13 year vs 14 year schools.  Headmasters & The Ministry of Education both of whom were requiring copious amounts of documentation just to be put on a wait list!  Three days of this type of overload coupled with jet lag seems to be just the right conditions for a perfect storm.  i will unashamedly admit i did have a breakdown right there on our balcony.

Want to know what put me over the edge?... that lovely British tour guide.  She has more information on Dubai stored in her brain than i thought was humanly possible.   Apparently my limited brain could input no more and her fabulous British accent suddenly morphed into something akin to Charlie Brown's Teacher.

"On your right you will see the most exclusive whaa-whaa, built by whaa-whaa-whaa, and owned by whaa-whaa.  It its parking garage you will find stalls large enough to park a Rolls Royce."  

After that it was all black....

Chris apparently timed my breakdown and reported it back to his boss.  i quickly discover a previously undisclosed aspect of the "Look~See."  Look and See how often she cries.  Chris' thoughtful Higher Ups kept texting him to check in with how i was doing.  From what i gather the crying rubric starts at the under 4 minute mark and works its way up the clock.  i still am unclear on what officially makes the grade but from what i can gather i received the stamp of approval.

Thankfully at the end of the week some of the loose ends were tied up.  Well, sort of.  We toured a school that was BEAUTIFUL and just so happen to maybe have room for both our children.  We also decided on a house that may be available for us in January and may be within our price range so our name is on the top of that list.  i know, it sounds like not much was accomplished but Thursday we felt like we had some questions answered and our balcony reflection looked like this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Piecing Together the Kaleidoscope

How can i possibly sum up my first impression of Dubai?  It is unlike any place i have been to.  It is impossible to string together a few sentences to sum up such an extravagent and diverse place.  i would liken it to the task of putting together a 5000 piece puzzle with no picture to guide you.  The pieces are all there but before you can construct it you have to sort out all the edges, corners and make sure each piece is right side up.  Even once that task is complete, the thought of assembling an unknown picture can seem daunting.

i became a sponge the moment i entered SF international airport.  It was as if i had never been to an airport before and i attempted to take it all in as a fully as possible.  Flying to a different country for a vacation is VASTLY different than flying for the purpose of moving your family into a entirely new hemisphere.  Everything i encountered was processed through my "mommy filter."  What will my kids see, feel and experience?  The first realization hits me even before my feet leave SF.  Descending down the escalator to our gate where we would catch a direct flight to Duba, i encounter a sea of Indian faces and brightly colored saris.  Our flight would hold about 300 people and of those 300 there where approximately 6 westerners.  Of those westerners, i was THE only blonde (natural or otherwise ahem). Nobody seemed to take notice of the token blonde girl but for the first time in my little USA life i was the minority.  And you know, i like that my kids will have that experience in their pocket sooner than i did.

The 15 1/2 hours flight was long but as bearable as possible on an Emirates Airline with an empty seat next to me.  It was also my first of many tutorials on Bollywood movies and dance :-)

The night we arrived in Dubai, Chris and i checked in to our hotel and took a stroll along the marina.  He asked me what my first impressions were of the city and i was amazed that i wasn't surprised by anything i had seen yet.  i'm sure it's the hours, possibly days i spent reading up about the history, culture and rise of Dubai.  However, stepping out of the pages and onto the street can provide you with a whole new storyline.

Part of piecing this experience together is realizing there are American bits and pieces everywhere, some expected some not.

It's sort of like playing I Spy....

Then also realizing there are things you NEVER thought you would find in a Muslim country...

Ja! It's the real deal, complete with brats, beer and an authentic oompah band straight from Germany.  

Dubai appears to be an ever whirling kaleidoscope of sounds, sights, smells of cultures.  The marina is a perfect example.  Walking out into the marina the evening weather in October is a perfect temperature, balmy with a slight cooling breeze.  The scent in the air is a mingling of sea salt, dessert sand, and fruit sweetened shisha.

Shisha tent
(Shisha smoke for the record is unlike tobacco smoke which in my opinion is thick and tends to choke out all surrounding air.  Shisha smoke reminds me more of a fruit scented incense that you would burn to perfume the air only not as pungent. ) 

Dark haired little girls are playing in the water fountain as mom and dad snap pictures.  On the local restaurant patio a group of muslim woman are celebrating a baby shower for the newest arrival.... a little girl.  i know this because a few of the woman have their heads covered with a simple scarf and the ballons tied to the backs of their chairs are the same "It's a Girl!" ones i find in my grocery store at home.  Ahead of me is a couple holding hands and quietly speaking in french.  We walk past another outdoor area where elegant and cozy couches house beautiful Emirate nationals.  Couples spending an evening together in any culture look very similiar.  The women sit closely as they giggle and share the local gossip in arabic while their husbands sit adjent to them discussing whatever it is men discuss.  Their body language is a mirror image of what i would find in my own home when it is filled with close friends.  The only difference really is that the women are wearing abayas while the men are wearing the traditional Kandoura.  It's hard not to be captivated by their exotic beauty as they sit with the shisha pipe between them.  

