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Recovery: Day 9

2013 April 4

Well, today I’m 9 days post-op from a Subtalar arthrodesis, tendo Achilles lengthening, calcaneal osteotomy, and FDL transfer on my right foot.

The surgery went great and the surgeon was very pleased with how everything turned out.  The anasthestiologist, however, is a different story:

I was weary of the anasthesiologist since I looked up his credentials; I’m American so I expect a certain level of competency from medical staff.  A MD from God knows where in India, and studying anesthesiology in Ireland for a couple years doesn’t exactly instill a whole lot of confidence, and I was already really nervous about going under general.  (This was my first surgical procedure.)

So, the day starts out with this man telling me I need to get my thyroid checked because my heartrate is a little on the high side.  OF COURSE MY HEART RATE IS HIGH!  I’M ABOUT TO GO INTO SURGERY AND I’M SCARED OUT OF MY MIND!  Personally, when I saw my pre-op heart rate at only 90 BPM before I underwent fairly extensive surgery, I was pretty pleased.  Then, he administers some sort of benzodiazepine/anti-anxiety medication.  Now, all of these medicines come in some sort of quick administer tube that can just be connected directly to one of the shunts in my IV.  However, he’s not administering the dose fully.  He just sticks the tube on for a few seconds, then pulls it off with the majority of the drug still in the tube.  Let’s just say, he administers so little it doesn’t do a damn thing.  About half an hour later when I’m still near tears I’m so scared and I ask him for some more, he treats me like I’m some addict with drug-seeking behavior.  IThe anasthesiologist administers a nerve block, and I get wheeled off to surgery and put to sleep not too much later.

I get brought awake in the OR before getting wheeled to recovery; Chris gets brought in almost right away.  The first thing I say to Chris is “that took a lot longer than expected” after seeing the clock on the wall.  (I was in surgery for about 2 and a half hours, I was expecting about an hour and a half.)  About this point, I start taking a mental inventory of everything my body is trying to tell me at once, and it is nothing but pain.  The idiot anasthesiologist brought me out of surgery without any pain medication.  I start going into shock, shaking, blood pressure skyrockets to 178/95, and I start crying I’m in so much pain.  I keep telling the anasthesiologist that I’m in a lot of pain and I can literally feel every incision on my foot.  It takes about 15 minutes to convince him to administer pain meds and the whole time he’s telling me it’s “just in my head”.  Then, the idiot only administers about 2.5 mg of morphine (the minimum therapeutic dose in a surgical setting is 5 mg).  The pain goes from about a 12 to an 8.5 almost instantly, but he keeps telling me it will take at least ten minutes to fully work.  (IV morphine begins working instantly, and doesn’t take ten minutes to start “working”.)  After ten minutes, my pain is still much higher than tolerable, and I am more or less pleading with the medical staff for more pain medication.  At this point, 2.5 mg more of morphine was administered.  Later, the anasthesiologist admitted that he suspected by the time I came out from general, the “short acting” portion of the nerve block would have worn off and the long-acting portion would not have taken affect.  This guy admitted he probably knew I was coming out of surgery with no pain killers!!  Who does that?!

Now, I won’t go through the rest of the troubles we had trying to get them to discharge me from the surgical center even after I had passed all of the required milestones.  But, we eventually made it home safe & sound.

The first several days were definitely the worst.  I had no energy and would get completely exhausted just getting up to go to the bathroom.  Needless to say, I pretty much didn’t leave the couch.  Each subsequent day I started feeling stronger and better, and am now more or less completely off the pain meds other than Tylenol/Paracetamol.  I’m still trying to keep my foot elevated as much as possible every day but can now have my foot down for long enough to eat a meal at the table.

Yesterday was the first day I had some bandages changed at the doctor’s and everything is looking great.  Now, my heel is literally every color of the rainbow, but the doctor says that is to be expected.  (With the calcaneal ostoetomy, they ended up moving my heel over 1 cm.  ouch!)  All of the incisions are healing well, and now I’m just looking forward to next week’s doctor’s visit when I hopefully get the okay to start showering without the boot & cast cover on.

Living Abroad: The Good Stuff

2013 March 11
Posted by Tami

Alright well, now that I’ve probably scared everyone off from ever taking an expat assignment — time for the good stuff!

