Thursday, July 24, 2008

Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows...

This morning I asked Bethy to pick up her room before we headed out.

"I don't need to clean up my room, Mom."

"And why is that, pray tell?"

(brace yourself)

"Because the room guys will do it!"


While my verbal response wasn't unprintable, I won't be documenting it here or anywhere else.

Then she said "But Moooooom, it's their job!"

At this point Bethy was forcibly introduced to a little philosophy of mine: You made a mess, you clean it up. You make a mistake, you apologize and then do your darndest to fix it.
She managed to present this argument at one point in our little discussion: "But Daddy didn't pick up his clothes this morning!"

I guess poor Daddy will come home from a long day of work and get forcibly introduced to my philosophy as well. Bummer.

On our way to the grocery store we met a British dog we'd met before, "Lady". I mentioned that we'd met the lovely canine while we were petting a slug and the woman at the other end of the leash said "Oh, yes, you're from Seattle."

Great, now we have a reputation.

She asked how we were doing with the heat and I "casually mentioned" I'd gone running the day before.

"At what time was this?" she inquired.

"Noon", I said blithely.

"Well, that was foolish." she said crisply, with pursed lips.

Er, quite. Indeed. And all that.

Then she gave me a very helpful bit of information. After grilling me as to my post-run self treatment (shower, more water and a banana) she shook her head and pronounced "You need salt, and the children probably need salt. You sweat a lot here and this is the hottest summer we've had in years."

Aha! The answer to the slightly odd way we've been feeling. We knew we weren't dehydrated, just a bit light-headed, not quite grounded, nothing alarming. Still, a bit off. Mike had wondered about the chlorine levels in the water. (The expats here seem divided as to whether or not to drink the tap water). He'd thought of electrolytes too, and had asked me to pick up Gatorade powder or something similar at the store. I described our symptoms to this firm but benevolent Brit and she confirmed that yes, that was it and not some sort of drawn-out jet lag.

So I purchased some cute cups, iodized salt (middle item) and a large container of lemon Tang mix (on the right---I'm showing you the "cool" sides of the packages. English is printed on the reverse). If I'd truly been on top of things I'd have gotten some baking soda too, but nobody is perfect the first time. Apparently what's good enough for the astronauts is good enough for our kids: they loved the "lemonade". They also got some Fritos out of the deal.

At the coffee shop I was asked by a lovely fellow patron whether we were new here, and, seeing our cloth grocery bags, she gave me directions to the organic market and a partial book review of what she was reading.

Apparently we have that look.

In the small shopping mall we greeted (correctly) Vergie at the Ice Cream counter, May Ann at Costa, and asked the (non-grouchy) checker and bagger how to say thank you to them. (Nandi) The bathroom lady was happy to see us again (I must learn her name) and the security guard chucked Thomas under the chin.

At the SBC stand I stopped and pointed out to Bethy "Look! S-E-A-T-T-L-E. What does that spell?"
She sounded it out. "Seattle! That's where we're from!"
"Seattle's Best Coffee," said the barista proudly.

"It should say DUBAI's Best Coffee." said Bethy, much to our amusement.

Yesterday I had the most unbelievable encounter of my entire life.
Mike had been given the business card of a woman from someone at work. "Catherine Birch" it said, "Relocation Advisor". I was somewhat reluctant, but emailed her, asking what sort of services she provides. Ah, well, I thought, at least meet with her and see what she has to say.

An email came flying back. A very friendly, very take-charge email. Here is some of it:

"I do what a friend would do when you're new in town. I take you home-hunting, furniture-hunting, school selection, hospitals, where to buy certain things e.g. uniforms, kits etc. Once you ID an apartment or villa, I will take over in acquiring the property for you from A - Z. I've learnt the way SNC Lavalin deal with documentations and finance to speed up the process."
Lord, I thought, this will cost a bundle. She had asked for our phone number here, but I dawdled, hemmed and hawed about giving it to her.

The phone rang. An Asian voice. "This is Cat. I will be there at 4 to pick you up and take the kids out for ice cream or a meal. What is your room number?"

I decided it was fate and to go with the flow. Obviously I was dealing with a force of nature here.

She arrived late, calling first to apologize; a Chinese Malaysian woman, chic, tiny gorgeous red high heels and form fitting dress, gold jewelery and a big smile, and escorted by her 10 year old son.

I was, perhaps, slightly cool as she defined the battle plan for getting Bethy into school, asked about our living allowance and preferences, talked about the other SNC folk she'd assisted and their general lifestyle, and answered more questions than I had, all the while getting continuous mobile calls which she ignored in great part, excusing herself only to take one "from Germany".

Finally I said, in the glaring absence of any sort of contract being whipped out to be signed, the end of the visitation apparent, "Forgive me, but have you been retained by SNC Lavalin to assist employees or do we pay you..."
"Oh no!" she said. "I don't do this for money! I do get a commission from real estate, but I don't care about it. I know what you are going through being new here, I went through it too, and I want to help you any way I can.
This is what friends do."

Say what?

Apparently it's true. She is the real deal. The other employees swear by this goddess. She'll be calling us tonight to let us know what sorts of real estate she's found for us to view and will be picking us up for the grand tour at lunchtime this Saturday.
She does this for fun.

I shall let you know. I shall also be giving her red roses. You recall my philosophy on making a mistake...


*Paula* said...

Oh my goodness! What a wild story! I'm definitely adding you to my blog roll Natalie - this is such an entertaining read! Thanks for letting me know about it :)

Natalie said...

Thanks sweetie! You're on my favorites too (any time I need inspiration I know exactly where to go) and I appreciate the blog lovin' :) This is kind of my lifeline for much cool stuff to share!