Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Marcus in Arabia: Claudia & Other Nice Things!

I promised a blog about the nice things in the United Arab Emirates. Claudia by far was the nicest! Since she is now in Appleton I use past tense when referring to Claudia in the UAE. Marcus went to the UAE a bachelor and lived a fairly typical bachelor life. I got a cat (Yoda, and Yoda went on eternal prowl late August of 2004 :-( ) and eventually some colleagues were trying to set me up with the secreatary of our department. Well that didn't work out and I tried like heck to salvage it but it wasn't in the works. I eventually gave up and at a New Year's party Claudia and I met. From that point on we frequently found ourselves in each other's company (through no intent on her part or my part) and things just came together. We dated for a while, got engaged fairly quickly and our relationship stayed like that until 1998 when I left the UAE. In June of 2000 Claudia joined me here in Appleton and we married! Since then things have been very special for us!

Anwyay what else is nice about the UAE? Cheap ex-pat labor. Makes it much easier to hire maids, gardeners and people to do the work you (can do) but would rather not do. So eating out was much cheaper (at least in the regular street restaurants, international hotels just had more profit), car repairs etc etc etc.

Gasoline was rock-solid stable. High test was a bit above the equivalent of one dollar and regular grade was a touch below a dollar and the price never fluctuated. The food! I really miss good Arabic food, Al-Ain had a restaurant named "The Golden Sheep" it was an awesome place to have a good sleep inducing dinner or lunch. The street cafes typically made schwermas and for about 75 cents you could buy one (lamb or chicken), falefel sandwhiches and other great and tasty fare was available. The fruit cocktails were magnificent.

I never worried too much about crime but it was existant. I miss the nights downtown, you really knew you lived in a city. Appleton, is deserted at night even on a warm summer Saturday night Appleton's downtown is relatively deserted. Al-Ain's downtown was bustling with people from evening prayers till midnight or so and you could hear all sorts of languages. Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Tagalog, Malayalam, Farsi, Pashtu, English, and so on. It was something else. It was always real neat to be downtown at evening prayer time, the setting sun, hear the call to prayer watch people hustle to the mosques (in one section the area shopkeepers just gathered outside near their shops to pray). I really miss that atmosphere. I would park the car away from the action a bit and hoof it downtown.

The Church was another nice thing. St. Mary's parish in Al-Ain is essentially where Claudia and I met and fell into love with each other. St. Mary's parish was full of good people, mostly Indian and Filipino. There were a handful of Westerners there as well. I joined up with the Legion of Mary there and became one of the community leaders. God Bless and Preserve the UAE for allowing us to worship as we believe!

The job. It was essentially 4-1/2 days/week 6 hours/day, 9 months/year and I got paid 13 months/year. The UAE had no income taxes and the USA exempted the first 70,000 pro-rated (i.e. if you are away for 1/2 a year the first 35,000 was exempt). The University gave me an airline ticket home & back each summer and this allowed me to travel a bit. It was cheaper and destinations were closer. I managed to travel to the Philippines, Tanzania, Ireland and Oman. ots of neat things were seen!

As I said before if I wanted to hang out in a place with a Western feel to it, then we could go to the Hotel Intercontinental or to the Hilton. However, the best choice was Dubai and there was no shortage of Western comforts and flair.

The people I worked with and associated with were great too. We were all ex-patriates and so we developed a bond. I did not hang out with Westerners all that much but more often hung out with the Filipino crowd I met at church. This is why I know so much about the nation and its people and have learned a bit of its main language.

Anyway the basics are covered. The next installment is going to cover a grim episode. The public execution of two robber-murderers.