First of all — travel!  For us, it was cost/time prohibitive to leave the country.  (For most Americans, two weeks vacation is about standard.  Here, I have thirty days vacation a year!)  From the Middle East, it’s so much less expensive to travel around the world.  We’ve been fortunate enough to go on vacation to: Italy, France, Spain, India, Singapore, and Thailand since we arrived.  On our list for this year is Sri Lanka, Greece, Croatia, and perhaps another EU country.

Great food and restaurants.  (If you’re living in Abu Dhabi you’ve probably heard of the Abu Dhabi “stone”… It’s the expat equivalent of the “Freshman Fifteen”)  With so many five star restaurants, international cuisines, and brunches it’s hard not to keep the weight off.  (And you wonder where all that “extra” money went…)

You make friends from all over the world.  Okay, well, not so much “all over”.  We have several Texan friends, and a few from Louisiana and Florida.  The rest of our friends come from all over the UK.  (We’re still trying to figure out where all these places are.)

Have I mentioned THIRTY days vacation?  Not to mention government holidays.

Everyplace delivers.  From the grocery store to KFC, you can get pretty much everything delivered.  (If you’re living in Dubai, you can now get condoms discretely delivered.  Don’t believe me?  Read this.)

Cheap gas.  Even though the UAE has the most expensive gas in the region, it’s only about $1.72/gallon.  It’s been about ten years since gas was that low in the states.  Oh, and even better… you don’t have to pump it yourself!  You pull up to the pump, the guy fills your tank, washes your window, and you get to stay in the car.

Six months of perfect weather.  From about the second week in October until mid-April, the weather is perfect almost every day.  Perfect for getting out.

Cheap maids.  (This probably also goes along with the “where did all my money go” bit.)  However, getting help — either part time or full time — is very affordable.  The quality can vary greatly, but in general you can get some descent help for a lot less than you can back in the states.

Insurance.  Now, I didn’t get into the frustrations of finding a quality doctor, but one of the perks of our relocation package was amazing health insurance.  Pretty much zero deductible/copay for anything.  (also part of the reason why I’m getting operated on here)

Someone to do everything for you.  When we moved into our new flat, I pretty much got interrogated by a maintenance worker wanting to know who hung up our curtains and pictures.  Umm, I did?  He didn’t believe me.  You’ll also never, ever wash your own car here.  At every supermarket, office compelex, mall, and the maintenance workers where you live will offer to wash your car for you — and they’ll do it for next to nothing.

Help in stores.  Ever had trouble finding something in your size and the salesgirl was no where to be found?  Not in the UAE.  Sometimes it feels like you practically have to beat them away.  (Just don’t ever ask where something specific is in the supermarket, it’s hopeless.)\

Wild camels.  Now I know how the foreigners feel when they come to Texas.  Camels walking around is AWESOME.

It’s pretty safe.  Note, I didn’t say completely safe.  There are some freaky stories about inebriated western women getting raped by taxi drivers and local men who don’t understand “no”, and there are also plenty of stories about men getting arrested, jailed, and eventually deported for he said/she said type stories in the pubs (things like “he grabbed my ass”), or giving someone the bird in traffic (a HUGE no-no).  But otherwise, petty crime is virtually non-existent (women leaving their purses on food-court tables while they go place their order and you’ll almost never hear of a story of a car being broken into).

People are pretty awesome.  In a country with so many expats, people will go out of their way to help you — especially if you’re new.  We’ve all been newbies here, we all know how much it can suck and we want to make the transition for the next group easier.  We had people who helped us out when we came, and we will continue to help others that come over.  Strangers travelling back to their home country will offer to bring things back with them for you, and I’ve had a complete stranger offer to bring me over groceries after my foot surgery.  Expats are pretty awesome people.

And a final one: no mater how your situation turns out, or whether you liked your expat adventure, you will have one heck of a story when you get home.

Living Abroad: The Bad & Ugly, Part 2

2013 March 10
Posted by Tami

So, the other day I touched on some of the financial and emotional stresses of moving abroad.  Today, I’m going to focus on housing and some of the day-to-day frustrations we’ve had since moving abroad.  (By the way, it’s not all bad — just wanted to cover some of the frustrations of moving overseas that you probably wouldn’t hear about otherwise!)

