Thursday, December 11, 2008

Return to sender....address unknown....

I hear it's almost Christmas.

I have to take the calendar's word for it. At this point in the season many of you are wishing you could escape the holiday pressures. Be careful what you wish for, my friend. The warm weather and lack of carols in most of Dubai makes for a serious lack of ho ho ho.

Considering we're in the middle of Islam and away from our families, I'm tickled to death to have any sort of holidays at all.

Now, about that whole gift giving card-sending element of the holiday...loving, thoughtful people are asking us where to send cards and gifts for our family. I have some bad news for you. Brace yourself.

First things first. We have neither a mailbox nor a mailing address. There are no mail delivery persons in Dubai. No, really.

You're shaking your head in disbelief, I know. You are sputtering: how can a huge metropolitan area not have addresses? Believe me, I ask the same question often enough when I'm driving around trying to find places. Most days I consider it part of the charm of the area, but not so much when I ask for directions and am told "It's off Sheik Zayed Road."

That's like saying "It's on 4-05."

There are areas, Umm Sequim, Jumeirah, Emirates Hills, and that helps to narrow it down. Then there are landmarks, and particular buildings, but you have to know where those are.
The signs are about 50-50 as to what to trust and follow. With all the construction, it can get a little hairy as to whether the way to get to a place is available this particular moment. Car navigation systems cringe and smoke comes out the back (perhaps I exaggerate slightly) if you turn them on here, an unkind thing to do in my opinion.

OK, you say, I get it. Still, surely we could send something to Mike's work.

It's true. They do have a PO Box. If you want to get mail, you get a PO Box. We could get one for ourselves if we really wanted to. But we don't want to, and this is why:

We're in a country that censors and such. We've had exactly one package sent to us so far. It had some paperwork (from Mike's Mom---the title to our car back in the US) and was flagged as "suspicious". Mike had to drive down to Abu Dhabi to claim and open the package in front of customs agents. As much as I love mail, I am really trying to dissuade people from sending it to us manually.

OK, you say. Fine. No boxes, no "real" Christmas card for you. Electronic era, I get it, maybe an online gift certificate! That would work, right?

Oh, no, my friend, sadly, it would not. Not even the little Starbucks gift cards work here. If they're not purchased in Dirhams they won't spend in Dirhams. This has caused expats, and the relatives of expats, much grief. The Brits tend to hold onto their gift certificates, take them back home on visits, spend them then, and bring back the loot. We aren't planning on going back to the US for a visit until next August, 8 months away, so it could sort of work, but not all that well.

All over Dubai this conversation is being repeated between expats and their loved ones back home. Bethy and Thomas and Mike and I know you love us. We'd love to get a nice long email from you. Email us some photos! We'd be completely tickled if you made a donation in our names to the charitable organisation of your choice. Even better, sponsor a child. Give money so some family in a third world country can have a goat, or a chicken, or safe drinking water. That would be an amazing gift for our kids, teaching them the true spirit of Christmas thorough your actions.

If there's a gift you HAVE to give the kids, tell me! I'll go pick it up for you, no problem. I'll even wrap it and take a photo of the kids opening it for you.

Lastly, we are not attempting anything from our family to yours beyond an ecard this year, so relieve yourself of any pressure! Not only would it be difficult to send all the people we love cards, (and expensive, of course!), you may recall that our computer crashed and died not too long after we got here and we lost all our snail mail addresses (with everything else on the hard drive.)

So please, we love you, we know you love us. Feel free to tell us as often as you like. If you have a special handmade card or family newsletter, if your kids want to draw our kids a picture, scan it and send the jpeg! That would be just wonderful.

No comments: