Saturday, July 19, 2008

Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.,..

On our first day, waking not too many hours after falling asleep, spurred by curiosity and hunger, we walked through the morning heat and humidity through the trees on a pedestrian path to Costa Coffee Shop and the grocery store. The coffee was very good; we managed to drop the US equivalent of $45 on blended fruit drinks and pastries. Mike had to chase me down in the grocery store to get enough money to pay the bill.

Searching for diapers at the grocery store I met my first stumbling block:

Now, it was quite easy to select the baby product line. (see pic) Elisabeth Anne is Bethy's full name. How cool is that? (I hope she doesn't get teased in school.)

However, I was slightly stymied when I reached the diapers. The Arabic was no problem. See the one diaper container on the left in English? All the diapers were printed in English on one side and Arabic on the other. So, while I could feel quite proud to recognize the size 4, (the white E-resembling number at the bottom), the sizes were designated by weight in kilograms. Now, I couldn't tell you how much Thomas weighs in kilograms. I'm all over the pounds thing, but kilograms and kilometers and the like haven't quite translated yet.

I trusted that the size would translate and it all worked out well on Thomas' end.

In addition to the diapers we purchased fruit, eggs, porridge, Irish butter, an onion, Kraft cheddar cheese ($10/lb!) milk, bread, and sugar cubes. Everything tasted so good (I shall not be peeling all fruits and veggies, no matter what the CDC says...the kids like grapes!) and the yolks on the eggs were the most gorgeous orange color and unbelievably creamy.

The hotel room was in utter chaos, strewn luggage everywhere. My legs felt like we were at sea, and I could tell Thomas felt the same way as he kept stumbling and falling for no apparent reason.

Here is our view:

Just behind Thomas you can see the Jebel Ali Race Course. I've been on the lookout for camels("Gamel!") but it turns out that this one is for horses, known for, and I quote "it's garden-party atmosphere". We have 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen with basics, dining and living rooms. The couches are brown suede and I am deeply in love with them. Tile flooring, which is causing Thomas additional mobility issues (and causing us to have visions of small noggins whacking the floor), deep carpets, 2 entertainment centers. Tons of storage areas.

Bethy has been asking why she doesn't have lizards in her room, but I assured her that when we go look for a house we'll try to get one that includes geckos.

By the afternoon of our first day Thomas' vocabulary had been reduced to the word "no" and Bethy had a meltdown. We put them to bed, hardening ourselves to the sobs. They slept and slept until we woke them in the early evening. They woke sad, but eventually came around and then we did what any intelligent jet lagged parents would do.
We took them to a party!

Mike's coworker Frank invited us to his apartment housewarming, just blocks away. We headed out, but Mike had to dash back for the address, and I went on with the kids. A bus full of workers passed by, many tanned faces and dark eyes looking out at us. Being an American, I smiled at them and they whooped and waved their arms out the windows, teeth flashing in wide grins at the woman with the curly-haired blondie kids, one of whom was wearing her giant pink sunhat and new rainbow butterfly wings. I felt absolutely no menace from them, which I would have understood and not taken personally; their lives must be unimaginably hard. Instead they were open and friendly, the overall feeling I have gotten here.

At the party we met a small assortment of the folks that Mike will be working with. Bethy had a wonderful time rolling lumpia and it was a pleasure to meet what I think will be an amusing and enjoyable community of associates. The Scots were bawdy, the women of many ethnic backgrounds sweet and enthusiastic, the men (the Scottish get their own category) made pleasant conversation and refrained from the karaoke. Frank was a perfect, relaxed host, spending the night refining his Long Island Iced Tea concoction for willing subjects. Lots of food, lots of talk, and by 8:15 we called it a night, blaming our early departure on the "tired kids". Back at the hotel we collapsed, full of lumpia and happy.

(see the Coke can on the counter?)

Our second day was all about getting our lives slightly more functional. Waking early (4:30 or so) we spent the day making it so that housekeeping could at least come in and give us some clean towels.

We gave up on the washer-dryer. We'd tried many iterations to make it work, pored over the instruction booklet, to no avail. We'd asked Frank, who used to live in this building, how he made his work, and he said he'd tried 43 different combinations until it worked, and never changed the settings again, so he didn't recall the winning combination. We called maintenance, then when that didn't work, we ended up getting a whole new machine. And a very wet floor that they swore housekeeping would come take care of, though we never did see them and eventually it dried into interesting patterns. Hopefully they'll take care of it today. They seem like very thoughtful and thorough young men. No women on the hotel staff, as far as I can tell.

Then there is the mysteries of the two buttons to flush the toilet (and one must be very strong to push them) which both seem to do exactly the same thing, and the sprayer next to the toilet that we've theorized is to wash one's feet for prayer (Frank and Mike's theory) and I think is to be used for bidet-esque purposes.

There was an incredibly thick fog yesterday morning (I couldn't even see the building next to us), and a wonderful breeze. I sat on the porch with my feet propped up, working in the morning's (comparable) coolness and warm damp. Today Mike goes into work, and hopefully will come home with a car for us. I've had no problem walking everywhere, which seems to surprise the other folks in the area. Yes it's hot, yes it's humid. So? We can deal and I want to run soon! I did a few blocks yesterday in the middle of the day and it was just fine.

We also found the coolest thing: they have slugs here! Very fast slugs!!! (They'd have to be to not dry out, wouldn't they?) Bethy was enamoured, and the passing Brit walking his dog thought we were odd. ("Whot, don't ye have slugs where ye come from?") We told him we're from Seattle, and apparently that explained it all, why this small girl was petting a slug and her mother was so delighted about it.
Yes, the slug was actually rather smooth and not terribly sticky, therefore, at least to a 5-year-old naturalist, pettable.

This morning Bethy and Mike woke up at 3:30 AM, so I am going to go hit up the tea box.

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