Chris and i sit down on a nearby bench to "people watch."  There couldn't possibly be a better seat on earth.  Women dressed in the latest high fashion, totter to nearby clubs.  Men in expensive suits discuss their latest business strageties.  Little curly haired twins ride their motorized miniature car along the path way as mom and dad follow behind.  It seems that every person passing has a completely different dress and accent.   Before long my mind is constantly in a flurry trying to place the origins of people based on their dress and accent.  

Marina Views

i arrive fully aware this is a muslim country.  i discover while we are there the goal is to have a mosque every 500 meters. 

Deira the old city

Yet on Friday we attend a Christian church service.   (That's right, i said Friday.  It will take awhile for us to adjust to the Friday/Saturday weekend with work starting back on Sunday.)   As it turns outThe Sheik (pronounced shake) of Dubai has given land for churches to build on and hold services.  

i would say that is very generous of him!

Needless to say i am still trying to process the constant dichotomy here.  

i took the following picture for the sole purpose of capturing the Spice Souk sign.  (i will have to dedicate a whole post on just the spice souk!)  Yet upon close inspection i realized i had unknowingly, captured a perfect glimpse of Dubai. 

 The fascinating kaleidoscope of the old and new merging with the East and West.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On Your Mark....Get Set....

It is a little surreal to begin our first post in this blog.  In the past i have been a pretty private blogger, only posting for family and close friends that want to keep up with our small town happenings.  Now that our adventure is quickly taking shape and materializing before our very eyes, i have decided to take the advise of several friends and BLOG about our crazy and exciting adventure.

In case you haven't heard we are taking a wild step of faith and accepting a short term work position in the Middle East.

When you prayerfully walk through open doors you might just end up on a flight to Dubai... (eeek!)

Dubai is located on the Persian Gulf in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is considered apart of the Arabian Peninsula.

Almost always, people's first response to our impending 3 year Dubai stint is a wide eyed, dropped jaw, one word response.  "WOW!"  Being students of the English language and quickly discovering this is the new Burnett catch phrase, we have learned to decipher the varied tones and meaning behind it.  The most common "WOWcarries an inflection in the voice that says, "Dude, you guys are CRAZY!"  Then there is also the inquisitive scratching the head "WOW" which desires to know why we would do such a thing and secretly wonders if we are being sent into some sort of political exile.  Finally there is the amazed "Wow" which is usually followed up by, "That will be quite an adventure.  I've heard that place is...  "

We too are in agreement with each of those WOWs.  WOW!!   We NEVER would have guessed  this path.  But at the end of the day we have a complete peace and excitement about this HUGE move.  Already it has been an incredibly bonding family adventure and we haven't even packed our bags yet!

As a family, we decided awhile back we would be open to an international move should the opportunity present itself.  So after much prayer, research, consideration and Chris' surveying the land we are walking forward.  The past 6 months has been a little trial period for us and looked something like this...

Daddy coming home from "work" is a pretty big deal around here

Bedside reading ~ a whole new subject matter

Sleepy morning eyes Skype daddy to "kiss" him goodnight.

The Littles have big time passports!

Daddy's idea of downsizing the filing cabinets

What's up with Dubai anyways?
Dubai is known for its over the top bigger than life way of thinking.  Only in Dubai can you find the world's tallest building the Burj Khalifa, cool off from the desert heat by Snow Skiing in the mall and find man made islands visible from space.  It is truly where East meets West.  Dubai has become one of the fastest growing cities in the world.  

It is a Muslim country and no i will not be required to wear a "burka." (This question almost ALWAYS immediately follows one of the formerly mentioned "Wows".)   However just to clarify, typically women in UAE wear abayas which can be quite varied in style.

In case you are already thinking of planning a trip to visit us, you can catch a direct flight out of SF straight to Dubai on the fabulous Emirates Airlines.  It will take you about 16 hours and will route you by way of the North Pole, cool right?!

Dubai's population is made up mostly of expats from all over the world and is considered to be one the most cosmopolitan places in the world.  In fact nationals only make up about 18 percent of the population.  

What's up with us?
Needless to say our life is one big ball of crazy right now.  We are trying to live life normally here in the states while attempting to preparing for the unknown.  The thought of packing seems daunting as closets are harboring things i've haven't unpacked since the last move.  The kids are excited yet are just starting to realize how much they will miss their friends.  There are all sorts of different emotions and feelings circulating around here and all we can say is.... WOW!