It’s a little hard to believe how quickly time passes; of course, we probably slept off a couple days as we recovered from the worst of the jet lag (and vertigo, and heat stress, and stomach worries). We’ve been at our hotel for ten days. It’s not feeling like home yet–do hotels ever feel like home?–but we are taking steps toward being at home in Dubai.
Among the steps are administrative/bureaucratic tasks–visas, driver’s licenses, house hunting, bank accounts, car shopping. None of those are fun, but most of them are tiring, requiring a lot of driving around town (which inevitably involves a good bit of getting lost), standing in queues, taking numbers, asking strangers for directions, finding bathrooms for a kid with traveler’s diarrhea, looking for lunch at 2:30 in the afternoon and such.
So, we try to punctuate the drudgery with tourism, in order to keep it light for the grownups and fun for the kids. We have visited three enormous malls, two of them several times (had M’barek stuck around at Ibn Battuta a couple days ago, he might have caught a glimpse of Paris Hilton…but that wasn’t exactly a priority). We’ve seen the ski hill and the skating rink and the aquarium and underwater zoo. We’ve visited the Grand Mosque, gone dune-bashing in the desert, and bobbed in the warm, turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf, with a view of Burj al Arab and “The World.”
Life has effectively turned upside-down.
M’barek has his visa and driver’s license. We found a lovely villa to rent in Jumeirah 3, a short walk from the beach. We need a document from Morocco for my visa, and M’barek’s brother is working on that. The children have been accepted into school for the fall semester.
We’re hoping to move into the villa mid-June, a week before M’barek has an out-of-country business trip. That means I need to get my visa and license, start driving (really?!) and get ready to be on my own in Dubai with kids. We’re getting advice–good, earnest, honest, well-intended advice–from every direction about every aspect of living. Buy local produce. (It’s safer than the shipped-in-from-all-over-and-sprayed-with-Allah-knows-what alternatives that might look fantastic and give you ulcers.) Drive assertively. (No one really wants an accident, but you have to demand your right of way, or someone else will take it.) FInd a family club for kids’ activities. (At least 4 months a year are essentially indoor-only.) Get an SUV. (Better for that inevitable accident no one wants to have.) Don’t kid yourself; you won’t “get used to” 120-degree weather. (You’ll find ways to cope, though.)
And nowadays, people say “Ramadan” and shake their heads and laugh (perhaps a little bitterly). Ramadan runs through August this year. The hottest month of all. We declare with resignation, if we can survive this Ramadan, then we know we can do any Ramadan at all.
Surely, we will adjust in many ways over the next several months.
Meantime, last night I had the most amazing treat: Amy, a dear friend from college, happens to be on a business trip in Dubai! M’barek dropped me at her hotel yesterday, and we got to visit for hours. I could have visited with her and her colleague easily for another 8 hours, but we eventually ran out of time and I had to come back to my hotel. I hope to see her a couple more times over the course of her week here. How fun to marvel at this place in the company of a good friend. And yes, I also caught myself marveling at the fact, however unlikely, that here we were, so very far from where we had first become friends, picking up not where we left off, but right where we are now–with the same love and comfort as always.
Friendship itself is a refuge and a home.