Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ask me why? (part 1)

At the risk of reducing my conversation topics to zero, it's time to provide the answers to the questions I have had (still have in some cases) and others have about Dubai, and us in Dubai.

Where is Dubai? In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the Middle East, on the Arabian peninsula across the Persian (Arabian) Gulf from Iran, bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman. It's almost exactly the other side of the earth from Seattle and about the same latitude as Key West.
(Map thanks to

Why are you going there? Mike will be a resident engineer for SNC Lavalin, a Canadian company, and he's working on a 1.2 billion dollar (not a typo) power plant project. Mostly, he will be working with construction superintendents to hire and manage contractors (multi-million dollar contracts). I don't know what I'll be doing there. Being a Mom. I'd like to get my SCUBA certification. My fantasy is to have a cook who teaches me how to make her native cuisine. My truly nutty fantasy is to run my first marathon there in January. Now that would be a killer Tshirt, yes? (The 10K is far more likely. I don't know if I'll adjust well to running in such heat).

How hot does it get there? Hot. Damned hot. 50 C. That's 122 degrees F, to save you the math. And very humid, since it's on the Gulf. Am I worried? Oh, yes, I am.

How long will you be there? Our commitment is for 2 years, three if we like it.

How long is the flight? 9 3/4 hours from SeaTac to Amsterdam, a 6 hour layover, and then another 6 1/2 hours from there to Dubai. We'll arrive at 10 pm Dubai time.

Will you be drugging the children with Benadryl on the plane? The flight is awfully long. It'd take a lot of Benadryl. We are, however, flying first class (!), so Mike and I are planning to drink and encourage the passengers around us to do so as well should our children become unruly.

This having been said, we have researched thoroughly what to do for and with kids in this situation and are putting our faith in 1. lollipops for pressure changes, hoping for 2. grandmotherly-type fellow passengers (the ones we don't drive to drink) who will be tickled to give the little ones attention, 3. a new DVD player with a long battery and new kid DVDs we know they're going to like, as well as some well-loved familiar ones and 4. new clever packs full of fun toys and books and such from Auntie, Grandma and Nana. Favorite stuffed animals.

We've made sure Thomas is used to watching the DVDs with earphones on. We're reading books about flying, talking about being on the plane. Before the flights one of us will go in with the luggage to stake out our territory and the other will stay in the terminal with the kids until the last possible minute, to reduce seat time. We're taking the car seats. We're bringing pullups for Bethy (don't tell her you know about that!). Jamba Juice kid's plastic bottles that do not leak. (I highly recommend these). Thomas will be wearing a bright orange shirt that proclaims "my parents are exhausted" across the front. I'm hoping for some points from our fellow travellers for truth in advertising.

On the 6 hour layover in Amsterdam we're planning on taking showers in the airport and new clothes for the kids. (I found a shirt for Thomas that actually makes Thomas the Tank Engine noises!) We've plotted out a route that circumvents the Red Light District to a park where the kids can run around in the grass, see some Netherlands architecture and canals, and get a meal, some fresh air. I plan to give Bethy a black and white film disposable camera to go hog wild with. I have a harness and leash for Thomas. I've never used such a thing before, but we can't risk losing him in customs, and he is 2, after all. I keep meaning to "break him in" with it, but so far never seem to manage to think of it. Pretty sure that's because I'll be embarrassed to be a leash mommy.

Once we get to Dubai we're being met by someone from Mike's work who'll drive us to our temporary housing (which hasn't been set up for us yet). Then we will take deep breaths of relief (if we're still coherent enough to do so) and crash.

Will you be living in a compound, wearing a burqa? No and no. Not in this lifetime. There are no compounds. We will be living in one of the residential neighborhoods in a townhouse with more square footage than our Seattle home. There may be geckos. Every house has maid's quarters. We'll have to see how that might work for us. Stay tuned!

It would actually be illegal for me as a non-Muslim to wear the traditional garb of the women there (called an abaya with a head scarf shayla). I've read differing opinions as to what I should wear, however. It seems that to lave the least chance of offending anyone, especially during Ramadan, a long-sleeved loose shirt and long skirt or pants are my best bet. I'm taking my "Life is Good" T-shirts, you can bet.

I don't get it. Aren't you scared? Isn't this the Middle East we're talking about? Well, yes and no. Yes, it is an Islamic country. Civilian rights are different there than in the US. However, Islamic is not synonymous with terrorist. Far, far from it. Don't get me started on this. Look it up.

Dubai is the most western-friendly, moderate, peaceful, and rich place you can't imagine.

From what I can tell from afar (and Mike has reported back), it's so fabulous, so unlimited in it's scope as to what you can build it's unreal. Disneyland with no cost limitations.

It's also ridiculously hot and humid there, so you know they have to go way over the top for a place in the desert to be such a success. Man-made islands in fanciful shapes (The Palm Jumierah, The World), the world's tallest buildings, the 6 star hotel that looks like a giant beautiful sailboat (Burj Al Arab) There are more than 30,000 cranes building there!

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