When Chris & I first came to Abu Dhabi for our “look-see”, we were set up with a team of people to help give us a crash course in life in the UAE.  We had someone drive us around, show us around, take us to grocery stores, etc. and met with a realtor to show us the available housing.  While the good part of this first visit was we quickly discovered our housing budget wasn’t going to be sufficient, we later learned that this woman was rather unscrupulous.  (I’m pretty sure she had a racket going with the ‘Destination Service Provider’.)  She would only show you very low end residences with very, very inflated price tags.  However, when you’re new to the country and don’t know how to go about looking for a place, or what the local housing market is like, you depend on these people and can only hope that they’re being honest with you.  I suppose it’s easy to take advantage of someone who doesn’t know any better.

Anyhow, just  a bit on housing.  In the US, especially the mid-West, we’re used to a certain type of housing.  In general, we live in single-family residences, with large yards/gardens, open floorplans, and master suites.  The housing available in the UAE (until very recently) is very different.  Master suites are unheard of; kitchens are in closed-off, locked rooms; I’m pretty sure walk-in closets are still largely unheard of in this part of the world; and the maid’s “room” should be more appropriately named a utility closet.

Some of the flats we looked at didn’t have room for a washer or dryer, or had no space for a dishwasher.  (On the topic of dryer, apparently using a clothes dryer is almost exclusively an American thing.  Finding a dryer is hard, and most places don’t have an exhaust vent so you’re must use a condensing style dryer.)  Think you’re going to be able to have your big American-style fridge?  Think again.  The allocated space is often very small.  In one of the flats the kitchen was soo tiny, you would be forced to keep the fridge in the living room.

Another thing that is quite different here is the quality of the work/finishings in buildings.  It’s not uncommon for drain pipes to burst, electrics to short-circuit, pipes to leak, and in general for things to just not work properly.  We had a flood shortly after we moved into our first flat because the tilers has poured the excess grout down the drain where it then set.  We literally had someone show up and chisel out the obstruction.  In our new place, we dealt with a small flood every time we showered because the shower threshold was installed backwards and therefore caused any water that hit the shower door to slide down the door, onto the threshold, and into the rest of the bathroom.  (Another challenge is trying to explain to maintenance why water all over the bathroom floor is not ideal.  The concept seems to be that bathrooms are a “wet room” so there is no importance on keeping the water in the shower or tub.)   I believe part of the reason why maintenance and quality of work is so poor is that when they bring these people over (usually from villages in Pakistan, India, or Bangladesh) they assign these men to professions like AC repair, electrician, plumber, carpenter, tiler, etc. without any real training.  I mean, I would be terrible at my job too if no one had taught me how to do it.  (I’m not even going to get started on how bastardized the title “engineer” is here; it’s even worse than in the US.)

So, because having a repairman come in to “fix” something can be quite frustrating, I think a lot of people have taken to treating the workers absolutely terribly.  I think we’ve had maintenance workers go out of their way to try and help us just because we don’t scream at them.  Living here, it’s really hard to get used to people screaming and yelling at the help.  Yes, they may not know how to do their job properly, but screaming at them isn’t going to better the situation.  If you want to get frustrated with someone, get frustrated with the people that employ them.  It’s not these poor guy’s fault they’ve never been taught to do what they were sent to fix.  On the same token, making sure you get the right person to do the job is another challenge.  In our first place, we had a bedroom door that wouldn’t close properly.  When we called the management’s office to send someone to fix the door, we had some guys that showed up.  They left shortly after arriving telling me that they only repaired the sliding glass doors, not interior wooden doors.  Great.

However, our new place is much more Western with an open floorplan, utility closet, master suite, and his and hers sinks.  (All of which basically don’t exist in Abu Dhabi.)  I’m sure as more and more Westerners settle in the UAE, the variety of floorplans and types of accomodations will continue to rise.  I’m not holding my breath for the quality of maintenance or finishings to improve quickly.

