Monday, March 22, 2010

The most difficult place to live for expats??

I read this article just now and have the permission to share.  Unsurprisingly, UAE is rated as the most difficult place to get adjusted to, again, among many other sources of ratings.  Read this:
Expat Exchange - A Rewarding But Challenging Life - Expats

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Although I was pleased with my accomodation with its location, size, etc., I had a nightmare setting up the place.  Everything was so difficult.  By the end of the day, I had to deal with both work stress and putting a life together in the Arab world.  Let me give you one little example. 

This was what part of my living room looked like before the windows were covered.  Yes I literally would look like living in a fishbowl without curtains.  My neighbor Ali, a rich Indian young man took me to the near-by Indian district and I ordered some blinds, or rollers.  Two guys came by to take the measurements and promised things would be smooth as silk and I should make the full payment.  Luckily I did not because my nightmare has just started.  The night the workers came to install, I skipped a get-together inviation to stay home for them.  They came, of course three hours late.  Quoting my friend Pam's wisdom, "well in this country, if they ever show up, you are lucky.  If not, it is normal.  Don't sweat over it."  I told myself to breathe deeply while waiting.  They came by finally with all the tools laid out in my living room and said, "there is a big problem."  Then they went on to speak Hindu and ingnored my questions such as "what is the problem?" "Can you install today?"  They did not understand what I said obviously.

So they started drilling holes on the wall and I started praying.  Then these guys could not fit the pieces to the windows.  I started to get nervous.  It was 10 p.m. and none of the rollers were up.  So I got up from the couch, running around trying to help them.  Finally they got two pieces up in one of my rooms, but somehow they left this huge space between two blinds.  I asked them to make the space go away and they said, "no, it is impossible."  What did they mean by impossible!  I did not spend all this money on a lousy job like this.  I became angry and called one of the guys who measured my windows. 
"Please, you have to come by now.  I cannot communicate with these gentlemen.  They won't do what I have ask them to do."  I raised my voice.
"We can't go over now.  We are in a different city."
"You have to talk to them now because it is mess here." I insisted, and I started crying.

No they would not want to come but they knew I was crying.  I had never fret over little things like this anywhere in the world.  But of course this was UAE and things were supposed to be difficult.  I called my friend Ali and asked him to come help me.  It was during Ramadan and Ali was having Iftar dinner with his family.  He came to my rescue and translated for me to those guys.  I was sobbing and thanking Ali and I knew he felt really sorry for me.

So finally these men pulled over the rods to make them closer.  Then the doorbell rang and these two other Indian guys who took the measurements showed up.  I thought they said they were two hours away but whatever happened, they decided to come check it out.  Then my friend Allan called to check on me and decided to leave his party early to help me out.  So Allan, a tall Scottish man speaking with his firm British tone straightened things out for me.  He said exactly the same thing that I wanted to say but he was a male and I was a woman.  Having a man in the house made a huge difference, in this part of the world. 

What was I doing in these chaos?  Sobbing, blowing my nose and wiping my tears away on the couch.  My mind went very blank after Allan came.  I let him took over my house and the only thing I heard from then on was Allan saying "see how the lady is upset?" 

They did not finish the installation that night.  They had to come back for two more nights after that, and I could not take that anymore.  Allan was kind enough to sit in my house supervising them while I went out walking in the mall.  On the last night of installation I came home to relieve Allan as it was very late.  Allan dragged me to the kitchen and said, "Lori, let these men to their jobs, okay?" Somehow he was afraid that I might be too demanding (perhaps he thought I had been) and the installation would not be completed.  I nodded and compromised.  I surrendered to the U.A.E. 

Allan gave several bottles of beer to these men and they left after they finished the job.  I did not know if it was legal because if these guys were Muslims, they were not supposed to drink alcohol, especially during Ramadan.  I crossed my fingers that we would not get arrested.

So was I pleased with the job they did?  What do you think?  There was a big space in between two blinds facing the elevator where everyone could see me running around in my living room.  My friend Pam decided to lend me her beloved screens to shield me off people's wandering eyes. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Remembering the girl from Edmonton

I was surfing the net for Alberta Ministry of Education and all of a sudden I remembered this girl. 

She was probably a college or high school student and was from Edmonton, Canada.  We ran into each other at the Detroit International Airport.  Obviously due to the storm both of our connecting flights were delayed.  I was going to Philadelphia for my graduate school, and she was going home to Edmonton.  My fatigue from the international flights was overcome by my excitement to be on the soil of the United States of America, a country I dreamed to flee to since when I was a teenager.  And seeing snow for the very first time, on Christmas Eve (don't ask me why I travaled on a day like that) was even more exciting.  The Americans were friendly and I talked to a lot of people on my shuttle from the plane to the terminal.  I still remember one of the conversations:
Me: Hi, how are you?  It is my first time in the States.
A middle aged woman: Oh, is that nice!  Welcome to America.
Me: Thanks. 

Hey, someone actually welcomed me to America.  Well, back to the Edmonton girl.  She was obviouly very scared to travel by herself and was worried about not being able to go home.  I did not worry.  Like I said, I was too excited to be worried.  Oh, back then, I had a fearless soul.  The girl begged me not to leave her alone so I promised I would keep her company.  We walked around in the airport, chatting and waiting, waiting and chatting.  Then we boarded our connecting flights.

From then on, I thought about this gril when I heard or read something about Edmonton.  It is weird how a distanct memory can linger around for so long.

Now, I am going to email the Ministry of Education in Alberta and hope someone would reply.

Wish me lots of luck.  I can use it now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I am a grandma + and the Latern Show

No kidding, I have become a grandmother.  Or precisely, a grand aunt.  In Taiwanese, "grand teacher."

Students from my early teaching career are those that I miss most.  They are very respectful.  There is an old Chinese saying for "once a teacher, a life-time father (parent)."  One of my former students have become a father, for the fourth time.  I met one of his daughters yesterday and she called me "teacher-grandma (grand teacher."  The girl, at two, was so darling.  She recited four Chinese poems to me. 

It was a funny feeling to be a grandmother!

And nothing related to the above...I want to share the latern show from the latern fest.