Hello Abu Dhabi, and now Hello Al Ain!
Arriving in late July has proven to be somewhat of a bittersweet pill to swallow. It is the end of what is a typical windy season and the buildings that we’ve been expecting have all been obscured against a diaphanous skyline brought by the wind and sand of the surrounding desert. Every morning the sun rises through a hazy fog of sandy air reminiscent of China’s pollution-filled cities where people move through the streets wearing masks and full sleeves. Here, the air is relatively clean and fresh, especially for a city this size, but it looks like smog to the new initiate. On the bright side, there is a tantalizing air of mystery to the place – as though Abu Dhabi will not simply open its doors to us – we have to seek it out… discover it… find the beauty that we know is there.
Of course, this is a different situation, but the lack of vistas has fostered reflection rather than exploration. There is more time spent in the hotel than out and about seeing the sites, and we are constantly reminding ourselves that we have moved here – and are not simply tourists trying to fit our agendas into a few packed days.
In the category of “exciting news,” we just found out that we’re to be placed in Al Ain, UAE. As an historian, it is the opportunity of a lifetime to be in the longest continually-inhabited place on earth. People have been living there since around 3,000 B.C.E. and it is called the Garden City due to its vast network of fresh spring water from the nearby mountain range called Jebel Hafeet. It is exciting in a familiar kind of way for us. Having lived in la frontera of El Paso, Texas for the last seven years, moving to a desert border town is kind of comforting. This time, instead of Juarez, Mexico – we’ll be looking across the border to Buraimi, Oman.
The frustrations of bureaucratic mismanagement have already been felt, but the expectation was that we would have to be patient with the process, so there is little to do except wait and be as prepared as possible for whatever comes. SIM cards must be procured in order to proceed with things like utilities, the Internet, car rentals, etc. Of course, SIM cards cannot be gotten without original passports, which have been taken by ADEC. Hurry up and wait seems to be the name of the game.
It would be easy to imagine a younger person full of vim and vinegar losing a couple years of their life over the stresses of the “not now, tomorrow, we don’t know, and please be patient” mantras that have circled around our arrival and stay. As a caveat, I should mention that everyone we’ve dealt with has been very pleasant and kind, a reflection of the certainty of uncertainty and lives built around “inshAllah.”
It is sometimes hard to see a silver lining in things, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from a less-organized, seat-of-your-pants kind of machination. If nothing else, it is where character is built or dismantled under the strains of fluidity, which at times can break the rigid dogma of the more time-obsessed persons among us (me included, by the way).
Whether it is the “inshAllah” of the UAE, the “tranquilo” of Nicaragua, or the “si, mañana” of Mexico ~ there is a comfort in knowing that one is not responsible for everything that occurs around them. Productivity can be measured by one’s ability to fill the cracks of time between objectives with meaningful introspection, creative observations, or simply enjoying a cup of tea or coffee while the world organizes itself around you.