Living Abroad: The Bad & Ugly, Part 1

2013 March 6
Posted by Tami

Well, Chris and I got into a bit of a disagreement when a coworker from the US phoned to ask him for some honest advice about moving abroad.  Chris’s sentiment was largely “well as long as you get your wife hooked up with some other expat wives” and “I got to take my wife places” which I felt was completely misrepresenting the whole thing.  So here it is, moving abroad: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First, money.  You think you’re moving abroad to make a boat load of money?  Think again.

High-paying expat jobs are a thing of your parent’s age.  It doesn’t happen anymore.  Expat positions are now seen by companies largely as a privilege, not a hardship.  Therefore, the huge pay-raises and bonuses don’t exist.

Think you’re going to bank a few extra g’s a year by not paying taxes?  Think again.  Most people we’ve met on oversees assignments are “tax equalized”, which is a fancy way for the company to say “all the money you should have got back from working abroad we are keeping to offset the expense of having you there.”  So tax savings = zero.

Maybe you’re like us and are a two-income family.  Getting a job as an expat is not always easy (and not just in the Middle East).  A lot of local companies do not want to pay the wages that Westerners expect.  (Not to mention work environments and standards may be vastly different.)  Therefore, you should probably count on spending a lot of time unemployed looking for a job and don’t count on making the same salary you did back home.

Also, there’s all of the out-of-pocket expenses.  Things like passport photos hardly seem like a drop in the bucket when you only need one or two, but when you’re on number 20 for each of you… it starts to add up.  Then you have to pay to get official copies of every document you can think of, and then pay to ship them, and then pay to get them attested.  Also, wherever you’re moving probably doesn’t have the same current or voltage as your home country.  So, even if your company offers to pay for appliances in the host country, think of all the things you use that plug in on a daily basis: hair dryers, irons, coffee makers, TV’s, lamps, and the list goes on.  Replacing all of these items can get rather pricey.  (In the UAE, apartments very rarely come with any appliances and never come with any window coverings)  And here’s one for those of you with kids: think aunty/grandma/sister can babysit for the evening or for a night away?  Think again.  You’re paying every single time someone watches your kids.

While we’re on the topic of kids, I’m going to go ahead and bring up school.  In the states, most people attend public school.  Here (and with most expat assignments) you will need to or want to send your kids to international schools.  These can often cost as much as college back in the states.  Plus, to get into the better schools you’ll have to count on entrance exams, admission fees, and waiting lists.

Another topic which is brought up regularly is the a sort of “Keeping up with the Jones’”  phenomenon which is rampant in the expat community.  There seems to be a culture of spending too much for a bigger villa, a maid, a nicer car, a designer handbag, a nicer vacation, or whatever else ails you.  I think it’s very, very easy for people to get caught up in the spending culture of expat life without realizing what they are doing.  Don’t believe me?  ’The National’ constantly runs articles about it.

So, let’s move away from money.  Let’s talk about the psychological impact of moving abroad.

Now, Chris and I aren’t particularly family-centric:  we were living several hours away from both of our families when we moved abroad.  Nor are we the type of people that drove every other weekend to make sure we spent time with them.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we both love our families and love spending time with them.  They just don’t play an active role in our day-to-day lives.  There are a lot of people who rely on their families to take a much more active role.  Whether it’s moral or emotional support, they play a much bigger part.  So, you really have to ask yourself.  Are you going to be okay when you can’t call your mom/sister/aunt/whoever when you’ve had a bad day?  Or when your kid makes that next big milestone?  Living in Abu Dhabi and having family in the central US means the only time to talk to them is early in the morning (very early if your family goes to bed early), or at night (when they’re just getting their day started).  It’s something you have to be very aware of.

So, even if you’re not family-centric, you probably have a support system you rely on.  Whether it’s girlfriends you meet up with for coffee or playgroups, or a church group, or whatever… there are people in your life that you rely on to help keep you sane.  When you move abroad, you move away from those people, and their lives will continue on without you.  So, don’t be hurt when your old friends go on a trip without you, or you see Facebook pictures of them enjoying themselves without you.  It’s part of moving abroad.

