Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Will we stay or will we go now?

(view of the Jebel Ali Racecourse from the children's wading pool)
Today is July 29th, the day that the new Visa laws go into effect here. Mike and I have done little talking about what may or may not happen , as the entire process is out of our hands. Will we end up leaving and flying back to Seattle on August 15th or sometime thereafter, to cool our heels (literally!) back in the states for 30 days?

We have no idea. There has been a mad scramble here at the Naturalisation and Residency Departments across the UAE, according to the newspaper. We are continuing along as though we are certain to stay, just as we continued along as though we were sure we were coming here before back in the States.

Hey, you find something that works and you stick with it.

Thursday is the observation of a religious holiday (Eid Al Isra' Wal Mi'raj) so we get a three day weekend. (remember the work week is Sun-Thurs). Today Mike took the morning off and we visited 2 schools for Bethy. I feel much better about the whole school thing. One, a ridiculously exorbitant school, has positions available (for a non-refundable application fee of 2000 Dhs) and is an over-the-top beautiful school, still being constructed inside in some areas. In fact, it is so plush we worry a bit that when we come back to the USA and put Bethy in a public school she is going to take one look around and decide it's a real dump, no matter how nice it is.

The other school is the one we really want; it's better established and came recommended, and I could trade carpooling with another SNC Lavalin home Mom who has a 5 year old girl going there too. Supposedly there are no positions open, but we'll see. I hear it's not what they say first but what you can convince them to do that matters. Their grounds are again, luxurious, but the overall impression is a bit less...fanciful. Their application fees are very much on par with the rest of the school in the area, 350 Dhm, just to give you an idea of how ludicrous the other school's fee is.

We checked out another villa on the way home (nope, study/ guest room too small) and are hopefully going to squeeze one in tonight as well. I am getting really excited about the idea of having a real home, much as I adore the room guys and our door men and the extremely accommodating guest services...OK, I'll shut up now.

In our bedroom there is a circle on the ceiling inscribed with some Arabic, an arrow, and the word "QIBLA". The arrow, as you may have guessed, points towards Mecca, so that Muslims staying in the room may know in which direction to pray.

Every day, from each mosque, the call to prayer, the adhan floats out over the city. I find the adhan very moving and beautiful, sung once in the early morning, once midday, once in the middle of the afternoon, and once in the evening. The Muslims wash to purify themselves for prayer, remove their shoes, and join their brethren to pray. Even out in the middle of the desert, at a gas station, there was a tiny prayer room, and I snapped a photo of the shoes outside of the men's entrance.

Spiritualism is as integral and natural as breathing here, which makes me all the more impressed as to how tolerant Muslims are of other religions and cultures in this place.

Bethy busted me at the playground. "How come you're not wearing a hat, Mommy?"

People who know me well know I almost never go outside without a hat. Fair skin and blue eyes, bright light do not like. So why no hat in the Middle East? I have noticed that my hair has been getting reddish, but only in the back where the ponytail sticks out of my baseball cap. So I figure I should let the sun red up all the curls equally, or look odder than usual. (photo by Bethy)
Tomorrow I have the car for a whole day. No one here can believe we've been hanging out in the hotel room so long. I want to take the kids to the beach nice and early to go look for shells and see just how hot the waters of the Gulf are. Keep your fingeres crossed for me as I head out into the big world with wheels.

Speaking of keeping your fingers crossed, do so for us in the hope that that Mike's work visa application went through so they can start applying for a residency visa for him and then he can sponsor us for residency visas...

I, for one, will be really hacked off if we miss the Irish Village celebration August 21st-23rd, featuring, among other things, 150 types of beer...


Sara said...

Hello old friends! Jeremy here, just thought I would check in on how things are going. Hope things work out with the visas. And the Chem E gatherings aren't going to be the same without y'all. Take care and keep us pinatas posted (and I am sure I will check in on your blogs regularly).

Natalie said...

Thanks Jeremy! I live for comments on the blog. :) The visas are looking good, though Mike says he won't truly breathe easy until he gets the resident visa and sponsors us. Hmmm...you say the "gatherings aren't going to be the same without y'all"...that seems like an ambiguous statement...
Hope the new job is going well. Is Sara up in WA State with you yet or are you still a bachelor?

We'll take all the peace we can get here in the Middle East! Much appreciated!

:) Natalie & Mike