So now I’m sure you’re telling yourself that you’ll make new friends when you move and everything will be fine.  Yes, of course you will make new friends… eventually.  Look at your current group of friends.  How long have you been friends with them?  How long did it take for you to develop these friendships?  My guess is it didn’t happen overnight.  Finding friends in your host country isn’t going to be any different.  Sure there are coffees and socials and ladies nights, but trust me: you’re not going to like everyone you meet, and not everyone you meet is going to like you.  Finding friends wherever you move to will be a process, and can be a lengthy one if you’re in the least bit shy or apprehensive.

Now here’s one that Chris and I didn’t have to consider, but I’m sure many potential expat families do:  how are your kids going to feel about it?  Hopefully they’re young enough and haven’t developed close emotional bonds with their playmates.  But what about older kids?  How are they going to feel about being forced to move away from everything they have ever known and all their friends?  I’ve heard that pre-teen kids often have the hardest time as they’re just old enough to have developed close bonds with their peers, but not quite old enough to know how to cope with that loss.

A Countdown to Foot Surgery

2013 March 4
Posted by Tami

In two weeks I’m doing something I swore I would never do in the Middle East:  have surgery.

When we were first moving, I was told stories of women post-Cesarean only being given Panadol (that’s Tylenol for all the Americans reading), and the more or less ban on anything harder than it.  Unfortunately, after years of chronic ankle pain and several vacations nearly being ruined because I was in too much pain to walk around (I was in tears in Milan after a few hours of strolling around), I knew it was time to do something.  When we were in the states last year, I stayed behind to interview some surgeons.  Unfortunately, none of them really gave me much confidence.  I came back to the UAE with my messed up feet and a whole lot of disappointment.

I’m not sure what persuaded me to look for another surgeon, especially one here in the UAE.  What I did find was an American doctor that consults at the Dubai Bone and Joint Clinic who has a CV that reads like a who’s who of medicine.  Anyhow, I met her in January (she only comes over for about a week every month or two) and couldn’t be more impressed.

So, surgery is scheduled for March 26 at 9:30 AM.  After that, I’ll be placed in a cam boot that I won’t be able to take off at all for the first two weeks, and only for a short duration after that (like to wash my foot).  The first six weeks, at a minimum, I will not be able to put any weight on my foot what-so-ever.  So, it’s crutches and the lovely contraption of a knee scooter that we brought back from the US.  After that I’m in the boot (weight bearing) for four weeks, before I will be able to wear a normal shoe.  This is of course providing there are no additional complications and healing goes according to plan.

So, as far as pain management goes, the only thing I will have is Tramadol.  Tramadol!  No Vicodin or Lortab, or anything good for that matter.  Just Tramadol.  I’m starting to think that will be the worst part of the whole bit, not having anything really strong to numb the pain.  (And yes, I’m going to need it:  they’re sawing off my heel, re-positioning it with two giant screws, and sticking an implant under my ankle.)

So, 21 days to go!  Wish me luck.

The trip to the US

2013 March 3

Well, I am finally (mostly) over the jetlag from our trip back to the US.  I don’t know why it’s so much easier travelling East to West than West to East.  It was a whirlwind trip to Tulsa, OKC, Conway, and McAllen — and in about 12 days to boot!  Anyhow, this post is dedicated to the journey back to the US, as it went so poorly it certainly deserves its own post.

First, our flight out of Abu Dhabi was delayed about 3 hours due to fog.  When we left for the airport, there wasn’t a bit of fog.  Before we boarded the plane, there was very little.  By the time we boarded the plane, the fog was so heavy you couldn’t even see the end of the wing.  It was absolutely crazy how quickly it rolled in.  Anyhow, we sat on the plane for several hours waiting for the fog to lift enough for us to take off.  Anyhow, we make it to Frankfurt and make our connecting flight into DFW.

Our connection in DFW was only about an hour, which is really short by the time you consider going through passport control, customs, picking up your checked luggage, re-checking your luggage, and switching concourses.  We were handed some “express” badges to beat the lines, but we were still running to make it to our gate on time.  The whole time we had been telling ourselves that if we missed the flight, we would just rent a car and drive to Tulsa (it’s about a four and a half hour drive).  If we knew what we know now, I wish we would have missed the flight.

We get on the plane for Tulsa and they inform us that there won’t be a beverage service as there “may be some weather in the area”.  Whatever, no big deal… it’s only about a 45 minute flight.  The flight is uneventful, captain announces “flight attendants prepare for landing”, flaps are at 45 degrees, landing gear is down, we are in approach for the airport… and then all of a sudden, as Chris puts it, we shot up top-gun style.  The whole plane kind of starts looking around at one another wondering what on earth is going on, all of us thinking there must have been some traffic or something on the runway that caused us to abort the landing.  I think we’re just going to climb to 10,000 feet, circle the airport, and try again.  Instead, we keep climbing until we’re back at altitude (32,000-ish feet) and level off.  The pilot gets on the PA and says “Sorry about that folks, we had to abort the landing so we’re heading back to Dallas to re-fuel.”  Head back to Dallas?!  WHAT??  Anyways, we had back to Dallas, land, and sit on the tarmac for a while waiting for our fuel.  During this time, the pilot finally informs us what’s going on.  Basically, the main runway in Tulsa is down for repair and it’s the only airport that is fully instrument flight rated.  The secondary runway (the one that’s open) requires a visual landing.  Unfortunately, the ceiling is like 700 feet and visibility is only a few thousand feet and there is a minimum height/speed the pilot must maintain until in final approach for the runway.

By the time we get our fuel and the paperwork all sorted, we have been sitting on the tarmac in Dallas for about an hour and a half.  The captain now informs us that “conditions in Tulsa have deteriorated” since our first attempt (ceiling and visibility were lower, and it had started to snow), but we were going to go ahead and try anyways.  Translation:  no hope for landing.  Anyhow, we fly back to Tulsa, repeat of the above, and fly back to Dallas.  By the time we land, it’s about 10 PM (our flight was supposed to arrive in Tulsa 5:30)   In Dallas, they tell us that they will not retrieve our luggage as the flight has now been “rescheduled” for 6:30 AM the following morning.  They had out some vouchers for “distressed passenger rates” and pretty much boot us out of the airport.

Anyhow, there is some discussion between Chris and I about what to do (go ahead and rent a car and drive, wait for the flight the next morning) and we ultimately decide to stay in Dallas and take the flight the next morning.  We end up at Comfort Suites in Arlington, and have dinner at a TGIF where we stick out like a sore thumb.  A few to many drinks than we’re back to the hotel so we can be up at 3:30 to leave at 4 AM.

At 6 AM, we’re all loaded on the plane waiting for it go.  6:30 rolls around, then 7:30, then 8:30.  Finally, we decide to get off the plane because it’s obviously not going anywhere anytime soon.  I kindly invite my seat-mate to join us on our drive to Tulsa, which she accepts.  We had been sitting next to each other for eight hours at this point, we’re now good friends.

So shuttle bus to the rental cars, pick up our car, and to Tulsa we go.  We decide to head to the airport to see if the flight had made so we could retrieve our checked baggage.  At the airport, we discover that the flight had only landed THIRTY minutes prior.  Can you imagine?!  A 45 minute flight turned into a 21 hour ordeal for a lot of people (and a lot of people ended up getting off that plane judging by the large pile of unclaimed luggage from that flight).

In the end, we made it.  I still have a very strongly worded letter I need to write to American Airlines.  So, American, screw you for making me lose a whole day off of my already short stay in Tulsa.

Why I would never, ever move to KSA

2013 February 4
Posted by Tami

Well, to most of my American friends its still seems like a shock that the “Middle East” does not exclusively mean “Saudi Arabia”.  The countries that make up the Middle East can be very different from each other — with the most different undoubtedly being the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

While most of the GCC/Middle East companies do have quite a bit in common (Muslim, hot, monarchies) — Saudi Arabia takes it to a whole different level.  Saudi Arabia is largely Wahhabi, an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Muslim.  While this doesn’t mean they are all jihadist and out to pillage the world in the name of “Islam”, it does mean that their beliefs are not in line with the majority of the Muslim world.  The worst, in my opinion, is when people do things completely out of line with Islam, and then get away with it because of the social & judicial constraints Shari’a creates.  (Shari’a being “Islamic Law”, and no separation between church and state exists because of it.)

So every now and then, you read stories like this:

“Lama Al Ghamdi was admitted to hospital on December 25, 2011 with multiple injuries, including a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, extensive bruising and burns, the activists said. She died last October 22.

According to the victim’s mother, hospital staff told her that her “child’s rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed.”

Isn’t that just SICK?!

What “father” does that to his daughter??  In another article, he supposedly subjected this five year-old to a ‘medical’ exam because he suspected she was not a virgin.  AT FIVE!

The only thing I hope is that this “preacher” meets his maker very, very soon.  No God would ever find what this man did as okay.

Winter Shamals and Sore Throats!

2013 January 13
Posted by Tami

Well, the winter shamals have started.  The weather has been perfect since about October, but the last few days have been incredibly windy and cold!  Can you believe it was 14C/57F when I went to work this morning??  It’s absolutely FREEZING!

So, much like the shamals we get in the summer, lots of sand and dust gets kicked up into the air causing respiratory distress for a lot of people.  I (unfortunately) had to do a site visit on Thursday, and by the time I left a couple of hours later I was so covered in sand it was revolting.  You know that sticky/sandy feeling you get after swimming in the sea?  It’s kind of like that.  So, since then I’ve had a slightly sore throat and wheezing a little bit.  (At least some of the workers I saw that had to be outside all day were wearing dust masks, I wish I would have been as smart.)

Anyhow, the weather seems to be behaving itself today as it’s not as windy; hopefully that means we’re at the tail end of this shamal.  So, back to enjoying the nice winter weather, until the next one kicks in!

Spam SMS (text messages) in the UAE

2012 December 27
Posted by Tami

Ladies & Gents:

If you’re new to the UAE, you will quickly learn just how much text messaging is used in this part of the world.

Get a speeding ticket in a car registered to you?  SMS.

Owe a bill?  SMS.

Spend more than 200 AED on your local debit card?  SMS.

One of the more annoying parts is the spam messages that get sent to your phone.  All.  The.  Time.  Luckily, there is a way to “opt out” of these messages.

If you have a phone with Etisalat:

To stop Etisalat promotional messages:  send “b etisalat” to 7726

To stop receiving messages from certain third parties:  send “b sendername” to 7726

To stop receiving messages from all third parties send “b all” to 7726

If you have a phone with Du:

To stop Du promotional messages:  send a blank message to 5293 (takes up to 14 days)

To stop receiving messages from certain third parties:  send a message to “B Sender ID” or “B shortcode number” to 7726.

2012, A Recap

2012 December 26
Posted by Tami

Well, it’s hard to believe our first full year of living in the Middle East is almost over.

I think we can easily say that by January we were definitely settled into life in Abu Dhabi.  (We had been here for 7 months by then)

In February I finally started a job here.  (which definitely turned out to be bittersweet, I’m not sure if I hated being unemployed more than I hate working for this company)

June we celebrated our two-year wedding anniversary.  (Yup, we’ve officially celebrated ALL of our anniversaries in Abu Dhabi.  At least this year it didn’t involve a car museum.)  We also moved from the Corniche to our flat in Al Raha Beach.  It turned out to be a great move.  It’s so quiet and peaceful at our new place I can’t believe we survived in Khaladiya for a whole year.

July/August we took a fantastic vacation to Barcelona & Bordeaux.  Barcelona:  non-stop party, amazing site-seeing.  Bordeaux:  wine and food.  Need I say more?

October we traveled to Singapore, Pattaya, & Bangkok.  Singapore went about the same as Hong Kong; I didn’t need to see it.  Pattaya, definitely could have skipped it (or at the very least, “Walking Street”.)  Bangkok:  simply amazing.  We loved it.

November we hosted a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner for all of our friends.

December we had my parents come visit, and celebrated a wonderful Christmas with the Wood’s.

We’ve made some new friends this year, namely Jen & Sam.  (It’s always good to have some more Americans around, these Brits are everywhere!)  We had some friends (Biba & Michael) leave, albeit temporarily, but hopefully they’re back for a while now.

Now, we’re just waiting for New Years!  It’s hard to believe that this will be the first New Year’s Chris & I will spend together…. ever!  We plan on celebrating it in-style with Sam & Dave and their friends that are coming in from the UK.

Well, that about sums up 2012.  Let’s see what adventures 2013 brings!